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Like a sitting duck, I knew that I’d have to cash in my chips after hosting Thanksgiving for 10+ years straight.

Is it really fair to expect that your relatives will drop everything to fly during the busiest travel weekend of the year?

Though, in all honesty, it was decadent to spend almost no time in the kitchen over Thanksgiving weekend. Yes, I made sure that our bird was glossy and brown; I prepped an appetizer; but other than a few menial activities, I didn’t set foot near a chopping block except to mix myself a cocktail. Perhaps we should indulge in this “hosted not hosting” thing more often…

Traveling to LA with three kids isn’t easy, but the Shake Shack at JFK airport was a welcome sight. On principle, Rodney and I got ourselves burgers, fries and beers at 9:30AM. Because that’s what you do when you see a Shake Shack. When you win the lottery, you turn your ticket in, no exceptions.

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The flight was relatively easy, and my kids, despite all of my nervousness, had nary a fatigue-induced meltdown, leaving me with 6 hours to watch 3 full-length movies. Did it matter that I kept having to pour apple juice over ice to my Disney-watching companions? Nope.

At last, we arrived! We had family rendez-vous at the Venice Pier, and so began our Thanksgiving weekend.

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I have the same affliction as my Mum – whenever a camera emerges, and I’m on the wrong (e.g. lens-facing) side, I freeze like a TV dinner. That’s a 2015 resolution – smile like I mean it. Like someone just told a dirty joke, those always make me laugh.

CA a Sunset Collage

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kabocha_squash_whole_soup_FeedMeDearly

We’re talking squash again this week. Two weeks in a row, I hope this isn’t a fireable offense. What can I say, I’m passionate about squash. As if last week’s post didn’t convince you…

We stayed in New York this weekend since we had a few activities planned. One of which was the highly-anticipated feedfeed Market Day at the Union Square Greenmarket.

I first linked up with feedfeed on Instagram where they’re building a strong community of like-minded people who love to cook. Their website is growing, and is quickly becoming a go-to source for inspiration on a broad range of topics, from pies and soups to pancakes and smoothies. As the website evolves and becomes more searchable, its curated content will surely rival some of the biggest food websites today. I’m just happy to be a part of it all – as both observer and occasional contributor.

I was finally able to meet the founders of feedfeed – Julie and Dan Resnick – in person this weekend. Their Market Day event at the farmer’s market brought together a number of chefs, nutritionists, stylists and food bloggers and it was fun to chat with everyone about the changing food landscape.

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Social media and social platforms such as feedfeed are no doubt improving the way that food is cooked at home. Restaurant-quality food is making its way into home kitchens as home cooks become more innovative and experimental.

My food has changed immensely since I’ve become part of a community who cooks and then shares the output online. I’ve become more confident, and have started to take risks with my cooking. I’ve become intrigued by unique flavors and textures, influenced in large part by the global accounts that I follow – from home cooks in the Middle East to UK-based naturopaths, and minimalist-minded Scandinavian food stylists. Like a sponge, I’ve soaked it all in, eyes wide open.

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delicata_squash_thanksgiving_side_dish_csa_ingredients_final_landscape_FeedMeDearly

If I’m famous for anything in the kitchen, it’s my track record for that most heroic of tasks: Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a beast, but someone’s gotta do it. Best assign it to the person who once claimed ownership of a pre-Pinterest era Thanksgiving binder that housed every T-day recipe from Gourmet to Saveur, classified, naturally, in order of appearance, from cocktails to desserts.

That person would be me.

Last year I cooked two dinners – Canadian Thanksgiving in October, and American Thanksgiving in November. Twice I wrote out long lists ingredients to source; twice I stood on my feet for two days solid, peeling, mashing, squeezing, rubbing, brining and basting until I gave myself a simultaneous episode of tennis elbow and carpal tunnel. Twice I had that foreboding sense that I might not make it to the finish line. Twice I managed to pull it off, poured myself an immense glass of red, and melted, silently, into my leather-backed chair between cheerful dining companions.

This year, we travel. It’s the least we can do – to share our part of the responsibility of getting one’s family, preferably intact, to a home that’s not our own. To brave the two busiest travel days of the year, crossing fingers for no delays, no lost baggage, and most important – no issues with the in-flight wine supply.

But that’s how it goes. You can’t always be the ones to stay at home. To sit back and put your feet up on the sofa, enveloped in the comfort of candlelight and your Frank Sinatra Pandora station, while others brave trains, planes and automobiles to land in this exact place.

