More than two years ago – so three Thanksgivings ago – I told Mr. P I wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner at our apartment. When we moved to St. Louis, we became somewhat centrally located between our parents and our siblings, and the idea of getting a holiday break that doesn’t involve a suitcase seemed absolutely magical.
Then that year, we ended up going to Tennessee for Thanksgiving.
Okay, fine, I said. We’ll host Thanksgiving dinner next year. I said it a year in advance instead of a few weeks, and decided it would be so!
Then we lost an uncle and flew to Arizona for Thanksgiving.
Sigh. All right, I said. 2014 will be our year to host Thanksgiving! And then I went and got myself knocked up such that we couldn’t travel around the holidays this year. I won’t say that we timed having this baby just so I could host Thanksgiving dinner.... but I admit, when I learned our due date, I said, “Oh yeah? Then it’s THANKSGIVING AT OUR PLACE THIS YEAR.”
And of course, this is the year it snowed. So... yay for Thanksgiving in the Midwest?
Here’s the great irony of me hosting a Team P Thanksgiving, though: I don’t really like most traditional Thanksgiving food. Honestly, I could take or leave the turkey. And most of the sides have similar texture and color and all start to taste the same to me after a few bites. No, my favorite part of the day is everything around the main meal – the leisurely breakfast during the parade, the snacks during football games, the desserts.
So, when my mother offered to make and transport most of the Thanksgiving meal, I focused on everything else. And that’s what this post is about: a whole day of food!
For breakfast, I promised pastries and fruit, because nobody wants a heavy breakfast when there’s a Thanksgiving meal to come! My mom contributed sausage balls to the breakfast, as well. Because our usual doughnut place was sold out on Wednesday, we tried this place instead. Heads up, locals, I liked them even more (which is great, as they just opened a kitchen in our hood)!
I also bought champagne and sparkling apple juice to mix with cranberry juice to make spritzers, but totally forgot about that until dessert later that day. Oh well, don’t want to booze it up too soon!
At 11:00, Petersen tradition dictates that it’s time for pre-dinner snacks. I followed my mother-in-law’s lead and put out this spread:
Cheese and sausage with crackers (because Wisconsin), vegetable crudité, pickles and olives. Fruit from breakfast is up for grabs, and in the living room, there’s mixed nuts, mini-quiche, and fried zucchini (the latter two were just bought frozen).
Note that the snacks were all set out in the butler’s pantry. This was so the kitchen table could be set for dinner, and the kitchen counters were free for cooking the rest of the meal. If we didn’t have a butler’s pantry, I would’ve set up or cleared a table in the living room for snacks – anything to keep extra people out of my kitchen when I’m busy!
And what were we so busy with? Behold: Team P’s first turkey!
You guys, when Mr. P and I were engaged, he said we needed to register for this fancy roasting pan, “for when we host Thanksgiving dinner.” I stated I was not interested in roasting a turkey, but he insisted he could. So this was his year to study up and deliver, and boy, did he! Preparing it was, admittedly, a bit of a mess (with giblets and liquid and UGH), but we teamworked that well: Mr. P took care of the turkey, and I disinfected everything in his wake. (No photos from that, as I had to douse everything in bleach before I could move on in life.)
But as for actually baking the turkey, those roasting bags are magical, you guys. I have never before had turkey so moist and tender that it fell apart with just my fork. All the juices collected in the bag, and I bet they would have made a delicious gravy had I not accidentally poured them all down the drain. But hey, if that’s our biggest turkey mishap, we’re not doing so bad!
The rest of the sides came together quickly. My mom brought the dressing, sweet potato casserole, and green bean casserole, as well as the rolls and cranberry relish that didn’t make it into the photo. My cousin brought a crockpot of creamed spinach. And I took care of the mashed potatoes, gravy (made from a packet instead of drippings, oh well), and corn. Dinner is served!
As for the Thanksgiving table, I honestly couldn’t be bothered with putting together a big fall centerpiece. Instead I just patted my back for managing to iron the tablecloth, polish the silver platter, and use my un-stained placemats. Fortunately, my cousin brought that pumpkin lantern as a hostess gift, so our table had a Thanksgiving touch after all!
(No worries, my mother re-centered it on the platter after this photo was taken, because she cannot handle anything crooked.)
Oh, and don’t forget the booze there at the end of the table. Even I treated myself to a small glass of champagne! Baby P joined in the festivities, as he apparently loves carbonated beverages.
Then there were the desserts, which I unfortunately neglected to photograph. We had quite the spread: pumpkin cheesecake, pecan pie, salted caramel pumpkin cake, plus boiled custard (and coffee and booze). Three desserts for five people, because it’s Thanksgiving!
Finally, hosting Thanksgiving dinner means responsibly taking care of the leftovers. Mr. P eats his straight (just reliving the Thanksgiving meal a few extra times), but I need the remix. A toasted turkey, provolone, and cranberry baguette, with mashed potatoes and snap peas on the side? Yes please!
On the whole, hosting Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t nearly as terrifying as it seemed at first, thanks to a lot of help from family bringing food and Mr. P managing the turkey. I did learn a few things for future Thanksgivings, like how I should probably get a butter dish and a gravy boat, and that I’d rather not be pregnant so I can drink wine all day. But overall, I’d call it a success! A longstanding wish fulfilled.
Hope your Thanksgiving was as delicious, relaxing, and family-filled as ours, dear readers!