It’s that time of the year! My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, but Friendsgiving is a close second. I love having my friends in our home, catching up and spending time together before the craziness of the holidays. But in reality, our home isn’t huge, specifically the kitchen. After years of hosting this annual tradition, my husband and I have somewhat gotten this hosting thing kind of figured out. I wanted to share some easy recipes and tips we have learned along the way, with some help with all the ingredients from Tony’s Fresh Market. They have some specials on turkeys, their produce is some of the best and I even got some of the table decor there. Best part of it all? You are just having your friends over, so it doesn’t need to be perfect! Some time spent together is really what it’s about.
I am sharing 10 tips along with our brunch Friendsgiving menu below. Welcome to cooking with the Good Life!
- Schedule it- To start off, you need a date and time! To help us choose, we use Doodle. The host picks 2 dates and times and everyone chooses their preference. Whichever date/time has the most votes, that’s your Friendsgiving!
- Menu- When planning the menu, do you want a brunch or a more traditional dinner? Is it sit down or buffet style? Plan your menu around this. For the past two years, we have had a brunch and it’s been great to have different types of dishes.
- Plan Ahead- Ask your guests if they will need an oven to help you plan your cooking time. I would advise having the turkey almost done before everyone arrives and let it sit. That way, the oven is open for your guests to heat up their dishes.
- Turkey time- The easiest way is for the host to make the turkey. But one thing we have learned along the way is it doesn’t HAVE to be a turkey. There are other options like a turkey breast or cornish hen. Just as good, but a little more manageable at times. You could even find these already seasoned. If you want them unseasoned, just make sure you adjust the brine or dry rub recipe according to the size of turkey you get.
- Don’t over cook- The host can make the turkey, 1-2 appetizers or sides, but have everyone sign up for a dish along with a paired bottle of wine or beverage. This can easily be done in shared an excel spreadsheet, just keep an eye on it to make sure everything is covered.
- Decorations– Using candy corn in bulk from Tony’s as a base in candle holders is festive, but easy. Tony’s also has fake leaf bouquets that you can use on the table for decor. Nothing fancy!
- Make a punch!- I always recommend making a punch because it serves several people, you can make it nonalcoholic and the punch bowl makes a pretty centerpiece on your table. In addition, it’s a very cost effective way to hosting for a lot of people.
- Playlist– Assign a friend to a make a playlist. 80’s or 90’s are always fun….
- Beverages– If you have a small kitchen like us, keep all beer and soda outside (if that’s an option). It keeps people out of the kitchen, which is always bustling during this time.
- Good Cause- Lastly, every year we try to choose a nonprofit to donate. Whether it’s the Red Cross, Chicago Food Depository or another nonprofit, it’s a great way to give back at the start of the holiday season.
Turkey– There are so many ways to make a turkey. You can Google it, YouTube it and follow the cooking directions on the back of the turkey. We do not stuff it, rather cook the vegetables around the turkey and stuffing separately, but that’s just a personal preference of ours! As a good rule to follow, there should be about 1 1/2 -2 pounds per person. We also love having leftovers, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Here is the turkey pricing at Tony’s:
Ho-Ka Turkey: $2.99/lb.
Fresh Perdue Turkey Breasts: $2.99/lb
Perdue Fresh Turkey 10-16lb: $1.99/lb
Butterball Fresh Turkey 16-20lb: $1.99/lb
Thawing: I never knew there was so much to think about to prep a turkey, but defrosting it is a HUGE part of the process. It is best to thaw turkey in the refrigerator, where it’s too cold for harmful bacteria to grow. Use the bottom shelf, in case of drips or place paper towels underneath. We keep it in the original packaging, face side up. Plan ahead to allow a full day for every 4 pounds of turkey being thawed.
Cleaning: If you decide to cook a fresh turkey or thaw out a frozen one, remove the giblets and save them for gravy stock (if you want!). I’ll be honest, this is where my husband steps in! Not my favorite part. Rinse the turkey under cool running water, and dry it inside and out with paper towels.
