Do you have a Thanksgiving recipe that is sacrosanct, one that your family will not let you waver from, or — perish the thought — omit from the menu? In my family it’s a festive jello mold that is the heralded star of the show.

“Jello mold?” You ask with a raised eyebrow. That ghastly relic of which surely no one on the Food Network would dare speak? A hideous affront to gourmands of all persuasions? The slut of 50’s cuisine, if you will — indiscriminate, always available, and dolled up with mini marshmallows, canned peaches or Maraschino cherries, whispering, “Take me, I’m easy.”

But wait. Our Thanksgiving favorite deserves some respect. Made with cherry jello and studded with fresh cranberries, chopped walnuts and celery, it can be made way in advance and forgotten about until the turkey is being carved. With just the right balance of sweet, tart, and crunchy, it is a perfect accompaniment to the meal. I usually double the recipe to serve 12-14.

I don’t know what age I was when my mother first made this dish. But I can totally imagine my gastronomical rapture upon tasting the first forkful. Henceforth known as Leenzil’s Thanksgiving Salad, it has been on my family’s table ever since.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Weird Thanksgiving Staple
My mother submitted Leenzil’s Thanksgiving Salad to our synagogue’s cookbook under my name years ago. This is a photo of that page.

Oh, and the Leenzil part? That was my dad’s nickname for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, and bon appetit!

This post was originally featured on Helene’s blog, Books Is Wonderful. Featured image via

As a child, I found Thanksgiving to be the most lamentable of holidays. It came with no gifts, mascots, candy or songs, and compared to the pink hearts of Valentine’s Day, the giddy greens and reds of Christmas, or the devilish orange and black of Halloween, Thanksgiving was just plain brown.

Adults drank beer and watched football, sedentary crimes that any eight-year old could forgive with sufficient toys and sugar. But Thanksgiving didn’t come with toys and sugar, it was just a stupid Thursday lacking in climax. Fourth of July had fireworks, on Halloween we’d trick-or-treat, few moments paralleled the excitement of Christmas morning, and even New Year’s had an important moment, regardless of whether or not I could stay awake for it. Thanksgiving was little more than a long day of overcooked green beans and other such casseroles.

It’s not UNREASONABLE to want a child to be thankful, but trying to elicit this by way of the limp vegetable is futile. The adults would occasionally present a bubbling hot dish of tubers and marshmallows and expect the children to squeal with delight. We squealed, all right.

As an adult, Thanksgiving is hands-down my all-time favorite holiday. I don’t have to buy gifts, dress up, put lights on my house, hype my kids up on sugar, or pretend that I can sing. The colors of Thanksgiving create the perfect rainbow. The orange of an early mimosa yields to the bright red of a Bloody Mary. The auburn of an afternoon amber morphs to the crimsons of mulled wine, then a Malbec with the meal. Finally, rich browns of coffee and liqueur lead into the evening with perfection. Football keeps the men out of the kitchen, and with control over the meal I can lightly steam the veggies or opt for a Caesar instead of the overcooked green beans and other such casseroles. Tubers and marshmallows? Still Stupid.

Thanksgiving isn’t entirely about booze, of course. It’s about booze and food. It’s the once a year, all day dinner party where the goal is to stay mildly drunk from morning till night without ever insulting relatives or having to disappear for just a moment, only to be found passed out in another room while the vegetables turn to mush and the turkey burns. Some would argue that Thanksgiving involves giving thanks. There are different notions of to whom this thanks is due, but forefathers often top the list.

It’s not that I don’t have an appreciation for history; I do, though I’ve never subscribed to the practice of dwelling on the dead. That’s not disrespect; rather it’s a reflection of my own wishes. When all my Thanksgivings have passed, I don’t want anyone wasting time dwelling on me, and certainly not on a holiday when they should be getting their drink on. If our forefathers were anything like me, and I’m sure at least one of them was, then I’m honoring them with my drunkenness. It’s the right thing to do, really.

As I plan the menu, stock the liquor cabinet, and contemplate spending a small fortune on brand new bamboo placemats, I can’t help but wonder what Thanksgiving will mean for my children. Will they see it as I did? As the brown Thursday of boring adults who try to keep the kids quiet by offering them a slimy bone to rip apart? I vow not to force upon them any carcass remnants masked as trophies. I don’t expect them to jump for joy if presented with a Thanksgiving coloring book which, when sold, should be accompanied by a box of crayons in various shades of brown. But I also won’t be renting a bouncy house or plying them with treats to ease tempers on edge, because not every holiday has to please children. As long as the kids aren’t playing in traffic or sampling the martinis, I see no reason why we can’t keep this one holiday for ourselves. They’ll have Christmas, soon enough.

