Thanksgiving and the holidays are back in full swing at our house! Holiday music has started playing, some decorations are going up, and we have started prepping the menu! We downsized our Thanksgiving menu last year, and are thrilled to be able to sit around the table with loved ones again this year. The family is ready to be together again! I love having the house full of laughter, good food, and of course baby nephew and puppy snuggles galore.
Because my brother is vegan, it takes a bit of planning and coordination. We’re sharing one of our favorite recipes to serve, Chai Thai Iced Tea and sharing how we’re getting ready for our big meal.
recipe for Chai Thai Iced Tea below
Stay Safe (again) This Thanksgiving!
Yes, the holidays may still look different for your gathering due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy time with our families and all the things we’re grateful for.
If you’re traveling, be sure to use proper precautions like hand-washing, wearing a mask in public, and self-isolating when needed. Together, we can do what we can to stop the spread and keep our family members safe and healthy this holiday season!
Our 2 Traditions
These are our family’s favorite traditions, for as long as we’ve been hosting – and everyone looks forward to them!
- Every person gets to choose 1 thing they want on the table. Even with 16 people coming we make this work – mostly because 4 people said pumpkin pie, so you get a lot of overlap. But, it means everyone is sure to have their nostalgic favorite to comfort them.
- Everyone goes around the table and says what they’re grateful for. It makes conversation while you eat so joyous and wonderful – hopefully avoiding the dreaded politics and religious conversation bombs.
Ask for help!
For years we hosted and never asked anyone to bring anything. It meant less variety served and more work for us. Plus, no one else got to help – making them feel like a burden. Now, we ask each person (or couple) coming to bring something. I love brainstorming with them on dishes they want to make. And I usually end up loving those dishes the most – tastes better when you don’t cook it! For those that don’t want to cook, they’re perfect to ask to bring drinks or pick-up the pre-ordered gluten-free pies.
Here’s our overall Thanksgiving Menu:
I don’t always serve special drinks, but the holidays are the time!
- Homemade Chai Thai Iced Tea (recipe below)
- Warm Mulled Cider in the slow cooker
- Dad is bringing some great wine!
- Apple Cider Sangria from 3 Yummy Tummies (made by a guest)
Since our family tends to arrive early, we love to have a full spread ready and waiting. Bacon Jam from our cookbook: Beyond Bacon can be made in advance and works with almost anything! I love that it can be served with crudite, sliced sour apples, deviled eggs, crackers, on biscuits, and especially on post-Thanksgiving sandwiches!
- Bacon Jam
- Cheese Tray
- Onion Dip from Ina Garten with Chips (my mom is making)
- Stuffed Mushrooms from Elana’s Pantry
- Deviled Eggs (my sister is bringing)
Thanksgiving Dinner! Main Course and Sides
- Green Beans (Recipe in Real Life Paleo) (guest is bringing)
- Gravy from The Domestic Man
- Mashed Potatoes
- Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts
- Mac & Cheese
- Cheddar Biscuits, the Red Lobster GF mix
- Cranberry Jelly (store bought)
- Carrot Rutabaga Mash (mom is making)
- Gluten Free Rice Stuffing with Cranberries and Pecans (mom is making)
- Turkey – We’ll be having two this year, one smoked and one roasted.
Thanksgiving Menu prep and cooking
All hands on deck when it comes to the week of! Everyone will have a job (even the kids) and each day there is a task to make the day of run smoothly and so you don’t have to cook all day. And actually enjoy your gathering!
- Saturday – Move the turkeys from the freezer to the refrigerator to begin thawing.
- Tuesday – Matt will brine the turkeys. – Kids will help shred the cheese for mac and cheese.
- Wednesday – Stacy to pick up the pies from Zest Gluten Free Bakery – Kids to make the base tea for the Chai Thai Iced Tea. – Matt preps mushrooms and pre makes the filling. – Kids peel and soak potatoes.
- Stacy to make the cheddar biscuits and finishes dishes for display.
- Wesley makes apple cider and sets the table.
- Cole (a culinary student) creates the cheese tray and makes mac n cheese.
- Kiddo makes the cream for the tea.
- Finn makes mashed potatoes.
- Matt makes mushrooms, gravy, and turkeys, we smoke one and roast the other to save our 2nd oven for cooking the remaining food.
That prep work and asking for help makes such a huge difference!
