Thanksgiving Crostini

There’s a serious lack of Thanksgiving Day appetizers out on the web. Have you noticed that, or is it just me imagining things? I was searching for some starter ideas for my family’s big celebration, and I couldn’t find much. Especially nothing that appealed to me. We’re always on the lookout for “THE” perfect turkey recipe or “THE” perfect mashed potato recipes for the big day. Sides are pretty important so I get that, there are literally a billion side dish recipes out there. I kid you not, a billion! (Okay maybe not a billion). You get the point though. We’re all concerned about the main components of the meal, but sometimes forget that appetizers are just as important, if not more important, because they set the tone for the entire dinner. 

Maybe it’s because most people don’t even bother serving appetizers? I have no clue. Perhaps they’re saving their appetite for game time. I don’t know about you though, if I tried to do that in my house, my family would revolt. They would complain all the way to Christmas. I have to worry about breakfast, snacks, appetizers, dinner and dessert on Turkey Day. They can definitely eat so providing hors d’Oeurves is a must. I can’t get away without them. Luckily for me, I delegate the cooking and baking to everyone so that I don’t have to do it all. You should definitely do that as well. Plus, it’s nice to get everyone in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. Helping out and having fun with some music on. There’s nothing better. 

So anyhow, like I was saying, where are all of the Thanksgiving Day appetizers?! Someone buy me a vowel because I don’t know. Just in case I’m not alone in this battle, I’ve decided to make up a recipe for me. For you. For us. So here we are, Thanksgiving Crostini. It sounds and looks fancy but I gotta tell you, it’s not fancy at all. It’s really simple to make and the best part of it is that you can prepare the components the night or day before and then keep them separately. Then just assemble the appetizers right before serving. I devised this recipe to be served either cold, warm, or at room temperature. You can thank me now. Oh you’re welcome. You’re welcome. I’m keeping you all in mind. The last thing you need is another complicated recipe to add to your already long list of things you need to prepare. So let’s make this appetizer, be rock stars in the kitchen and have the best Thanksgiving EVER! We deserve it. 

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Gingerbread Cookies

When I was a kid all I really wanted to do was eat gingerbread cookies. Like all the time. Gingerbread cookies, night and day. It wasn’t because I loved gingerbread cookies so much that I just had to have them. The truth was, I just wanted to bite their heads off. And then eat them. But definitely not in the weird way that it sounded just now. Sometimes I’d go easy on them (I was a reasonable kid) and start with an arm, or a leg and then work my way up. Okay, that does sound weird, now that I think about it, but come on, I was a kid. You can’t blame me. What child doesn’t get pleasure out of torturing cookies by eating them, limb by limb? I think that’s totally normal, right? Doesn’t everyone do that? Nothing screams “Happy Holidays” like a cookie massacre, and by massacre I of course mean feast. A cookie free for all. A buffet of cookies. A never-ending supply of cookies. I envied Santa Claus (maybe because of his red suit) but it was mostly because of the fact that he got to eat cookies and drink milk all night long. ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Talk about a dream job. Professional cookie eater sounds like the kind of thing I would be great at. I can eat cookies for a living. I would’t mind. I’d do it like my life depended on it, and as if every cookie I ate, saved a life. I’d save a million lives, in that case. It would be a tough job, but one I would hesitantly excel at, you know, for the good of the people. I’m saving lives after all.

It’s fun sometimes to just forget about everything and decorate some cookies. Especially during the holidays. There’s something about gathering everyone together in the kitchen and getting all those creative juices flowing. The holidays can be so stressful at times, brought on by the pressure of fighting the crowds and purchasing gifts, but if you really think about it, it isn’t about the gifts but rather the good times and the memories you create with those you love. Those are the things we carry with us throughout our lives. Material items come and go, but memories, those will last a lifetime. No assembly or batteries required. Just the willingness to have fun. It doesn’t even matter how old you are, you can still have a good time at any moment of your life. I mean, I’m a quarter of a century and I still get a kick out of biting the heads off of gingerbread men. Some things never change. Especially my love for gingerbread. That will always be there.

