Open Thread: The Family Table


Share your tried and true traditions

by Maddie Eisenhart, Managing Editor

Open Thread: The Family Table | A Practical Wedding

Coming from what can only be described as a…complicated family, it should come as no shock that the holidays are a difficult beast for Michael and me. Between us, there are usually four or five families to visit each major holiday (most of our relatives live on the same block), and no one ever feels like they got enough face time when all is said and done (despite our best efforts). Usually when the day is up, Michael and I melt into the couch in the way that you melt into the couch when finals week is over, or when you’ve finally landed after a very, very long international flight. Sometimes there are even tears. Yet despite all this, the holidays remain my favorite time of year, Thanksgiving in particular.

I grew up spending every other Sunday watching my grandmother cook old-fashioned spaghetti and meatballs from a recipe she refuses to write down it’s so secret. At my mom’s house, dinner was the only time you could get all five of us kids to slow down long enough to interact with each other (well, except Jeopardy, because Jeopardy time is sacred). Despite the unpredictable nature of my family, the table was a place of consistency. Familiar foods would pair with familiar conversations and, well, there’s a reason they call it comfort. The older I get, the more significance I find in the little traditions that exist around the table. Of recipes passed down, of cheap beer chased with a cup of tea, of having the same argument with my aunt year after year. Sure, the interactions aren’t always pleasant (my family can and will drive me crazy), but there’s something oddly reassuring in having the same old script played out year after year, something that reminds me I’m home. (I mean, Grandma might flash me her bra and confuse Michael for a girl, but at least we’ve come to expect it.)

So for today’s open thread, we wanted to open things up to your family table and share a bit of our traditions with each other. What are the meaningful bits of the holidays that you look forward to the most each year? Which family recipes do you know by heart? (Please leave recipes in the comments! We’re doing Thanksgiving by ourselves for the first time ever this year and I feel like I should at least attempt…a side dish?) I’ll be hanging out at the kids table eating my pearl onions and those sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top awaiting your replies.

Photo from Maddie’s personal collection

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is the Managing Editor of A Practical Wedding. She’s been writing stories about boys and crushes since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) in the art of talking from NYU in 2008. In her spare time, she takes pictures of people in love. Maddie lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband Michael, her Mastiff named Juno, and her roommate named Joe.

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  • Laura C

    The thing I loved about Thanksgiving growing up, and into my early 20s, was the stuffing. Years we did the meal at home, we’d make a big pot of it in the morning and it would sit there until it was time to actually stuff the turkey, and basically all I’d eat all day was stuffing, snatched in bites every time I’d go by the pot. That and good gravy were the things I’d miss when we went to someone else’s house.

    Then in my 20s I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and stuffing is one of about three things that I just haven’t found a really truly satisfying gluten-free version of. For a few years, that made Thanksgiving really stressful — I skipped it altogether one or two years, had giant crying meltdowns one or two years. I guess I’ve gotten over it, but the outcome is, since we never did Thanksgiving with any particular set of people and food was really what made the day for me, I feel detached from any special Thanksgiving traditions now. Which has its very good points, because as we get married and try to figure out our holiday traditions, Thanksgiving will be relatively stress-free for me as far as trying out new things. Plus, since gravy is typically thickened with flour, I now have an excuse even when we’re eating at someone else’s house to say I’m bringing my own…

    • http://www.marbleryephotography.com/ Melissa

      Have you tried any version of cornbread stuffing? The cafe I used to work at does a cornbread, sausage & sage stuffing that is gluten free and to die for.

      • emmers

        my mom makes this too! with cornbread, 1lb sausage, celery, parsley, 1 vidalia onion, poultry herbs, center leaves of boston lettuce, butter, chicken broth, and 2 eggs.

      • Laura C

        You know, I’ve had cornbread stuffing and I like it fine, but it just isn’t my Thanksgiving food. It’s, like, a food that’s good, but it doesn’t fill that particular gap in my life.

    • YPI

      Hi Laura- I was diagnosed with celiac’s last spring, and this is my first Thanksgiving gluten-free. Needless to say, i’m worried it just won’t feel the same.

      I got to my fiance’s family for the holidays since mine is across the country. They’re being great about it, and I’ll be making 2 gf pies and a stuffing. I am trying Smitten Kitchen’s recipe using Udi’s bread- just going to toast it A LOT, and hope for the best. As for the pie, I’d be happy to share my crust recipe- I tested it out last weekend, and was super happy with the results.

      Holidays are tough, and get tougher when things you found comforting get taken away. All that to say, celiac solidarity sister.

      • Laura C

        Make sure everyone knows to watch out for the chicken broth! That’s one that people will never believe can have gluten in it and it’s in so many Thanksgiving dishes.

        Thanks for the crust recipe offer, but I actually never much liked pie crust, so I’m super happy just making pie fillings when it’s just me and my parents (my dad doesn’t like pie and my mom toasts thin slices of biscuit to have with her pie filling).

        • YPI

          Yum- pie filling is pretty fantastic.

          Thanks for the heads up about the broth. My fiance’s mom and family are (very sweetly) being super diligent about checking ingredients, but I’m still on the lookout, and ask to see containers if I’m not sure. It’d be pretty awful to get glutened on such a big eating holiday…

          Best- Y

  • Ann

    It’s funny because my family unit is so tiny and we only ever had the four of us at the table plus perhaps one aunt and on very few occasions a grandmother. And so I read wonderful stories involving large families with amazing family recipes and crazy second cousin antics and get a little wistful for something I never had. My family is tiny, my parents aren’t particularly interested in cooking, and we don’t have too many things I would categorize as “traditions”.

    So my one small little recipe contribution was never scribbled into a recipe book and passed down from generation to generation. We simply always make the Libby’s brand pumpkin pie recipe and it comes out delicious every time. So go out there and buy a can of Libby’s and be like my tiny WASP-y family!

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      It’s so funny how adamant I am about the brands I grew up with as a kid. We’re One Pie can people and I will seek that stuff out to the ends of the earth. It’s that little stuff.

      Also, there are some really lovely things about not having huge holidays, I PROMISE you. :)

      • Ann

        I have always wondered about One Pie – I see it at the store all the time and wonder if I should try it but just haven’t yet. It is pretty weird, the connection to a brand :).

        I’ll soon get to experience both tiny and insanely large family gatherings because my fiance has sixteen total aunts and uncles. Expand that out with 2-4 children for each family and I can only remember 50% of the names and STILL don’t know which kids go with which parents yet…

    • Meg Keene

      Ok. I walked away from this comment thread, and kept thinking about this comment (as one of a WASP-y family of four) (though we had/have plenty of traditions, god help us ;)

      The best thing for me about being married is you get to literally build your own family, and you get to build it to suit your needs and wants. That can mean kids, or family of choice, or whatever. New traditions, the works. It can just take a little time to empower yourself to do that, so this is me giving you a nudge.

      I always wanted a big family. God knows if I’ll have one by blood (kids are expensive these days). But I’d say we’ve built a pretty big and rambunctious (and sometimes dysfunctional, ha) family of choice, and we’ve created new traditions that work for us, and it’s totally magic.

      • M is for Megan

        “Family of choice” now in my arsenal of words to describe my life. Need it, in face of recent “blood thicker than water arguments.” Neeeed.

