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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Potato and Caramelized Onion Gratin

This is for all the last minute Thanksgivingers out there. You know who you are. The ones that are just barely planning things out. Maybe even the ones who haven’t thought about it at all, not for a second. This post is a last minute salvation to all those people out there that are experiencing a cry for help. HELP. I’m here to help, don’t worry. I can’t make your turkey for you (although I wish I could), but how’s about another side dish idea? Those always come in handy, right? Just yesterday I gave you a Sausage and Mushroom Wild Rice post that will be perfect right there on your dinner table next to your turkey. This potato dish is a nice alternative to mashed potatoes or even served with mashed potatoes. Why choose either/or when you can have both?! I’m totally okay with the idea of eating potatoes on top of potatoes because if you recall, I have an undying love for this vegetable. This side dish will go great with the rice and turkey you already have planned out for the big gathering. And if you haven’t bought your turkey yet, well then at least you’ll have rice and potatoes on the table. I wouldn’t mind that. Sounds like a perfect meal to me.

Sometimes you just need a simple recipe to keep up your sleeve for all those days when you find yourself in a cooking rut or bind. A quick and easy dish that will wow someone’s face off. Like ka-POW, there goes your face. It was just wow’d off. We all need recipes like that because life happens, even when we don’t want it to, and you don’t know what to do about it when it does. Perhaps you’ll get unexpected guests over for dinner one night (RUDE), or maybe you just need to whip up something in a hurry because you have a million other things to do and the last thing you want to do is slave away in the hot kitchen. Well, make this gratin and you’ll be good to go. Start incorporating it into your cooking repertoire because I can guarentee you that you’ll fall in love with it. You’ll be amazed on how fast and easy it is to put together, yet it’s packed with so much flavor. Make a quick sandwich and serve this alongside it. Grill up a piece of fish and eat it with a large helping, or two, of this awesome dish. I won’t tell anyone, I mean after all, what are friends for? This year, not that much different from every year really, I’m most thankful for potatoes. For being so incredibly delicious and easy to to cook with. This Thanksgiving, it’s all about you. Now let’s get cooking.

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Sausage and Mushroom Wild Rice

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Like in a few short days, around the corner. I’m sure that’s the last thing you want to hear right now because you’re probably panicking and worrying about everything turing out perfect and you feel like you might cry at any moment because it’s just too overwhelming. Or maybe you’re pulling out all of your hair because you still haven’t done the grocery shopping, and you don’t even know what you’re going to make yet, and you’re having a bunch of people over for dinner, and you just don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into, and you feel like the world is ending. No? Maybe, I’m just projecting here. I’m still refusing to believe Thanksgiving is here. To me, this Thursday is just like any other day. The year just, whoosh, flew by. Although I do have to admit my stomach is starting to get really excited because I can’t wait to stuff my face with copious amounts of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and dinner rolls and this here rice recipe I’m about to share with you. Oh and let’s not forget about all the pumpkin pie I plan on eating. Yeah you read that right, it’s just a carb fest. A carb-a-thon. I’m pretty sure that when the first Thanksgiving took place, it was their full intention, for this holiday to be nothing but carbohydrates. Carb party. One way ticket to Carb Town. I’m not mad at that though. Yeah, yeah, I’ll eat a few veggies here and there (for my mom’s sake). More like I’ll put some on my plate and when no one is looking just feed it to the dog. I’m totally kidding, I don’t even have a dog, but if I did you better believe he’d love vegetables. I’ll just hide the veggies somewhere else. Like under my placemat or onto my sister’s plate. She’ll give me her turkey and I’ll give her my veggies. It’s a win-win when someone you know doesn’t eat meat. If you don’t have a vegetarian friend, you’re missing out on all the wonderful eating opportunities that comes with it. Go out and find a vegetarian right away.

