Let the Thanksgiving Prep begin!

So, 2 of the 3 (hopefully) shops are done!  And now it’s time to start cutting, chopping, pre-cooking, assembling, etc!  48 hours from now, hopefully the turkey will be on the table and people will be digging in!  

I’m making a miso gravy which can be made ahead of time and seeing how I HATE making gravy, I might just get this one out of the way!  Then I’ll be peeling carrots, chopping up cauliflower, and getting a head start on as much as possible!  Let’s go, let’s get the party started!!!!!


P.S.  You can follow my progress in pictures on instagram (@stephzuniga) and flickr… I won’t be getting the big SLR camera out for the action/prep shots in the next 24 hours– there’s just too much to do!!!!

A meal to celebrate….

Celebrate what you might ask?  

Lots of things really!  But mostly that We’re Awesome!  The Runner and I are both 100%, certified, Awesome or Amazeballs as the kids today would say.  So awesome and amazing that I randomly bought Bug Tails and Steak for dinner tonight– I’ve never cooked a Bug Tail in my life so if I get it wrong by tomorrow we might have food poisoning and feel decidedly less awesome but let’s roll the dice…..  

But aside from that, we have a lot to be thankful for- yes, Thanksgiving is coming up, and yes, it is the time of the year that you’re meant to reflect and Be Thankful for all the little and big things in your life and today I can say that I definitely am very thankful.

When I was little, one of my favourite songs to listen to with my mother was, “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got” by William DeVaughn.  If you haven’t heard it, it’s a fine piece of 1970s song writing….  Literally, I think to fully understand the lyrics, you have to have seen Shaft in a cinema while combing your afro and wearing your best pair of bell bottoms.  If you’ve never heard it, check it out here, but it’s kind of not the point…


The point is that I’m really Thankful this Thanksgiving season and I’m going to kick off celebrating my Thankfulness tonight with a lovely surf and turf meal for The Runner!

The crazy thing I do every year….

And no, it’s not skydiving, or some weird satanic ritual, but it probably is enough to get me committed to the Martha Stewart Home for the Domestically Insane.

It’s Thanksgiving.  And my annual Thanksgiving Extravaganza, now in it’s 5th year.

It started off small enough, just a few friends but overtime it’s snowballed.  Big Time.  Last year, The Runner and I worked out that we had 60 people over.  That’s right, 60.  Nearly enough for a 2 week, grand slam tennis tournament and just 4 fewer than the number of teams in the NCAA tournament– and we could have miscounted.   If you saw our apartment, you would wonder how we fit everyone in….. I don’t know, but it’s not a sit down dinner and not everyone comes at the same time, OBVIOUSLY!

As if that’s not crazy enough- (ok, maybe not crazy but a little bit unbalanced), I make all the savoury food.  (By savoury, I mean not sweet, so everything except desserts).  For 60 adults.   Turkey, sides, the whole kit and turkeyboodle.    Seriously, where is the straitjacket?

This year’s menu:

Autumn Harvest Stuffing
Quinoa Salad with Kale, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan
Lemon Nut Rice
Whipped Sweet Potatoes with marshmallows
Cauliflower Gratin
Roasted Carrots and Potatoes with Dill
Roasted Pears and Red Onions
Herbed Mashed Potatoes
Corn Casserole
Macaroni and Cheese
Tomato, Basil and mozzarella
Green Bean Casserole

All made from scratch,  I know, it’s a little bit crazy.   But I LOVE it!  And, yes, there is room for one more!

The countdown is on!

To our Thanksgiving party on Saturday….

Luckily I’m not working so rather than the normal mad dash preparations I can actually chill out, take my time, and procrastinate.   Ok, I’m not really procrastinating- yet, but the temptation is there.  It’s only Monday today, and the party’s on Saturday– plenty of time!  Seriously!  I already have the menu done (13 dishes I think!) and I’m not even going to do the shopping until Thursday afternoon when our Supercar arrives…  Yes, that’s right, for Supercar’s first outing we’re going to Costco!!!!

I’m not sure that I can really put into words how excited I am to take Supercar to Costco.  A bit sad, but come on, how good will Costco be with a huge car!

