Can you believe it? Just two weeks from today is Thanksgiving. That’s what I get for blinking. I just started to make up my mental menu plan for dinner here that day. And though I am a traditionalist so often when it comes to my favorite things to eat and drink, I’m planning to stray from the centerpiece roasted turkey this year. Not because I don’t love turkey (well, “love” would be a stretch in anyone’s book, probably, but tradition is tradition!). It’s more because earlier this year I cooked up 6 or 8 whole turkeys in the course of a week or two, as Nancy Leson mentioned in her column this week. I had been asked by Cooking Light to come up with the whole turkey recipes for this month’s holiday issue (plus some other options as well, including braised lamb shanks and polenta with sauteed mushrooms). It was an honor, and a challenge! But I had fun. I think my favorite twist on the classic was rubbing the bird with smoked paprika to contribute a lovely mahogany color and that touch of smokiness that hints of a grilled turkey.

So, no turkey at my house this year, it’s going to be Cornish game hens. We’re a small troupe, so a big bird is always overkill anyway. Smaller birds are easier to manage, store, brine and grill. Yep, I’m counting on grilling; the garage is a perfect backup plan if it’s pouring. From there, it’s all classics: mashed potatoes, green beans (probably tossed with toasted hazelnuts), stuffing and my mom’s cranberry-orange relish (honestly, the recipe on the bag, the two ground together with some sugar, simple as that!).

For dessert? It’s my birthday. I’ll be eating cake! But I’m sure I’ll throw together a pumpkin pie, too, for good measure.