Bloggers at the feast

Maybe you missed out on this year’s office holiday potluck because you haven’t been in the office in eight months.

Perhaps your entire Thanksgiving fest with friends and family has gone kaput.

To help spread some Thanksgiving cheer, Josh of Toasted Muffin Gaming came up with the idea of a potluck where a bunch of bloggers got together and wrote about their favorite holiday foods.

Josh is the ex/bestie/blog editor of my pal (and frequent collaborator) Renata of Buffalo Sauce Everywhere, and she sent out the invitations in the mail … well, a virtual, Twitter group mail.

We’ve all brought a different piece of the meal, so get out your silverware, strap on your bib and make sure you come with an empty stomach, because it is time to dive in!

“Ever since I was little, I have had to control myself and not have so much soup that I’m not hungry for the rest of the awesome food!”

APPETIZERS

Renata (Buffalo Sauce Everywhere) — Tortellini Soup

We typically have Thanksgiving dinner with my dad’s family, which is Italian-American. And while we don’t have much Italian food on the table (although if Mom is in the mood to make some homemade ravioli, those will make an appearance), we always start out the meal with tortellini soup that my grandmother makes. This soup isn’t overly complicated. It’s just some College Inn brand chicken broth with some store-bought tortellini, carrots and celery (cheese and escarole are passed around the table so that we can add as much or as little as we want), but it is still my favorite part of the meal. Ever since I was little, I have had to control myself and not have so much soup that I’m not hungry for the rest of the awesome food!

One fun fact about this soup: my grandmother (or as we affectionately call her, Gommy, because I couldn’t pronounce “grandma” as a child) always liked to get the tortellini for the soup at a local Italian shop, Talluto’s, but the location that was close to our houses actually closed down. My Gommy and great aunt now drive into Philadelphia every year just to get tortellini for the soup from the Philly Talluto’s location. The first year after they closed, Talluto’s actually sent Gommy the tortellini for the soup for free to make sure that we wouldn’t miss out. And that, my friends, is what we call a holiday angel. After all, as they say, every time someone eats a tortellini, an angel gets its wings. Or something like that … either way, my version is better because it encourages pasta consumption!

Although it may be tempting, don’t pull a Renata and fill up on the soup, because next we have…

“There’s just something so comforting about a big serving of warm and buttery mashed potatoes that always reminds me of Thanksgiving and that’s why I’d bring it to our potluck.”

THE SIDES

Josh (Toasted Muffin Gaming) — Homemade Stuffing

So, what makes Thanksgiving dinner so special? It’s not the main course, the appetizers or even the desserts. And, if you’ve ever met my mother, you’ll know it’s definitely not the family (not that we would have family over even if we wanted to, thanks to living in the Coronaverse). No, what makes Thanksgiving a truly special meal is the nigh-endless glut of side dishes. It is with that in mind that I have decided to magnanimously grace this feast with that most wondrous of side dishes, homemade stuffing!

Also, I’m the one who came up with the idea for this post, so Renata insists that I am legally obligated to contribute to it (or something to that effect).

Anyway, as someone who does not particularly care for turkey, stuffing ends up being my staple for most Thanksgiving meals. And I’m not talking about that rubbish with chunks of turkey mixed into it. I want pure spices and enough starch to make an L-tryptophan food coma look like a freakin’ power nap! Add in some delicious little celery chunks, and you have an all-time winner.

I’ve even been known to go so far as to barter other leftovers for extra stuffing, like some sort of addict negotiating a black-market deal.

“OK… OK, I’ll make sure you get one of the drumsticks in your to-go plate in exchange for half a pan of stuffing. No? Alright, how about five squares for the remaining spinach-artichoke dip?”

This year would be unfortunately light on homemade stuffing even if we could all get together, though. And that is because V, the family member who always made the “secret recipe” stuffing, passed away earlier this year from cancer. She was an amazing woman who will be missed, and not only for her delicious stuffing (but, y’know, at least a little because of the stuffing). So feel free to join me this year as I pour out some gravy out for V while choking down some Stove Top and pretending I’m not dying a little inside.