Tips for Adjusting the Thanksgiving Menu
Turkey: As far as main courses go, turkey is such a flexible dish for varying menu sizes. If your menu is larger than ours, it’s as easy as buying a bigger bird! Just remember- bigger turkeys cook longer, so be sure to plan your time accordingly. We prefer to get 2 medium sized birds, the flavor is better and they’re easier to cook without drying out the white meat. Don’t forget to make enough for Thanksgiving leftovers! We usually make two birds, but actually make one for Friendsgiving the week before so we have bones for broth to make the gravy.
Appetizers: choose something that works universally. We’re sharing Bacon Jam because it can be prepped in advance and works with almost anything (including leftovers) and goes a long way. Another option is you want to be more formal than rustic is soup, but we’ve found that’s difficult to manage day of.
Sides: we let each family member attending Thanksgiving request a dish. We’re sharing some dishes that combine separate classic recipes, so you’re still getting it all.
Desserts: this is where we cheat a bit. There are so many awesome premade options these days, grabbing a gluten-free pie from the store or making something simple like our 10 min Pecan Crack(le) Cookies saves more time to enjoy the holiday with loved ones. We’re making a homemade cheesecake, but have pre-ordered the classics (pumpkin, apple, pecan).
Leftovers: yes, this is it’s own category. You’ve cooked a LOT and deserve a break. And, as a National Food Holiday, we want to “celebrate” more than once. Plan ahead, doubling recipes is way easier than making a separate meal!
For example, Bacon Jam lasts FOREVER refrigerated, so we keep it on hand for pancakes, biscuits, and even as a fruit spread. I love how it can be used for leftovers, too. Just look at what Jenni at The Urban Poser did topping off her Apple Butternut Squash Breakfast Hash with it!
If you’re looking to spend some more time in the kitchen making the best-of-the-best classics, I recommend trying:
- Classic (but healthier) Cheesecake
- The Best Paleo Pumpkin Pie (we make this as a crustless custard)
- Mary Berry’s Ultimate Chocolate Roulade (Swiss Roll) (Yes! Gluten Free!)
- Pudding Pie because no dessert spread is complete without pie!
Alright friends, after all this cooking you deserve some time off. And everyone deserves to get to enjoy your feast for days after! I recommend doubling recipes, since it’s not much work – then they’ll last for days later.
Some of my favorite leftovers (beyond the traditional sandwich):
- Brussel Sprouts Frittata (with leftover roasted veggies)
- Turkey Thai Basil
- Stacy’s Soup lays out how to make the BEST turkey soup
- Chicken & Dumplings (with turkey)
- Against All Grain’s Leftover Roast Chicken Soup with Roasted Vegetables
- here’s 15 Ways to Make Leftover Mashed Potatoes Even Better
Chai Thai Iced Tea Recipe
We have a lot of family members who don’t drink alcohol but still want something special. This drink can be made as a sweet treat or more savory, depending on how you choose to sweeten it. The flavors are warm and comforting, it’s perfect for your Thanksgiving Menu or anytime!
This is an excellent make-ahead dish, since both the tea and syrup need time to cool.
- 10 chai teabags (see Note) 2 quarts boiling water
- 2 (13 1/2-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk or 31?2 cups homemade*
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 3 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
- For serving:
- Ground nutmeg, for garnish
- Place the teabags in a 1-gallon pitcher and pour the boiling water over the teabags. Steep for at least 10 minutes.
- Remove the teabags and fill the rest of the pitcher with cold water and ice. Refrigerate while you make the coconut milk syrup.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the coconut milk, vanilla, cloves, and orange zest.
- Once the milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 40 minutes, until thickened, stirring every few minutes.
- When the milk coats the whisk, remove from the heat and allow to cool for at least 2 minutes.
- Stir in the sweetener of choice, and then pour into a sealable container and chill for 2 hours.
- To serve, fill a 16-ounce glass with ice, and then fill it two-thirds full with the iced tea. Fill the remainder of the glass with the chilled coconut milk mixture and sprinkle with a shaving of nutmeg.
Note: You can find chai at any regular grocery store. Usually it is made by flavoring black tea. But some versions use Rooibos tea as the base, which is caffeine-free, making it a good option if you want to make this drink kid-friendly.
*traditionally condensed milk is used, we have made this with heavy cream and it's excellent but coconut milk is how we serve to a crowd to make it dairy-free and vegan-friendly
Want more inspiration? Listen to our Thanksgiving podcast, here.
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