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As far as I’m concerned, leftovers are a key part of any Thanksgiving table. Who doesn’t like to wake up, turn on a football game, hopefully the first of many, and make a big fat sandwich piled high with all the fixings from the day before? As any good hostess will tell you, planning for leftovers is key to a successful Thanksgiving. Sadly, in all the years that I’ve been an adult on my own, I’ve only hosted Thanksgiving once. Once! So I’ve really only had real leftovers that one time. I have, however, been known to make parts of the classic dinner just to have my own leftovers. Mostly the sides though because, as we all know, the sides are the best part.

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Oh Thanksgiving! I love Thanksgiving. It’s the only holiday that is solely dedicated to eating. How great is that? Secondarily, I would say enjoying time with family is maybe a bit more important and watching a few football games is up there too but no other holiday has such focus on food. It is the best day of the year for that very reason. The menu is fairly set – turkey and stuffing of course and cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy. From there we’ve got some leeway – sweet potatoes probably, some kind of green vegetable is nice and then probably pumpkin pie for dessert. Anything beyond that is up for discussion but we all pretty much know. Where there is really room to stretch is with the appetizers. With the exception of family traditions, there’s no set ideas here. You need something to start the day, welcome your guests, take the edge off and lay a base for the delights to come. Appetizers.

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I’ve been on a fall recipe kick lately – squash, pumpkin, apples, beets. I made the switch so fast from summer tomatoes and corn, it caught me by surprise. When I recently found myself with some extra butternut squash and no inkling (nor freezer space) to make soup, I thought about a sandwich. Specifically, it was a sandwich I had last spring at Bad Hunter, a Chicago restaurant. Their menu is interesting – mostly vegetarian but with a bit of meat here and there for flavor, creative dishes that are quite beautiful and with spectacular desserts. One menu item really struck a chord with me: a crispy squash sandwich.

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I’m drowning in apples right now. This happens every October/November and it’s not a bad problem to have. My farmer friend Pete had an orchard party and I did some picking – Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Valspar, McIntosh and who knows what else. I just wandered among the trees, putting whatever interested me into my bag so I’m not altogether sure what’s what anyway. My picking adventure resulted in soaking wet boots, two giant bowls that don’t fit in my refrigerator and a need to make some recipes packed with apples. A few days after the party, I made some apple fritters. Two apples down.

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A few weeks ago, I saw an Instagram post by my friend Camas Davis, proprietor of the Portland Meat Collective. It was a shot of quartered beets with the greens attached and she mentioned she was cooking from the Gjelina cookbook. I’d always cooked the two separately; this idea of cooking them together intrigued me. And I had that book somewhere. More importantly, I had beets with the greens still attached in the refrigerator and no real plan for them. The timing was perfect so I rounded up my copy of Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California by Chef Travis Lett and found the recipe. It seemed simple enough, small beets are roasted with the tops until the bulbs are tender and the greens are crispy. Simple enough until I made it. There was this one thing, this one annoying little direction, that had me cursing.

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Try as I might to resist, I’m getting twitchy for pumpkin. The amount of pumpkin/pumpkin spice products in the grocery stores is obnoxious and some things just have no business living in the pumpkin spice realm – check this list out. While I roll my eyes at the vast majority, there are a few things that I do love. The original, OG pumpkin spice donuts from my youth (still working on recreating those). My pumpkin bundt cake. A slice of a good pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. They’re delicious and invoke feelings of nostalgia in a way that pumpkin spice Cheerios or Oreos do not. Inevitably, as I pass the cans of pumpkin puree on the grocery display, one will go in my cart. Maybe two. Which is exactly what happened last week.

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This time of the year, I’m all about a cider donut. Much to my delight, they start popping up in shops, grocery stores and farmers markets for the next few weeks. Sometimes, when particularly motivated, I’ll make my own but I generally prefer to leave the frying to outside sources. This past weekend my friend Pete had his annual Harvest Party at his Michigan orchard and I did a little apple picking. It didn’t seem like a lot of apples at the time but … it was a lot of apples. Shocker. I came home and started combing my files for apple recipes. When I got to donuts, I knew I was onto something because while I love cider donuts I might love apple fritters more. It was apple fritter time.

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