Friendsgiving 2017

Vegan Pumpkin Pie.jpg

If you are one of the three regular readers I have you are more than aware that my Thanksgiving pasts are less traditional and more nomadic. In fact I can't recall the last time I emotionally binged on pumpkin pie at the same place two years in a row. I have rightfully declared my Thanksgiving tradition being 'no tradition'. And I stand by that. 

Almost three years ago I found myself standing in the elevator lobby of my apartment building trying to convince myself that it was okay for a middle aged gay man of no sports interest to attend the building sponsored Super Bowl Party. In the end the maternal guilt of my mother whispered in my ear and my 2 hours at that party were the catalyst for three years of relationship building leading to this year's Friendsgiving. 

This Monday before Thanksgiving I will sit down with nearly 30 people for Friendsgiving. None of them are blood related. But almost all of them are family now. 

We are 30 strong and most of us transplants to North Carolina. From as far south as Johannesburg, to the outskirts of The British Isles, as far west as the Alaskan Final Frontier, and as close as the BBQ capital of the world. Between California and New York we have most states covered. We are restauranteurs, lawyers, small business owners, artists, doctors, creatives, singers, craftsman, academics, and mostly all can be called smartasses. But despite our varied backgrounds we manage to not totally piss each other off on a regular basis. Perfect grounds for any dinner party. 

There is a meme going around that perfectly sums up this event. It roughly says something about how odd it is that as humans we just randomly meet strangers and then just start hanging out. 

So naturally I trusted no one else with desserts. I will be bringing a couple pumpkin pies and a cheesecake. 



Buffalo Turkey Open Faced Sandwich

Buffalo Turkey Open Faced Sandwich

It has been two days since Thanksgiving. And after multiple trips to the treadmill, a few jaunts around downtown on foot, and the occasional visit to the bathroom I am starting to feel normal again. 

I know, I know. Eating that double wide slice of cheesecake just hours after the main event wasn't the "most smartest" thing to do. But damn I needed some emotional support as I binge watched my post-apocalyptic teen movies that night. Nothing says "being thankful" than watching a bunch of super pretty young adults try and set a new social standard while fighting off the bad guys in perfectly pressed couture.  

Which brings me to today. The Saturday after Thanksgiving. Normally I would be in the throes of creativity and despair trying to figure out how to use the remaining 10 pounds of turkey, metric ton of mashed potatoes, and the now self aware cranberry Blob like creature living on the top shelf of the ice box. 

But instead I was sent home with a (double wide) slice of cheesecake, a generous slice of Hummingbird Cake (see my post on that here), and about 1 pounds worth of white meat in a Panda Express To Go box. The hostess was able to buy 1000 of these to go boxes for $.50 at the flea market three years ago. That is not an exaggeration. 

And because I never seem to have anything worth shaking a stick at (or a desire to use my car to get to a grocery store) I fell back to the classic game of chance and used only what was in my larder. I suggest you do the same. It's amazing what one can make when pushed to the limits of laziness.  

Please note this is one of those recipes that has no exact amount. Add cautiously and then generously as you see fit. 

Buffalo Turkey Open Faced Sandwich


***Note 1. Texas Pete did not sponsor this. It is just my hot sauce of choice and is always in my swag bag. 

***Note 2. This recipe is not specific and hopefully can be used as inspiration for any of the ingredients left over from Thanksgiving. Don't like Sourdough? Use White or Wheat. Don't like Muenster Cheese? Use a nice sliced Mozzarella or Cheddar. Don't like open faced sandwiches as they openly mock everything that is SANDWICH? Put another slice on top. 

Hummingbird Cake

It's Thanksgiving time again!

Earlier this holiday season I found myself at the crossroads of Do I or Don't I go 'home for the holidays'. On one hand I was mentally waxing nostalgic about past Thanksgivings at home over the river and through the woods. On the other hand I was thinking I do not have it in me to be away from my current home for upwards of 3+ weeks (when factoring in Christmas/Hanukkah/New Years). 

So to ponder my options I put in the holiday classic To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar starring the forever missed Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, and the most drag queen woman of them all Stockard Channing. How could I go wrong watching this epic of a travel/family story? This lead me down the online shame spiral of reading up on my previous Thanksgivings. I was able to pick my favorite. I won't disclose as to keep the infighting down to a minimum among my friends.  

It was around the time that Patrick Swayze's character, Vida Boheme, was kicking the ass of some abusive, drunk, country husband (while in heels and full makeup) I remembered my Thanksgiving Come To Jesus I had a few years back. My Thanksgiving tradition is change of venue! And this year I was again keeping with tradition. 

