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Thanksgiving 2012: Easy Recipes for the Novice Cook

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like the premise of being thankful, spending time with the people you love, and celebrating with a ridiculously indulgent feast. I also love that every family has different Thanksgiving traditions, such as cooking secret recipes, sharing what they’re thankful for at dinner, or playing a family football game. Personally, I have very happy memories of spending Thanksgiving Day cooking with my mom while my brother played video games, and my sister cried about some new drama in her life. Ahhh, traditions.

Unfortunately, annoying things like work and airfare often prevent us from being able to enjoy Thanksgiving with our families. If that’s the case, be the first one to invite your friends over for Turkey Day and start some fabulous new traditions. Just because you’re away from home this Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get to binge eat in the company of people you love.

Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to cook the entire meal yourself. That would be exhausting and probably disastrous. I don’t want to go into too many details about my first Thanksgiving away from home, but let’s just say there were a couple setbacks and we didn’t eat until midnight. It’s much safer to host a Thanksgiving potluck. As the host, you will only need to roast the turkey and make one side dish. Then politely ask your guests to bring a side dish, booze, or dessert. It’s that easy.

Never roasted a turkey before? Don’t panic, it’s easier than you think. This site breaks it down for you: idiot-proof way to roast a turkey. If you have a large group, opt for two smaller turkeys rather than one monster bird. This will save you a serious amount of cooking time, which allows you to get some extra beauty sleep and have the morning free to pick out your “hosting” outfit and set up your apartment.

When it comes to choosing your side-dish, I recommend sweet potatoes with marshmallows (see recipe below). Your family may do sweet potatoes differently, but marshmallows are a serious crowd pleaser. However, feel free to add toasted pecans and a little brown sugar if you prefer, or just serve the puree straight up. You really can’t go wrong with sweet potatoes. They’re easy, affordable, and unbelievably delicious.

Now that we’ve gotten the cooking part out of the way, let’s talk about how you’re going to seat all of your guests. I know the majority of you don’t live in the most spacious of abodes, and you are unlikely to own a sprawling mahogany dining table. Whatever. Here is what you’re going to do: Push all your tables together. I’m talking bedside tables, coffee tables, and dining tables, whatever you have. To protect their surfaces, cover them with white bed sheets (instant table cloth!), and scatter several tea lights (you can buy a bag of them for less than four bucks) or large candles in the center of the tables. If you’re feeling particularly festive, hollow out a pumpkin and fill it with flowers for a deceptively fancy centerpiece. Happy boho-chic Thanksgiving!

You now are armed with the knowledge you need to go forth and conquer your first Thanksgiving away from home. I guarantee everyone will give thanks for your domestic prowess. And you can be thankful for the free booze and endless compliments. It’s a win-win. Plus, as the host you get dibs on the leftovers. Thanksgiving sandwiches, anyone?

Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows: (Serves 10)

Ingredients:

5 medium sweet potatoes/yams

½ cup orange juice

1 tbsp molasses

1 ½ tbsp dark brown sugar

Salt to taste

3-4 cups mini marshmallows (depending on how much you love marshmallows)

Preparing your sweet potatoes:

-Boil sweet potatoes in their skins until very tender (approx. 50 minutes)

-Drain the sweet potatoes and set aside until they are cool enough to handle.

-Remove the potatoes from their skins, cut them into cubes, and put them in a blender or food processor with the orange juice. Puree.

-Pour the warm puree into a pot and add the molasses and brown sugar to the warm. Add salt to taste.

-Place the puree in a baking dish. Add the marshmallows in an even layer. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown. 

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