Giving Thanks For Friendsgiving: Recipes And Tips For The New Family-free Holiday Tradition

November 18, 2018

People across the country will pack up their bags this week and board planes, trains and automobiles to rejoin their families miles away for Thanksgiving.

Others, though, will stay behind, meeting up with fellow friends whose plans don’t include travel or family for a more low-key celebration, a gathering that in recent years has come to be known as Friendsgiving. It’s a meal that mixes different family food traditions, noted Susan C. Markovich, a culinary instructor and special programs coordinator at Lackawanna College.

“Friendsgiving also kind of gives you the opportunity to do it potlucky, and you bring what you like. ... That way, you can kind of experience everybody’s Thanksgiving in your own way,” she said.

As for the bird, a smaller gathering and smaller portions go hand-in-hand.

“Turkey breast is a great idea because not everybody needs a whole turkey,” Markovich said, noting that cooks also could prepare pieces of a broken-down fowl, too, such as just wings or legs.

Everyone has their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, Markovich added, and “most people love the sides the best.” And those can vary, from cranberry relish done jellied or whole-berry to green bean casserole to stuffing.

Here at Life&Times, we’ve rounded up some tips and tricks for these smaller gatherings, from potluck-style dishes you can bring to the party to ways to make the day memorable.

Contact the writer: cwest@times shamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5107; @cheaneywest on Twitter



Turkey Breast with Vegetables

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 yellow onion, sliced

3 whole cloves garlic, peeled

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips

2 celery stalks, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1 boned turkey breast, with skin (about 2 pounds)

1/2 cup canned fat-free low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried sage

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Fresh sage leaves, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 4-quart casserole dish lightly coated with cooking spray or oil, add carrots, onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery. Place turkey breast on top.

In a small saucepan, mix broth, wine, seasonings and cornstarch. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour over turkey and vegetables.

Cover and bake 1 1/2 hours or until turkey is white in the center and vegetables are tender. Garnish with sage leaves, if desired.



Cranberry-Tangerine Relish

3 medium tangerines or 2 large navel oranges

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

Prepare 2 days ahead.

Peel tangerines; reserve half of the peel. If using oranges, remove thick white pith from peel. Remove white membrane and seeds and discard. Coarsely chop tangerines.

Wash and drain cranberries in colander; remove any stems.

Put cranberries and reserved tangerine peel into food processor; pulse until finely chopped (or finely chop by hand with a chef’s knife). Place in large bowl. Add chopped tangerine pieces and sugar; mix well.

Refrigerate bowl, covered, up to 2 days before serving. Stir relish to remix just before serving.



Vegetable Frittata Minis

Yield: 36 servings

8 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1 can (8 ounces) mixed vegetables, drained

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 F. Spray mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.

In large bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and basil to blend well. Stir in mixed vegetables and Parmesan cheese.

Fill prepared pans with egg mixture. Bake until egg mixture puffs and is just set in center, about 8 to 10 minutes.

With rubber spatula, loosen frittatas from muffin cups and slide onto platter.



Potato and Onion Casserole

Yield: 4 servings

4 large new potatoes (about 2 pounds), unpeeled, thinly sliced

1 yellow onion, sliced, rings separated

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon butter or margarine (optional)

1/2 cup canned fat-free low-sodium chicken broth

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a 2 1/2-quart casserole dish lightly coated with cooking spray, layer half the potatoes, all the onions and remaining potatoes, sprinkling salt, pepper and parsley between each layer. Dot with butter, if using. Pour broth over all.

Cover and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove lid and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, until cheese melts, 5 minutes longer.



Down Home Apple Pie Popcorn

Yield: 10 cups

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 cups popped popcorn

1 cup dried apple chips, broken into large pieces

1/4 cup toffee bits

Heat oven to 300 F. Whisk melted butter with vanilla. Toss brown sugar with cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.

Toss popcorn with butter mixture. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Stir. Transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle apple chips and toffee bits over top. Bake 15 minutes, or until toffee bits start to melt. Cool before serving.

Tip: Add chopped pecans for extra crunch.



Pumpkin Custard Pie

Yield: 8 servings

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened canned pumpkin

2 egg yolks

2 egg whites

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar

Dash salt

1 1/3 cups milk

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons flour

1 (9-inch) baked pie crust

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Whisk together pumpkin and egg yolks in a medium bowl until blended. Whisk in brown and white sugars; add salt, milk, vanilla and melted butter; blend well. Whisk in flour until mixture is smooth.

In another medium bowl, lightly whisk egg whites until foamy but not stiff. Whisk whites mixture gently into pumpkin mixture; then pour into baked pie crust. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Place pie in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and continue baking until pie is nearly set but still moves slightly in center, about 20 to 25 minutes more. (Do not overbake; pie will set more as it cools.) Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack before serving.


