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November 12th, 2011 (11:19 pm)

For the first time in many years I'm hosting a full Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I'm quite excited. I expect to have 10-12 people and will be able to break out grandma's china in addition to my own wedding set. I don't have a huge family of my own to gather so I'm always happy when my friends will let me borrow them and theirs for a little while. My mom was here for the first Thanksgiving we celebrated in this house and she's going to come up again for this one.

I'm going over recipes and options. The first thing nearly everyone has said is "What can I bring?" and I'm struggling to not be greedy and try to do most of it myself. I have so many ideas! One friend is bringing her chocolate-pecan pie and some bread. Another has offered to bring some stuffing and create a custom cocktail for the event. Kate will make deviled eggs, her favorite, to contribute to the appetizers. Meanwhile, I'm going over my lists, clippings, cookbooks, and bookmarks trying to cull my options down to a reasonable size.

Since having appetizers consist of just deviled eggs would not live up to my standards, delicious though they may be, I'm also looking at other potential appetizers like this Tomato Tartlet recipe (http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/tomato-tartlets) and this Caramelized Onion Dip (http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/caramelized-onion-dip) both from Food and Wine magazine.

One thing I knew I wanted was a smoked turkey. Chris and I ordered a smoked turkey (from a place called TexasInABox.com, which now goes by http://www.bearcreeksmokehouse.com/) for one of our early Thanksgivings and it was fantastic. I've wanted to do it again ever since, mostly because I'm too afraid of setting things on fire to try a deep-fried turkey, which is the only thing that intrigues me more. This year I've ordered a smoked turkey from Greeberg Smoked Turkeys (www.GobbleGobble.com) which they describe as "an East Texas family tradition that spans four generations. It all started when my grandfather began smoking turkeys for family and friends in a corner of his dairy barn." Oh yeah, I'm in!

Since I'm not making a traditional turkey but my daughter and I are fiends for mashed potatoes and gravy, I've decided to make a separate batch of turkey stock ahead of time (using the Do Ahead Turkey Stock recipe at Bon Appetit: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/11/do-ahead-turkey-stock) to use for gravy making on Thanksgiving Day.

Even though I have at least one friend willing to bring stuffing (or dressing in this case since it won't be in the bird), I want to have a little wild rice at the table since I'm a Minnesota girl, so I'm planning on making a recipe I've made several times before (and one of the only recipes of Bobby Flay's I consider part of my repertiore): Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing, which you can find at my old recipe index, http://www.nikchick.com/recipes/WILDRICE.html

I haven't really nailed down vegetables, in part because I want to leave room for my guests. Seems like we need something with sweet potatoes (though maybe not with marshmallows), roasted brussels sprouts, or a crisp and light green salad. Or all three... I'm a glutton for Thanksgiving foods, I'll admit it.

Finally, the last piece of my Thanksgiving plan, in addition to chocolate-pecan and Kate's famous pumpkin pie (http://www.nikchick.com/2007/11/kates-perfect-pie.html) is to make these decadent, to-die-for Baked Apple Dumplings with Cherry Butter and Apple Brandy Sauce because they really are THAT GOOD. I only make them once every couple of years and the time is right for these beauties. They're also good because they can be partially made ahead. Between making these ahead of time and having the turkey arrive pre-cooked and just needing to be warmed, I expect things to run quite smoothly.

I'm so, SO looking forward to Thanksgiving this year!