Bex (BEXoxoBlog) — Sweet Potato Casserole

Bex here. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I have a major sweet tooth. Anytime I can get away with eating a non-dessert food item that leans sweet, I’m all over it … bonus points if it’s also good for you. With that said, aren’t sweet potatoes just the greatest!? They really are one of the most versatile tuberous vegetables out there. As Samwise Gamgee once said, you can “Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew…” Yeah, I went there. Sure he was talking about the standard spud, but you can do all that and more with a splendiferous yam.

If it’s not already obvious, my favorite dish at the Thanksgiving table is my grandma’s sweet potato casserole (and not just because it’s covered in melted marshmallows, though it does help). It is the only dish on display that is the unmatched medley of crispy (edges) and gooey (insides) that pairs perfectly with any other foodstuffs on the table. Grab a bit of SP casserole with a bite of turkey to create that perfect balance of sweet and salty, or slather some on a freshly baked yeast roll as a spread alternative — you just can’t go wrong! Sure, my mom’s deviled eggs will always be my primary grab at the feast (only because they would disappear otherwise), but the sweet potato casserole will always have my heart. 

Becky Turner (Strikeouts and Sprinkles) — Mashed Potatoes

One of my absolute favorite Thanksgiving sides and a staple in all turkey dinners is the mashed potatoes. I love potatoes in any form — regular fries, waffle fries, curly fries, steak fries, tater tots, baked potatoes, home fries, hash browns, chips, even potato salad — but mashed potatoes are the GOAT.

There’s just something so comforting about a big serving of warm and buttery mashed potatoes that always reminds me of Thanksgiving and that’s why I’d bring it to our potluck. I’ll be honest, I’ve only made mashed potatoes once, but for this potluck, I’ll break out a Pinterest-pinned recipe, push up my sleeves, tell Alexa to play “holiday favorites” and get to work. (Yes, we’ve been playing Christmas music in my house since Nov. 1. So what?)

I’d bring a ton of mashed potatoes — not an actual ton but probably close enough — so I hope that’s enough for everyone. I’d also bring shredded cheese, butter, sour cream and bacon bits if anyone wants to make loaded mashed potatoes — another favorite of mine. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going back for seconds.

Savannah Nelson (Sunshine with Savannah) — Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes are having a bit of a moment. Their diversity and deliciousness are lauded online in waves and countless memes, appreciating their range from dressed-up side dishes to drive-through snacks. I’d only like to add to the enthusiasm; mashed potatoes are my very favorite Thanksgiving dish. While I was born in the Midwest and very lightly subscribe to the “meat and potatoes” identity, these mashed spuds are anything but boring.

The best kind of mashed potatoes are the fresh ones, made from my mother’s giant metal pot (that now, as an adult, I can only shudder to imagine how much one of these would cost), seasoned by the effort of pulling a wooden spoon through a large, sticky mass of mash (along with real spices, and flavorful chunks of butter, too). The recipe is simple: peeled potatoes, butter, salt. The directions follow suit: boil, mash, stir. And then, eat (maybe with a side of gravy, or mixed in with some turkey shavings), savor each and every bite, pause to thank the Goddess of soil fertility and the farmers and the local Kroger store and your mom for bringing these divine taters to your plate, and then eat some more.  

Rosie Kelly (Rosie Culture) — Cranberry Sauce

The age old argument, canned or fresh cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving?

I’m a canned gal myself. There is something so satisfying about the can-shaped goop siding out of the tin and it’s just delicious! I can even distinctly remember my grandma making it fresh one year and all of us were grossed out by it. As if the jelly from a can was a delicacy.

I’m sure I’d eat real cranberry sauce now if it was presented to me, but it’s just not the same. The canned cranberry sauce holds so many memories, reminds me of simpler times growing up, and I think I’ll always prefer it no matter what.

So what’s your preference, canned or fresh cranberry sauce?

“If you need proof that there is a God, ham is it. That’s why I keep referring to it as heavenly ham.”

THE MAIN EVENT!

Alexis Bober (Corona Comedy Blog)  — Ham

To quote the movie “Babe,” “Pork is a white, sweet meat.” Wow, where do I begin?! Haha! There’s so much to say about ham. For starters, I have very fond ham-related memories. My mom’s side of the family is super goofy. My uncle is a ham fanatic. He is notorious for energetically slipping the word “ham” into random conversations or eating ham straight off someone’s plate. My favorite memory was when we were celebrating my cousin’s birthday. He wrapped up a piece of ham in some wrapping paper and gifted it to her (I’m cracking up as I’m writing this). 