        • Meg Keene

          Did you see the amazing comment on Monday’s post? That apparently the origin of the phrase “Blood is thicker than water” is that your bond is tighter with those you shed blood with, than those you shared womb water with?

          • BreckW

            I did not see that, but THAT IS AMAZING.

          • M is for Megan

            OMG whhaaaaat. Time to reclaim some stuff.

      • KC

        We’ve had Friendsgiving ever since we’ve been far enough away from all relatives that time off vs. Thanksgiving meant that travel would be insane (see: “well, we could catch an overnight on Wednesday night and be exhausted on Thanksgiving, but it’s $$$, and then we’d have to fly back in time for Monday morning, which is also $$$…”). And Friendsgiving is the most awesome thing ever: Thanksgiving where the rule is generally “if we can borrow another chair from somewhere, sure, you can invite your roommate’s cousin from Istanbul!”

        I’m totally an introvert, so I sometimes have had to duck out to breathe for a little while before diving back into the noise and talk and laughter (fortunately: dishes!), but I love the feeling of knowing that a whole bunch of people are being welcomed and loved and thoroughly fed and having fun. It just seems seasonally appropriate or something. Warm and fuzzy, anyway.

      • Ann

        Thanks Meg! I might need the little nudge, especially since I’m not so sure about the big family with regard to making it myself. In some ways it’s easy if I want it to be – I could just jump into my fiance’s enormous family and roll around in their crazy. But… I didn’t grow up with their traditions, they are culturally very different (cousins are all first generation Americans) and so their holidays aren’t quite the same.

        So maybe it’s time to really think about creating our own family of choice, as you say it, and creating some new traditions.

    • Sarah

      That’s the recipe my mom uses!

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    I had to come share our absolute favorite Thanksgiving recipe – Homemade cranberry sauce.

    I got the recipe from my brother and asked for it because I’d heard cranberries pop when you cook them and I wanted to see that. And they do pop with these cute little bursts.

    1 package (12 oz) fresh cranberries
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
    1 cup water (minus a tablespoon or two if you want your sauce to thicken faster)
    cinnamon and ground cloves to taste (just a few shakes of cinnamon and only a shake or two of ground cloves, it should be aromatic but not overpowering)

    Put the water, juice, and sugar in saucepan with high edges relative to the quantity being cooked (keeps the mess down). Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cranberries and keep stirring. The cranberries will start to pop as they break their skins open. Add the spices. Keep cooking and stirring for a while (10-15 minutes). The longer you cook and stir the thicker it will be. Remove from heat and then you have two options. For a chunky sauce, just let it cool. For a finer sauce, pass the sauce through a strainer/sieve to remove the cranberry skins. As the sauce cools, it will thicken some do to the natural pectin in the cranberries. The acid in the orange juice should prevent it from gelling completely.

    We do the chunky version. And whatever doesn’t get eaten with turkey gets used as cheese cake topping, which I think might be my favorite part. The sweetness of the cheese cake and the tartness of the cranberries is some kind of heaven in my mouth.

    • jashshea

      Nice! I grew up (in Massachusetts no less) thinking I hated cranberries because of the canned version. Turns out cranberries are DELICIOUS and this recipe sounds yummy.

      • http://andshelovesyou.com/ Lucy

        I have a weird love of that cheap canned cranberry sauce, and I don’t know why. Maybe nostalgia? I don’t care, I always buy one can and disgust everyone else with it. :)

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          If it doesn’t have ridges, I don’t know what to do with it.

          • KW

            This is my mom. :) She loves the can-shaped kind, I always preferred whole berry and learned to make my own. So, now I make homemade for those who like the whole berry style and she gets the canned kind for the rest and everyone is happy. :)

          • Kayjayoh

            I love canned cranberry sauce (the kind that is entirely smooth). Ditto for Pillsbury crescent rolls. I *also* love real the kind of cranberry sauce that is made from scratch with actual berries and really good bakery rolls and croissants.

            The thing I find myself wanting on Thanksgiving is those “from a can” things, because of the comforting nostalgia of them.

    • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

      Sounds great! My husband and FIL love the stuff in a can and I’ve always found it rather revolting. Perhaps I should put on my big-girl-pants and try the real thing? I mean, I use real pumpkin for my pie, I can so handle a few berries, right?

      • scw

        as someone who looks forward to shaped-like-a-can cranberry sauce, I might suggest providing both if you decide to make your own! we always do real and canned on thanksgiving.

        • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

          One day!! We host in small apartment for the time being. When I have more space I’ll venture in to the unknown.

  • Kendra D

    Since we eloped and promptly relocated overseas, we’ve done most holidays alone as a married couple. It’s been fun for developing our own sense of how to do holidays. I come from a family that is fairly over the top with holidays and my husband from a family that is much more low-key. Being on our own has definitely helped us figure out what we do and don’t like to do.

    One tradition we started while living in Germany and have worked at keeping alive here in Turkey, is doing a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with our friends. We invite everyone over the night before and have an all-American dinner of baby back ribs, mashed potatoes, and salad. We figure that there are enough turkeys running around on the actual day of Thanksgiving that everyone needs a break from it. And it’s fun to gather everyone together before they take off for their four day weekend.

  • Sara

    My parents really stressed the importance of family meal time growing up. No matter if it was McDonald’s drive thru thrown on the table after practice/concert/game, or a elaborate Sunday brunch, who ever was home and/or living there at the time was expected to be in their spot at dinner. My brother’s girlfriend mentioned the other day that going out to dinner with our family was like sitting down for dinner at our house. We just have a dinner groove that has been perfected through out the years.
    Thanksgiving is our extended family holiday – my aunt cooks everything and is basically an insane version of Martha Stewart, so it’s all picture perfect. And we’re not big on Christmas Day dinner. but Christmas eve…That is my favorite. We have the exact same meal every year. Linguine in white clam sauce, garlic bread, some sort of salad and christmas cookies. We eat by candle light and the glow of the Christmas tree, and then play cards or some board game. I love love love it.

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      Um oh my gosh that sounds amazing – the food, the candlelight – just out of a movie or something!

  • Amie Melnychuk

    I know my Baba’s perogie recipe by heart. I will never share.

    My best memories of the holidays are playing outside at Thanksgiving until we couldn’t feel our faces. Hide and Seek around Gramma and Grampa’s yard was always a given, and amazing, when there were 11 other kids to play with. We’d get called after Grampa got tired of turning the light back on because the game was only fun in the pitch dark.

    Now with my friends, we celebrate after Christmas at Ukranian Christmas in January. Everyone goes home for the holidays, so we don’t get to celebrate together, and it gives me an excuse to keep the decorations up. We do a potluck and a white elephant exchange. Everyone brings a gift to re-gift ans we drink a lot of mulled wine and pig out on perogies and holupci.

    Actual Christmas this year will be interesting: it is the first time the hubs and I will be together for it. He is coming to my parents in Manitoba and will experience a real winter, not a wussy, slushy, snowless Southern Ontario one. He will get to experience the biting cold and playing outsude until we are called in for supper. I feel a nostalgic Hide and Seek game coming on!

