Thanksgiving combines two of my favorite things: family and gratitude. When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I like to focus on what we love as a family, and make it a memorable one with signature family dishes, meaningful traditions and colorful round-the-table discussion. This year we will be spending Thanksgiving in Dallas, but no matter where we gather to celebrate the holiday, there are just a few of my favorite dishes and traditions that make Thanksgiving a day we all look forward to in the Anderson household.
Stick with the classics. While it’s fun to try out new dishes for dinner parties, you want to limit them when it comes to family holiday meals. After all, a holiday where the family is all together is the time to recall traditions and sweet memories you’ve shared. In my house, the whole family always requests the classic French’s Green Bean Casserole, with those delicious and decadent French-fried onions on top. So, I always serve it to keep my family’s bellies – and hearts – happy!
Compromise with your cranberries. It’s an age-old debate: canned cranberry or cranberry relish. Well, why not both? In our house, I like the Williams Sonoma Apple-Orange Cranberry Relish while my hubby, Charlie, likes the tried-and-true favorite, Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry sauce. I started mixing the two and found that the combo appealed to everyone’s taste buds.
Moll Must: Being the spice lover that I am, I like to add chipotle to mine. Charlie does NOT. So, even though it takes a few extra minutes, I make two sauce combos, so everyone can get what they crave.
Cheese is sure to please. While it’s a bit more modern than some of the other dishes we serve, I always have a generous dish of my signature Gouda & Cheddar mac-n -cheese. Not only does the sophisticated, creamy taste please the adults, but it keeps the kids happy too with its cheesy simplicity.
Moll Must: Best of all, if the kids aren’t eating a lot of the Thanksgiving-specific dishes, they can mix some of those in with their mac-n-cheese – turkey and dressing mixed in with it is especially delicious!
Guest homework. For us, most of the variety of the dinner comes from giving our guests “homework.” Yes…HOMEWORK. Have guests bring their one must-have dish that means Thanksgiving to them. You know the one. We all have it. It’s the one dish that makes Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving – and the one we can’t live without, or at least can’t imagine Thanksgiving without it. This keeps the peace – especially as your family grows, when you’re inviting in-laws and kids’ spouses.
Moll Must: Remember – everyone’s family is different, and particular about what Thanksgiving essentials are to them. As a host, your one job on Thanksgiving is to be open to new traditions and dishes, because you never know what might end up becoming a new tradition for your family.
Lastly, a word about leftovers, the most important part of Thanksgiving in our house is…the after-party. What do I mean by that? Well, right when you think you’ve eaten to your heart’s content, the football game ends, or the Scrabble match is won, or the movie marathon wraps, and you’re hungry again. That’s when late night leftovers come into play. Be sure to have a host of Tupperware or to-go containers ready for your guests, so they can take home the extra deliciousness…and you won’t be left with all that temptation. Moll Must: I always aim to have extra turkey to send home with the kids, so they can easily make sandwiches, omelets, casseroles or soup for the rest of the holiday weekend.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May your holiday be filled with as much love as there are leftovers!