Lilly and Finn have both been sick (school germs, wow) so I’ve spent much of the last couple weeks in a fever-and-tissue vortex. Thankfully, we’re mostly better just in time for Thanksgiving—and for the first time, Rob and I are hosting a small dinner for friends at our place. (Sorry, Mom, Dad, and Annie—but at least you have an excuse to make lamb instead of turkey.) More on my ideal Thanksgiving lineup below, plus some picks to ease you into the holiday season.
Thanksgiving plate optimization: While I love love Thanksgiving, the actual foods, at least in their traditional forms, aren’t my fave. Too rich, too brown, too one-note. So this year, I’m extremely excited to exert my opinions on our Thanksgiving table. Some very strong opinions to follow, obviously (Tl;dr: I don’t like mashed potatoes or gravy). My ideal plate:
- Burnished, juicy turkey: We ordered a free-range bird (watch this Bon Appetit Making Perfect episode for an eye-opening comparison between supermarket, free-range, and heritage birds) and are using the Serious Eats spatchcock method to ensure crisp skin and not-dry meat.
- Bitter, colorful salad: If you’re going to spend multiple days cooking a meal, I say draw it out a little. I love starting with a crisp, appetite-perking salad. We’re planning an Italian-leaning mix of trevisano, radicchio, and endive with shaved piave and toasted pine nuts. I’ve also made two great radicchio salads in the past: this Food & Wine one with manchego, and this Bon Appetit one with sourdough dressing.
- Green veggie: Do yourself a favor and skip another roasted thing; I like either green beans with a sprightly dressing or a raw Brussels sprouts dealie. We’re making this simple shaved Brussels, pecorino, walnut, and lemon salad (frees up stove as well!).
- Autumnal side: I don’t think sweet potatoes are necessary if you already have white potatoes on the table, and carrots are annoying to peel so…we are in squash territory. We’re freestyling a caramelized (read: nearly burnt) kabocha squash (my personal favorite) with labne, honey, fried sage, and hazelnuts. Some similar recipes I love: Alison Roman’s squash with yogurt and spiced, buttered pistachios and Ottolenghi’s squash with chile yogurt and cilantro sauce.
- Potatoes: Neither of us are mashed potato people so we’re letting our guests handle this one. If you’re up for a non-mashed project-y potato, Rob made Pommes Anna last year and they were glorious but labor intensive.
- Slice of cranberry sauce: Canned. Why mess with greatness?
- Craggy, buttery stuffing: Please no mushy stuffing. We discovered the beauty of using roughly torn, slightly dense sourdough bread via this Short Stack stuffing recipe and have never looked back. Rob’s planning a mashup of this and Alison Roman’s stuffing with celery and leeks.
And to end, I think there should be at least two desserts, one featuring fruit and the other a wild card. Our guests are bringing a rich, nut-based pie so I’ll be making this New York Times hazelnut, pear, and cardamom cake or Smitten Kitchen’s oldie-but-goodie cranberry pecan frangipane tart.
Counterpoint to Thanksgiving feasting: I try not to use the word “detox” but sometimes it’s just necessary. When I need a reset or have a particularly crazy week, I’m a big fan of Sakara’s organic, plant-based meal delivery. It is very pricey so definitely a commitment but I’m always impressed with the quality and care that goes into the meals. I recently did a week as a self-care treat for surviving two months of two-kid life and it felt great to eat delicious, nutrient-rich food that I didn’t have to cook (plus there are plenty of things I’d never make myself). If you’re interested, now is the time to try it because their Black Friday sale is the best discount they give all year. Use my code BFMOLLIE for 25% off their entire site until 12/2 (and if you miss that window you can still use XOMOLLIE for 20% off your first program).
In praise of furry bear suits: We panic purchased this Gap Factory bear suit when we realized we didn’t have enough warm clothes for Finn and it has been a lifesaver in more ways than one. It’s easy to put on and keeps him cozy and also seems to help him nap longer—maybe the furry material mimics the womb? Either way I’m a huge fan. Carter’s makes a similar one that I’m sure would work as well.
Buckwheat tea, my new buddy: I’m a recent convert to soba cha tea, a delightfully nutty and caffeine-free Japanese tea made from buckwheat tea. I’ve had it iced and hot and they’re both delicious—I’m planning on ordering some from Kettl so I can make it at home.
Two stellar soups for cold season/weather: My friend Gina turned us on to this simple but incredibly nourishing split pea soup from the Gourmet cookbook. It requires a ham hock and hours of your time but you’ll be happy to have it in the freezer when the temps go down down down. And when Lilly was in the depths of snottiness, I made Andy Baraghani’s soothing Feel Better Chicken Soup, which is loaded with ginger and rice and comes together with minimal fuss.
One-stop princess portal: Lilly’s illness coincided with the launch of Disney+, which incredibly fortuitous. Suffice to say we are big fans and over the past week have watched Frozen, Moana, Tangled, Cinderella, and the Little Mermaid in 15-20-minute increments. It’s got great non-kid content too and the best part is that you can download any of it—very important for our upcoming 11-hour flight to Hawaii.
A magical educational book: My friend Anne-Louise just launched an incredibly cool product called Habbi Habbi that helps kids learn different languages. It’s a set of beautiful board books that come with a magic wand that “reads” to you in English and either Spanish or Mandarin when you tap the page. Lilly is obsessed with it, though she’s a little young to get the bilingual component—for now it’s reinforcing pictures and words (and providing non-screen, non-parental involvement playtime!).
Getting on board with vitamin C: Earlier this fall, Grace and Becca shamed me about not using Vitamin C when I was on their Bad on Paper podcast. My best friend Tamara subsequently took it upon herself to ship me her favorite Drunk Elephant C-Firma day serum (what are friends for?). I’ve been using it daily and have noticed a difference in skin texture already, as well as just general brightness (which is saying something considering how little sleep I’m getting).
A head start on kid holiday lists: Since the holidays are basically here, here are a couple fun and useful things to add to your kiddo wish list: L.L. Bean toddler moccs, which keep tiny feet warm and don’t slip off; Born to Ride, a beautifully illustrated and fun-to-read book about bicycles and the women’s suffrage movement; The Art Book of Sleep, a gorgeous board book that tells the story of sleep via famous works of art; and State’s new Harbor Artfolio, which is a tidy way to corral art supplies and fits inside Lilly’s beloved State backpack (feel free to use MOLLIE20 for 20% anything on their site).
Read at your own risk: I downloaded Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows after hearing Eva Chen rave about it, then promptly tore through it in three days. It’s technically YA but pretty dark and combines a fictional magical world with a fast-paced, twist-laden heist story—kind of Oceans Eleven meets Harry Potter. I’m on the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, now and it is a very welcome distraction to impeachment news and toddler germs.
That’s it for now! Thanks for reading and hope you have a wonderful love- and food-filled Thanksgiving.