  • Sonarisa

    This will be my first Thanksgiving away from my family. Instead I’ll be with Badger and his family. I’m very excited to be spending more time with them, and to be included in this holiday celebration, but I know I’ll miss my family and traditions. Any tips on coping?

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Skype! It’s magic. My first Christmas away from home I woke up at 6:30AM so that I could have breakfast with my family on the East Coast.

    • M is for Megan

      I agree with Maddie – I spent a Christmas in Germany flat out ALONE in my apartment, but I got to open presents (mailed to me) with my mom on Skype, and the week before I’d been passed around our extended family Christmas to say hi to everyone. It helps!

    • Lauren

      I am in the same boat. Also my guy’s family being first gen do a very atraditional version of thanksgiving. No big table, no turkey, mashed potatoes out of a box. A little bit of a bummer. But my work is giving me a free turkey so I am going to cook it, probably with my mom on the phone giving instructions on stuffing, and bring it and basically make the best of it. Maybe Skype/FaceTime your family part way through the night/day and join in for 20 mins. And then when all else fails for me, I take solace and glee that Thanksgiving is like Christmas lite, and Christmas is going to be with my family up north in our winter wonderland lol.

  • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    So it wasn’t until having holidays with my fiance’s family that I realized what all of my family’s holidays have been missing all of these years: ALCOHOL. Family things are soooo much better with alcohol. We don’t have those at family functions because my mom’s dad doesn’t drink – he’s a strict Baptist preacher – so out of respect my mom and her siblings never drink around him. So, NEVER, with my family have we had drinks at our holiday meals. I love that now that we are blending holidays and having my parents (who drink) out to California at our place for Christmas that there will be lots of yummy alcohol involved. I totally didn’t realize that all this time other families were getting alcohol at these gatherings. Thank god I’m an adult now.

    • Laura C

      Ha! One of my friends is hilarious describing her in-laws’ meals as booze-free, caffeine-free, and vegetarian. And since you might be looking for some holiday boozy drink recipes, being fairly new to the game, let me link you to the BEST EGG NOG EVER: http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/2009/egg-nog/

      OMG, I want some right now. You’re welcome.

      • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

        Hehe thank you Laura! I’m actually vegan, but am looking forward to making spiked apple cider and things like that :) I will still check out that link though! :)

        • M is for Megan

          Vegan high-five! There are some vegan nog recipes floating around out there. Not quite the “real thing” but fills a void if you get desperate ;)

          • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

            Yes, and see this is also why I want alcohol at these things – since the food isn’t exciting to me (I’m not the one that makes it) , and involves just a few things and getting by – give me something I can be excited about :yummy holiday drinks, I mean, I’m fine with some good wine! But yes, as a vegan, some good alcohol could really make up for it. :)

          • M is for Megan

            Two years ago at my extended family Christmas, my uncle knew there wasn’t much for me and offered drive to a local vegan restaurant to get some takeout. He’s allergic to poultry and a few other things, and he said he knew what it was like to not be able to eat at social gatherings. It warmed my heart <3

          • Laura C

            This is such a good role for alcohol — as a celiac, good cocktails and wines are a thing that I can have as good as anyone else, no substitutions, and I guess it’s the same for vegetarians/vegans. Except for things like egg nog. :-

      • Laura

        Um. Yes. This looks INCREDIBLE.

    • Jessica

      That is definitely what is missing from my husband’s family gatherings. His grandmother is a tee-totaler and has passed along a fear (distrust?) of alcohol to all her children. Husband and I bring a bottle or two of wine for his very large family and we are looked at as the alcoholics. This year they are all coming to my parents place for Thanksgiving and I cannot wait until the side eye at the empty bottles start, because I think it’s hilarious!

      • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

        yes!! sounds great! i mean, my family is NOT the kind of family that hangs out and is close. We are more like the kind that gets together twice a year and it’s not enough time to get angry at each other. It’s good to see them, but it makes me sad that we don’t have *that* type of family. I just want to be like “lighten up a little!” not everything has to be so serious and traditional and “perfect” — i think alcohol would really help!

    • ferrous

      Our family functions were dry (my grandfather was an alcoholic) until my generation took over the cooking/hosting duties. It happened suddenly one year, like “why the heck don’t we have some booze?!” I have to admit, it did make things more fun. All things in moderation, I suppose.

      • M is for Megan

        I second the moderation. Many of my FH’s family events devolve into total craziness/drama as the empty bottles/cans start to stack…

    • Meg Keene

      Hahahahaha. TRUTH.

      Family functions that can turn stressful: drastically improved by a glass of wine. Or um, two. Depending on the stress level.

    • BreckW

      LOLLL, I can relate. This year, I’m spending Christmas with my boyfriend’s family, so we’ve been talking a lot about how they do things (I like to get the lay of the land before I go into new situations [control freak]), and it took me nearly a month of discussions to realize that there’s no alcohol involved. It was seriously (this probably sounds questionable, but whatevs) a thought that had never occurred to me. We always have champagne and wine and a nightcap with a big group at a family friend’s house. They don’t really abstain for any particular reason (everyone in his family drinks), so this year our contribution is going to be a few bottles of wine. Even if none of them touch it, I’m super grateful that my BF is down because I WILL NEED IT.

    • Elisabeth S.

      Confession: during one of my first visits out to K’s family I locked myself in the downstairs bathroom for a reasonable period of time and brought a half carafe of white wine. MUCH IMPROVED.

      • Jessica

        As an introvert, a half carafe of wine is like, standard procedure for me to get through a holiday… followed by a thorough decompressing session where I verbal-vomit all my feelings to my partner before we go to bed.

        • M is for Megan

          “…. a thorough decompressing session where I verbal-vomit all my feelings to my partner before we go to bed.” Every. Time. We also have to make periodic disappearances just to deal.

    • BD

      How funny, I can’t imagine a family holiday WITHOUT alcohol (my family is mostly Baptist too! Go figure.)

    • Alison O

      I like that when I sort by Best, this is at the top. Says a lot about spending (or tolerating, surviving) time with family. ;)

  • Gina

    I love Christmas traditions most of all, and it’s hard for me to open up my heart and share Christmas with the in-laws now. Because I’m one of 5 kids, and my husband is an only child, I have an unfair prejudice against going to hang out with his family–just because I think mine is more fun! There I said it. I’m trying to get over it and be less selfish. I realize we are blessed to have our families live so close together and no added complication of multiple stepparents or other family units. For now, we’ve agreed to do Christmas eve and morning at my family’s, and Christmas afternoon and dinner at his.

    I love singing Christmas carols at church on Christmas Eve. I love the German pancakes my mom makes Christmas morning. I love opening stockings all together as my dad pushes his camera in our just-woke-up faces. I love the busy togetherness of readying the house for guests after we have opened all our presents and finished our breakfast. I love my dad’s insistence on reading the christmas story to us and my brother’s insistence on getting sloshed at the same time. I love it all.

    • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

      I’ve struggled with this idea a lot over the years! My extended family is huge, and we’ve always had a big party on Christmas Eve, meaning that if we want to attend my parents get the shaft on Christmas Day. And my sister feels the same way and so my parents are left with no daughters on Christmas day.

      This year my husband and I are switching it up for the first time. And while I am excited to spend Christmas Day with my parents for the first time in several years, I am super sad about missing the big extended family party.

