Our First Year Hosting Thanksgiving: A Recap

Thanksgiving has come and gone since my last post, but I wanted to share a recap of our festivities, since it was our first year hosting Thanksgiving with my family. As you might recall, my family of seven requested a 24 lb turkey, so my sister-in-law, Pete, and I woke up early and prepped the turkey while watching the Macy’s parade. My sis-in-law and Pete did most of the dirty work (aka rubbing herb butter under the skin) since I was on a hunt for sage in the supermarkets (we just used rubbed sage since I wasn’t able to find any fresh sage all week long). I included this gross photo so you could see the unfortunate “before.” Sorry if I’ve scarred you for life!

Thank goodness for Pete, who did all of the heavy lifting. He was a total godsend when it came time to basting, flipping, and cutting the bird.

You’ll see our menu on the left, which consisted of the following:

While our table might have been a bit mismatched, everything was delicious and that’s all that counts.

My mom wore sunglasses like a domestic rockstar while helping Pete serve the turkey since our bay windows let in a ton of light and we don’t have curtains. Thanks to everyone for your help, we had a blast hosting for our first time ever and hope to do it again! Special thanks to the best sister-in-law ever for helping Pete and I out all day long and easing my stress while I burned walnuts and caught bread cubes on fire (not sure if anyone saw that).

Hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving with lots of leftovers!

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Countdown to Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is officially just ten days away, which means my entire family will be in the same place for the first time since last Christmas. It also means I am gathering inspiration for recipes for the turkey-filled day. Unfortunately, my family has made it clear that they want a big bottle of ketchup on the table, which will likely tarnish my hopes for a Martha Stewart-esque tablescape, but oh well. I have been gathering some recipes, but wanted to see if any readers have favorite sides they’d like to share before I do a recipe round-up. I’m talking to you, Kerry!

Also, the more advice for cooking a 24 lb. turkey (assuming it fits in our oven), the better! Thanks again to everyone for the congrats on Friday, you guys made us feel all sorts of special.

Autumn Decor: Yes, Please.

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October is just around the corner, which means mustache madness, candy corn and impending holiday music 24/7. I’m especially excited this year because Pete and I are hosting our very first Thanksgiving together, which means this will be the first time when the majority of guests will have no desire to watch football. Ever since Hurricane Irene rained on our parade, we had to cancel our BBQ, so my family will be making the trek from NYC and Delaware to indulge in turkey goodness. Luckily for me, Pete has experience cooking a turkey, but the most I’ve ever helped with Thanksgiving meals in the past has been microwaving mashed potatoes. So, needless to say, I am ready to solicit some advice from pumpkin pie-baking veterans.

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The idea of mini white pumpkins scattered on a mantle makes me anxious to go pumpkin picking—I always like cutting out the centers to make them votive candleholders to bring a warm glow to the room.

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Anywho, I’ve been browsing Foodgawker and Pinterest to collect autumn decor and festive recipe inspiration, but I was wondering what some of your favorites are?

Food for Thought

Pete and I recently purchased a Weber charcoal grill, which he was eyeing up for a few months. Rather than hosting a huge backyard bash out of our budget, we’ll be having an intimate barbecue with immediate family this year. We figure it will be good practice for next year, when we’ll likely have a bigger summer shindig.

I’m really looking forward to having our families over and have been browsing foodgawker for recipe inspiration. What are your must-have items on a menu for a backyard barbecue? So far, I’m hoping we can make burgers (black bean and meat), hot dogs, some shrimp skewers, grilled vegetables, guacamole & chips, berry bowls, potato salad (hopefully commissioned by Pete’s parents), deviled eggs (thanks to my mom), cucumber salad (my grandma’s contribution!) and hummus with naan/pita chips.

Pete and I made Teriyaki shrimp with mango, corn on the cob and grilled asparagus for our first grilled feast together. It was really nice eating outside with Betty and enjoying the last hour of sunlight together.

Betty White is looking forward to schmoozing at the barbecue, although she is in desperate need of a haircut if she’s going to be hanging outside with us all day (that mustache doesn’t groom itself).

I’ve been gathering some simple, DIY decor ideas from Pinterest to help dress up our party a bit. I love the idea of taking a plaid, plastic tablecloth and using it to embellish everything. I have a feeling I’ll be making a trip to the Dollar Tree or Party City to get some obnoxiously bright tablewares!