Pan: Choose a sturdy plan to cook it in. A pan that is heavy, stainless steel with handles is super helpful. Turkeys can weigh a lot, especially if you stuff it.
Dry Rub: Once the turkey is fully defrosted, brine it for 12-24 hours (depending on size) before cooking or use a dry rub, which is what we use. There is a premade one like Urban Accents or use a simple recipe:
- 2 tsp rosemary, garlic salt, black pepper, thyme and sage (I found all of them at Tony’s)
Cooking: This will vary depending the size and whether it’s stuffed. But below is a chart we use as a guide from All Recipes
|Weight of Bird||Roasting Time (Unstuffed)||Roasting Time (Stuffed)|
|10 to 18 pounds||3 to 3-1/2 hours||3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours|
|18 to 22 pounds||3-1/2 to 4 hours||4-1/2 to 5 hours|
|22 to 24 pounds||4 to 4-1/2 hours||5 to 5-1/2 hours|
|24 to 29 pounds||4-1/2 to 5 hours||5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours|
Making a turkey can be intimidating, but with a lot of practice and some Googling along the way, you got this!
Quiche Cups: Since we are doing a brunch Friendsgiving, these quiche cups are easy, super versatile (you can make them with meat and a variety of veggies) and delicious!
- 1 sheet puff pastry but froze pastry puffs would work, make sure they are thawed (I liked using Crescent)
- 4 eggs, large
- 2/3 cup milk (I used 2%, but whole milk works)
- 1/2 cup chopped spinach
- 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/3 cup goat cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp garlic
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat cups of a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, seasoning and milk together.
- On a lightly floured surface, unfold pastry sheet and roll into a 12-inch square. Cut into about 12 (2-inch squares) and press each square into a mini muffin pan cup. Make sure the corners of each pastry puff is high over the edges.
- Fill each pastry with spinach, mushroom, onion and goat cheese first.
- Spoon about 1-2 tablespoon egg mixture into each cup. Don’t overfill (I learned the hard way) because the egg will cook over the edges.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the filling is set and quiches are golden brown.
- Let cool in pans for 2 minutes before removing to a serving platter.
These are also great for meal prep for the week and can easily be frozen! Just make sure they are cool before placing them in a air tight ziplock bag.
Harvest Salad: I love to have a salad at a large meal for a few reasons. If you have vegetarians, it’s great, but it also adds beautiful colors on the table! Tony’s has great produce, so this recipe below really highlights the quality of it. You can read more about my review of the store here and some of the produce I love.
- 1 bag spring mix
- 1 red apple, cored and sliced
- 1 pear, cored and chopped
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 1 cup glazed, candied pecans
- balsamic dressing
- Add spring mix, fruit, goat cheese and top with pecans.
Champagne Punch: This recipe has been a family staple in my house ever since I was a kid. It’s one of my absolute favorites! It adds a lot of color to the table. You can add champagne or use sparkling juice, both taste great.
- 2 bottles champagne or 1 bottle of sparkling juice
- 2 bottles ginger ale
- 1 can (46 oz) pineapple juice
- Frozen strawberries OR freeze strawberries/raspberries in ice cube trays
- Add all liquids together
- Top with frozen strawberries or raspberries
Pumpkin Pie: I love pumpkin pie. Is it really Thanksgiving without one on the table? NO! I have to say, I just tried Tony’s pumpkin pie for the first time recently and it was AMAZING! It was $2.99 and it should definitely be on your table this holiday season.
I hope some of these tips and recipes help you entertain this holiday season! Let me know if you make any of these recipes, I would love to see how your dinners turn out. And when in doubt, Tony’s does holiday catering and you can check this site for all your dinner needs.
As always, thanks for following along and you can sign up for weekly emails here and follow me on Instagram. Most importantly, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I am thankful for so much, including being able to share all this with you.
Until next time,
This post was sponsored by Tony’s Fresh Market, but all the opinions expressed are my own.
Photos were taken by Michelle Cox Photography