This post was originally featured on AK’s blog. Photo via.

Although I am no longer a vegan, I certainly remember how it felt to participate in meat-centered holiday meals with friends and family when I didn’t eat meat.  When the standard image of Thanksgiving food is a turkey, planning a vegetarian Thanksgiving menu can be tough.  

It’s not impossible to have a real food vegetarian Thanksgiving if you plan ahead.  In the end, a meatless Thanksgiving looks more like a collection of typical Thanksgiving side dishes.  There is no single main dish like there is with a turkey, but there is no shortage of delicious, filling dishes to make your Thanksgiving tasty and comforting.

Here are a few of my favorite vegetarian Thanksgiving side dishes

Quinoa Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash

Butternut Squash Soup

Sweet Potato Frittata

Quick and Easy Potato Puffs

Here are some great vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes from some of my favorite food bloggers.  

Get started planning your meatless Thanksgiving menu today!

Roasted Sweet Potato Purée with Coconut, Orange & Ginger

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

White Bean Gratin Casserole

Lentil and Potato Pot Pies with Rosemary Biscuit Crust

Cranberry Cherry Applesauce

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Classic Cranberry Sauce

Crock-Pot Apple Pumpkin Butter

Sweet Potato and Apple Puree with Streusel Topping

Celery Root Mash

Cranberry Orange Relish with Ginger and Nuts

Deep Dish Apple Pie with Fennel and Ginger

Looking for a complete vegetarian Thanksgiving menu?  Check out these articles from around the web.

3 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menus

33 Vegetarian Main Dishes for Thanksgiving

Holiday Side Dishes — Everything but the Turkey!

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours.

Some kids dream of being a doctor, an airline pilot, a teacher.

Me? I wanted to be a farmer.

Like a country mouse in the city, I felt out of place in our suburban neighborhood. My destiny was to live on a farm, of that I was certain. A farm with horses and cows and chickens, where I would get up at the crack of dawn to milk the cows and muck out the stalls. I would gather eggs from the hen house and bring them to my mother (Maw) who would scramble them up for a hearty breakfast with homemade biscuits and strawberry preserves to top it off.

I begged my parents to ditch the suburban nonsense and move to the country. Also? We needed to grow our family. Look at any farm family, I told them. You need a passel of kids to help with the chores. So we needed to adopt a few, and a big sister would be much appreciated. They listened patiently, but it was only cute for so long. When my beseeching disintegrated into petulant whining they either changed the subject or sent me to to my room.

A life on the farm was not in the cards.

However, my fascination with farm life has remained strong, and that’s why I enjoyed reading “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food & Love from an American Midwest Family.”

Author Kathleen Flinn, who has written two previous books on her fascination with the culinary world, including the New York Times bestselling memoir, “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” has penned this homage to a childhood short on luxuries but long on farming, love … and home cooking.

Good cooks and food enthusiasts run in Flinn’s Swedish and Irish family, and this memoir is chock full of anecdotes related to the joy of eating. From foraging for morels to fishing for smelt and preparing Grandpa Charles’ chili, each chapter is a page of Flinn’s childhood, recounted with charm and a sense of fun.

I was amazed to learn how voluminous a family farm operation can be. From the bounty of their garden Flinn’s mother canned 80 quarts of applesauce, 120 quarts of tomatoes and 80 quarts of peaches each year. And that was just the beginning.

Apple-CrispBecause money was tight in those early years, her mother learned how to stretch a dollar while making wholesome, tasty food for her growing brood. Flinn has compiled many of the family favorites and each chapter ends with a recipe, such as this one for Apple Crisp.

If you’re wondering why the title is “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good,” it refers to Flinn’s grandmother’s phrase used to get a picky child to eat.

I’ve already tried one recipe and can’t wait to try more. I made these rolls this week and they were a big hit with my husband. They are best hot from the oven with a dab of butter.

Aunt Myrtle’s No-Knead Yeast Rolls

Makes 2 dozen

1 package (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/2 t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 c. boiling water
1 large egg
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit 10 minutes.

In a different bowl, combine the shortening, salt, sugar, and boiling water. Let cool slightly. Add the dissolved yeast, egg and flour and mix well; the dough will be slightly sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough for at least two hours and up to 24.

Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray. Pinch off dough and fill each muffin slot about 1/3 full. Brush the tops with melted butter. Let rise for about two hours in a warm place, until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, or until they rise up firmly and are slightly browned. Let cool slightly before removing from the pan. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

– – –

Maybe I’ve still got some of the farm girl in me. I’m hankering for some homemade strawberry preserves to go with those rolls. I’m going to learn how to make it myself.

This post was originally featured on Helene’s blog, Books is Wonderful