The Thanksgiving Holiday was a bit different this year, wasn't it? While we don't usually host a large group at my house, we do typically have my in-laws spend a couple days with us for Thanksgiving, and sometimes my mom as well, so our standard menu includes everyone's favorites. This year, it was just my husband, boys and me. We cut down the menu accordingly, nixing strawberry Jello "salad" for Grandpa and mashed potatoes for Grandma, we stuck to one pie (Grandma usually brings the other), cut the stuffing recipe in half, and cooked a turkey breast instead of the whole bird. My husband and I are used to cooking for Thanksgiving so our modifications didn't require much planning, but many of our friends were left to figure it out for the first time, and there is a good chance the December holidays will be no different. Maybe some of these ideas and recipes can help?
To further clarify our Thanksgiving changes, I mentioned cutting the stuffing recipe in half. The stuffing I make uses corn bread and biscuits, which I still had to prepare in the normal manner. But, I only used half of the biscuits and I cut the 8x8 pan of cornbread in half, much to the delight of my kids who wanted to eat the remaining cornbread and biscuits. My stuffing recipe typically makes a 9x13 pan, but after halving the recipe, I baked it in an 8x8 pan, which fits a bit more than half, but close enough. It was my best batch ever! By the way, if you are curious, here is my recipe
. It isn't quite "healthy," but traditional bread based stuffing rarely is. (I don't follow their corn bread recipe, I use Martha Stewart's which includes roasted corn, or I just use a box of Krusteaz).
Also, I mentioned we eliminated the mashed potatoes, which to many sounds absolutely insane, but we definitely did not need two types of potatoes. My husband is the potato guy and he prefers my maple bourbon sweet potato recipe
. And, conveniently, it makes a smaller batch so it was perfect for the four of us. It's easy to make on the stovetop, requiring no oven time!
Because my immediate family has never been a big fan of traditional cranberries, we typically don't bother. But last year I found this Cranberry Salsa
as a fun way to incorporate them. It looks so pretty on the table and can be enjoyed anytime, during the meal or just as an appetizer or snack. Looks like Christmas!
My husband always cooks our turkey in the smoker, so there are no pan drippings for gravy. Not to worry, there are lots of recipes out there, and if you are new to gravy like I was, this is pretty easy
Speaking of gravy, so many traditional dishes don't have much color, which every holiday table should have. Not only is this bright green Garlic Green Beans
recipe a healthier option than Green Bean Casserole, but it's also more appropriate for a smaller crowd. If you want to add a little crunch, roasted almond slices or slivers would be great on top.
You may want to follow this lead in December. Some of our friends who usually celebrate the holidays with local family cooked their usual contribution to the potluck, and then portioned it out and did a porch swap of food. Genius!
While it definitely is disappointing to not be able to maintain tradition this year, maybe you can think of it as an opportunity to try something new! Have you ever wanted to mix it up but are afraid of making mistakes with new recipes when feeding a crowd? Use this year to take a risk, try some new recipes, and by next year you can wow your extended family and friends. Or, splurge! It's easier to buy Prime Rib for four people than it is for a full house. Make it a memorable one.
Luckily, there is nothing set in stone that says a holiday meal has to be ham, turkey or roast beef. We've had Christmas lasagna for years, and my sister's family does Christmas enchiladas. This isn't her version, but below is a quick download for how I make my chicken enchiladas. I prefer not to use canned enchilada sauce when it's so easy to make it yourself (for a lot less sodium). Enchiladas and lasagna are both great options because you can prepare them ahead of time and just throw them in the oven when you want them, so you have more time to spend with your loved ones. Christmas margarita, anyone?
To prepare the chicken and enchilada sauce - dump and let the slow cooker do it's job all day! When it is finished, shred the chicken and set it aside.
To complete the enchiladas:
Heat olive oil in a pan, saute one diced white onion (I use about 1 cup frozen diced onions) for 3-4 min. Add one bell pepper (pick your color, I like red) to pan. Saute a couple more minutes then add 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1 clove (or 1/2 tsp) minced garlic. Saute one more minute. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup defrosted frozen corn, chicken, and 1/2 cup 2% Colby Jack or Mexican cheese blend. Stir. Stir in some of the sauce from the slow cooker, just enough to moisten the ingredients. Spread some sauce across the bottom of a 9x13 pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Fill 10 flour tortillas with the chicken and veggies mixture (1/10th in each tortilla). Roll each tortilla and lie them side by side tightly in the baking dish. Cover with the remaining enchilada sauce and sprinkle with more cheese, about 1 cup. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Top however you'd like - raw onion, cilantro, salsa, avocado, or even lettuce and tomato.
Obviously, many of our holiday celebrations typically center around food. But, especially this year, let's try to use this holiday season to count our blessings and look forward to when we can all safely be together again. Enjoy your food, in moderate quantities, stay physically active and schedule those video calls to visit with those you love.