Thanksgiving Therapy…er, Potluck

We go to a Thanksgiving potluck with family every year. Actually, not sure it was intended to be potluck but you can’t stop people from bringing stuff. As the newest member of my husband’s family–I just earned my 10 year pin–I’ve had trouble finding my annual dish. Appetizers, pies, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles were claimed when I was still playing with Barbies.Thanksgiving dinner

And the Thanksgiving dish is important. I only see most of these people once a year. This dish defines me for the next 364 days. I need to make an entrance with my perfect 2 children, effortlessly set a dish on the table that needs no attention, play the part of the perfect guest complimenting the house, the food, the weather, and then blow people’s mind when they finally dig in to my casserole of awesomeness. All the while saying, it was nothing, oh it’s so easy I’m so embarrassed to have even brought it.

Right.

One year I made Martha Stewart’s cornbread dressing. Dry as cardboard. It was also one of four dressings. The only one that had leftovers. Ouch.

Another year I begged for a shot at the mashed potatoes. They’re so boring, I wanted to put my own twist on it so it would be truly memorable. I peeled and roasted 40 cloves of garlic and mashed them in with 3 pounds of potatoes. It was memorable alright. The potatoes were returned to their rightful owner after that.

Then I offered wine. Then I priced buying wine for 20 people. Did not bring wine again.

Finally I settled on vegetables–a perfect fit for me. Not sexy. But pretty good for you and never out of place at a table full of food.

I don’t always bring the same veggie, and that’s ok. In fact, that’s perfect. As it turns out I don’t actually like to be defined by one dish. So after 10 years, I’ve got a whole category of dishes to play with. Roasted butternut squash, swiss chard gratin, collard greens, they all go great with a big Thanksgiving dinner and let the turkey be the star. You may have forgotten during my quest, but this is about Thanksgiving. I kind of did.

So, this year is collard greens.

And here’s a menu of the basics if you’re the one hosting. Hopefully you can assign some of this to the guests and hope they don’t emotionally attach themselves to their side dish.

Thanksgiving Basics Menu:

Foolproof Brined & Roasted Turkey
Gravy
Cornbread Stuffing with Pecans and Cranberries
Mashed Potatoes (garlic optional)
Collard Greens (aka, crock pot of awesomeness)

Weekly menu: Greens, BBQ chicken, Sloppy Joes

This week at the farmers market there were tons of fall vegetables like greens and sweet potatoes, so I embraced it. I find that it’s a bit easier and economical to get a lot of one or two things and cook those throughout the week, rather than come up with a unique side dish for every meal. Also, I’ll be making some baby food with the sweet potatoes so I needed to get a bunch.

These meals do take some prep, but everything can be done ahead so anything can be a fairly easy weeknight meal.

Dinner Menu #1:Sloppy Joe dinner finished
Sloppy Joes
Curry Sweet Potato Fries
Peas

To prep the sweet potatoes ahead, follow the recipe and bake them for only about 30 minutes. Then let them cool and refrigerate. They will still be soft. When you are preparing dinner, just pop them back in the oven for 20 minutes or so. The sloppy joes can be on the table in under 30 minutes, but you could also certainly prep the joe mixture ahead as well. I cook my peas in the microwave, covered tightly in plastic wrap, for 2 minutes, so no time at all for that either.

Dinner Menu #2:
Braised Kale over Parmesan Polenta

I love to cook one vegetarian meal per week, so this is the one. Just a good nourishing weeknight meal.

Dinner Menu #3:

Barbeque Chicken
Collard Greens
Baked Sweet Potato

This is a great one to prep ahead for a Wednesday hump day meal. It feels like a Sunday dinner, but takes very little effort when you get home from a long day. BBQ chicken greens sweet potatoSimply marinate the chicken the night before or in the morning, and throw on the grill when you get home. Set the collard greens in the crock pot in the morning so all you need to do is serve them up in the evening. Put the potatoes in the oven or on the grill when you get home and don’t touch them till dinnertime. Minimal effort, maximum comfort will get you over hump day.

Homemade Baby Food:

Pureed Sweet Potatoes
~and/or~
Sloppy Joes and Sweet Potatoes
~and/or~
Pureed Peas

Shopping List:

1 pound ground beef
1 small chicken
6 ounces bacon
3 onions
green pepper
celery
garlic
3 pounds sweet potatoes
1 pound kale
leek
2 pounds collards
thyme
cumin
curry powder
olive oil
cider vinegar
brown sugar
Worcestershire
tomato sauce–8 ounce can
barbeque sauce
coarse ground yellow corn polenta/grits
Parmigiano Reggiano
frozen peas