My Perfect Thanksgiving Menu

Confession:  I am an obsessive list-maker.  Not only do I keep the normal to-do lists that never get finished and the usual grocery lists that are lost before I make it to the store, but I also keep fanciful lists borne of my excessive day-dreaming.  I keep these lists saved in files on my computer in a system that’s less organized than I wish it was:

Lists of places I want to go before I die.

Lists of names I love.

Lists of songs I love.

Lists of books I love.

Lists of the ideal gift to give in every situation (unfortunately, I am not actually a great gift-giver; I think I spend so much time trying to get perfectly organized that I kind of miss out on the actual point).

Lists of ideas for future blogs.

Lists of all the features of my dream house.

Ad infinitum.

You know, I can clearly picture the inside of my dream house, which Beau and I will get around to building just as soon as we win the lottery and/or I sign a book deal (both of which are highly unlikely).  My dream house is very different from any other house I’ve ever lived in.  It is arranged for entertaining.  The kitchen is long and narrow, with a fireplace at the west end, a window at the east end, a wall along the north and a long bar along the south.  Beyond the bar there is a very large living/dining space (I say 40×40; Beau thinks that’s too big) with floor-to-ceiling windows all along the east wall.

Sigh.  It’s lovely there, at my dream house.  It’s always clean.  I have time to cook whatever I want.  And from the kitchen I serve well-thought-out, delicious menus to our varied guests.

I feel kinda bad that my little kids don’t seem to appear in my daydreams of the perfect house.  I mean, it kinda makes sense, because they’re 6, 3, and 1 now, and the house surely won’t be built any time soon.  I mean, if the house ever materializes in real life, my kids definitely won’t be little kids anymore by the time it’s finished.

And I feel kinda bad about that.  I feel bad about wanting anything that involves them being anything other than what they are right now.  Because right now they are perfectly capable of wrecking a house and derailing a recipe… and they’re perfect.  I want to enjoy them at this stage.  I don’t want to rush them growing up.  I don’t want to dream of a time when they’re not this way.

Still.  I guess I don’t have to demonstrate further that faultless hostessing and little kids are mutually exclusive concepts.

But, just to indulge myself, I keep on my computer a list called The Perfect Thanksgiving Menu.  These are all the tastes I believe should be represented on the big day of thanks:

For starters:  Veggie tray with ranch dressing, green and black olives, shrimp cocktail.

For drinks:  Sparkling cider and wine.

The main course:  Turkey, turkey gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberries (this could be either GG’s cranberry-jell-O-nut concoction or fresh cranberry sauce or the good ol’ canned stuff or all the above (!) — because I really do like ’em all, and you can’t have turkey without cranberry something).

And, because my husband is averse to turkey:  Ham, pineapple casserole (more on this exciting stuff below!), and cornbread dressing.

Sides:  Beets, kale salad, corn pudding, winter squash, green bean casserole, rolls with softened butter.

And then there are the sweet potatoes, which deserve a paragraph all to themselves.  There are so many options, and maybe they all deserve to be on the table.  In recent years I’ve become very fond of peeling and chunking fresh sweet potatoes and baking them, covered, in a little coconut oil.  (Healthy and delicious!)  But who can say no to Mom’s good old canned sweet taters with toasted marshmallows on top?  And furthermore, who can say no to Beau’s favorite — Southern sweet potato casserole with praline topping?

(Actually, that last casserole might qualify as a pie.)  Speaking of pies…

Pies:  Pumpkin with Cool Whip (not whipped cream; whipped cream has its applications but this is not one of them), sour cream raisin, apple, chocolate-pecan, pecan.

Of course, The Perfect Thanksgiving Menu is kind of a moot point because the rest of my extended family, all of whom resist my controlling tendencies, prefer a potluck method.  Everyone brings what seems best to them to the Thanksgiving table.  And you know what?  There’s always plenty, and it’s always delicious.  Know what else?  I said I would contribute three dishes, three simple dishes, to Thanksgiving dinner today.  And it’s going to be a photo finish if I get them all accomplished.  (Maybe if I spent less time dreaming, I would have more time to get real things done.)

Oh, one more thing.  I promised details on the pineapple casserole mention up above.  If you’re from the North, like me, you probably don’t know about pineapple casserole.  It’s a Southern delicacy which I was introduced to once I got tangled up with this Alabama-born husband of mine.  I fell in love (with the dish AND the man), stole the recipe off my mother-in-law, and these days my own family insists that pineapple casserole must be on the table at every get-together.  It’s that good.  And it’s simple!

The cast of characters:


The recipe:  Preheat the oven to 350°.  In the oven, melt 1/2 c. butter inside a casserole dish.  Swirl the butter throughout the dish to grease it, then remove the butter to a small dish and set aside.  Pour 2 (20-oz.) cans pineapple chunks, with juice, into the casserole.  Sprinkle 5 T. flour and 3/4 c. sugar over the pineapple, followed by 1 c. Ritz cracker crumbs, then 1-1/2 c. cheddar or monterey jack cheese.  Pour reserved butter over other ingredients.  Bake for 45 minutes — covered for the first half and uncovered for the remaining baking time.

This is what it looks like when it’s done:


(And it tastes even better than it looks in this picture!  I think I will add to my list of long-term goals:  Take a photography class; learn food photography.)

I’m thankful for the Southern influences that command my Montana kitchen.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  (Oh, and is anything missing from my Perfect Thanksgiving Menu?)

© Tami Blake

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