What is turning out to be one of the craziest months of my life thus far is soon approaching one of my favorite days of the year: Thanksgiving. Since Halloween is donezo, we’re officially in the most wonderful time of the year. In previous years, I was staunchly against starting the Christmas tunes before Turkey Day, lest it get lost between Fa La La’s and Target’s tinsel aisle. But now that I’m a newlywed, 2016 marks the first year that I can really truly go all out for the holidays, sans exams to study for or too small of a space to fully deck the halls.
ICYMI, J and I got married in September. We’re happily hitched and happily holiday-ing already, gearing up for November 24th. As newlyweds, we’re big on carpe diem-ing our first holiday season of marriage and starting our own traditions. And in the spirit of traditions, I’m so happy to have teamed up with my friends at Hickory Farms again for the holidays. This year marks Hickory Farms 65th anniversary, and THAT, my peeps, calls for celebration. Ever since I first tried Hickory Farms sausages and cheeses, I was *hooked*. They’re known for specialty gourmet food gifts, and they do NOT disappoint. This holiday season, besides hosting our very first Thanksgiving at our own home, J and I have got a whole bunch of newlywed traditions on our couple’s bucket list.
Next on the radar: Turkey Day.
Newlywed Tradition #1: Hosting Thanksgiving, and going for Round Two on Black Friday.
For years now, we’ve been going to my Nana and Pop’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving with all of my mom’s side o’ the fam…but on Black Friday. We didn’t used to be big Black Friday shoppers, so my immediate family did a lowkey Thanksgiving dinner at home every year with the whole family congregating on Friday. Now, J and I are taking charge of cooking. Since we’re newbs to the turkey game, though, we’re easing matters by opting for a total crowd pleaser to kick things off on the right foot.
Like I said, it’s the 65th anniversary of Hickory Farms this year. Pop the bubbly and brace yo’self: their celebratory box is 100% worth it. Packed with a whole slue of yummy goodies, my personal favorite inclusions are the Spicy & Savory Summer Sausages, the Smoked Cheddar Blend cheese, and the Sweet Hot Mustard. (To see the whole box and what all is inside, click here!) I love that it comes with the whole shebang, from meats and cheese to delectable sweets + crackers and mustards. It makes hosting SO simple. Not to mention, it’s a *perfect* housewarming gift or hostess gift for your next large gathering!
We’re kicking things off with snacks, cos nothing beats a cheese and meat platter amiright??? I picked up the cutest little cheese board recently that came with its own little cheese knife set that tucks underneath it, so it’s perfect for first timer hostesses like myself who would be *clueless* when it comes to the right utensils and dodads to cut + serve fab cheese blends with class.
Newlywed Tradition #2: We potluck certain pieces.
It’s just more fun when everyone brings something, amiright?? High school was CRAY for me – I was in literally everything under the sun. It was a wee bit obnoxious. I did every sport, I was in the play and musical, every musical group, multiple clubs, and I was valedictorian…I was busy. And because of it, I ended up learning, like, ZILCH domestic skills before jetting off to college. Oops. So now I’m making up for lost time. Lucky for me, my husband is a FABULOUS cook (bless up). In the meantime, my mom takes every moment she can to hang out with me in the kitchen. For this meal we whipped up a SUPER easy snow pea recipe together:
To make ’em yourself, just wash and trim your snow peas, and drain them well. Heat a large non-stick skillet, and add a small bit of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon, if you measure 😉 ). Heat over medium. Add the snow peas, and beware of splatter! Stir often – peas cook very quickly and will brighten in color as they’re done. Cook a few minutes until crisp tender, and add just a sprinkle of salt and pepper before serving.
Easy PEAsy, + yummy + healthy.