But a travel year doesn’t mean that you have to put your excitement about Thanksgiving dishes on hold. There should be a law – let’s call it Jessica’s Law because nobody will pronounce my last name correctly, which could be summarized by the following equation:

TH Factor = (TMT-DTD)/3.14TMT2

In layman’s terms, your TH factor (that’s your Thanksgiving Hunger factor) = (Thanksgiving Miles Traveled – Days until Thanksgiving Dinner), divided by (Pie x Thanksgiving Miles Traveled) squared.

It just made sense to have pie in the equation – make it pecan, pumpkin, it doesn’t really matter.

The gist is that the closer you get to Thanksgiving, and the farther you have to travel, the hungrier you are for these kinds of foods at home.

Lately, my TH Factor has been stratospheric. And it doesn’t help that I’ve found a favorite new squash.

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OK, maybe I haven’t found a favorite new squash. Everyone, their brothers, their uncles, and their kids’ elementary school teachers have discovered it this year. That would be delicata. Do you hear the angels sing when I mention the name?

Not only does the name “delicata” conjure loveliness on its own, but it also follows up its name with a silky, almost custard-like texture that will have you questioning whether you’re eating dinner or dessert. And I’m saving the best part for last….you don’t have to peel the skin.

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Leftovers Collage

This year Thanksgiving was a total success. No sickness to take us down, we were a crew of entirely healthy adults and kids, the universe was looking down on us.

I was thankful for many things this weekend….

To my neighbor Mike for keeping his fridge bare so that I didn’t have to store my Thanksgiving dishes on a windowsill.

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For the same neighbor for bringing me flowers on Thanksgiving day. Even after I’d banged on his front door and dragged him out of his shower to unlock it. (For future reference, Mike, please don’t lock your door on Thanksgiving day. That episode gave me an ulcer and female pattern baldness all at once. But thank you, as always, for lending me some of your fridge space.)

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I was thankful that Rodney didn’t see me jam my butter-lathered hands up a turkey’s rear end while still wearing my wedding ring. I’m likewise thankful that even after all of the butt jamming, I still couldn’t find the gizzard bag. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition for me to cook the turkey with the bag still inside, and as you all know, it’s best not to muck with tradition.

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I was thankful for our new thrift store art that makes me so joyously happy every day. Even if the kids keep bumping into it and making it ever so slightly off-kilter. At least it’s less aggravating than the Sharpie line drawing that now covers our faux Eames rocking chair.

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cranberry_pancakes–feedmedearly
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Thanksgiving has come and gone. Fortunately, in our house, Thanksgiving isn’t a one-day thing. It’s a spirit. A mindset. A way of life that lasts for a few solid weeks. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my Thanksgiving prep usually starts way back in October when I make the turkey stock.

Then a few days before the big day, I start to prep the other dishes. My counter fills with all kinds of odds and ends: bread cubes drying for the stuffing, my poultry shears, my seldom used ball of twine, dug out from the murky depths of my cupboards.

When people hear that I love to cook, the response is sometimes “I hate to cook – all of that effort, and the meal is over in 10 minutes.”

I get it, and Thanksgiving is the ultimate example. The time spent preparing the meal far outweighs the time we spend eating it together.

But for those of us who love to cook, that’s perfectly fine. Cooking is my therapy. My drug of choice. I’m happy to spend weeks cooking a meal that disappears in minutes.

And for those of you who hate to see it come and go so quickly, I have uplifting news: leftovers.

Was that a letdown? Don’t think of it that way. I used to hate leftovers. I still hate the name. It’s not first date food, that’s for sure. Leftovers need a re-brand. Where are those prune people anyway? Dried plums have never been so popular.

But leftovers can be one of the best parts of Thanksgiving; all of those Tupperware containers stashed in your fridge are calling out to be used in new and interesting ways.

I’ve done a quick roundup of my favorites – some of these (the everything Thanksgiving sandwich, turkey Shepherd’s pie) I make every year without fail. Others (cranberry pancakes) are new to the rotation. Some aren’t recipes at all, but stern orders (make your stock, eat pie for breakfast).

So go forth, make the best of your remaining leftovers while you still have time. The clock is ticking, by Monday you won’t want to lay eyes on any of this stuff again. At least until next November.

If you have questions on how to make any of this, leave me a note in the comments below. If you need directions for how to make pie and coffee, we’re no longer friends. If you throw out your turkey carcass, we are also no longer friends. I’m not kidding. I take carcass seriously.

One last thing….go make yourself a mug of hot apple cider and add a splash of rum. We’re officially into the holidays, Yee Haw.

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