I engaged in some power-whining a couple months ago about not wanting to travel too much over the holidays and how I was hoping we’d keep things more low key this year because as lovely as it was visiting JB’s brother’s fiancee’s parents (got that?) last time, their house is spotless and features lots of pointy marble things and their dinner spread is like something crafted by set designers for a keepsake Gourmet magazine (RIP) layout. Between constantly scanning to be certain that one of my feral children isn’t pulling a collection of Waterford crystal onto their heads and having a hand at the ready to clap over the other one’s mouth in case he decides to loudly describe a food item that took seventeen consecutive hours to prepare as “yucky”—while, by the way, being personally poured into something that requires Spanx—well, just thinking about it makes me want to crawl into a closet and suck on dog hair.

So anyway, we’re having Thanksgiving at our house this year. This all seemed like a very good idea until this morning when it sort of hit me all at once that I have to produce an actual non-microwaved meal this week, at which point I launched into the exact same process I experience every time I host a holiday:

1. PANIC! Consider faking own death.

2. Pore over 257319 recipe websites, considering which seventy-step dish I should try for the very first time this year. Should I buy a chef’s torch? Make croissants from scratch? I should at least replace all our dishes and get some raw silk table linens and sterling silver napkin rings and maybe plan on at least seven courses, not including the amuse-bouche and palate cleansing sorbet and—

3. Fuck it, man. These people are getting Stove Top and paper plates. I hate everyone and everything. Cram it up your pilgrim-hole, Thanksgiving.

4. OH FINE I GUESS I SHOULD BUY A GODDAMNED TURKEY.

5. Panic! Consider faking own death.

I am now in step 6, where I’ve figured out what I’m going to serve and I’ve created the monstrous shopping list and I think I have it under control, except I just found out JB’s parents are arriving tomorrow and all I can say is I hope they don’t mind pizza between now and Thursday because seriously. See also: step 1, step 5.

We’ll stick to the basics—turkey, potatoes, stuffing—for the meal but I think I’ll sneak one weird thing in there that probably no one will like except me. This is a recipe from my Aunt Eileen, and I have very fond memories of it.

Aunt Eileen’s Jello Salad

2 cups hot water
2/3 cups cinnamon candies
1 large lemon Jello
1.5 cups applesauce
8oz cream cheese
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. mayonnaise

Pour hot water over candies until melted. Add jello and stir in applesauce. Pour 1/2 of mixture into bowl or mold. Chill until set. Blend cream cheese and nuts and celery and mayo. Spread over set mixture. Pour on remaining mix. Chill.

Oooh, it’s just all spicy and creamy and cool and it’s a pretty red color and looks particularly nice in a glass dish and I’m telling you, you should try it. Even if it is weird, which fine, it sort of is.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving, if you’re celebrating? Do you have any oddball family favorite recipes that are part of your holiday meal?

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Amy
Amy
12 years ago

My mom always makes the nasty green-bean casserole. My person favorite has always been my grandma’s homemade dressing. Unfortunately, my aunt has hijacked the honors and now fixes it. Let me put it to you this way. You could melt it down and fill the cracks in your driveway/sidewalk. It’s that bad.

Angella
12 years ago

We missed Canadian Thanksgiving because we were Stateside (and failed at meeting up with you. BOO.)

I’m tempted to make a turkey this weekend because, well, why not?

Matthew’s Mom makes a dish that makes me want to vomit. Or leave it on the doorstep of someone who deserves a flaming bag of poo. He, however, LOVES IT.

It involves non-salted crackers, pistachio pudding, marshmallows and oranges. I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING.

Aunt Becky
12 years ago

I pretty much always make a bourbon pecan pie and try like hell to avoid doing anything that resembles parenting. Kind of like any other day of the week.

Bachelor Girl
12 years ago

Happy Thanksgiving from Bachelor Girl Land, where I will undoubtedly get asked 14,465 times in row Why I Am Not Married, Why I Have Yet to Produce a Litter of Catholic Babies and Don’t I Know That Time is Running Out.

Kate
12 years ago

Wow, I feel like I’m missing out. I don’t have a weird family recipe. Oh well.

I’m having dinner for 22 at my house. It *sounded* like a good idea when I proposed it a couple months ago but here we are at T-3 days, I’m working extra hours at work, AM BROKE and haven’t started cooking or cleaning yet. Sounds like a great time, huh?

