Freckled Foodie’s Friendsgiving

My Friendsgiving recap and the perfect, downloadable, Thanksgiving recipe and grocery list booklet

“A meal is only as important as the people you share it with”. Four years ago, I typed this sentence onto an Instagram caption of me and my close girlfriends all gathered around my kitchen counter in front of the Friendsgiving spread I had just cooked and served them. The words simply streamed straight from my consciousness to my fingertips before realizing how true and meaningful they were to both my beliefs and lifestyle. Yes, eating is an obvious survival necessity, but it is just as vital that you are enjoying these nutrients in a comforting, loving, and welcoming environment. Even better, surrounded by people you care about. In my mind, and stomach, this is what the holidays are all about. Designated days to spend time with your loved ones, whether family or friends, enjoy each other’s company, and enjoy great food. Not only delicious, rib warming, meals, but nutritious food. Dishes that leave you feeling nourished and well fed rather than sprinting to the other room to unbutton your pants (because, let’s be honest, we’ve all been there).

Five years ago, when my love for cooking and interest in health and nutrition sparked, I suddenly became a more permanent presence in my family’s kitchen. At first, I began to help my mom with the Christmas morning brunch; proposing we change our typical spread, which included some prepared foods in an effort to save time, to a more well balanced, nourishing, home cooked version. After receiving rave reviews from my family, especially from my health focused and hardest critic of an older sister, of my omelet bake and accompanying sides, something sparked inside of me. I realized how much I enjoyed cooking for those I care about. I loved providing people, especially those important to me, with the one thing that is the key to my heart: a delicious meal. If you have spent time with me, whether at a dinner table or not, you understand how enamored I am with the act of dining. I care about the ingredients, I am hyperaware to the décor, I aim to please those I am with (even if it means agreeing to share something I would love to enjoy all to myself, a characteristic trait I have worked on improving since the ripe age of 5), and I am truly interested in other’s experiences. I genuinely believe that the way to anyone’s heart is through his or her stomach.

After feeling a rush of accomplishment, and a surge of emotional gratification that I had not realized I was missing, that Christmas morning, I soon realized how much more involved I was going to be in my mother’s kitchen over the holidays (whether she liked it or not). That next year brought an Easter that I was responsible for hosting while my mom was away, many summer weekends at the beach cooking for a houseful of 15 plus guests, a revamping of our Thanksgiving menu, and a whole new meaning to Christmas eve and morning. With each year came more responsibility and more feelings of pride, confidence, and comfort in the kitchen. Shortly after I realized how rewarding this act was, I decided it was time to host my own Thanksgiving in my space: an NYC apartment with much less cooking square footage than the home I was used to in NJ. I vividly remember calling my mom after my first Friendsgiving with a smile on my face, beaming with a sense of accomplishment, and boasting about the fact that I successfully cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 plus people. I was proud of myself, no doubt about it, but I most importantly realized that just a few hours later, I was already itching for next year’s party.

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With each Friendsgiving I have hosted, I have continued to grow and learn more about both myself and my cooking ability. I have realized not only how much I love providing for others and what a sense of fulfillment I receive by doing so, but also how much cooking has changed me over this most recent stage of my life. Cooking has provided me with an outlet of creativity that I never knew I needed, confidence I did not realize I was lacking, an interest and knowledge of the ingredients that I was so quickly overlooking, and an even deeper appreciation for those around me. Cooking has changed my life and I am extremely inspired to create content and recipes in order to help others experience these same emotions. This Friendsgiving, I am partnering with Simply Organic focusing on cooking for a change. I am aiming to change the connotation that good, delicious, comfort food cannot be made with healthy ingredients, to encourage people that cooking a holiday feast is an attainable feat, and to remind everyone how fortunate you are to potentially have both not only a plate of food in front of you but also people you love beside you. With this partnership, Simply Organic is cooking to inspire personal change and social good by donating one meal to the Ceres Community Project Healing Meals Program for each use of #CookForAChange. Their goal is to provide 1,200 organic meals to critically ill patients during the holiday season and I am honored to be a part of this project! Similarly, with the spirit of providing meals to those in need, I am also donating and fundraising for a foundation that is near and dear to my heart: No Kid Hungry, which attempts to put an end to the astounding statistic that one in six children in America struggles with hunger and focuses on ensuring children get the healthy good they need, every day.

To ensure you have the best and healthiest Thanksgiving spread, please download the below PDF that includes all of my recipes for the big day and a master grocery list. Enjoy!

Freckled Foodie Friendsgiving 2017 Recipe Booklet

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Dry Brined Herb and Ghee Roasted Spatchcock Turkey

The star of your Thanksgiving feast

Few words are needed to describe this dish and recipe. There is nothing more important for a Thanksgiving dinner than a well-executed turkey. Being my first time preparing a full turkey for my guests, I was incredibly intimidated. Thankfully, I have a local butcher that I love (shoutout to Dickson’s Meat Stand) who made sure they had the perfect bird ready for me to serve my Friendsgivings guests a week early. Most importantly, they spatchcoked this big bird for me to cut down roasting time (because who has time to cook a turkey for four hours) and guarantee more of my favorite part of turkey – perfectly roasted skin. This bird was dry brined and then rubbed with ghee and seasonings to make sure every bite was flavorful, juicy, and nap inducing.

