For years, I’ve cooked the big Thanksgiving meal for my family. There were years where I lived away from family so threw these big Thanksgiving dinners for friends. I absolutely love everything about the menu planning, shopping, prepping and cooking the meal. I love all the details of laying out the perfect appetizers and setting the table. Finding a spot for a makeshift bar and planning that perfect “welcome cocktail” is all part of the fun. I’m not complaining about the amount of work that goes into the event or the fact that I tend to do it all, but everyone decade or so (I’m not kidding!), I really love a quiet, easy going dinner for two.
I recently learned I’m not alone. Everyone I know seems to have relocated with their significant other so it is just the two of them OR I’ve got friends that are dealing with empty nest syndrome OR there are tons of single friends that are just inviting over a friend or a special someone. Covid certainly added another element of downsizing to the event but between you and me, having a day all to myself, to leisurely cook a fabulous meal and not deal with the endless coming and going of family, washing of dishes, pots and pans and the none stop energy needed on a “holiday”, is an absolute joy!
I love the quiet time and being able to reflect on what I’m grateful for (peace and quiet this time round…lol) but I don’t want to give up the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving. So this year, I created a downsized menu for just the two of us complete with all the side dishes and dessert. I didn’t skimp on anything; I just made smaller and more manageable portions so I’m not left with a month’s worth of food. Don’t worry, there is still plenty of left overs for that midnight sandwich and the next day’s lunch.
If you are keeping your holiday small, this might be the perfect menu for you. Don’t forget to bring out the good china and linens, set the table and go ahead and buy flowers too. Light those candles, make a cocktail and be sure to buy a great bottle of wine for dinner. You aren’t giving up the holiday or all the festivities that go with it; you are just letting go of the stress, volume and craziness that come with every holiday!
Let’s start with the main event: The Turkey. This year, I stuffed a turkey breast with a flavorful walnut bread & fig stuffing. It cooks up quickly and gets two dishes done in one. It is easy to make and tastes fabulous.
Again, keeping with the nice and easy approach this holiday, I made my turkey gravy ahead of time using turkey wings. This helped me spread out the tasks and get my gravy done days before Thanksgiving. That game me more time to watch the parade and actually sit and watch some football. A win-win for me.
Another great make ahead side dish is the cranberry sauce. This year, I went with an orange flavored sauce and used fresh OJ, zest of an orange and some orange liquor to really give it a punch. It came out great. You can make this days in advance and again, save time on the big day.
I tried out a brand new side dish this year after being inspired by a post I caught on Instagram. These Maple & Orange Glazed Carrots are fabulous. There is a bit of sweetness but also some subtle heat from Calabrian chili flakes. Topped with pomegranate seeds and toasted pumpkin seeds, this was a winner. It is different and really packs a punch. This will be the dish they are talking about.
Everyone loves the marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole, but this year I kept it simple. I roasted a couple of sweet potatoes and topped them with my Cinnamon Honey Butter. Simple, easy and oh so delicious.
To finish off my Thanksgiving meal for two, I made individual Pumpkin Cheesecakes. Doesn’t that just scream Thanksgiving? The individual portions keep eating in control (Yes, there has to be some limits even on a holiday.) and looks so pretty when presented on dessert plates with homemade whipped cream.
And there you have it. An easy, elegant Thanksgiving meal without all the fuss and stress. There is a bonus to having a quiet year…you have restored your energy for the more boisterous holidays to come. I like to say, everything in balance. Besides, Christmas is just four weeks away and if you want to go crazy with a big feast, lots of people, some added stress and a whole lot of fun, you can do it then. Happy Thanksgiving.