{Photos courtesy of Hostess With the Mostess}

Do you have any tips for hosting our first family barbecue, apart from wearing lots of sunscreen?

Everyday Food: Grocery Bag

Top (L-R): Spicy Black Bean Soup, Parmesan Chicken With Mushrooms and Brussel Sprouts, Sesame Beef

Bottom (L-R): Turnip and Sweet Potato Gratin, Chicken Cutlets With Mustard Greens and Roasted Squash, Pasta e Fagioli (recipes by Everyday Food)

*Thanks to Pete for snapping these photos with his iPhone before meals

Every month, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food has a weekly dinner planner, which Pete and I have been taking advantage of for the past few months. We add the “shopping list” of ingredients they provide to our normal grocery list and plan a week’s worth of meals alongside the magazine’s Monday-Friday schedule. I enjoy cooking dinner with Pete this way because it steps us outside of our comfort zone of eating chicken nuggets and personal pizzas and forces us to ask questions like “What do mustard greens look like?” or “How do you chop an acorn squash?”

Everyday Food makes scheduling a week’s worth of meals simple and enjoyable and gives us time to work together after a stressful day at the office. Plus it makes our taste buds happy to try something new and exciting every month. Sometimes there are recipes that we’ve mentally marked as “never again,” but for the most part, we finish our dinners with a smile.

What are some of your favorite cooking blogs or magazines that give you inspiration?

Recipes: White Bean Stuffed Portobellos

For whatever reason, my domestic side kicked in recently when I began to cook for the first time. Ever. As part of my “30 before 30” challenge, I’ve been trying at least one new recipe per month for a year. Our oven is now deceased, so while we wait for the landlord to bring it back to life, we are making do with our stove top (which still works!) and convection oven. Before our oven kicked the bucket, I made the following recipe from a recent issue of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, which I now have a monthly subscription to, thanks to Pete! Be sure to keep in mind that the portions allow for enough food for a delicious lunch with leftovers the following day.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a tasty wintry recipe we can cook on our stove top? We can only eat so much grilled cheese, stir fry and pizza before our tastebuds get bored.

White-Bean Stuffed Portobellos
4 Servings

INGREDIENTS
6 large Portobello mushrooms, stems discarded
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) cannelli beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 thick slices crusty bread (from a 1-pound loaf), crusts removed
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 bunches spinach (about 3 pounds total), trimmed and washed

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place mushrooms, stem side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons each lemon juice and oil. Brush mushrooms with oil mixture; season with salt and pepper. Roast mushrooms until tender and beginning to release their juices, 15 minutes. Flip and drain juices from sheet. Reserve 2 mushrooms for tomorrow’s lunch. Increase oven to 450 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high. Add half the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add beans, 1 teaspoon thyme and ¼ cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost evaporated, 3 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse bread until coarse crumbs form. Add 1 teaspoon oil and 1 teaspoon thyme; pulse to combine. Top each mushroom with 1/3 cup bean mixture. Reserve remaining beans for lunch. Divide cheese and breadcrumbs among each mushroom. Return sheet to oven and cook until breadcrumbs are golden brown, 5 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high. Add remaining garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Gradually add half the spinach (reserve remaining spinach for lunch), season with salt and pepper, and toss until wilted. Add lemon zest and 1 teaspoon lemon juice and toss to combine. Serve spinach alongside stuffed mushrooms.

Nutrition facts (amount per serving): Calories: 329; Total fat: 11.7 g; Protein: 13.5 g; Carbs: 46.4 g; Fiber: 13.7 g.

Recipes: Vegetable-Stuffed Eggplant and Lime Chicken Tacos

In food news, I tried two new recipes the other night, one was a vegetable-stuffed eggplant and the other was lime chicken soft tacos. I wasn’t sure if I really liked eggplant, but after this experience I can safely confirm that I am not a fan of eggplant. At all. I do, however, enjoy tacos and could eat them every day for the rest of my life with no complaints. I also made pumpkin pie with pre-made Oreo crust (Pete’s idea) for our families this week since my parents were in town. I sure do love me some nutmeg.

Anywho, happy September everyone, and more importantly, happy birthday to my big brother!