      • Lizzie

        Same here- I have a huge family on all sides, with 25+ relatives at Thanksgiving, everyone being loud and making a mess, and at my husband’s holiday dinner the table is set for…5. The meal is so uncomfortably quiet sometimes that it feels like someone died. Luckily my family’s Thanksgiving is on Friday so I don’t have to miss it. Respect for your hard choices and balancing act!

    • LL

      I’m with you. My family loves to talk, play games, and generally be joyful and boisterous. Husband’s family has 1st generation immigrant language/cultural barriers, so lots of silence and TV watching. I try not to think too much about the fun I’m missing.

      • Gina

        Gahhhh that’s so hard! I respect you so much for doing that for your husband.

        • LL

          Luckily being first gen, Christmas is a non-entity for them, so we always do Thanksgiving there and Christmas with my side. I would not be so kind and generous about giving up my beloved Christmas traditions for TV and silence.

  • lady brett

    growing up, my extended family always did a big thanksgiving dinner at our house (i had no idea that apparently everyone else i know does thanksgiving at lunch time, was a very confusing part of joining in other people’s holidays for me).

    one year in college, my bro and i came home on thanksgiving break to discover that thanksgiving had been cancelled. or, rather, our parents’ generation had just not bothered to plan it – they figured we were all off doing our own things so there was no point. we were all pretty disappointed not to see our cousins on the rare occasion of us all being around – so we did the full family thanksgiving shebang on friday that year (by the time we found out, there simply wasn’t time to pull it together on thursday)! that was pretty cool, actually.

  • mimi

    Smitten Kitchen has been doing a series this week on Thanksgiving side dishes and they all sound fab. http://www.smittenkitchen.com

  • april

    My grandmother (who is going on 94 and still lives on her own and still throws an amazing party) hosts a New Years Day party/open house every year. I’ve gone to it every year for as long as I can remember, and it’s something I really look forward to. Because my grandmother is way classier than I could ever aspire to be, there are ladies in fur coats, fresh magnolia boughs over the fireplace, sausage and buiscuits served on silver trays, and a crystal punch bowl filled to the brim with homemade egg nog (which she makes the night before then stashes outside to keep chilled until the party – one year a squirrel got into it, which was something to see. My grandmother served it anyway, figuring that the alcohol would take care of any potential squirrel germs …). It’s really magical – and I love helping my grandmother and my aunts get the house and the food ready.

    Bonus – my grandmother’s enough-alcohol-to-kill-squirrel-germs (although probably not really) egg nog recipe:

    *Ingredients:
    2 cups whipping cream — whipped stiff
    2 cups bourbon
    6 eggs — separated, egg whites whipped
    1/2 cup sugar dissolved over heat with 1/4 cup water
    1 pt. whole milk (you won’t use the whole pint)

    Directions:
    Beat simple syrup into egg yolks
    Mix egg/syrup mix with bourbon
    Fold in whipped cream
    Fold in whipped egg whites
    Cut with whole milk as needed

    *NB — measurements are approximate (my grandmother doen’t do much measuring when she makes hers); you’ll probably have to play around with the proportions

    • Beth R

      Your grandma sounds awesome!

  • Meg Keene

    For your side dish, may I present: Trader Joe’s stuffing for $3.75? Yeah. We’ve had it already this season. It’s awesome.

    Our Thanksgiving tradition (or our favorite one) is travel, ideally international (it is SUCH a cheap week to leave the country, since other American’s just aren’t, and accommodations are cheap because it’s offseason, plus it’s not TOO cold yet. So we’re on that, this year. In my family, traditions were always a bit… rigid, so in my own home, they’ve become super fluid. On Thanksgiving, we’ll be eating… whatever people not celebrating Thanksgiving serve us. And we’re thankful enough for that.

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      Oooo I never thought about the benefits of flying at Thanksgiving! Wow so true! Thanks for the tip!

      And I love that stuffing too – I’m vegan and Whole Foods has a vegan stuffing mix that’s really easy for me to make too :)

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        Last year we flew ON Thanksgiving and it was the best ever. I’ve never seen the airports so quiet.

        • lady brett

          i flew home on thanksgiving one year and ended up getting through security and check-in so fast (like 5 minutes fast) that i ended up on an earlier flight!

          • M is for Megan

            Dream scenario!

        • april

          Same goes for drving on Thanksgiving morning. We sometimes do holidays at my uncle’s place in Deleware – it’s about 120 miles, and it only takes 2 hours on Thanksgiving morning.

      • Meg Keene

        OH AND ALSO. The even better reason is: you can take 3 days off work, and be gone for 8. EIGHT! Matters less to me now (though it does to David) but it still matters. Since we’re closed Thursday and Friday next week, I can be gone a long time without making the staff cry a lot ;)

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Like David, I’m a lawyer, and that’s why we got married on Veterans Day – 2 weeks out of the office, but only 7 court/business days.

          • Kat91314

            Oooh, never thought of doing it that way. I’m a paralegal, and you almost make me want to change our wedding date (9/13/14) to November! I’m taking almost two weeks off, and I’m wondering if I’ll even be able to see my desk when I get back to work, or if it’ll just be completely buried :-/ But it’s my wedding, so it’s worth it either way, right?

    • jashshea

      Enjoy! We did that last year (thanksgiving meal: Thai food in a casino in NZ) and it was WONDERFUL – no pressure, no over eating, just pleasant. Unfortunately, y husband and my mother both have birthdays that fall during the T-week, so it’s a feat unlikely to be repeated – both families always want us around for some reason :)

      • Meg Keene

        HA. Funny story: it’s the baby’s birthday next week, and his birthday will usually fall on Thanksgiving week. He may just end up having a lot of early birthdays in a lot of different countries. Could be worse, right? Party when we get back, done.

        • jashshea

          That sounds amazing to me! Happy almost birthday to the bb!

    • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

      Yes to TJ’s! Eric and I agreed right after we started dating that if we ever host Thanksgiving, we WILL serve Stove Top. Because sorry if this makes me trashy but I have never had homemade stuffing that I liked as much as I like Stove Top. Boxed stuffing FTW!

      • BreckW

        I had Stove Top for the first time last year, and, while it wasn’t as good as my mom’s, it was pretty damn delicious.

      • M is for Megan

        Guilty of eating Stovetop off season for dinner in college.

        • Laura

          Me too! All. the. time.

      • Mezza

        This. My mom and I argue every year about whether she gets to make fancy stuffing or I insist on Stove Top.

      • LL

        Stove Top is The.Best. That is all.

      • Sarah
      • Laura

        FYI, you can make stovetop less stovetop-y by using chicken broth instead of water, and adding sausage. (If you’re not vegetarian of course… in which case I have no ideas for you. )

    • M is for Megan

      “On Thanksgiving, we’ll be eating… whatever people not celebrating Thanksgiving serve us.” Not quite the same, but last year (our first Thanksgiving living together), we didn’t fly home and went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. And then we went home after.. and there were no dishes! And I was thankful we could focus on us. Just us.

    • Kelly

      Yes to international travel over Thanksgiving! A few years back I was able to visit my sister on the cheap while she was studying in London. I stayed for two weeks, and we fit in a side trip to Ireland for her birthday. Cheap flight + free lodging + okay weather = awesome.

