November 2017

Second Annual Friendsgiving 2017

Doing something twice makes it a tradition, right? It almost didn’t happen since I dropped the ball on not picking a date out in June before everyone’s calendars began to rapidly fill up (not to mention we had two weddings in November). Thankfully a slot of time for the Friday after Thanksgiving was available and even though most of us were going into work, we would be able to make it a late night with the entire weekend ahead.

That all being said, I had to think about what I was going to be able to do 1) after working a full day and 2) not having Thanksgiving meal like the day before. We did potluck styled last year and while it was great to have the help, everyone made portions as if their dish was the only thing the group was eating all night. While it was delicious, I needed a little more control of the food.

I found non-traditional and healthy fall recipes and kept the dishes as make-a-head as possible while everyone else had the option of bringing a dessert. I planned for dinner to be ready for 7PM for eleven people- here we go!

A few time saving hosting tips:

  • Set everything up in advance before: In fact, I had the house set up the Sunday before- setting up the extra tables and chairs, my slim folding table, table cloths, serving dishes for each dish, wine glasses, etc. One less thing to worry about on game day.
  • Any prep you can do ahead, do it: Many meals or portions of the meals can be prepped and stored for several days until the heating part of the recipe so take advantage of recipes you can prepare in advance.
  • Splurge a litte: I do not entertain on a weekly or even monthly basis, so when I saw that there were pre-cut items such as sweet potatoes and butternut squash, I had no problem paying the little extra to gain all the time I would have spent needing to cut those items up. This step saved me so much time- well worth the markup.
  • And maybe a little more…: I hate dishes and with a large group, there was no way I was spending the night with all the silverware and dishes so I purchased fancy plastic plates and silver-plastic silverware.
  • Have your guests help: I know everyone wants to feel like a superhero when hosting a party but as a frequent guest myself, the worst thing the host can say is “don’t bring anything’. Guests then take it upon themselves and end up bringing something of their choice- you risk having duplicates or undesired dishes. This time I told everyone if they wanted to bring something that they had the option of bringing wine and/or desserts. Not every guest brought something and for the ones that did, it was plenty to provide ample wine and dessert for the group.



Apricot Brown Sugar Ham Prep: none/day of

The perfect alternative to turkey! I purchased a fully cooked spiral sliced bone in ham from Trader Joe’s along with the ingredients for the glazed. I really wanted to try using the slower cooker but the 8-lb ham was too big (help free up oven space!). At 15 minutes a pound to reheat, I was looking at popping the ham in the oven at 5PM at 275 degrees to an internal temperature of 140 degrees on a roasting pan. When I inserted the meat thermometer at 6PM, it read 59 degrees- we were going to be here all night! I increased the oven temperature for the next hour and yanked the meat thermometer out. If you could eat the ham cold I was not convinced of the internal temperature shenanigans. I was disappointed that the “sliced” descriptor was only referring to the very exterior of the ham and I had to do a bulk of the cutting. The ham was adequately warm and the glaze was delightful- all in all it came out very tasty.


Lasagna Prep: 10 minute assembly/can do in advance or day of

Post thanksgiving pasta. Sorry to have let everyone down but I have always used the box recipe for lasagna. No secret family recipe here- it is so simple and can be done far in advance and the left overs can be frozen. Of note, I do not include meat in this dish as the recipe calls for. Buy the oven ready lasagna noodles, cans of crushed tomatoes and lots of cheese (shredded mozzarella, ricotta, grated Parmesan) and assemble as instructed. Pop in the oven for a half hour and you are all done. I threw this in the oven first since it reheats easily. Delicious and ridiculously simple.



Side Dishes

Autumn Medley Prep: Assembly required, depending on how good your knife skills are (mine are horrible) probably 20 minute prep/can do prep ahead but cook day of

I had made this One Pan Autumn Chicken Dinner about a month ago and we loved the vegetable medley so much that I decided to make it as a side dish. Once you get through the prep, everything else is very easy. Though I do warn you- the first time I made this, it burned everything and while we like a little char, it can get excessive. The recipe calls for 450 degrees on the oven and it was way too much so I use 400 degrees. I bought enough to triple the recipe but we really only need a double batch. To help in the prep I bought the pre-cut sweet potatoes at Trader Joe’s which left me to cut the brussel sprouts, shallots, apples and bacon. I put this into the oven after the lasagna and before the ham. This dish was definitely a hit so enjoy making this one!


Butternut Squash Prep: Assembly required, depending on how good your knife skills are (mine are horrible) probably 15 minute prep/can do prep ahead but cook day of

One of my favorite veggies for fall! I has also made this Butternut Stuffed Turkey Tenderloin with Cranberries and Pecans about a month ago and I really liked the stuffing in the turkey so gave it the spotlight. To my delight, another pre-cut option found for butternut squash saved me a ton of time for this dish as the rest was mostly throwing into the stove. This dish was done simultaneously with the Autumn Medley (one in the oven, one on the stove). I probably could have gotten away with one severing of this instead of the three I bought for!



I also made a salad and bought half baked bread rolls from Trader Joe’s (which is my new favorite item!) for fresh baked bread! I placed the bread in the oven in the last twenty minutes of the ham cooking.



Dessert: Our friends brought two pies (peach and apple) and a pound cake so it was the perfect additions of the end of our meal. And since it is expected these days, I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies– can’t resist!


Wine: Everyone brought a bottle- including Beaujolais Nouveau since it is that time of year. We invested in wine markers last year and as described, they wash off with little pressure from a sponge or cloth and made keeping track of everyone’s glasses seamless.

Clean up: Easy with the small investment in disposable silverware and plates. The serving dishes, wine glasses and mugs were the only items to be washed so an easy load of the dishwasher. Using table cloths is a great way to collect any spills and crumbs then can just throw them in the washer and call it a day.

Overall: I think it was a very successful Friendsgiving affair! While I did over cooked food, it was far less than last year so maybe next year I will get the portions just right. It is our favorite thing to have all our friends around to take a break from the holiday madness. Give the recipes a try- let me know what you think!

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