This afternoon I will be breaking bread with my hairdresser, her home goods haunted house loving mother, her doomsday prepper of a father, and any and all other cast of characters they have invited. 

To try and blend in with the natives I have decided to bring a Hummingbird Cake. Invented in Greensboro, North Carolina sometime last century I have been told it's a Southern classic. Imagine a giant banana bread cake covered in cream cheese frosting. Now that you have mouth orgasmed let's move on. 

Again with traditions...

To recap this Thanksgiving I am thankful for: 

1. The new friends who have embraced my dead heart and invited me into their homes for the holiday. 

2. The family who I know will always have a place for me when I decide to go home for Thanksgiving. 

3. Patrick Swayze and Stockard Channing teaching us that we are all drag queens.

4. And cream cheese. 

Hummingbird Cake


Cream Cheese Frosting


Friend Thanksgiving, Firestarter and THANKSGIVUKKAH: Greatest Holiday Ever

Fab lighting for Drew, all my supplies (including Star of David shaped pasta thanks to SAGL), Martha's stock photo of Matzo Ball Soup, and my pumpkin meringue pie from Friend Thanksgiving

Fab lighting for Drew, all my supplies (including Star of David shaped pasta thanks to SAGL), Martha's stock photo of Matzo Ball Soup, and my pumpkin meringue pie from Friend Thanksgiving

This week I was walking down Minneapolis’s own Champs Elysees, Nicollet Mall, when two I tell you two people stopped and asked why I had not posted on the blog for such a long time. After I assured them they had the wrong person out of pure shame I scurried to my glamorous corner office on the 24th floor overlooking the bubbling Mighty Mississippi. 

Doesn’t my life sound painfully spectacular?

In reality two friends who do read my blog kindly pointed out that I have been absent online as of late. I will confess of general food malaise and a crammed schedule of bunching man panties for work.

However in my defense this Thanksgiving post has been rattling around in my head for a while now. Mostly because it is one holiday that I see very little tradition with regards to me.

It is the eve of Thanks (and my first night of Hanukkah as a Jew) and I am in bed stricken with some demon illness catching up on Netflix. I kindly slept through The Truman Show and plan next to view the classic After School Special: Valley of The Dolls. Pass the pill box sweetie…daddy needs a pick me up.

Back to Thanksgiving and all the emotional stuffing that comes with it. In thinking of my own Thanksgiving pasts I can only recall three really. The first being with my father’s family at my childhood home, passing the relish tray to my right I look up to see my North by Northwest Uncle with two giant green olives shoved up his nose and a Cheshire grin so wide you would think he was Steve Martin with an arrow through his head. After composing ourselves the memory fades.

Others have come and gone. Some with a lingering hurt of heartache (spent in penthouse luxury) and others with the awkwardness of looming infidelity. Not I mind you. But some crazy couple I knew when I hosted in my Vermont pied a terre.

He was sleeping with his professor. Quelle Surprise.

This year I had the pleasure of attending another Friend Thanksgiving. I brought along a "date" who I gladly brought up to speed on the history of Friend Thanksgiving and how I became a part of it. However we were most excited that this years hostess was three days from her due date and I had money riding on a pre pumpkin pie slicing water break. I did not go home a winner.

A few weeks ago I did reach out to The Matriarch, Aunt Sunshine and Just Joni to get the family history of Thanksgiving. They wove romantic tales of chasing Granny’s apron strings while she made homemade stuffing, mincemeat pies and rutabagas.

Aunt Sunshine disclosed her novice mistake of leaving the giblets in her first turkey for her own family.

Just Joni recalled a tale of an ER doc that crashed her mother’s Thanksgiving and had to leave because a local man decided to take on the snow blower with his hand and the snow blower won.

This year brings some extra special Thanksgivingness to the table. As noted above it is also Hanukkah. According to the venerable news source Buzzfeed, “Thanksgivinukkah”, is the greatest meshing of holidays ever. And I am partial to agree.

Not one to force my Jewity on people this is a chance to get a BOGO on holidays. And we all know Jews love a deal. So this Black Friday (Sister is keeping the villagers across the river safe tomorrow from deep fried fires) my family and a few friends are gathering at a classy IKEA table (seriously it really is IKEA and you would never know) to light the lights and pass the cranberry sauce. We will at once be thankful for the oil that allowed the Jews to see for eight long nights and a bunch of pilgrims “sharing” land with Native Americans.