But it will be. It’ll all work out. Everyone’s bringing stuff and we’ll gorge ourselves silly. Then go back for seconds a few hours later.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Brenda
12 years ago

In my family we makes something called “pink stuff”. It involves cherry pie filling, sweetened condensed milk, cool whip, pineapple, and pecans. It’s wonderful!
I work at a daycare and we’re hosting Thanksgiving lunch for the kids and parents tomorrow. I’ve been slaving away in the kitchen for the last 2 days making all kinds of goodies. I will be glad when it’s over…..

goingloopy
12 years ago

This year, the boyfriend, his sister, her husband, and I are doing Thanksgiving without any pesky parents. My boyfriend has decreed that there will be Turducken. Hope he knows how to cook that shit. In the meantime, his sister and I plan to make mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, and maybe nuke some frozen peas if we feel the plate lacks color. I’m betting the Turducken takes WAY longer than anticipated to cook, so it’s gonna be mac and cheese and pumpkin pie sandwiched in between Mario Kart Death Race and massacre of the songs of the Beatles.

April
April
12 years ago

I’m making that confused dog head-tilt right now, trying to imagine those flavors combined. I wonder if you put apples in it too? Sort of like a waldorf salad. On crack.

Rowen
Rowen
12 years ago

We have Jello Salad at every holiday- some of my familiy members actually fight over who gets to eat the most of it…

Kathy
12 years ago

My family’s weird Thanksgiving food is Christmas cookies. Specifically, special Christmas cookies that for some reason only I can make, even though I’ve been attempting to teach the famliy how to make them since 1991.

One year, I had strep throat and was too sick to make cookies or even get up off the couch, really. I was almost disowned that year.

eM
eM
12 years ago

Maybe it’s because I’m English, but that when I first read that salad recipe I assumed it was a joke. I’ve never heard of a recipe that calls for both mayonnaise and jelly (jello!), wow, it seems we’re separated by more than a giant ocean!!

That being said, I’ll admit to being intrigued as to what exactly that would taste like…

Nila
12 years ago

No weird recipes here. I am worried about how I’ll get my contributions to the meal done when I work a 12 hour graveyard shift the night before. Sleep deprivation with lots of wine will help me survive. My brain will be so numb, I won’t know if I’m coming or going.

Judy
Judy
12 years ago

I don’t think I could eat a turducken, simply because the word begins with “turd”. And my family’s pink stuff involves jello, cool whip and frozen strawberries (and is actually very good).

Probably the oddest thing I fix is my grandma’s apple salad. Usual chopped apples, pecans, celery if you insist, but the dressing is a combination of mayo, peanut butter, cinnamon and a little sugar. I don’t know how much of any, you just add this or that until it tastes good. That’s how Grandma taught me to cook.

Clueless But Hopeful Mama

I am currently at step 5 myself. I sure hope that my in-laws like eating out of the freezer for the next few days. Trader Joe’s corn dogs anyone??

As for T-day, I always make cranberry salad- halved grapes, whipped cream, finely chopped walnuts, sugar and ground cranberries. DELISH.

(Oh, and I love that sucking on dog hair has become the go-to image for a Personal End of Days.)

Eric's Mommy
12 years ago

That recipe sounds like a science experiment! I bet it’s good though.

Every year I get the cranberry sauce shaped like a can. Not because I really like it, but because my sister and I used to stick out fingers in it, when I was about 15 and she was 11 (sad). Now my in-laws get it for me because they think I still like it, even though they make that cranberry relish stuff.

Kelley O.
Kelley O.
12 years ago

I’m going to make Scalloped Sweet Potatoes with Maple Glazed Apples, and take it over to some friends’ for dinner, where I and their 13 year old will be the only ones who will eat it, so there will be leftovers which I will bring home for ME. Should be yummy.

Joanne
12 years ago

My dad used to make a cornucopia made of bread, you had to make a tinfoil model and then put the bread on it. It was really good but no one makes it anymore, and since I am having diner for … THREE adults, I figure it might be overkill. We are having Thai Curry Sweet Potatoes this year, that’s our weird one. I’d like to try your recipe, but … jello? And … mayo? I’m skeered.

Coleen
12 years ago

We’re hosting our first Thanksgiving in our home for my in-laws, and we had all these grand plans regarding dinner until reality set in.

After reading your recommendation, my husband had bought the oil-less turkey fryer, but we decided to go with pre-marinated turkey breasts instead. Our guests are getting Pepperidge Farm stuffing from a box and mashed potato flakes from boxes, and canned cranberry sauce, and so help me THEY’RE GONNA LIKE IT.

Ahem. Anyway, check out Tyler Florence’s Thanksgiving recipes on Food Network. He does some really good-looking stuff, and it sounded pretty easy. We were going to do his dinner until the Invasion of the Boxes. Good luck!

Liz Brooks
12 years ago

I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time last year. It went really well but I obsessively planned it down to the last detail. I’m a food writer now, so I crack myself up when I think of it, but boy was I nervous the whole week before. The food is the vocal point for me, people who iron their napkins and take out their china crack me up.

AndreAnna
12 years ago

We’re having it here too which wouldn’t be that big of a deal except that my daughter has had Weird Fever of Unknown Origin for the last few days and of course everyone goes right to thinking SWINESWINESWINE and I’m all like, dudes, it’s a fever and she just told her brother to suck a wang, so I think she’s feeling okay.

Today she seems better so I’m hoping the baby can avoid it. Otherwise, a 22-lb turkey is a whole lot of fucking sandwiches for two people.

jonniker
12 years ago

You had me with that recipe until the celery. The celery! And … is that mayonnaise in a sweet-type recipe? MYSTERIES ABOUND.

susie
12 years ago

Just want to say that jello recipe looks awesome. And I am glad you’re making it.

Kelli
Kelli
12 years ago

pilgrim-hole…heh.

Sincerely, Jenni
12 years ago

We’re doing all the usual food, but my mother-in-law always finds it necessary at Thanksgiving and Christmas to make a big batch of scalloped oysters. Which basically, to me, looks like my dog threw up a box of Saltine crackers in a dish.

*gag*

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

3 Granny Smith Apples, cubed
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts.
10 diced maraschino cherries
1 heaping tbl of miracle whip (enough to lighly coat mixture)
Toss

Make about 2 hours prior to serving. Serves 4. Easily tweeked and a good way to get fresh fruit on the table.

MEP
MEP
12 years ago

I’m cooking dinner for the first time this year too, and I feel your panic. I decided that the turkey and gravy are going to be the only things on the menu I’ve never done before. Still, I wouldn’t say I’m NOT freaking out especially since I have big going-out plans on Wednesday night. Good luck!

Jen_Ann_W
12 years ago

Brenda: OH.MY.GOD. Are you part of my family? We do that same “pink stuff” too and that’s exactly what we call it – “Millionaire Salad” is the real name I think. It was a fave among the kids of course, back when we had 30 people at my mom & dad’s house for holidays (yes, THIRTY. Madness ensued.)

As for bizarrely wrong, my father-in-law makes a lime jello-o and green olive concoction that makes me throw up a little just looking at it.

I’m contributing to the meal at the in-law’s with homemade jalapeno-raspberry chutney and puffy mashed potatoes – basically you whip up some egg whites into a meringue and add to mashed potatoes along with the yolks & some cheese, & bake them. Yummmm

Kristin
Kristin
12 years ago

I’ve always done the big Thanksgiving meal, and cooked & hosted everything (I really kind of enjoy it, actually)……but this year we got an offer to use a condo at the beach for free!!! So DH, 2 little girls & I will stop at Cracker Barrel on the way down to the beach & have a nice, traditional Thanksgiving meal with no prep or clean-up, and then hit the beach for a nice long weekend!!!! I think I’m rather excited about it…….

jen
jen
12 years ago

We have something similar…red hot jello. It has well, red hots and jello. But no celery, cheese, etc. Other than that, it’s all the usual green bean casserole, stuffing, potatoes, etc. Except we do have these amazing homemade dinner rolls and we eat them with strawberry jam. That’s kinda weird but delish. Hosting is never as low key as it sounds is it? Best of luck!

Rachel
Rachel
12 years ago

My mom makes a jello salad with strawberry jello, frozen strawberries, sour cream, pecans, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. It is a huge hit every year. So while Aunt Eileen’s recipe seems a little out there, I bet I would like it.

Krissa
Krissa
12 years ago

Last Thanksgiving, my best friend and I ended up doing Microwave Thanksgiving…and it was awesome!
One precooked turkey breast, one tub of Country Crock Mashed potatoes, a small tub of brown gravy, and box of Stove top – we had Thanksgiving dinner ready in our hotel microwave in 20 minutes. And then we had ice cream and a premade pie for dessert.

This year I am responsible for mashed potatoes. My recipe involves red potatoes, a head of garlic, enough (fresh) parmesan to look like it is snowing in my kitchen, and a bit of cream cheese stirred in, right at the end.
Oh, and spinach dip, also known as appetizer crack.

Karly
12 years ago

I can’t decide if you’re joking about that jello recipe or not. Mayo and celery? And Jello? Are you just kidding? Or are you really eating that?

Did I just do the adult equivalent of your 3 year old saying “Yuck!” at the dinner table? I apologize if I did.

Mary
12 years ago

This year it’s my hubs, me, aunt/uncle, their 2 children (adult children, both in grad school). It’s pleasant, the food rocks, there is high quality wine. Dicussions typically revolve around economics and the politics and last week’s New Yorker. It’s typically rather pleasant (no spanx involved), especially because the 6 of us are the only members of our extended family that don’t talk about squirrel hunting, Jesus (He saves! Have you heard? Can I get anyone another Miller Lite?) or have a jello-salad. In my fam, the Jello usually involves floating carrot shreads and raisins. Anyway, by Christmas we’ll have a brand new squalling baby, and conversation’s likely to involve the various shades of baby poo.

Mary
12 years ago

Oh, and will you please take a picture of that Jello for us? Thank you.

pixielation
12 years ago

We don’t do thanksgiving, but that sounds like my christmas routine!

sdg
sdg
12 years ago

Ok… I dont know how you can manage this one, but I got a friend to stay with my sons, and I went shopping at an all night grocery store after midnight. There were 0 flying elbows to get the last brown-n-serves, no one to humph at my choice of jars of gravy (vs acutally trying to craft gravy – YAH RIGHT!!) and NO waiting at the check out line. I was DOG tired the next day, and Ive only ever cooked for my sons who think I am God in the kitchen, but it was hella easier then trying to deal with blue-haired old women and the 30 minute wait while the person in line in front of me got out of line to run back and get gagillion “one more” things. :) Hope it all works out for you

JV
JV
12 years ago

Ha, that’s our family tradition too, the green weird nutty jello thing, but we call it “Grandma Salad.” I’m still suspicious of it. Happy to be having Thxgiving at my in-laws’, where there are no weird Waspy Jell-o traditions, and equally happy to be flying out from Boston to Seattle for Xmas with my family, since on this coast there are no kids besides ours, and much commercial weirdening of the holidays.

Andrea (@shutterbitch)
12 years ago

We’re going ALL out this year. We’re bringing the soda. To someone else’s house. That we don’t have to clean.

But I do have to worry about my feral children, so there’s that.

JV
JV
12 years ago

oh yeah and. Thxgiving traditions here in Massachusetts, aka in-law-land, involve awesome green bean casserole, and bringing my own gravy (I’m the only non-turkey eater). And delicious Danish-style red cabbage. Mmmmm. I’m going to be bringing this dish to the table:

cut a couple sugar pumpkins or butternut squash in half. bake. scoop and mash.

sautee diced onions and green peppers. mix into the squash. crumble in a good amount of feta. bake. OH MY GOD SO GOOD.

She Likes Purple
12 years ago

I’m hosting it too.

I just realized today that I don’t actually have a dining room table. That’s…problematic.

Keri
Keri
12 years ago

My mom makes this crazy green stuff every Thanksgiving. I think it has pistachio pudding and cottage cheese and nuts and is totally green and jiggly and lumpy and, yeah, I don’t eat it. It might be called Watergate Salad in real life, but in my family, it will always be known as ‘green stuff’.

Christina
12 years ago

Nope nothing odd ball just my little family of four and a huge ass turkey that I got on sale and coupons and OMG is was like $9.00 for the huge ass turkey. That and all the fixin’s (potatotes, sweet potatoes, veggies, gravy, cranberry sauce, and rolls).