    • BreckW

      We are planning a big Germany trip next year for Thanksgiving, and I could not be more excited!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      We were gone for Thanksgiving on our honeymoon last year – in Rome. It was great! Except…We had an apartment, and I felt the urge to cook something for Thanksgiving dinner (also, my husband was too tired to go out after site-seeing). I had a plastic paring knife, 2 pots, tomato sauce, sausage, onion, garlic, and dried pasta. I got so wrestling with the awful knife and a tiny cutting board, I just quartered the onion and cut the garlic cloves in half. It was edible but awful. Definitely our worst meal in Rome and my worst Thanksgiving dinner ever.

      But a great memory in the so-awful-it’s-funny way.

  • Jess

    Thanksgiving was The Family Holiday growing up. We spent it with my Mom’s side, usually at each of her or her siblings homes (3 total – Uncle’s, Aunt’s, and ours) but then after my grandfather passed, we went to my grandma’s condo. Every year until she also passed.

    Last year, we went to R’s family for Thanksgiving, which was good but different for me. This year, we’ll be at my family’s. Unlike the last few years since my grandma was gone, everyone from my mom’s side will be coming.

    My mom has tense-ish relationship with her mother (must run in the family), and felt the need to always be working on things. My personal tradition was to go into the kitchen and be helpful until dinner, then be helpful some more by clearing the table and doing dishes until everyone was tired. It kind of sedated the “freak out at everyone” from my mom.

    My cousins are all about 10 years older than me and my brother, so we never really connected. This year, I’m looking forward to actually being able to talk to them now that I’m an adult (sort of?) and can maybe form some relationships with them! My fear: I’m going to be assigned as the one to look after their children. It’s not really my thing, but I always end up being asked to do so.

  • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

    Growing up we did a big meal at home with our parents. We are trying to make our own traditions now and this year we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving (our first as young marrieds!) with some friends locally :-)

  • http://www.nthdegreedesigns.com/blog Seshat

    Holidays are always pretty chaotic in my family, mostly due to having divorced parents that can’t stand each other and worry that the other is getting more face time with me and my siblings. It’s actually a bit of a relief to not go home for Thanksgiving, but I always try to make it home for Christmas. When Matt and I started dating, we learned we were from neighboring home suburbs about 5+ hours from where we currently live. It’s sort of a blessing and a curse around the holidays because on the one hand, we don’t have to make decisions about who we’re *not* seeing, but on the other hand we have to pack in 3 Christmas celebrations with parents and siblings PLUS additional parties with aunts/uncles/cousins who we still love to see. It’s exhausting and we stay with family too so we never really get a break until we head back home.

    Favorite family traditions? There’s not much I’d really categorize as a “tradition,” we all try to get together with as many relatives as possible, and it rotates yearly on who’s hosting. There are also certain cookies we always make (mint chocolate chip meringues, gingerbread and sugar cookies that we decorate together, super-putsy cornflake wreaths). The big actual tradition I think of though is the cousin ornament exchange. Each family on my dad’s side would always gift ornaments to all the other cousins (my dad has 3 siblings, so every cousin got 3 ornaments every year). It was a great way to give a small gift to a bunch of relatives, and a great way to have a bunch of ornaments to decorate with once you had your own place (plus, they all have special meaning). That pretty much stopped since we’re all adults now, but I’m hoping to kick it off again with my nieces and nephews.

    • Katelyn

      I am very grateful that both sides’ parents are still together, but I feel you on the doubling down for holidays. My fiance and I are from neighboring hometowns, which means for the past 9 years we’ve slept separately for the holidays, as each of our parents want us to be with them the majority of the time. It’s exhausting to haul ourselves back and forth 15 country miles throughout several days.

      We’ve acquiesced in the past and I think we’ll do the usual song and dance at Thanksgiving in a week, but hopefully by Christmas have something arranged, even if it means staying at the (only) bed and breakfast or one of the two crappy hotels so we’re not picking “favorites”.

    • Claire

      Ah mint chocolate chip meringues?! Would you care to share the recipe?

      • http://www.nthdegreedesigns.com/blog Seshat

        I would, but I actually don’t have it. It’s one I keep meaning to get from my mom, but her recipe collection is kind of a mess. If I can get her to send it to me I can definitely share it. I’ve been working on assembling my own Christmas cookie aresnal and have replaced both the family gingerbread AND sugar cookie recipes. *gasp* Plus I’ve added in cranberry walnut ruglache and salted caramel shortbreads. I’m such a rebel.

  • Beth R

    Thanksgiving has always been our large family gathering because we have some people who celebrate Christmas and some that don’t. We rotate locations each year, usually between my parents and my mom’s two siblings.

    Traditions include a cheese log (secret recipe!) appetizer, fried cauliflower as one of the sides (although my mom said she’s going to bake it this year – the horror!), cranberry salad a la Lucille Davis (Geena Davis’ mom – family friends, so delicious!) and all the normal fixings. We always go for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner and before pie, and there is almost always some kind of game played after that – Scattergories, Pictionary, whatevs.

    The following day, there is pie for breakfast, then we generally find some non-shopping related outing and finally regroup for the meal that may be even more popular than actual Thanksgiving dinner – turkey rolled tacos, enchiladas, and other Mexican food deliciousness. Oh my god, I can’t wait.

    Since meeting my husband, I’ve been going to Michigan with him for Christmas with his family. This will be my 4th year and first as his wife, so I’m still learning the traditions, but there are always stockings, a big dinner, and then everyone has their gifts passed out and people take turns opening theirs.

  • Jessica

    This year is going to be weird. Husband got a few days off during Thanksgiving to come home from army training, so our moms decided to have a big family get together. We have very different families for all their on-paper similarities, and my MIL basically said “we’re having it at your house, right?” to my Mom, which was…presumptuous…but altogether fine. It will be an interesting day. The last time his family got together for Thanksgiving was 2 years ago, and we had a brunch so everyone could go to the significant others’ parents for dinner. Last year we absorbed his brother and uncle into my family’s celebration because they didn’t have any where else to go (parents were in Chicago with another of Husband’s siblings).

    Thanksgiving was always a pretty casual hang-out day for my family. When we were kids we would go bowling after dinner, and for a few years my Mom would host a get-together on the Saturday after Thanksgiving so all the cousins and grandparents could see each other no matter what their day-of plans were. The only guarantees in food were turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and some sort of bread, so everything else became whatever recipe folks wanted to try out.

    One thing that is cool at my family is the prayer–we sing it. It’s very nice to have a little something different that only gets passed down through the generations because it’s done 3-4 times per year.

    • LL

      I just got (possibly unnecessarily) terrified that when my grandpa dies, my family will stop singing the prayer. The chances of this happening are slim in an aggressively-harmonizing Lutheran family but Grandpa is the one that always starts it – note to self to make sure it continues.

      • a single sarah

        When the time comes, you start the singing through the tears. You won’t be the only one.

        I love sung blessings. Love, love, love.

  • Christina McPants

    We used to have popcorn on our table for Thanksgiving because my little brother read that the Pilgrims had it for their first thanksgiving and he was a ridiculously adorable child. My mom does the same meal for Thanksgiving and Christmas (turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans NOT the casserole, cranberry relish, cranberry sauce, stuffing with sausage, celery & prunes) and it’s amazing.