Thanksgiving, in all seriousness, happens to be my favorite holiday because it’s a holiday centered around food. What can be so wrong about that? It’s also a holiday (like most, I’m sure) centered around family and friends and loved ones. I added the “loved ones” to that line just in case you don’t love certain family members or friends and you just can’t stand their faces or something. See? I’m looking out for you. I’ve got you covered. I’ve also got you covered in the recipe department. If you’re tired of the same boring dishes year after year, around the Thanksgiving table, or if your family refuses to eat another green bean casserole or mashed potatoes (don’t include them in the loved ones category because they’re crazy) well, then you can switch things up this year by trying out this wild rice dish. I think that it compliments all the traditional turkey day flavors perfectly. But maybe I’m just biased because I made this and it’s the new post and I’m trying to sell it to you like a used car. That could be true. But do you really want to take that chance? This could be your new favorite Thanksgiving side dish for all you know. This could be the deciding factor for your boyfriend or girlfriend to propose to you (probably not, but I’m really trying here). I don’t think you should take the risk of not making it this year. That’s it. It’s settled. It has been decided—I’ve decided for you, trust me. You’re going to make this dish in just a short few days. No no, no need to thank me. It’s my job to make these types of decisions for you. All I ask is that you dedicate your Thanksgiving meal to me. Right before eating, just stand up and say, “I want to take a moment to dedicate this meal to the man who made it possible. The man who created this wonderful wild rice dish you’re all about to enjoy. The man who changed my life. Jonathan Melendez.” That’s not asking for much right? I think it’s pretty reasonable. But enough about me, sheesh, you all sure know how to talk my ear off. Let’s get cooking. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Like in a few short days, around the corner. We’ve been here once before…

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and we are all running around like mad people trying to check off items on our long to-do lists. The Pre-Thanksgiving tasks have begun. No amount of mental planning could have prepared us for all of this. Although our lists are nicely organized we cannot help but still feel overwhelmed and anxious. It does not matter how much time we spend mapping everything out, to the last detail, we somehow still do not feel super confident about all that goes into this big event. Everything that has yet to be done. From all that needs to be prepped, cleaned and cooked, to the table setting and anticipation of our guests’ needs. We have a lot to do in a short amount of time. Of course there are some of us who live for these moments. Big gatherings and celebrations where we can cook ridiculous amounts of food in a short period of time and not feel an ounce of pressure. Unfortunately, not all of us our lucky to be that way. For the most part, we fall into that percentage of people where preparing a big Thanksgiving feast just sounds completely daunting to us. We are nervous and worried that we will not be able to get everything finished on time. All the worst possible scenarios run through our heads, and we shudder at the thought that we might have forgotten something, so we run through our lists about twenty more times within the hour. Then the worst does happen. You are in the middle of cooking something and you realize that you are out of a certain ingredient, or that you completely forgot to get an item at the grocery store. That occurs even to the best of us. There is so much on our minds, it seems only natural that we will forget something, or that we thought we had a certain ingredient but come to find we ran out or were mistaken.

When those moments of panic arise, it is best to just relax. Nothing will get solved by panicking and getting upset. We must run through our options in our minds. Do without the ingredient? Use a substitution? Or go to the market for a quick trip and brave the madness with the rest of the forgetters and the last minute shoppers? Perhaps the ingredient is not that important and you can just omit it. I have done that before. In which case, just laugh it off and continue cooking without it. If the ingredient is important but you do not feel like putting your shoes and coat on, hopping into your car, driving to the market, braving the craziness of the last minute shoppers and the long lines at checkout, well then perhaps a substitution will work for you. Surely there is something in your pantry or fridge that will give your recipe the same taste or effect without going out of your way. To help you on your substitutional journey, here is a handy dandy holiday substitution resource put together by my friend Russell over at Chasing Delicious. It is an “informational potluck” with tips and tricks submitted by a variety of food bloggers and cookbook authors, including yours truly. And last but not least, if you cannot skip the ingredient all together or even find an adequate substitution for it, well then your last resort is to put on your brave face and go to the market. Go with your goal in mind. No fuss no muss. Walk in there like you own the place. Shoot straight for the aisle, grab your ingredient, and go pay. If you convince another brave soul to go with you, have them wait in line while you retrieve your item, that way you can get out even faster.

With all the planning and work we put into this holiday, or any holiday for that matter, we all fail to realize one thing. The holidays are not about impressing people, or busting our chops to try and make the “perfect” everything. Life is not perfect. Sometimes things do not go as planned and we need to accept that that is okay. Thanksgiving should not be stressful or overwhelming. Although at times, it seems inevitable when planning a big meal for family and friends. We want to impress and make a great feast that everyone will enjoy, but it is important to stop, take a step back, and breathe deeply. This day is about being around loved ones and enjoying yourself. It is about being thankful for everything around you. It is a day for appreciating those people that we do not get to see often and for giving thanks for the opportunities that have arisen and been given to us.