Continue reading “Dry Brined Herb and Ghee Roasted Spatchcock Turkey”

Raw Pumpkin Coconut Cheesecake Bars

Dairy and gluten free raw pumpkin coconut cheesecake bars

Thanksgiving is most commonly associated with a big old turkey, but I would venture to guess that the second dish that comes to people’s minds is a pumpkin pie. What is Thanksgiving without some type of creamy, delicious, pumpkin filled dessert. In an attempt to recreate my favorite dessert but also keep my menu gluten and dairy free, and to include some of my favorite ingredients, I created raw coconut pumpkin cheesecake bars. These are incredibly easy to make and perfectly fill the void of that craving for sweets as you begin to clear your plates.

Recipe

Continue reading “Raw Pumpkin Coconut Cheesecake Bars”

Honey Glazed Roasted Carrots

Thanksgiving vegetable side of honey glazed carrots

To often during a Thanksgiving meal you stand up from you seat, probably panic in realization that you have forgotten to rebutton your pants (although, if you’re a true pro you know the only acceptable pants are stretchy ones), and notice that you did not eat one vegetable that entire meal. I’m not here to shame you or make you feel badly about this, we’ve all been there. But this year, prepare yourself so that when you leave the table and begin to start this stream of thought the light bulb clicks and you’re like “wait, no, I had those incredibly perfect glazed carrots. Go me”. This recipe will add extremely minimal amount of time and effort to your game-day prep (lets be real, Thanksgiving is a game) but provides an option for people to get some veggies in. And not just any veggies, tasty, soft on the inside, crisped on the outside, well cooked and glazed, vegetables. Did I say honey is involved? Just go make them already.

Recipe Continue reading “Honey Glazed Roasted Carrots”

Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple Pecans and Marshmallows

Dairy-free Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole

In my household growing up, sweet potato casserole was the one Thanksgiving side that was completely ignored. Unfortunately for my deep love for this vegetable and constant sweet tooth, this dish never made the cut for my mother’s standards. Whether it be the fact that we already had mashed potatoes and another potato dish brought by my grandmother (that, if ignored, would cause an absolute uproar from my sister), she just didn’t feel the need for this third starch, or the fact that marshmallows were something she didn’t see fit for a dinner table, I never knew what I was missing. It wasn’t until I began hosting my own Friendsgiving and researching recipes and menus online when I realized how deprived (insert overreaction) I was as a child without this glorious dish next to my turkey. I soon took my favorite method of cooking sweet potatoes – low and slow in the slow cooker so that the ooey gooey sugar begins to seep out of the pores and the inside can be eaten with a spoon it is so soft and delicious – and mixed it with my love for toasted nuts and constant desire for something sweet. Alas, an absolute fan favorite of my Friendsgiving crowd. This dish will also always have a sweet spot in my heart because, as proven and always reminded by the scar on my inner forearm, it was the dish I cooked in my first industrial kitchen at non-other than Blue Smoke restaurant at an Umi Kitchen holiday cookoff (one of the highlights of my Freckled Foodie venture).

Recipe

Rosemary & Thyme Mashed Potatoes

Dairy-free Thanksgiving mashed potatoes

As probably the biggest fan favorite and most notorious side, good mashed potatoes are an extremely important key to a successful Thanksgiving meal. They must be creamy but not too mushy, have texture but not too lumpy, and most of all, flavorful. While mashed potatoes may get a bad rep on the “healthy” scale, since most act as a canvas for unnecessary filling ingredients (hello, heavy cream, I’m looking at you), this recipe focuses on making the actual potatoes the star of the show. Plus, it is dairy free for all you non-lactose lovers out there and is garlic and onion free for anyone following low FODMAP.

Recipe

Gluten Free Stuffing

Gluten free stuffing side for Thanksgiving

Without a doubt, my favorite dish on a Thanksgiving spread has always been the stuffing. The thing I love most about this side, besides the fact that it is basically just carbs moistened (yep, I said it) with flavor of other ingredients and chicken broth, is that every family makes theirs differently. No two houses make their stuffing the same; some (me) feel passionately that no stuffing is complete without sausage, some dice the bread so small it is a somewhat carb filled mush, and some throw some things in there that honestly boggle my mind. No matter the recipe, stuffing should be included on every single forkful of turkey eaten during the Thanksgiving meal. In our house, the stuffing has always included the same key ingredients: sausage, pecans, apples, and celery. Each bite includes the perfect mix of sweet and savory with also the somehow crunchy and also moist bread. While most stuffing dishes are an absolute no-go for anyone avoiding gluten, this version features my favorite gluten free bread, Canyon Bakehouse, making it an approved dish for all types of celiac relationships.

Recipe