    Our family traditions have really evolved over the years – the kids don’t go to church anymore, the tree gets decorated when we all get home from our corners the earth, we eat breakfast before presents… and yet they haven’t. We eat steak Christmas Eve (because my older brother still won’t eat poultry so he has the leftovers Xmas day) (though now the kids cook because my parents are at Mass), we still decide what time we’re getting up for Christmas the night before and my dad, bless his heart, pulls out a video camera as old as I am and we have to do show and tell with our presents.

    The biggest thing that changed is that I’m not always there anymore. For now, we’re splitting Christmases between parents and this year (and the year before) it was my in-laws’ turn. It’s really hard not being there, but I also wouldn’t trade where I am.

  • Kayjayoh

    I grew up with so many family holiday traditions. The problem/advantage for me is that most of the traditions I grew up with from early childhood got exploded when my family moved during my high school years. It was a strange, complicated time with the immediate family living in three cities across the state. We had to reinvent a lot of our traditions. Some of them carried on in new forms and some disappeared entirely.

    One family tradition was that our big Christmas celebration with present opening (often with family guests) was on Christmas Eve after church. Christmas morning would have presents from Santa, then more church, then chilling out and enjoying our presents, and then Christmas dinner.

    Now that we are in different household and most of us don’t go to church, we still do our Christmas eve together…except for when I’m out of town for Christmas or when my nephew is with his dad’s family for Christmas eve, or… etc. It feels like tradition, but it doesn’t have a rigid structure. What works best for everyone this year?

  • Christina McPants

    Oh, I forgot the recipes!

    My mom’s stuffing:
    1 bag pepperidge farm stuffing
    1 box chicken broth
    1 cup celery
    1 cup onions
    1 tube low fat Jimmy Dean sausage
    1 cup diced prunes

    Make the stuffing according to directions (I always omit the butter and have yet to feel the lack). While it sits, sautee the onions. Add the celery once the onions are soft. Add the sausage a few minutes after that and break it up while it cooks. Once the sausage is cooked through, drain any excess fat from the pan. Mix this pan of deliciousness with the stuffing and prunes. Either stuff inside your bird (YUM) or put in a dish and bake for while (350 for an hour? Maybe? Back of the bag will have guidance).

    My dad’s cranberry relish (which is from the back of the ocean spray bag):
    1 16oz bag cranberries
    1 orange
    2/3 cup sugar

    Get out your food processor. Cut the orange into quarters or eighths. Dump the whole thing into the food processor and whir until well combined. Let sit in the fridge for a few hours. DIVINE. Especially on leftover turkey sandwiches with cream cheese.

  • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    I’ve commented way too much on this thread already, but reading all of this is making me sad that I’m spending thanksgiving without my fiance. We live in LA and my family is in NC and she doesn’t have time to take off work to go to NC. My parents are coming to us for Christmas so it’s really important for me to have some time in NC (especially during the fall/winter!). Also her dad is ill so it’s important to her to spend as much time with him (her family is here). Anyway, I just wish she could go with me next week but it just didn’t work out. It’s weird being around my family without MY family – also, I’m pretty sure they all know I’m engaged to a woman (except my preacher grandfather) but it hasn’t been talked about – I’ll be there at the dinner wearing my ring so I don’t see how it won’t come up – just kind of weird mixed feelings, not knowing what to expect. My family is pretty Southern conservative baptist…so….yeah.

    I just would be so excited if she was coming with me. Oh well- we’ll have an awesome Christmas together!

  • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

    Well, as most of you know, brunch is my favorite meal of the day…so I’m a big fan of holiday breakfasts/brunches. Also, I’ve recently realized that the reason everyone (in my family) anyway is so batshit on Thanksgiving is because NO ONE EATS BREAKFAST!!! So my new thing is making the Thanksgiving morning breakfast (especially since I’m usually not the one cooking the dinner THAT EVERYONE INSISTS ON EATING AT LIKE 2 PM ANYWAY SO IT’S NOT EVEN DINNER BUT WHATEVER THAT’S ANOTHER RANT FOR ANOTHER DAY)…I made scones a couple of years ago, but I think this strata is the way to go: http://www.rachelwilkerson.com/2010/01/08/healthy-baked-egg-casserole-recipe/

    Also, my SO easy go-to holiday appetizer that will make people love you is bacon-wrapped dates: http://www.food.com/recipe/easy-bacon-wrapped-dates-169050

    • Elisabeth S.

      oh god strata. Strata and overnight french toast, Christmas morning. While I’m glad K figured out that she’s terribly gluten-intolerant, MY GOD I MISS THE STRATA.

    • Alison O

      Wellllllll, from what I’ve heard, it seems to be sort of a regional and generational thing, lunch vs dinner vs supper. Basically everyone I know talks in terms of lunch (midday) and dinner (evening), but it used to be common to use dinner (midday) and supper (evening), and dinner was the heaviest meal of the day so people could keep doing their hard manual labor jobs the rest of the afternoon. The word supper comes from sup, derived from soup (and the related sip refers to drink/liquid), so, the evening meal was lighter. I think I’ve only ever heard old people and Southerners use dinner/supper. So, anyway, if you think of dinner as the biggest meal of the day–which, as an evening meal, it usually is in American culture now)–then if you’re having the Thanksgiving meal at 6 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, or 7 at night, it’s dinner. But then again, who doesn’t love a good rant?

      • Alison O

        And BTW APW, love that the Edit feature works in the new comment system!

  • a single sarah

    My friend’s family (with whom I will be celebrating Thanksgiving for the fifth time) plays Bingo in the time between Thanksgiving dinner and dessert. It makes me love the game. Important to have the cheesy prizes
    wrapped, and separated for the kids’ prizes and grown-ups’ prizes.

    I never knew the game could be so fun :)

    • BreckW

      This is super cute.

      • a single sarah

        I’ve missed it on the years when I didn’t do Thanksgiving with their family. But it requires a larger crowd than the immediate family I was hosting those years.

        I have 15-50 prizes bought and packed to take with me to their place next week though.

  • M is for Megan

    My first year of grad school, a friend hosted Thanksgiving for those of us who couldn’t go home or who didn’t traditionally celebrate. He had a tradition in his family that each person had 3 kernels of corn on their plate, and before dinner each person said one thing they were thankful for per kernel. I cried when I said mine, it made me so emotional to speak it out loud, and he said that it happens more often than one would think. I haven’t done it again, but I might as our family grows. It was so nice and really brought us closer :’)

  • MEM

    thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday. I am so excited- We’re pretty traditional with food, but we do have an oyster stuffing that’s been passed down. The tradition is that whoever finished the stuffing first calls everyone else. This is the first year that I won’t be going to my parent’s for the holiday, but i’m actually really excited to venture out on our own. we’ll be celebrating with another couple who are also spending their first thanksgiving away from family so it should be a fun adventure!