As a child, I often wondered if Santa Claus had a favorite cookie. It would keep me up at night. “What if he doesn’t like sugar cookies?” I would ask my mom, (which were the ones we always left for him). I felt bad, as a kid, for forcing him to eat just the one type of cookie, year after year. What if the man loved gingerbread and I had no idea? Of course it was impossible to leave a variety for him because my mom wasn’t much of a baker, and the cookies we left Mr. Claus were from out of a tube. It wasn’t until I was older when I saw the red markings left behind on the glass of milk and the leftover cookie pieces one year and I thought to myself, “Santa Claus wears lipstick?!” Who am I to judge? Whatever floats your boat Santa. Whatever floats your boat. Of course it was then that I realized it didn’t matter what cookies we left behind because my mom (aka the best Santa in the world) was just like me. We don’t discriminate against a cookie. We welcome each and every one of them. I’ll never say no to a spicy gingerbread cookie that’s for sure, and something tell me, Santa wouldn’t either.

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Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Oh so you have been bragging to all your friends have you? You have proclaimed yourself the pumpkin master and informed everyone that you can make pumpkin anything. Well your friends have decided to put you to the test by telling you to host a pumpkin dinner party. Each dish has to have pumpkin in it, in some way, shape or form. Now you are up a creek without a paddle, and you are afraid your boat will hit an iceberg along the way. Causing you to sink in front of all your friends. Having them all stare in awe and shock with their mouths’ agape. Sure it is one thing to tell everyone you are a pumpkin genius, but it is a whole other league to actually be one. First of all, you need to find new friends. If they are inviting themselves to your house and ordering you to cook for them, and you are agreeing to do it all the time, well then you have bigger problems on your hand than a little pumpkin dinner. How would they like it if you invited yourself over their house and demanded they cook? Granted, you should not have been bragging in the first place. You have no one to blame but yourself.

So now the big day has come and you are freaking out. You have realized that perhaps you are not so savvy with that orange squash, as you thought or as you led them to believe. Sure you have dessert covered. Who does not know a thing or two about pumpkin desserts? That is a walk in the park. It is the easiest route to take. The easiest way to transform that gourd. Let us turn our attention to the main course, however. The biggest part of the dinner. You are worried that you cannot make a delicious savory dish with the star ingredient are you not? And you should be. You have every right to be nervous. I would be if I were in your shoes. I am not going to lie to you, it is very difficult to get people to like pumpkin in savory dishes because everyone goes into it with the misconception that it will taste like dessert. Stop crying and shaking your head! You have nothing to worry about. I am here to help you. Lucky for you I am a pumpkin master. Together we will get through this. Together we will conquer. Now buck up. Shoulders high. Raise that chin, proud like you know what you are doing. You have to have confidence. Put on your apron. Grab a spoon and a whisk. Cross your arms. Turn and look at your reflection on the oven. You are a master. Okay that is enough, you have a dinner party to throw. What are you doing just standing there looking like a fool with your arms crossed holding a whisk and spoon?!?! You need to start working! You are behind!

The best way to make people like anything, I have found, is to drench it in butter and cheese and cover it in a creamy sauce. Throw in some pasta and your are golden. Stop giving me that look of confusion. It is simple really. You are going to make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese. It has everything that most people enjoy. Tie it in with some autumn flavors and you are good to go. What do sage and thyme and pumpkin scream out to you? Yes that is right, Thanksgiving. It spells out Thanksgiving. So it does not really spell out Thanksgiving, but you get the point. You are going to wow your friends with this dish.

You have put together the sauce—which is now a beautiful light orange color thanks to the pumpkin—and are now mixing in the pasta. Stop eating it. This is for your pushy self-inviting friends. Throw the mac and cheese into the ramekins, hurry. Sprinkle on the sage breadcrumbs. Stand back. Look at that. Admire the pumpkin mac and cheese. Does it not look delicious like I had promised? Does it not smell fantastic? Okay, what are you doing? Enough standing around. Pop the tray in the oven. These have to bake. Your friends are due at any minute! Look at yourself! You are a mess! There is flour on your face. Cheese sauce in your hair. Pull yourself together! You cannot let your friends see you like this! Go change!  The door bell rings at the same time that the oven timer goes off. Just in time. Your soon-to-be-ex-friends are finally here and they enter with a look as if they know they have won. Little do they know you had an ace up your sleeve. Let the party begin.

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