We have a wonderful Thanksgiving Tradition, a beautiful legacy inherited from my husbands parents. They had time share properties, and would book multiple condos for the Thanksgiving week - one per family. It is perfect, as every one has their own space, and being somewhere neutral, means no individual has all the stress of hosting.
Although our group doesn't always go to Fairfield Bay, we have spent the last few years there. It is a retirement community that contains, among other things, a bowling alley, ice cream store, a golf course - and offers a schedule of the upcoming weeks activities on arrival - such as Open Pickleball Play and Ukranian Egg Decorating. The Ozark Folk Center and Blanchard Springs Caverns are close by, and we have found some gorgeous hiking areas. But part of the appeal of Fairfield Bay is the limited amount of activities - we do a lot of relaxing, and the cousins love to play and make their own fun where ever they are.
I love our mealtime schedule, we fend for ourselves and any one who happens to be in reach, at breakfast and lunch, and each family takes an evening to cook. I am always so excited to see what everyone is going to prepare - and was especially curious to see what spread WE were going to lay out this year, as we accidentally left our ice chest, full of the dinner we had planned to serve, languishing in the garage at home. Thankfully our house sitters rescued it - and told us it was the best pork they had ever eaten. I did manage to find the ingredients for the appetizers - so we at least had Hot Chicken Dip and Crab Mornay.
We all cook and contribute to the Thanksgiving Day feast, and I love that, apart from a couple of dishes that have become staples over the years, our family is always open and willing to try new recipes. Each year brings a new method of cooking the turkey, different ways to prepare the stuffing and side dishes, and a changing array of desserts.
I must admit, I used to look at the beautifully set Thanksgiving tables in glossy magazines with longing and envy, but now I wouldn't have our Holiday any other way. Plain white condo crockery, paper napkins, the enormous amount of excitement and chaos with 18 people all trying to get a plate of food in a tiny kitchen, comfortable clothing and wonderful conversation - all adds to our particular, unique, wonderfully special day.
HOT CHICKEN DIP
Heat oven to 350F. Place 2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened, and 1 (10 ounce) can of cream of chicken soup in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Stir in 1 (12.5 ounce) can of chicken breast in water, drained and flaked, 1/3 cup coarsely chopped jarred pickled sliced jalapeño peppers, and 1 tablespoon of pickled jalapeno pepper juice from a jar. Spoon into a lightly greased 8 inch baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbly.
Recipe adapted from Southern Living, March 2013
1/2 cup butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups cream
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons sherry
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 pound crabmeat
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, add onions, and saute 3 minutes or until tender. Whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Add cream and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth and sauce begins to bubble. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese until smooth. Stir in sherry, salt and pepper. Gently fold in crabmeat and parsley.
Recipe adapted from Southern Living, December 2013