    Oyster Stuffing:
    1/2 loaf of stale french bread, cubed
    1/2 # ritz crackers, crushed
    1/2 # butter, melted
    1 pint half and half
    1tsp salt
    1/2 tsp pepper
    1/2 cup parsley flakes
    1 pint milk
    1 pint oysters

    mix butter and crackers. take 2/3 of cracker mix and combine with bread. add scream, salt, pepper, parsley. slowly add milk, letting it absorb until it’s the consistency of bread pudding (Soggy but still has shape) drain and clean oysters and mix them in. put mixture into 2 qt casserole dish and top with remaining cracker mix. bake at 350 for 1 hr 15 min. best when served warm, not reheated so make it the day of.

  • lildutchgrrl

    My family does Thanksgiving Friday, per my now-deceased grandmother, who said something to the effect of, “You do whatever you want on Thursday — go to your boyfriend’s, your kids’, just by yourselves — but on Friday you come HERE. And bring anyone you want.” In the heyday, which was probably when I was 6-12, there would often be 40 people, and they’d eat two turkeys and a ham. The past few years, it’s been steady at 20-22 people (although the faces may vary from year to year).

    I LOVE THIS TRADITION. I’ve missed only a few; usually when I was away at college. The replacement celebrations were inadequate. Oh, and my cousin tried to have Thanksgiving at her place on Thursday once instead, notifying us maybe 2 weeks out, and I had already made plans. I was not the only one. They didn’t do that again.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      This is AWESOME. My mom’s side of the family does something similar with Christmas. We get together at 9AM on Christmas even, and they get to bogart everyone until dinnertime. It’s my favorite part of the year.

    • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

      That is SO COOL!

    • Lizzie

      My family does that too! It started when my oldest siblings got married and had to spent Thanksgiving with the in-laws; my mom decided it was too sad to have people missing from the table and declared a second Thanksgiving on Friday, come one come all. I’m especially grateful for it now that I’m a newlywed stuck at my in-laws for the actual day of Thanksgiving. No need to choose whose house to go to…we do a full day at both.

    • Jacki

      I LOVE this tradition! LOVE!

  • Meredith

    My fiance and I are doing our first holidays together this year! After five years of being apart for holidays I am so ready. My family for Thanksgiving, his family for Christmas. My goal is to start one tradition this year that’s just for the two of us.
    Also, since Thanksgiving is coming up I’d like to take a moment and say how thankful I am for this community. You are all truly special and I gain so much from you every day. THANK YOU. :)

    • Ani

      What tradition are you going to start? I’d love to start having some traditions with my fiance, but so far we just tag along with our respective families.

    • blimunda

      Yay for newborn traditions! Our traditions, that we started when we didn’t live together and spent main celebratory meals with our respective families, are Christmas Eve dinner with the large group of friends that introduced us, and Christmas dinner just the two of us, snuggled on the sofa, watching a Harry Potter movie.
      This year we may spend again Christmas lunch with my side (because it involves a bit more traditions than on his side) and dinner with his. Still watching Harry Potter after that, thou.
      His family is not very big on celebrations, but his grandma always made tortellini for every holiday, now that she can’t do it anymore, we’ve taken this task and spend a weekend before Christmas making enough for everybody to eat multiple times. Fortunately they freeze perfectly.

  • Ariel

    This year my mom will be joining the Thanksgiving festivities at my future in-laws. I’m a little nervous, even though they’ve known each other for years.

    My FMIL will be making the turkey, gravy, stuffing, and pies. Myself and my fiance will be making the rest: soup, spaghetti squash, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with pecans & goat cheese on top, and another vegetable yet undecided.

    All recipes except for mashed potatoes are from smittenkitchen.com (everything on the site is delicious). For mashed potatoes I use yukon golds and lots of butter and milk.

    Soup: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2006/10/the-leaf-peeps/
    Spaghetti Squash: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/11/moroccan-spiced-spaghetti-squash/
    Sweet potatoes: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/11/sweet-potatoes-with-pecans-and-goat-cheese/

  • Alison O

    It’s fun to see how things work in different families. While my parents definitely raised the family with certain routines and values (esp. when it came to daily family dinners), I don’t feel that we have strong Traditions with a capital T, and my parents are not especially big on holidays. My mom is in fact a little repulsed by Thanksgiving because it revolves so much around food, haha. We did pretty much always have mashed potatoes and a very 50s stuffing my mom’s mom passed down (mainly because I liked both so much!), but the ‘tradition’ with the turkey was that it was never the same. My dad cooked it a different way every year I think, including deep frying, smoking, etc. I think he’s done some Thanksgivings with just duck and fish since I’ve been out of the house.

    Sometimes I wish we had more vibrant Traditions as a family, but overall the flexibility that I was raised with has become one of my own values, and I appreciate that I have options for how to spend holidays, there’s no rigid expectations or guilt-tripping as lives and schedules and responsibilities evolve, and same with my bf’s family (which is practically only his dad at this point, so that explains some of it). My family spent Christmas together 25 times until I was absent in 2011 attending a wedding in a Muslim country. So I basically didn’t celebrate Christmas at all that year, except for some presents my mom shipped to me in January. And I was totally okay with it. I sort of like that any day I spend with my family is as special as the next; it’s not like none of them are particularly special.

  • KW

    Thanksgiving is a whole weekend in my family, not just Thursday, and we always to Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his. Thanksgiving foods are fairly traditional, though we’ve gotten away from processed foods to more homemade versions, and while Mom hosts, the guests bring most of the food. I’ll be bringing the mashed sweet potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce. The cranberry sauce is the basic cooked recipe on the bag, sometimes with apples or orange bits mixed in, and with less sugar.

    Mashed sweet potatoes: buy whole sweet potatoes that are similarly sized, scrub, poke them, and bake in the oven at 350* for about an hour or until really soft. (Pro tip: line the oven rack with aluminum foil first and bake the potatoes on that.) Pull them out of the oven and let them sit until cool enough to handle. Cut open and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. I usually mix in a little orange juice or apple cider and add a bit of cinnamon, powdered ginger, and/or nutmeg. Not a lot, just to lightly flavor. You can add a bit of sweetener like honey or brown sugar if you wish, but it isn’t really necessary. This dish reheats well, which is necessary at my mom’s when there are so many things competing for stove/oven/microwave space. I make it the night before and transport it in a microwaveable container.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Here’s to a happy family that was always flexible about Thanksgiving! One year we went to Disneyland and had the big dinner with my grandparents on Friday. One year we had ham and no turkey. Some years we have friends over, or go to friends; some years it’s just family.

    The last 2 Thanksgivings have been at my parents’ vacation house. But this year, for the first time in many years, Dr. Mom is on-call. I just got the news we’ll have Thanksgiving in town so she can get to the hospital if necessary.

    We DO just about always hit up the Black Friday sales, though.

  • http://www.marbleryephotography.com/ Melissa

    So I’m totally still a single lady, but I’ve decided recently that I don’t need to wait until I’m part of a partnership to create my own traditions (and maybe even adopt a kid, but that’s another comment for another post).

    I started making a version of Orangette’s cranberry relish a couple years ago (I go easy on the dried cherries and replace the grand marnier with bourbon), and now it’s my signature Thanksgiving dish. Maddie – it’s silly easy and the cranberries pop like popcorn which is super satisfying for some strange reason. I also make a mean sausage and apple stuffing, and am excited to get into some latkes this year (Thanksgivukkah FTW).

