Many Cooks in the Kitchen

By: Cara Eisenpress & Phoebe Lapine
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When planning the same holiday year after year, how do you keep your celebration fresh and interesting while maintaining a sense of tradition? We asked our favorite bloggers and food people to share what's inspiring their Thanksgiving planning this year. From ancestor's recipes and falling leaves, to beautiful piles of ingredients and thoughtful home decor, there was no shortage of imagination. See what motivates some of the most creative minds we know, and then start planning your annual feast.

As twenty-something cooks (also known as quarter-lifers), we have the pleasure of going home for Thanksgiving. Back at our parents', we enjoy time with family, lots and lots of food, and kitchens much bigger than the ones we have in our New York City apartments. But just because we're not ostensibly in charge of dinner (that responsibility falls to our mothers), doesn’t mean we don’t do a little bit of “backseat driving” when it comes to the menu and the food.

At Cara’s, many of the mains are set in stone: Grandma Jane’s Chestnut Stuffing, Mom’s Turkey and Gravy, Sweet Potatoes With Brown Sugar and Cauliflower Puree. The biscuits, which, by tradition, are braided like challah, are in Cara’s domain, though. Braiding about 70 of them takes a few hours on Thanksgiving Day, but it’s all for love, right?  The desserts are where Cara’s family gets really creative: She and her sister Kate make as many desserts as they can get away with, from Chocolate Marquise to Pumpkin Bread Pudding to Apple Pie. The place cards can get even more elaborate than the sweets. One year, there were packaged homemade, iced gingersnaps in cellophane bags with guests’ names. Another year,  fabric, ribbon and place cards were tied around different sizes of pecan-filled mason jars.

For Phoebe’s family, a lot of the fun is in the sharing: The party is hosted in a small-ish barn, which means not enough kitchen space to prepare all the food. So, everyone does their part, including Uncle Porky, who grills a whole turkey. For years, Phoebe’s roles in the undertaking were to chop the herbs for the roasted turkey’s butter rub, slice the onions for the semi-sweet potato mash and roast the nuts that would top the green beans. Recently, her duties were upgraded to complete authority over one dish: the stuffing, which is the only item that really changes from year to year. Check out a recent favorite, the Pumpkin Leek Stuffing with Turkey Sausage.

For more Thanksgiving ideas, visit our Thanksgiving Inspiration Board Gallery.

Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine are the quarter-life bloggers behind Big Girls, Small Kitchen and Small Kitchen College. Their first cookbook, In the Small Kitchen, is in bookstores now.

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