If I am being completely honest, “entertaining” is not my favorite thing. The pressure of having everything ready at the same time, choosing recipes and drinks that impress, keeping the conversation going, cleaning up the apartment before and after, doing dishes… I envy the people who shine at this (especially my sister and sister-in-law), but I just don’t think it is the perfect fit for my personality.
Now, hosting friends and family, on the other hand, that is a different story. I daydream about having several guest bedrooms when we buy a house, so our loved ones can comfortably stay a night or two. I like showing folks the unique sights and attractions of our city. I swoon over charming, thoughtful details, like these “midnight snack” boxes from Martha Stewart, or putting a cute tray near an air mattress to hold water or eyeglasses (like my friend Kim did for me once). David and I think often about opening a bed and breakfast or renting cabins with hostessy touches.
So, you can imagine how excited we are that most of my family is coming to town for a big rivalry football game Thanksgiving weekend. My brother and sister usually fly in with their spouses once a year to tailgate, but this time my mom is coming too. (Yay!) Normally I try to keep these weekends pretty simple and practical, but since it is our last fall in Tuscaloosa (and since my sister-in-law has wowed us with several thoughtful, delicious plant-based meals over the past few years), we decided to go all out.
I imagine many of you have guests staying with you this time of year as well, so I thought I would share some of ideas and recipes that David and I have been pulling together. We’ve jotted them down on so many lists/schedules that it now takes four magnets to hold all the papers up on the fridge. In all fairness, they are small magnets, and a few of the sheets have that sticky post-it goo on the back…
Oh, I should also mention that we’ll have one gluten-free guest, one who doesn’t drink at all (including alcohol in cooking), a couple meat-and-potatoes guys, some flexible veganish eaters, a foodie or two, one avoiding tomatoes for reflux, etc. So, we are trying to come up with a nice variety of relatively healthy items and indulgences to suit everyone’s preferences and tastes. Here’s what we have so far:
Snacks to Have on Hand:
some sort of spiced nuts, most likely Brown Sugar – Rosemary Walnuts with Figs (haven’t tried those before but they look fantastic)
a few dark chocolate bars
Larabars, fresh fruit, baby carrots, and other things they can take with them in “snack packs” for the plane ride home
tea, coffee, soy creamer, juices, egg nog, and soy nog
Maple Olive Oil Granola (our all-time favorite granola recipe, we’ll use gluten-free oats)
sprouted grain bread for toast, eggs, maybe some organic Greek yogurt
Arrival Dinner After Airport Pick-Up:
cheese tray with gluten-free crackers, dried cherries, grapes, spiced or herbed nuts, and possibly some olives
smoked turkey breasts we’ll pick up from the local BBQ institution Dreamland
bread, buns and fixings for turkey sandwiches
Brunswick stew or white chili (made vegan, but people can add their turkey to it if they want)
vegan pumpkin pie (crust made from oats and nuts, filling sweetened only with maple syrup)
more meat from Dreamland, with bread and buns
braised rosemary beans (so delicious) and mayonnaise-free slaw and potato salad from Zoe’s Kitchen
apple-cranberry cider to heat on the grill, similar to Paula Deen’s recipe but with citrus slices instead of brown sugar
baby carrots, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and four-flavor hummus sampler from Whole Foods
apple slices and sweet potato-peanut butter spread
Southern-style boiled peanuts (David’s mom is making for us)
jar of pickled okra (still trying to prove to my West Coast family that okra is more than just slimy)
blue corn chips and my husband’s favorite Green Mountain Gringo salsa
these fantastic raw coconut-cocoa “cupcakes,” probably shaped into balls and rolled in coconut
Here are a couple of pictures while we’re chatting about gameday in Tuscaloosa. The festive tailgating traditions are something I will truly miss when we move away from the South. This is not our tent, but please notice the rug, chandelier, floral arrangement, electric Christmas lights, and other home-away-from-home decor. Most people also set up big TVs; I think these people’s was just out of my shot, in their other tent to the left. I still do not understand the electrical engineering necessary to power all this festivity in grassy areas across campus.
Recently boats have started docking near the park on the Tuscaloosa river for gameday weekends, which is pretty neat. We don’t quiet have a “navy” like the University of Tennessee does, but it’s a start.
Anyway, happy preparations for feasting and family! Hope you have lots to look forward to next week!