I’m gonna let y’all in on a little secret: I don’t really like normal Thanksgiving food. I don’t even like turkey that much. Many traditional holiday dishes historically came from summer produce that was “put up” or canned during the summer bounty and pulled out for the special holiday meal. But we’ve gotten away from that model of preserving food (at least on our own accord), and what we’re left with is produce from the grocery store (grown hundreds of miles away) that isn’t at it’s peak flavor. Instead of just complaining about it, I bring my own autumn-inspired things to the Thanksgiving table, even if they aren’t traditional.
So here’s a selection of seasonal side dishes, drinks, table decoration ideas, and a couple of good-any-season desserts that I like to bring to Friendsgiving and family Thanksgiving:
Starters + Sides:
Amp up your cheese board with these simple tips! Add seasonal accompaniments–like apples, pears, apple butter, pumpkin butter, pecans, or pickled root veggies–to get into the fall spirit.
This salad is sweet, salty, and savory, and the cornbread croutons are a crowd pleaser! Best of all, you can prep most of the ingredients ahead of time.
Good for your vegan / gluten-free / dairy-free relatives, can be made ahead of time, and easy to transport if you aren’t hosting! For a buffet, put this sippable soup in small cups or shooters.
An oldie but a goodie, over on the Banner Butter blog.
Fresh Orange + Cranberry Relish
This is the cranberry sauce I grew up with–no congealed cans of sauce around here! It’s fresh, bright, and easy (only 3 ingredients!). It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and raw! This recipe makes about 2.5 cups of relish.
2 cups fresh cranberries
2 navel oranges
½ cup sugar
Zest one orange, then peel both oranges and discard the peel. (If you’re using a variety other than navel, remove seeds). In a food processor, pulse cranberries, orange segments, zest, and ¼ cup of sugar until well blended and no large chunks remain. Add more sugar to taste. Serve chilled or room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Sip on this:
A fall twist on classic sangria that’s easy to make in big batches ahead of time!
Cranberry + ginger simple syrup
This simple cranberry and ginger simple syrup makes a festive base for many seasonal cocktails (or mocktails). Add a little color to your sparkling water with a splash of this syrup. Mix it with prosecco and soda for a cranberry-ginger spritz. Add some orange peel to the syrup (see variations below), then marry it with bitters, soda, and bourbon for a cranberry old fashioned. Sweeten chilled black tea with it for a seasonal Southern sweet tea (say that three times fast!). There are many possibilities, and the brilliant red color is reason enough to make this syrup for the holidays. It also makes a great hostess gift! This recipe makes about 2 ¼ cups of syrup.
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1” segment of ginger root, thinly sliced
In a medium saucepan, heat water and sugar over medium heat until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add cranberries and ginger, then gently simmer for about 10 minutes or until cranberries are tender and just shy of popping. Strain out cranberries and ginger with a fine mesh strainer, reserving solids for another use if desired. Transfer syrup to a glass jar or bottle, cool slightly, then seal and refrigerate. Syrup will keep in the fridge for at least a week.
Variations: several strips of orange peel (try to cut off just the peel, not the white pith); a sprig of rosemary or thyme; 1-2 cinnamon sticks; whole cloves; star anise
For nice presentation, put the syrup in a swing-top bottle (I get mine at IKEA), and tie on a hand-written tag. You can also leave a few cranberries in the bottle for looks.
Gluten-free and 100% delicious! (Plus it only requires a few ingredients!) This is good any season, but it’s a decadent crowd pleaser for holiday gatherings.
Impress your family with this beauty! Brown butter cake, brown butter icing, and chocolate ganache!
Set your table:
Some tips and encouragement for setting your table with seasonal elements.
And a reminder for all of you who are hosting: quit apologizing to your guests!!