Sara Pauff: Keep it simple this Thanksgiving

November 6, 2011 

I like trying new recipes and I’ve got lots of options this time of year. Thanksgiving’s just around the corner and cooking blogs are filling up with delicious-sounding fall recipes. Pan-Roasted Green Beans. Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup. Butternut Squash Risotto.

I may try out some new dishes on my own, but I won’t make any of them for my parents’ Thanksgiving dinner this year.

I’m not being stingy. I’ve contributed food to the meal in the past.

When I was in high school and college, I always made the crescent rolls. My parents usually eat healthy multi-grain bread, but on Thanksgiving they serve these rolls with dinner. I often volunteered to make them because they were nearly impossible to screw up. All you have to do is make sure they don’t burn on the bottom. I have crescent roll baking down to a science. No matter what the Pillsbury Dough Boy tells you, put them in the oven for eight minutes. That’s it. Any longer and the flaky, buttery goodness you’ve been looking forward to all year is charred and ruined. At my parents’ Thanksgiving, I am the crescent roll queen.

Once I got my own place and started cooking for myself on a regular basis, I decided I could contribute something to the meal a little more complicated than bread dough in a can.

Last year, I brought a roasted root vegetable medley that included butternut squash and rutabagas. Turns out, my mom isn’t a big fan of rutabagas.

The year before that I made a garlicky potato dish that had a little too much garlic. And another year I brought stuffed zucchini, which my mom deemed too filling for Thanksgiving dinner. She sent most of the leftovers home with me.

This year, she said I could bring the wine.

I don’t think I’m a horrible cook. I make meals for myself several times a week and most of them turn out fine. I’ve baked cookies, made homemade pizza and cooked spaghetti sauce for my family before with no complaints. Growing up, I often helped my mom out in the kitchen and now I help prepare other dishes on Thanksgiving, chopping celery for stuffing, mixing the cranberry salad and peeling sweet potatoes.

But Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is about tradition. There’s no decorating, no shopping, no rush. That comes later. For now, you want family and comforting, familiar food. You want a crescent roll, not seven-grain rosemary focaccia bread.

My mom’s traditional menu -- even for a vegetarian, who doesn’t eat turkey and gravy -- is simply delicious all by itself. Sweet potato souffle. Green beans. Mashed potatoes. Two kinds of pie and sometimes, a pumpkin roll. That’s it. You don’t need any new and exciting additions to the table.

So this year, I will make the crescent rolls and bring the wine. I won’t even complain if I have to take home the leftovers.

--Contact Sara Pauff at 706-320-4469 or For more commentary, read her 20-something blog at

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