Oh boy – it’s time for one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. A time for family, friends and absolutely amazing food. I prefer simple table settings and love the excuse to break out the fine china.

A couple years ago we started our holiday meal out with a celery bisque. I know what you’re thinking – a whole course focused on celery sounds about as exciting as a bag of rocks. Well, my friend, get ready for a surprise. Celery is one of those veggies that tastes bland from the store, but amazing when it’s homegrown or from the farmer’s market. It is as elegant as it is flavorful and can be made a day ahead and rewarmed before serving.

Last year a friend made this fabulous cornbread-sausage-apricot stuffing from Sunset Magazine. It was the perfect combination of savory and sweet. I know cornbread breaks tradition a bit for stuffing, but it’s worth every bite.

We go traditional on the turkey itself since we use the leftovers for so many other things. I have found this herb-roasted shallot recipe from Epicurious to be delicious.

Looking for an impressive side dish/veggie? Try this stuffed pumpkin recipe. It has everything indulgent and decadent crammed into one dish. It is also impressive to see on the table when you let guests just scrape what they need out of the whole pumpkin.

Dessert is always hard to decide on. The traditional pumpkin pie is fine, but I prefer a new twist on that old classic like this Pumpkin Mousse or this Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake. You could also say to hell with pumpkin and go straight for the chocolate. Last year a friend made their favorite chocolate cake, cut it into 3-4 layers, then filled with blackberry cream – lovely.

Best wishes to you on Thanksgiving. I hope you are somewhere warm and toasty, eating amazing food with some of your favorite people. I would love to hear about the special things you are making!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson