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I’ve been waiting all year for this. My stomach is rumbling, I can’t stop thinking about it. Turkey, dark meat, crunchy wing bones, crispy skin. This is one polarizing meal, separating the meat eaters from the vegetarians, the turkey lovers from the turkey haters, pecan pie fans from the pumpkin pie fanatics. The battles are vicious, I try to stay out of it, so I’ll say yes to just about anything on the Thanksgiving table besides cranberry sauce from a can.

This year I was lucky enough to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving in October. Yes we eat the same foods. No it’s not about the pilgrims. I agree that it’s a little odd to have the exact same holiday with the same food and same name for completely different reasons. However,  according to my research, the first North American Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada in 1578, 43 years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth. Just a little pearl of wisdom for your cocktail hour conversations next week.

But regardless of its provenance, most of us will agree that Thanksgiving dinner is one of the tastiest of the year.

For years I used to schedule vacation days on the Tuesday and Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving to give myself a little prep window. I so looked forward to those two days when I could plan, shop, and cook to my heart’s content. Not to mention drink a few too many afternoon glasses of red wine. And in the spirit of full disclosure, a wee bit of sherry, Pedro Ximinez, the kind you can basically eat with a spoon.

But isn’t that what the holidays are about? Inappropriate, guilt-free indulgence?

Since I threw myself into cooking years ago, I’ve become the defacto destination amongst my friends for any Thanksgiving-related questions. What kind of turkey should I buy? Heritage or organic? What size? What stuffing should I make? What can I make ahead?

So I thought I’d break it down and create a mini guide for those of you who want to throw a first class dinner without losing your mind. In fact, if you follow the menu and timeline exactly, it should be a cinch. Just imagine, sleeping in until 10:30AM, making yourself a cappuccino, reading the paper, and finally by 1PM settling in for the real prep work. Nobody is getting up at 5AM on my program, that’s for sure.

Before you click away from this page, thinking that I’m making some kind of psychotic overpromise, let me coax you back. Yes, I agree that cooking Thanksgiving dinner can be a big undertaking, but if you plan ahead, and prepare the whole thing in baby steps, it’s actually easy to pull off.

Back when Gourmet magazine existed (hold on, wiping a tear) they used to illustrate this point with their party menus. Whether it was a Mothers’ day brunch, a Cinco de Mayo party, or even Thanksgiving dinner, they’d suggest a full menu – from the appetizer to the main course, side(s), a dessert, and even a signature cocktail – and  lay out the specific daily steps to get you there. It was so helpful, and so clear that if you spent an hour or two prepping each day, you could make magic happen.

I take this same approach with Thanksgiving and do as much as I can in advance. I don’t like to be slaving over a hot stove when guests arrive. So the majority of the cooking is done before anyone walks through our front door. I want to be able to join my friends and family for cocktail hour, not watch them from the sidelines.

The great thing about Thanksgiving dinner is that most of the ingredients and dishes can be pulled together ahead of time. In some cases, waaaay ahead of time. Like homemade turkey stock. If you need a great recipe, try this one from Bon Appetit magazine. It makes a huge difference in the outcome of your dishes – just stash it in the freezer and thaw it early Thanksgiving week. It’ll be ready for you to use in all of your side dishes; the star of your homemade gravy.

The menu I’ve pulled together is my go-to meal on Thanksgiving, made from the recipes that I trust and have made time and again. This meal has been 10+ years in the making, and let me tell you, I’ve done my research. I used to hole up every weekend in October with a stack of cooking magazines at my feet and just start ripping, stuffing the recipes into a giant green binder. This was the party planning equivalent of dial-up modems now that we have Pinterest (I’ll cop to now having a Thanksgiving board, feel free to follow it for more great recipes). But I used to love the process nonetheless.

It wasn’t easy to narrow my set of dishes down to the final list, but the easiest and tastiest won out: the chestnut and sausage stuffing that’s appeared on our table every year since 2001; the cranberry sauce with zinfandel (how many kids really go for cranberry sauce anyway?); the creamed spinach and parsnips that bring guests to their knees. I’ve had people ask “what is this?” as though parsnips are some kind of wonderfood from Mars. Most important, I’ve included a DRY-BRINED bird. Because 1. every bird should be brined, and 2. nobody wants to take up valuable fridge space with 20-lb floating raw turkey. And I’ve included the newest addition to the menu, the truly auto-pilot sweet potato, coconut & smoked paprika soup, so easy, it basically cooks itself.


