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The holiday season is a time for families to relax together. We reflect and cherish all that we have to be thankful for and remember those whom we’ve lost. Unfortunately in the busy world in which we live it isn’t always possible to spend holidays with those you love. My advice is simple, make family out of those you love! People who truly love you don’t care if your house is decorated or if you bought them a gift. They value your friendship as the most precious gift in the world. A family is a kaleidoscope of people who touch your life and bring color to the world. Whether you live hundreds of miles away from your family or don’t have anyone close, making family of friends, neighbors and co-workers is a gift to yourself.

Thanksgiving 2016

My best friend of 30+ years and I recently celebrated our second Thanksgiving together this year. I was lucky enough to meet Melissa on our first day of college. We became roommates that very first year and she is the sister I always wanted! We have so many memories that make me laugh, like our first time baking Valentine’s Day cookies together. It’s probably not a surprise that they were made using her family recipe. We even got married the same year and have stood by each other through thick and thin. Over the course of our friendship, we started looking like family so much so that people often ask if we are sisters. I always reply with an enthusiastic, “YES!” While Melissa and her husband, Scott, now live across the country, they are the most wonderful god parents to our boys. I hope my kids are learning how to create their own extended family in those around them, because I know they realize just how lucky we all are to have such a wonderful, crazy assortment in ours.

Melissa and Kim in Willamette 1984, visiting Santa in 1987, both got married in 1989.

Thanksgiving 2016 found us melding our family recipes together into an unforgettable meal. Mel and I always enjoy cooking with each other and can coexist peacefully in a kitchen despite our decidedly strong individual personalities. I love that she is always so brave and willing to experiment. Ever the perfectionist, she pulled out all the stops using her grandmother’s antique egg dish to display her beet-dyed jalapeno deviled eggs. She found Dungeness crab so that I could make crab dip. This year Melissa made two different brined turkey recipes, plus a literal mountain of her grandma’s stuffing. I made our holiday favorite of cracked wheat rolls but we used her corn pudding recipe which was equally delicious to my own. Did I mention that there were only the six of us? Melissa agreed when I said we didn’t need a green salad, because who really eats it anyway, but then proceeded to make both an amazing Brussel sprout salad and grilled baby asparagus. She made not one, but two cranberry dishes - a slow cooker version loaded with bourbon (click to get the recipe, it will also be amazing for Christmas!) and a family favorite of cranberry Jell-O salad using the original recipe printed from a 1970’s magazine advertisement. I helped to keep the animals out of the kitchen and made the requisite pumpkin pie to accompany her chocolate mousse pie. Again, only six people for dinner. It was perfect! So perfect that we did a turkey tailgate party that weekend cheering on our favorite team.

Thanksgiving spread and weekend tailgating.

Cooking family recipes to share allows me to remember someone special in a big food hug I give myself every holiday. Two recent articles spoke to my food side, one in Bon Appetit espoused that a big red wine was the wine equivalent of comfort food. It mentioned pairing mac & cheese with Syrah. Certainly a homemade dish of mac & cheese and a bottle of Syrah (or Petite Sirah) would make me very happy. And this article about the connection between baking being linked to emotional well being on is totally true for me - baking DOES make me feel better! I mean, who doesn’t love a plate of cookies? You could start a tradition in your office or neighborhood where everyone makes one kind of cookie (3-4 dozen) and you share to get all your holiday baking done in one step!

Mel's amazing cookie recipe - bake and decorate!

Melissa worked hard to create the perfect holiday meal, but we would have all been equally happy sneaking Rice Krispie treats sitting on the floor and laughing had it turned out any differently. That’s what best friends are for, celebrating the best, making you laugh even when it’s not funny and giving you a hug when you’re down. Be someone’s best friend, even if it’s a new friend, and DO GOOD this holiday season!
- Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls

Making new friends at Disneyland in 2016.