Updated: now includes the missing vegetable dishes left out of original post.
Yes, it's true: I abandon my vegetarian principles at Thanksgiving. While I usually don't eat turkey or gravy at the dinner itself (after smelling it for hours and cooking, cooking, cooking, I feel full already), I do eat turkey sandwiches for the next day or so. Purists may feel superior if they so desire, but I've always said that if vegetarianism ever felt like a sacrifice to me, I wouldn't be a vegetarian. I'm just no good at sacrifice!
The first time I hosted Thanksgiving dinner after becoming an imperfect vegetarian, my nephew was very nervous. Before the occasion, he said to me, "I've heard a terrible rumor ..." and I laughed and said, "Don't worry, I'm cooking a turkey." He was quite relieved, as I'm sure everyone else in the family was. I admire those who serve a vegetarian meal to their guests on this day. For me, well, I aim to please, and I know that my guests would be horribly disappointed if I didn't serve turkey.
We live in a rural area, at least an hour's drive for all our guests and nearly two hours away for some. We're very grateful that they continue to make the trip, and we hope the meal--along with the gathering of family--is some compensation. This year everyone exclaimed over how beautiful the drive was; we'd had snow the night before, and the snowy branches, white fields, and blue sky made for some lovely scenery.
Two years ago we roasted one turkey and barbecued the other, and last year we roasted one and deep-fried the other (to wild acclaim, I might add, but what to do with the gallons and gallons of leftover, used peanut oil??). This year we just roasted both turkeys, 14-pounders. With about 20 people sitting down to dinner, two turkeys of that size guarantee sufficient leftovers to send home with people and to provide us--ourselves, our daughter and son-in-law, and our son--with turkey sandwiches for a day or so.
I tried a slightly different method of roasting the turkey this year, along with a new recipe that allows mashed potatoes to be made ahead of time and a different version of cranberry sauce. Two other people brought delicious vegetable dishes (including roasted brussels sprouts and a broccoli-and-cauliflower dish), another brought a bountiful salad, and another provided dessert. I highly recommend allowing other people to contribute to the meal! What with those contributions, making the potatoes and cranberry sauce ahead, and just warming the mashed potatoes in the crockpot, I was free to do other things in a somewhat more relaxed fashion. I set up an appetizer-and-drinks table and set the main dining table before people arrived, a major accomplishment for me!
I don't include my stuffing recipe here, as stuffing is a highly individualized matter. If I get the veggie recipes from the other cooks, I'll post them here, as they were exceptional, particularly the roasted brussel sprouts.
What a lovely day we had. There's not much better than sharing a meal with people you love.