My son has randomly asked for a homemade pumpkin pie – I have never actually make a pie before so I am planning to try it but I think I am going to make a back up dessert as well given the fact that I have tried to make exactly ONE cake and it looked like elephant poo. It was THAT gross looking – tasted delicious but it was ugly. Any who that is it.

Also, I agree with whomever asked for the photo of that jello. Am curious…

Linda
Linda
12 years ago

I caved this year and ordered the meal from Metropolitan Market. I don’t mind hosting Thanksgiving but sometimes after all the prep and cooking, I just can’t enjoy the meal or the time with family so I decided to just pay the 100 for someone else to whip up something delicious and gourmet. I just hope it doesn’t suck.

Wendy
12 years ago

I like Snickers Salad:

6 full sized Snickers bars, cut in small pieces
6 apples cut in small pieces
1 8oz container of Cool Whip
Nuts (if you wish)
Mix and chill

I really love that this is called a “salad”. No, you are not having a tasty dessert, this has fruit so it must be a salad. Very healthy.

Kate
Kate
12 years ago

We pretty much stick to the basics (apart from the years when we do a Mexican feast, or seafood, or anything non-turkey-centric), but the one weird thing that we–well, I–do is have potato salad.

I *love* potato salad, and one year my aunt randomly brought some for Thanksgiving, which is when I discovered there is no better combination on earth than turkey and potato salad and those brown-and-serve rolls.

I actually don’t mention this in public anymore, because the WTF? looks I get when I mention potato salad make me feel like a freak.

But there you go: my weird Thanksgiving food.

Jennifer
Jennifer
12 years ago

Oh wow I could have written this post. I’m doing Thanksgiving here (as opposed to having it at my sister’s who is total Martha Stewart, just like the waterford-crystal house you described; she’ll be coming HERE so the pressure’s ON).

We bought the turkey last night. I’m STILL poring over a million recipe sites looking for some way to do sweet potatoes where they don’t end up looking like mush. I’m leaning toward some kind of oven-roasted thing. Also: we’re going to spend Wednesday night roasting and peeling chestnuts for a stuffing recipe we’ve never done before. YOW, SCARY.

And: my MIL has a jello recipe nearly identical to the one you listed! It features red jello AND a bunch of those red-hots cinnamon candies! Hers omits the cream cheese but is served with mayonnaise, it’s a more savory garnish thing. I hope your jello recipe is met with lots of ooohs and aaahs!

Fay
Fay
12 years ago

I keep looking for signs that any of you are Southern. Are you? I can’t quite tell.

We’re very particular about the whole “stuffing/dressing” thing down here. It’s dressing. It’s not stuffing, because it doesn’t go inside the turkey, unless you’re a Yankee. :) It’s made from cornbread and a bunch of other stuff, mushed together and then laid out into a pan like a casserole, cooked and then cut into squares like brownies. My family’s dressing is the best food ON EARTH and we fight over it, and then fight over the leftovers! Hee.

Our weird thing was also a jello/mayo/nuts/pineapple concoction. It’s orange. We called it “orange jell-o salad.” Yummy. My grandmother’s sisters (my great-aunts) used to make another uniquely Southern thing: Tomato aspic. Think tomato-flavored jell-o, with celery, nuts, possibly olives and even asparagus in it. I know it sounds disgusting but I love it!

Hannah
Hannah
12 years ago

I just want to say that I have read all these comments with a look of sheer horror on my face. I am British so admittedly do not ‘get’ the TG foods but my God people! Jello and mayonnaise? And celery? What the hell is going on here??! And people say British food is weird…

Cookie
12 years ago

We always go to my in-law’s house for Thanksgiving. And I always make sweet potato casserole, which is awesome. And from scratch. I also usually make the stuffing, but I don’t have a good recipe for that, so I just make stove-top, which is more than we would get if I didn’t make it. My MIL doesn’t do stuffing or sweet potatoes. One year she didn’t even do a turkey, and we were surprised with meat loaf and roast beef.

Brenda
12 years ago

I will be flying to Phoenix on Thanksgiving day. I don’t have to touch a thing in a kitchen…. unless it’s to help clean up, which I’m happy to do. I think my mom is bringing the cranberry jello salad. It has apples in it and shredded carrots. It’s good and colorful.