First of all, Supercar is a Station Wagon- according to the car insurance quote I got today (which makes me feel really old).  Secondly, compared to The Duchess, Supercar is massive-  an actual boot and a backseat that holds real live, full size adults- The Duchess has a backseat you could maybe fit a midget in.  Taking The Duchess to Costco is like trying to pack for a two week trip and only taking a carry on bag, Supercar will be like, I don’t know, going away for a two week trip and having a cargo plane filled with luggage.  So needless to say, I’m excited about taking Supercar to Costco, where everything is about 10x the size a normal person actually needs….  let’s just hope I don’t go overboard… because that wouldn’t be like me at all would it???

Thanksgiving is coming!

Some of my earliest food memories revolve around Thanksgiving.  In fact, according to my parents Thanksgiving was the first time I really ate solid food—apparently one taste of turkey and I threw away the bottle.  The earliest thing I can nearly remember is being about 3 or 4 years old- maybe a bit older, but definitely pre-kindergarten, and bringing home a Waldorf Salad recipe from NCRC (pre-school) and either insisting on making it for Thanksgiving or possibly being encouraged by my extremely encouraging and indulgent family to make it.  Either way, it’s a testament to my family that (I think, according to family legend) they ate it or even contemplated eating it.  I was four years old. 

Waldorf Salad (see recipe below)  is pretty straightforward – unless you’re stubborn and four years old and not allowed to use a knife.  (My family was encouraging, not crazy).  Perhaps the memories are a bit hazy but the constants in the story’s retelling are that a, I didn’t want help and b, I wasn’t allowed to use a knife resulting in not so much sliced apples but apple chunks…. Huge apple chunks.    Legendary apple chunks that I’m sure if you ask my Uncles to this day, they will still laugh about.  Not the tastiest or easiest salad they’d ever had, but certainly made with love.

And that was just the beginning.  Family tradition is that my Mom always hosts Thanksgiving in Washington.   My Grandparents would arrive from St. Louis a few days ahead and help with the cooking, organising and everything else.  At some point in the preceding days, my Grandmother would re-organise the kitchen cabinets, which I’m not sure was always appreciated at the time.  She would also make turkey soup with the turkey leftovers which would sit unmolested and uneaten in the freezer until the week before next year’s Thanksgiving when my Mom would throw it out.   Over time, my mom experimented with varying levels of cooking- yes, we did have Thanksgiving catered more than once….. although much to my chagrin as a child, we never went out to eat and we never ordered Chinese on Thanksgiving Day.  Whilst lots of things would change from year to year, (I never made Waldorf Salad again), there were lots of traditions and rituals each year that somehow turned Thanksgiving into my favourite holiday. 

Every year there would be napkin ironing and folding (yes, my mother owns a book of napkin folding designs); unpacking and washing china- my mother’s wedding china (both sets) and after my Grandmother died, my great grandmother’s china; getting serving dishes and soup tureens from their packed away locations (some only came out for Thanksgiving); polishing silver; reading past issues of Food and Wine and Gourmet magazine for recipe inspiration- every year my mother makes a different soup; and a million other little preparations that made the holiday just so.   

Fast forward 20-odd years or so and Thanksgiving is still one of my favourite holidays.   Far more than Christmas, which is so fraught with anxiety and tension over gifts and religion and little Baby Jesus and Christmas Carols.   I’ve brought Thanksgiving to Australia and for the past few years – 5 or 6 years, I’ve hosted my own Thanksgiving here in Australia.  There’s no wedding china (it’s plastic plates instead), no folded napkins, and no silver to polish.  My Australian-American and now increasingly Irish Thanksgiving is a far more low key affair.   There are the occasional Turkey Hands, and sometimes we do go around and say what we’re thankful for, but really it’s just an excuse for me to cook and for everyone to come around and eat.  There are always a few people who have never been to a Thanksgiving before and who ask what it’s about. 

It’s pretty simple really, it’s about a group of people getting together to celebrate making it through another year and being grateful and giving thanks for the year that was.   It’s about people coming together, despite their differences or maybe because of their differences to eat, drink, and be merry!


****  Small disclaimer, whilst I LOVE Thanksgiving and the Thanksgiving story, generally speaking it didn’t work out so well for the Native Americans.  Generally speaking, I’m hoping that none of last year’s guests come back this year to steal land, spread disease, or in any other way wipe out the other guests.



Waldorf Salad Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes


  • 1/2 cup chopped, slightly toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, sliced (or a 1/4 cup of raisins)
  • 1 sweet apple, cored and chopped
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lettuce


In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise (or yogurt) and the lemon juice. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Mix in the apple, celery, grapes, and walnuts. Serve on a bed of fresh lettuce.

Yield: Serves 2.