And as for the potluck piece o’ the pie, my mom made a homemade cranberry sauce that’s hands down the BEST cranberry sauce I’ve had thus far in life. If you like it tart, you’ll lovelovelove this one! To make it yo’self…
Pick up a bag of fresh cranberries – my mom found the recipe for this one ON the back o’ the bag – and rinse ’em + sort out the bad berries. Add the cranberries to a saucepan with 1/2 c water, 1/2 orange juice, and 1/2 c sugar – the original recipe calls for a full cup of sugar, so only 1/2 cup is healthier + more tart!
Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring often. The berries will be poppin’! TIP: Don’t skimp on simmering, or the sauce won’t thicken.
Remove them from the heat to cool once it’s done, THEN…
Add the grated zest of an orange, then refrigerate to chill and thicken. The orange zest really takes this recipe above and beyond and makes it SO yummy – it’s a noticeable citrus burst, so if you like tart + citrus flavor, you’ll lovelovelove this take on the traditional dish!
Newlywed Tradition #3: Babci’s Dinnerware.
“Babci” is Polish for grandmother. My Babci passed away in 2004, and she left behind an entire set of dinnerware to be saved for me and my future first home. I’m so proud and honored to inherit the set; I was young when she passed, and I often wish I could have a conversation with her now – so much has changed. Your serving ware and dinner set is such a huge piece of any large gathering, so it’s so special to me to be able to make and share a meal with all of our loved ones while celebrating her memory like that. We have literally every single possible piece with this set, so it’s clutch for hosting big dinners where you might need that random platter or serving bowl.
We followed our Hickory Farms goodies with a meal – and realized the sausages and cheese really were the perfect complement to the feast. This is just a rotisserie chicken cos we weren’t practicing for Thanksgiving full-on just yet, but it was delish all the while. 😉
Newlywed Tradition #4: Thanksgiving football.
I swear our househunting process was largely driven by “but can we play Thanksgiving football here?” It’s been J’s dream for years now to have a friendly family football match in the backyard before chowing down on a yummy homecooked meal. He’s SO RIDICULOUSLY STOKED for this year’s festivities, as our day will undoubtedly start with a two-touch game in the yard. Teams have already been drafted, and he’s ready to go. It’s two-touch, but if I get ambitious it might turn to tackle pretty quickly. HA. 😉
Newlywed Tradition #5: Parades, beer, football, games.
We’re turning the WHOLE day into a big shindig. After playing our own football, it’s time to enjoy all of the parades and pro games on TV. Time to grab a seasonal pumpkin beer or a glass o’ Cabernet, and time to gather round and play some games. Hands down most excited about this new game that just came out recently – it went viral after a hilarious YouTube video and was sold out EVERYWHERE, but I finally got my hands on one!
Newlywed Tradition #6: Pre-Black Friday shopping.
My family was *never* big on Black Friday shopping. And honestly, it was a bit of a bummer for me growing up, because I’m a raging shopaholic and sales fanatic and nothing gets me going more than early morning sales. Like, I would totally be that crazy woman sprinting through a Wal-Mart for the deal of the day. #HatersBackOff. But in recent years, my mom and I warmed up to the idea of perusing the circulars on Thursday night after our meal, and if there were any major sales happening, we’d hit up one or two that night. Since it was just our immediate family, it worked great. Now this year, many stores are nixing Thursday night shopping altogether in the spirit of keeping the day’s focus on family time. I’m down for that, but we’re already scoping out sales and outlining a game plan to score big come Black Friday. Because food + family + shopping = best weekend ever.
What are your own holiday traditions? And have you ever added Hickory Farms to the mix?
I’d lovelovelove to hear your own traditions…because traditions are important and amazing and meaningful and fun! Drop your own in a comment below. And I ALSO wanna know if you’ve tried anything from Hickory Farms before! This girl is hooked on the summer sausages and cheese blends like no other – I accidentally ate an ENTIRE sausage by myself while snacking during work one day, so these things are YUMMERS. Ha.
*This post is in partnership with Hickory Farms. As always, all opinions and thoughts presented are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Coming Up Roses!