Traditionally I post after the holiday in hopes that you bookmark the page and try the recipes that I try.

This year I am going to post before.

The day before. So you can rush to your local gas station tomorrow morning and try to create what I plan to test out in two days.

Thanksgivinukkah 2013 (it will never happen again in my lifetime):


Lee’s Celery Sticks:

1 part Roca Blue Cheese (find it in the Velveeta section of the store), 1 part crumbled blue cheese, 1 part Philadelphia Cream Cheese, 1 part chopped walnuts. Smear the mixture down the gut of a celery stalk and enjoy!

Turkey Matzo Ball Soup

At the request of my Brother In Law this is just a mild twist on the classic Matzo Ball Soup. Please Google Martha Stewart’s Matzo Ball Soup. I’ve used it once before. She is a God.


I have never stuck to one recipe for the bird. And this year I might go classic and just use an herbed butter rub and baste the shit out of it. Because the jury is still out on basting. This holiday is very young.

Thanksgivinukkah Sides:

Cranberry Latkes – they just sound amazing.

Thank you Bon Appetit for this one.

Again – GOOGLE.

Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing:

Gluten free cornbread, onions, garlic, crumbled bacon (soooo not kosher), celery, parsley, eggs, chicken stock and kosher salt (trying to take away from the bacon).

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pastrami and Pickled Red Onion:

It’s all in the title. Learn to experiment.

Horseradish Chive Mashed Potatoes:

Again you have all made mashed potatoes before. Just add what’s in the title.

Can you tell the drugs have kicked in? I’m about to take a Nyquil Cocktail and prop my pillow up so I don’t choke on my own tongue.

French’s Green Bean Casserole:

This is Sister’s favorite and it has been requested that I just not put it on the table and she will come to the kitchen and help herself so as to make sure it’s all hers.

Chorizo – Almond Stuffing:

Cubed bread, butter, onion, celery, garlic, chorizo sausage, toasted almonds, oregano, lemon zest, parsley, salt and pepper, chicken broth.


Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

If the crust works out it will come with a meringue top. I did a test run on Friend Thanksgiving. If you follow me on the Instangrams (benjaminplante_) you saw what I can do with a hand held torch. Don’t piss me off. I will go Drew Barrymore Firestarter on you.

I kid. Maybe.

Damn cold drugs.

Spiked Coffee:

This is coming from a dark horse attendee. She insisted on bringing Frangelico. Who could say no to booze.

And I will probably make some chocolate chip cookies so I have something for dinner this week.

As my head gets cloudy with OTC meds and Jacqueline Susann suggests the inappropriate on the iMac I should sign off. Tomorrow is a big day for all of you. I plan to stay in bed and do dirty things to Netflix and anticipate this looming death of a cold will be gone later in the day so I can cook.

Happy Thanksgivinukkah! It only happens once so as RuPaul says, “Don’t F*** It UP!”


Thanksgiving, Twin Peaks, and Tradition

for fun - me in the back brace, sally jesse glasses, extra high waisted light wash denim and ALL that hair

for fun - me in the back brace, sally jesse glasses, extra high waisted light wash denim and ALL that hair

Thanksgiving 2012 has come and gone. And while I am sitting on the Davenport adjusting my pants to speed in the digestion of my breakfast pumpkin pie and absorbing Twin Peaks (thank you Netflix - always looking out for me you are!) I got to thinking and we all know that thinking leads to trouble. 

When Thanksgiving comes around I am always in awe by the tales of tradition that get sparked when simply asked, "What are your Thanksgiving plans?". A truly food based holiday, Thanksgiving is an icon of one meal with variations on a food theme. Turkeys everywhere are cooked, brined, grilled, deep fried or served by some poor waiter who drew the short straw. Cranberries are boiled, sauteed, or shaken out of a can. Pumpkin pie is served watery, burned or out of the local bakery box. People go "home", refuse invitations, or make tacos alone at home (this happens, I heard a first hand account). And when the question is turned back on me I have a different answer every year.  

I don't recall much of a traditional Thanksgiving. Christmas has always been celebrated with my mother's family. Thanksgiving was at times with my father's side. It was never at a grandparent's house (those were mysterious apartments in "The Big City"). It was once at a corn field adjacent split level ranch in a Minneapolis suburb. Once or twice in a McMansion on the other side of town where the back brace I was sportin' for my scoliosis knocked out my cousins loose tooth. A few times at my mother's home. And my non family Thanksgiving with my Vermont roommate and her first child, a sarcastic orange cat named Jeter who I am convinced reprogrammed the DVR while I was at work. But nothing that screams tradition like going to my mother's every Christmas for 30 some years. 