In advance

Get a head start: Put together a guest list and send invites. Take inventory of supplies such as silverware, plates, serving dishes and any accessories you’d like to feature at the table. Make an outline of the food each guest is bringing, or, if you’ll supply all the food, ensure there will be plenty for everyone.

Make a list: Once you determine the menu, list what you’ll need to make the magic happen. Remember to jot down easily-overlooked items you can pick up the day of, such as ice.

Request that guests RSVP: Knowing exactly who is coming can be a major help before heading to the store, especially if you have guests who adhere to special diets.

Avoid over-cleaning: Make it clean but not spick-and-span. A house that is too clean will make guests nervous to move about for fear of dirtying something. And then, once the party is going, keep your in-party cleaning to a minimum. It’s a party after all, and your friends came to see you, not watch you clean.

Prep the day prior: Hosts can take care of many tasks (big and small) the day before guests arrive, making the holiday less stressful. From whipping up simple appetizers like dips to cleaning, you can take plenty of pressure off your shoulders 24 hours in advance.

The menu

Create dishes that fit (almost) everyone: While you can’t control guests’ flavor preferences, it is possible to whip up snack trays, main courses, desserts and more that fit a multitude of dietary restrictions.

Consider a buffet or family-style menu: One large dish everyone can serve themselves is an entertainer’s dream. It’s all about options for a group so you satisfy everyone.

Hors d’oeuvres are a must: Guests usually come hungry, so have snacks ready when they arrive. Try a cheese plate or a tasty dip — the perfect little nibble for guests to enjoy while they mingle.

Think back to past festivities: Try to remember which dishes were hits at last year’s party, and which ones guests hardly touched. Consider repeating the appetizers that disappeared in a flash.

Remember to thaw: If you plan to roast a turkey, remember it takes around a day to thaw for every two pounds of meat. So, for example, it could take close to a week for a 14-pound turkey to fully thaw prior to cooking.

Prepare side dishes ahead of time: Opt for side dishes you can prepare, refrigerate and pull out when it’s time for dinner.

Add “warning” labels: If you make a dish containing a common allergen, such as peanuts, place a card next to the bowl, tray, plate or pan that informs guests of the ingredients.

Have a signature cocktail: It could be a spritzer with lemon and berries or hot cider with a splash of rum. Or, set up a festive bar where guests can make their own drinks. Include reusable plastic glasses, stirrers and cocktail napkins for easy access and clean up. Complement that with drink stands with wine, beer and other adult and non-alcoholic beverages. And stock up on more ice than you think you’ll need.

That day

Create atmosphere with lights: Dot your home with battery-powered candles, which won’t fall over and catch fire. Or, float water lights in bowls to create a magical wonderland your guests will want to lose themselves in.

Set the mood with music: Use a Bluetooth speaker, fire up your favorite music apps and start your playlist.

Greet guests: Staying near the door and welcoming each of your guests warmly is a nice touch.

Give them a quick tour: Give your guests a quick tour of every room where the party will take place. If your guests see a room then, they’ll be more comfortable mingling in that space during the party without feeling like they intruders.

Make some introductions: If you’re hosting a party where most of the guest list does not know one another, your guests are apt to congregate in small bubbles with people they do know. To break the cycle, step in and introduce them early in the party. That way, you won’t feel like you need to hover all night to ensure everyone has a good time.

Make your next party better today: Create a comfortable environment where they will have a good time, and you’ll see your guests jumping to attend each and every one of your future parties.

5 kitchen safety tips

Cooking equipment is the top cause of home fires, and the second leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

“Considered to be one of the more preventable types of fires, kitchen fires can be avoided by following a few common-sense guidelines,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing at First Alert. “Home safety experts recommend having at least one fire extinguishing product conveniently located in the kitchen, as well as on every level of the home and in the garage.”

Follow these tips to stay safe in the kitchen.

Properly equip your home: Keep your family and house safe by ensuring that functioning smoke alarms are installed throughout your home. The NFPA recommends one alarm on every floor, including the basement, and inside every bedroom. In addition, install smoke alarms at least 10 feet from cooking appliances to minimize false alarms. All alarms should be tested monthly, and for alarms without 10-year batteries, replace the batteries every six months.

Keep an eye on your food: Staying in the kitchen while cooking is key to preventing oven or stovetop fires. Whether you’re simmering, baking, boiling or roasting, check on your food regularly. If you need a reminder that the oven or stove is on, just set a timer. Be aware that fires can happen fast, so if you must leave the kitchen — even for a short period of time — turn off the stove.

Clean your appliances: Keep all your appliances clean of grease and food debris that potentially could cause a fire. Clear the toaster of crumbs and wipe down the stovetop as needed. Ovens should be cleaned at least every three to six months.

Clear off kitchen countertops: Keep your countertops clean and clear of flammable objects. Move items such as pot holders, wooden utensils, plastic bags, food packaging and paper towels away from the stove, oven or any other kitchen device that generates heat.

For more tips and tricks, visit FirstAlert.com.


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