You can spend the entire day stressed, cooking all sorts of complicated dishes that will surely impress your guests. However, that does not sound fun at all. Or you can also just enjoy the day, stress-free and having fun. Laughing and playing games with your family and friends. Make easy, yet delicious, dishes that you have cooked countless times before. That way, you know it will definitely come out right. Aim for easy recipes. Dessert should be just as carefree and fast to whip up. One that does not take precious fridge space. For we all know how hard it is to arrange everything in the icebox, on this day especially. A cookie of some sort seems to fit the bill. Not just an ordinary cookie, no that will not suffice, but a seasonal cookie. One that brings together all those classic Thanksgiving dessert flavors into one tiny package.

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Pumpkin Cranberry Scones

As autumn continues we find ourselves needing more inspiration in the kitchen. We are easily bored by the doldrum ideas that consume us during this time of year. The same baked goods we make on a daily basis. Each week. Each month. Throughout the year we find ourselves getting into a rut. One that we cannot seem to get out of until the arrival of the holidays. We end up growing tired of the boring recipes we make on a regular basis. And why shouldn’t we? After all we are creatures of habit and when something we make is good, we end up making it all the time until we get bored of it. Until those around us get bored of it. We need something different. Something new. Perhaps it is the spirit of the holidays that make us become so adventurous in the kitchen. The fact that our loved ones will all come together, and we want to impress them with our culinary skills. We look out to find new recipes that are a little bit fancier than what we are accustomed to. Recipes that are little more impressive and labor intensive. Yet we go into the unknown waters, so to speak, with caution and hesitation. We begin to question our skills as if not knowing what we are capable of. Yet we tread on with persistence because the idea of failing is much more inviting than the idea of not trying at all. Cooking and baking disasters are not things we should be ashamed of. Rather they should be looked upon as learning experiences. Situations that help us grow as cooks.

With the holidays fast approaching, we spend most of our time preparing for the big celebration. The grand dinner on the last Thursday of November. All of our attention goes to preparing the main event. We make a blueprint and plan out what we have to do and at what time we have to do it. Some of us are lucky, or perhaps just smarter, and we realize that we do not have to cook it all ourselves. So we divvy up the roles and assign different dishes to different friends and family. While everyone is so consumed on the turkey, the sides, the gravy and cranberry sauce, and the desserts some things are forgotten. Some things are left out. We become so invested in planning out the perfect meal and have become experts in mapping out the cooking and prepping times that go into it all, that one thing is neglected. The big day finally arrives and you begin your preparations before the sun even comes out. As the morning progresses and everyone starts waking up, you realize that you do not have time to make breakfast. That was one part of the day you did not plan out. The last thing you want to do, at this point, is go out and brave the supermarkets with all the other last minute and forgot-something shoppers. You do not want to deal with that madness or with the cranky cashiers who would much rather be home with their family and friends, enjoying the day relaxing instead of working.

You look around in your pantry and in the refrigerator and you cannot seem to think of anything. Mornings are usually brought to us by breads like coffee cake, bagels, english muffins, and scones. You go through all the different possible situations in your head. Just when cereal begins to look like your best bet, you think of an idea. Scones. Sure, you can make them. Scones are easy to put together. You have time for that. Look at your perfectly planned out schedule. You have time. You grab a few ingredients from the fridge and some from the pantry. Of course it is Thanksgiving morning and you do not want anything ordinary. You are still looking to impress. Still adventurous. Two ingredients stand out to you like beacons of light. Pumpkin and cranberries. Thankfully you stocked up on both for the big event. You mix the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and other autumnal spices, and combine the wet. Toss in the cranberries and mix in the pumpkin, stirring until just combined. Quickly and efficiently you put together the dough and shape it. You proceed to cut it into scone-like triangles, and bake them for about 20 minutes until the house is filled with the warmth smell of fall. Coffee peculating. Marveling at yourself for whipping up breakfast in a cinch, you cannot help but wonder, how you would have made Julia Child proud. Heck, you would even have made Martha Stewart proud with the cranberry and pumpkin addition. Okay that’s enough self-apprecition, you still have a long list of to-do’s to get done. So get back to work.

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