So this year when asked, "What are your Thanksgiving plans?" I answered truthfully that I was hosting.

In a home that is not really mine, but graciously shared, and with old and new members of the family. It was a small gathering, only four strong. But I made a 22 pound bird. I needed to guarantee that myself and the roommate would be sick of turkey by the week's end.  The food person in me wanted to scour magazines and websites for new and improved versions of classic Thanksgiving recipes. It was when I heard my boss say she was making store bought boxed stuffing because it would otherwise be missed I realized that my traditional Thanksgiving was in the food. And even though the venue had changed once again, and with it the guests, the one thing that could stay the same was the food. 

I still scoured magazines and blogs, but looked for recipes that were simple and flavorful. Ones that I could write down on one note card and save again for later use. Or simply forget and fake it again next year.  

So I’ve realized that my Thanksgiving tradition is change in venue. Every year it is someplace different with different people. But the food stays the same and I know I will eat it. That will never change. 

Here are some Thanksgivings pasts:  

2012 - Playing Buzzword with my sister, brother-in-law, and mother. If my mother thinks you know the phrase she will just repeat the phrase progressively louder. Kind of like how some people think you need to yell at blind people to get your point across.

2011 - Having my broken heart tended to by friends in the worlds tiniest kitchen in Midtown Manhattan. They popped my French Onion Soup cherry. I taught them how to properly zest a lemon. And the new friend at the table wove HBO like tales about growing up in Brooklyn.

2005 - My first Martha Stewart turkey. Served on T.V. trays in my first apartment with my then roommate and a couple that broke up because he was cheating on her with his college professor. Ahhh...the memories. 

Sometime in college - trekking to The Minnesota Iron Range for a lakeside meal with my father's family. 

Even earlier in life - My Uncle Tom shoving olives up his nose and making me laugh until it hurt.

1979 - My First Thanksgiving. I called my mother to get confirmation on this and her response was as follows..."oh my god you've got to be kidding me! It was at my mother's. I can tell you that it was a houseful. And there was no lack of food and smoke and drink."

I heard on the radio this week that Thanksgiving is a time of thinking "what if?". That we spend time thinking about last year and what would be different if a left had been taken instead of a right. I will never stop wondering about the turn not taken. But now I look forward to my Thanksgiving tradition of change. And wonder with who and where my 2013 Thanksgiving will take place. Please feel free to contact me with invitations. I do cook and warm weather options will move to the top of the list.  

Now to keep true to my food blog. Here is what I served for Thanksgiving this year...

  • Brie with Onion Jam and Cranberry Compote

  • Cream Cheese with Jalapeno Jelly and Crackers

  • "Accidental Turkey" (recipe below - but pretty damn basic)

  • French's Green Bean Casserole

  • Parmesan Smashed Potatoes (just add fresh grated parm and use heavy cream and REAL butter for cripes sake. How often do you really make smashed potatoes to muck it up with skim milk and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter But Kills Me Slowly Because My Body Doesn't Know How To Process Fake Butter In A Yellow Tub? Use the real stuff.)

  • Homemade Cranberry Sauce and White Dinner Rolls Thanks to a meal exchange program with Work Wife. I scored with rolls and sauce and her kids are hopefully binging on my cookies. 

  • Homemade Herbed Stuffing Just a mix of dried multigrain and white rolls I acquired over a period of a few weeks and dried. Mixed with some fresh herbs, olive oil, celery, onions and chicken stock. Topped with more grated parmesan.  

  • Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie We had a gluten free guest drop out at the last minute. I wasn't in the mood to make a new pie crust so I just used the gluten free one I bought at Whole Foods.  Here's a list of Gluten Free Bakehouse Products available at Whole Foods (click HERE not here)

Below are a few recipes that I "used". If I made changes I let you know after the recipe. 

Onion Jam


Makes 1 1/2 Cups

Cranberry Ginger Vanilla Compote


Accidental Turkey


Happy Thanksgiving.  It's now time for Christmas cookies. 

Keeping one more tradition alive...

To recap this Thanksgiving I am thankful for:

1. Just Joni, Sister and Sister's Husband for being cool enough to come to me for Thanksgiving. 

2. SAGL for being cool enough to let me use his house once again for a social function.

3. Sassy Brooklynite Karen for being healthy!

4. My lack of cable keeping me from having to listen to Al Roker provide commentary on a parade that is happening nowhere near my present location.