    The new tradition I’m going to start for myself is watching one Wes Anderson movie on Thanksgiving and one on Christmas, because nothing screams The Holidays like a cinematic masterpiece about a dysfunctional family unit (eg. all Wes Anderson movies, ever).

    • Rebekah

      I love Molly and all of Orangette. Her dad’s french toast and her wedding cake are just perfect recipes.

    • Laura

      Oh my, yes, Making your own traditions are a must. And p.s. that looks YUM

  • Anni

    YOU GUYS. Dear Abby’s Pecan Pie recipe is the BEST THING. The inside is gooey and wonderful and not semi-creepy the way a pecan pie usually is.

    Seriously, go make this now.

    http://www.food.com/recipe/dear-abbys-famous-pecan-pie-104729

  • Elizabeth Plant

    Okay so usually Thanksgiving & Christmas Eve are like 25-40 people in my parents house (the only ones who have no furry pets & a fake tree with all the allergies we have) and we have FOOD multiple rounds at the buffet on the island and more booze than you can we can handle. There’s always a signature cocktail (though we’ve stuck to Pomegranate & Apple Martinis for dinner and chocolate martinis for dessert) on Christmas and usually some kind of sangria for Thanksgiving. This year there’s only going to be 9 of us and my sister is studying abroad so we can actually all fit at one table… but its still weird. My favorite side is mashed potatoes and this is my recipe:

    (This is for about 8 people with no leftovers- and I do this by sight… so the actual amounts you need might be off)
    2 bags of steam in the bag potatoes (you could boil potatoes but that takes forever and its a pain)
    1 8 oz block of cream cheese
    1 1/2 cups of milk (it needs to peak through the potatoes in the pot)
    1/2 stick of butter (salted)
    1/2 cup of cream or half & half
    1/2 cup of sour cream
    Optional(All to taste):
    Chicken Stock
    Salt
    Pepper
    Other Spices

    Make the potatoes according to the package directions. Cook them one at a time.
    Put a large pot on the stove and once the first bag is done open it and drop the potatoes in. (Here is the thing we like potato skins in our mashed potatoes… so I pick out (and possibly snack on) some to smooth it out after I start mashing but not all of them- but if you don’t like the skins this would be the best time to skin them if you want to).
    Use your potato masher to smoosh the first bag at least once or twice each potato- add the 2nd bag once its done and do the same (I do this in 2 steps because I find that they mash better if you start the first bag when there are less in the pot.)
    Now- turn on the stove to medium/medium high.
    Add enough milk to see it in the gaps of the mashed potatoes- or at least up to about 3/4 of the way of the potatoes top with the cream.
    MASH THOSE POTATOES! (The liquid makes this easier)
    When the potatoes are about 1/2 way to the consistency you want add the cream cheese and 1/2 the butter. If you want to add the chicken stock (it makes it a little richer) do so now.
    Mash the potatoes again to the consistency you like.
    Add the rest of the butter and stir (I use a spatula for this part)
    Taste the mashed potatoes- add salt and pepper to taste and if you want to add garlic or another spice (my brother likes Old Bay so I’ve made them with that too).

    Note: If they end up too thin- too much milk add corn starch one teaspoon at a time and let it rest before you add more.
    If they are too thick add more milk/cream/chicken stock and stir it in slowly.

  • Jacki

    Oh how I wish I had my mom’s stuffed mushroom recipe to share! It’s vegetarian-friendly and could easily be turned vegan with some substitutions. I’ll have to dig it up when I get home.

    M and I were just talking last night about creating our own holiday traditions. His parents and my parents live in the same town, 15 minutes from us/5 minutes from each other. So we’ve been trying to be everything to everyone on holidays – visiting my family, where my sisters and BIL will gather with my parents and grandparents, and M’s family, where his parents, sister, nieces, and sometimes his ex-wife and her daughter, will be gathered. It’s great – but it’s a lot!

    So we just decided last night that this year we will do two Thanksgivings, but next year … we will do one. At our house. I’m really looking forward to creating our own traditions! One thing we have already started is that we go and cut down a Christmas tree with E (my partner’s son) and decorate it together. Even though we haven’t “done Christmas” at our house yet, I love having our own tree, our own growing collection of ornaments, etc. (And our cat loves it, too, lol.)

  • Lacey Williams

    My fiance and I finally have Christmas with the multiple families down pat.

    Christmas eve: Lunch with my dad, stepmom, stepsister, and sister. Usually at a restaurant. We all exchange gifts there.

    Optional dinner: At his grandmother’s house, with whichever of his relatives is in town, plus his mother and sister.

    Spend the night with my mom. Decorate cookies for Santa.

    Christmas morning: Wake up and open presents in pajamas with my mom. Breakfast (pancakes, bacon, etc.) at her house. We open presents in order, youngest to oldest.

    Christmas brunch/ lunch: His mom. Open presents all at the same time (SO WEIRD. How do you know what everyone got? How can you show off? You have to really get someone’s attention to thank them!) His mom makes eggs benedict. Lots of coffee.

    Christmas dinner: His dad. Always very festive dinner with turkey, fixings, lots of wine, etc. We open presents, taking turns, but not by age. His father and stepmother get each other crazy, outlandish gifts. They always get my fiance some sort of power tool.

    This year, that all goes out the window. Fiance has to work on Christmas (nursing), so we will spend Christmas eve together (we are exchanging no gifts this year), make brunch together the next morning, and then I will go to work. We will go “home” a few days later.

    • Lizzie

      Your “SO WEIRD” aside cracked me up, because in my family we all open Christmas presents at the same time, in a flurry of paper. I don’t like being the center of attention and I’ve always been REALLY grateful for the mayhem because at my birthday parties, opening presents with an audience (like a performance!) made me anxious. But I can see how opening gifts one person at a time is more of a ritual and you get to share the excitement of each gift with the giver and receiver. Maybe I can start looking at it like that instead of as a recipe for anxiety.

  • Myranda

    So every year, our family does Cookie Bake. With a capital C. Close family and friends get together, always a core group of us, and we bake. It’s always a weekend in mid-December, so that everyone has their Christmas cookies for their parties/gifts. We start early, make lots of coffee, and split into our jobs. Some people mix dough, some roll it, some people unwrap candies. We average about 16,000 cookies baked each year. Most of them we split up and take home, but we always donate a few thousand to our local nursing home. We assemble pretty holiday themed shirt boxes, line them with parchment paper, fill ‘em up, and tie them off with ribbon. It’s always fun to see the pile of materials to begin with. We buy eggs by the crate and flour by the 25 lb bags. At the end, everyone gets their roaster pans full of cookies to take home. We’re always super exhausted and a little bit cranky by the end of the night, but our Snickerdoodles and peanut butter balls cannot be beat.

  • Natalie

    Since my family was never part of big celebrations (shoutout to other black sheep families!) and I often work on holidays, I’ve passed this tradition onto my partner. It’s generally sleeping in, making thanksgiving dinner, I feel like vomitting at some point prior to the meal, we eat (sans pants) and watch bad TV and nap. In the past couple years, though, my husband and I go to the tattoo shop he works at and he tattoos me in the afternoon/late evening in privacy. Yes, we call our respective families, but we live so far from friends and family that the holidays don’t have the whiz-bang for us that they do for others.