I often begin the meal with a fizzy cranberry-plum sangria. Why plums, you might ask? One year they were on sale and I gave them a whirl in my wine. Yum! A few years later, another sale—this time on apples—inspired a great side. I sautéed them with potatoes, rosemary, and garlic, and the result was tart and tasty. The next Thanksgiving, I replaced the apples with sweet pears—even better. I always rely on a few go-to sides (my spicy mac and cheese is a staple) and audition new ones each year. That's how I invented my Brussels sprouts salad, a substitute for the usual roasted vegetables. For dessert I come up with twists on old classics, like I did with my cream-cheese-swirled pumpkin cake, a moist, nutty alternative to pie.
We typically think of this holiday as a time to be at home with family, and I've enjoyed plenty of feasts with mine—including the one when my dad burned a huge hole in my uncle's lawn with a pot of hot oil. (The deep-fried turkey was worth it.) But I've also invited over coworkers and friends, and one year I took an impromptu trip to Philadelphia. (I was dying for a cheesesteak.) I've even rung in a few Thanksgivings alone. (I make the same generous portions, because leftovers are important.) But however I enjoy the day, I'm always grateful. And on Thanksgiving—with its spread of favorites new and old—there's a lot to be grateful for.