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We got a little off topic this week. What started out as an exploration of dried apricots turned to “holy crap, raisins are really grapes?” I don’t know if this fact makes raisins more appealing or less appealing to them. On the one hand, grapes are one of the kids’ favorite fruits, but on the other, raisins are a dried and shriveled version of their former selves. So we haven’t really gotten into raisins as a family.

But in any case, apricots have potential. Which is fantastic because you can keep them in your cupboards for months on end. They also travel well, no smushing, no bruising. And they’re fabulous in Moroccan food, which one day I’ll get my kids into…Dare to dream, dare to dream…

ME: What is this called?

LAUREN: I forgot what it’s called.

ME: OK, anyone else? Emma’s already eating it!

ME: These are called dried….dried what? Dried apricots right?

ME: What do they feel like in your hand?

LAUREN: Dry and rough.

ME: What about the inside, what does it look like?

SAM: Orange!

ME: And smell it, what does it smell like?

EMMA: I’m going to smell it too.

LAUREN: It smells like salad.

ME: You can’t say that, you say that about everything these days. Give me a good description.

SAM: I don’t like mine.

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I’ll be the first to admit that throwing a Movember party for a kids’ birthday party isn’t the most conventional idea. But in a bind, you go for the path of least resistance. This year, it was mustaches.

Let’s back up and talk for a minute about birthday parties. I don’t throw them often, generally speaking. We do celebrate our kids’ birthdays every year with close family, a homemade cake, a few thoughtful gifts, but I have a policy of not throwing over-the-top birthday bashes for my kids every year. Raising three kids is a marathon event, and if I’m sprinting every year, I don’t know if I’ll make it to the finish line. I should say that I will make it, but it won’t look pretty. 

But once the kids turn 4 and are able to appreciate a birthday party of their own, we celebrate with friends. And they can do a more involved party like this every other year. It keeps me sane and it keeps it special for them.

They’re still smallish get-togethers, nothing lavish, no banquet halls, no DJ, no bouncy castles or ride-on-ponies. But they should be something memorable. 

This year it was Sam’s turn. He turned 4 last week, and in anticipation of the event, I asked him what kind of party he wanted to throw.

“A Halloween birthday.”

“Hm, Halloween was last week, are you sure?”


He seemed pretty excited about the dress up element. That, I could keep. The orange and black, maybe not.

Which is how we ended up with this: a Movember birthday party. Dress up, funny mustaches, treats, it checked all the major boxes. And the best part was that Sam loved the idea. I mean what’s not to love with mustaches?

So here you go, in 8 easy steps, how to throw a festive Movember birthday party:

1. Shop

Getting ready to party

2. Frost, glaze, dip

Frosted everything

3. Dress to impress

sam hair

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I know that it’s early November, but it’s never too early to talk about Thanksgiving. Especially when I’m giving you a piece of advice about something that you may have to pre-order. And I’m not talking about the turkey.

Let’s talk about last year for a minute.

It’s not my favorite characteristic, but my husband is exceptionally good at getting sick on major holidays.

Although technically it’s not his fault, he has a tendency to eat suspicious mayonnaise-based products the morning of a major event. Several years ago he ate a greenish chicken salad from a local deli and was violently ill during Thanksgiving dinner. Years before it was funky sushi the day of his birthday party.

I should have prepared for another Thanksgiving disaster last year, brought in special backup teams or outsourced the meal preparation. In my world, heading into Thanksgiving without a backup plan is like hosting an outdoor wedding in May. 

Thanksgiving morning I rolled out of bed, the world my oyster, the dishes that I’d lovingly cook for our family and friends sketched out on a piece of paper. Rodney had graciously offered to take care of the kids to give me some much-needed space in the kitchen.

I walked out of our bedroom and found Rodney hunched over the toilet.

Rodney: “I feel sick. My stomach hurts.”

Me: “Ha, that’s a good one.”