In general, I’m a massive fan of pork. Ham is most certainly one of my favorite pork dishes, right up there with baby back ribs, pork belly and chorizo. I have an immense amount of respect for religions such as Judaism and Islam; however, my heart breaks for them because they can’t indulge in pork. 

If you need proof that there is a God, ham is it. That’s why I keep referring to it as heavenly ham. I’m obsessed with a well-crafted ham glaze. The beauty of ham is that it acts like a sponge and essentially becomes one with whatever glaze you put on. As much as I love a sweet, caramelized ham glaze, I do enjoy eating plain ham now and again to appreciate its flavor. Its mild, sweet, smoky flavor. Goddamn, I’m hungry.

I also love the texture of a good old heavenly ham. Sure, it gets stuck in your teeth, but that’s what floss is for. I love that it’s chewy yet soft enough at the same time. Another thing I love about ham is that it makes for the best, most versatile leftovers. You can make ham sandwiches, ham bean soup, or even make a broth out of the ham bone. See why heavenly ham will be part of my Thanksgiving 2020 and all Thanksgivings after that?

Read the rest of Alexis’ Thanksgiving post here!

Now that we’ve pigged out on the main courses and side dishes — so many mashed potatoes, plus jockeying to get some of Josh’s stuffing — it’s time for my contribution to the festivities.

“Apple is crisp and sweet. Pumpkin is smooth and mellow.

Apple pairs beautifully with a scoop of ice cream. Pumpkin calls out for whipped cream.

Neither last very long on my plate.”

DESSERT

Whether dinner was with the whole family in my mom’s aunt and uncle’s basement, at my grandparents’ or parents’ house or at a restaurant with my in-laws, one Thanksgiving decision has been more difficult than any other.

No, not what to eat for the meal. I’ll eat copious amounts of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, all drowned in gravy, any of the other 364 days of the year, so the traditional Thanksgiving feast is fine by me.

And if there’s no turkey, I’m down with ham.

No, the tough choice comes when it’s time for dessert.

Apple pie … or pumpkin?

Apple is crisp and sweet. Pumpkin is smooth and mellow.

Apple pairs beautifully with a scoop of ice cream. Pumpkin calls out for whipped cream.

Neither last very long on my plate.

And it doesn’t even have to be pie. It can be apple cobbler or pumpkin cheesecake. It’s still a tough call.

In the end, though, there’s only one choice if it’s available.

Both.

After all, Thanksgiving calories don’t count, right?

But if for some reason pie doesn’t get it done for you, dessert doesn’t have to be a washout.

Pea Green (Smelly Socks and Garden PeasMince Pies

This isn’t really a Thanksgiving recipe, but for me its essential to the festive season. I’m including the mincemeat recipe because I prefer homemade to bought and I know it’s hard to get hold of outside the UK. Mince pies are a key afternoon snack or post-dinner treat with coffee, or an evening nibble for Santa on his rounds.

Mincemeat recipe

  • 8 oz sultanas
  • 8 oz raisins
  • 8 oz currants
  • 8 oz suet
  • 12 oz peeled and chopped apples
  • 1 oz almond flakes
  • 1 orange zest and juice
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • 4 oz candied peel
  • 12 oz soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • Brandy

Method

  1. Mix dried fruit, apples, almonds and candied peel.
  2. Add orange and lemon zest and juice. Mix it all in.
  3. Add suet, spices and sugar and mix.
  4. Leave in a bowl for 12 hours.
  5. Put in a slow cooker for two hours on medium.
  6. Once completely cool, add brandy and give it a good stir to mix the cooled suet in.
  7. Put in sterilised jars and leave for at least a month.

If all that sounds like just too much effort, this is the easy bit next. I buy pre-rolled pastry from the supermarket. We just cut circles for the cases, blind bake for 10 minutes add mincemeat (warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds and mixed), then top with pastry stars. I like to do a quick egg wash so they go lovely and shiny. Then bake for another 10 minutes and bingo.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We wish you all a safe holiday full of delicious foods!

Photo by Aaron Bowman from Pixabay.

10 thoughts on “Bloggers at the feast

  1. Pingback: Thanksgiving 2020 – Smelly Socks and Garden Peas

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  3. Pingback: The year (mostly) gone by — 2020 – A Silly Place

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