Rodney: “I’m serious, I feel really sick.”

Me: “You can’t be sick today, not allowed. Sorry.”

Rodney: “I feel like I’m going to throw up. I literally can’t move.”

Me: “Oh, my, God. Every year. Ev-ver-ry year. Why do I do this to myself. What did you eat last night?”

Rodney: “A burrito.”

Me: “From where?”

Rodney: “Duane Reade.”

Apparently in a fit of hunger, instead of reaching into our perfectly stocked fridge for dinner, he panicked and bought himself a pork burrito from our local drugstore’s freezer case.

So rather than watching him get ready to take the kids to the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, our first time buying tickets, the tickets we’d gotten so that the kids could be out my hair while I cooked dinner for 16 people – rather than watching him do that……I now had to witness him crawl over to the couch and lie down in the fetal position with a bucket wedged next to his head.

Missing the parade was not an option at this point. The kids had been talking about it for weeks. Tears would be shed. Hearts would be broken.

So I did what any calm and collected Thanksgiving hostess would do in this situation. I swore like a sailor and stopped breathing for a solid minute, just until I became faint-headed enough to believe that this was actually a cruel joke and not my reality. As I regained consciousness, I figured out my plan.

We’d switch places, I’d take the kids to the parade. He would cook. Terrifying, all of it, but it was the only option.


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8 months ago I started this blog with the intention of covering a food-related topic that hits close to home. Today, I’m finally getting the chance to share it.

As many of you know, in this country, and around the world, we’re facing an epidemic; a serious, and growing public health concern. Food allergies are on the rise, touching millions of families worldwide.

A few facts to consider:

  • Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, which affects every 1/13 children
  • There are 200,000 emergency room visits each year due to exposure to food allergens
  • A CDC study conducted in 2008, discovered an 18% increase in food allergies over the previous 10-year period.

The situation is grim, and it’s getting worse.

Theories abound, including the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that we’ve become too clean and our immune systems are sitting around idle, waiting to attack, something, anything, even if it’s harmless.

Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

Lauren, who started First Grade this year, has an anaphylactic reaction to two of them (peanuts and tree nuts) as well as third: sesame.

When Lauren was first diagnosed with her food allergies, I was worried.  I thought about the years to come: how could I send her to school? On play dates? To summer camp?  I loaded up on Epipens and stashed them around the house, in diaper bags, and in the bottom of the stroller.  I threw out any offending substances – the Tahini paste in the fridge, the nuts in my freezer, and the jars of sesame seeds and Asian sauces in my cupboard.

But even with all of that vigilance, you can never fully protect your kids.

A few months after Lauren turned 2 we had our first allergic episode. A guest had brought peanut butter Easter eggs to a dinner party we hosted for my husband’s birthday. Somehow, over the course of the evening, they’d gotten mixed into the bowl of solid milk chocolate eggs that I was planning to hide the next morning.

When Lauren woke up, she was thrilled to find that the Easter bunny had visited. She quickly uncovered the eggs from their hiding spots, unwrapped the first, and bit into it.

I didn’t realize the mistake until Lauren was halfway through her egg and I noticed that the center looked different from the shell.

I tried the remaining half and was horrified when I tasted peanut butter. Panic set in and I watched her with a close eye.

She seemed to be a little uncomfortable, but nothing happened in the first half hour. I was starting to think that her skin test was a false positive when she started to cough and wheeze. Slowly at first, but progressively it got worse. She quickly got to a point where she was gasping for air and I realized that we were dealing with an anaphylactic reaction. Because of the slow onset, I’d been taken off guard – this wasn’t how I’d expected anaphylaxis to unfold.

I dug through the diaper bag with shaky hands and found the Epipen. After tearing off the blue top, I grabbed a fistful of skin and injected it into her thigh. She responded immediately. The coughing and wheezing stopped. She was back to her normal 2-year old self, laughing and chatting about the Easter bunny. Stunned, we packed a bag, strapped her into the stroller, and took her straight to the hospital.

As terrifying as our experience was, I learned a valuable lesson. That the Epipen is not to be feared, that it’s there for emergency situations, and that it works. I gained confidence in my ability to handle a similar situation, God forbid it were to ever happen again.

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