Did you take my suggestion from last week’s Talking SCHOP! to practice thankfulness during this holiday season, being in the moment, calmly achieving a state of awareness and being grateful for togetherness? Not an easy task, but I am happy to report I practiced what I preached and the result was one of the better Thanksgivings I have had in years.

My holiday began on the weekend before Thanksgiving when I visited my cousin, Quinn, in her new home in Virginia for Friendsgiving. She along with her boyfriend, Bob, hosted a small coterie of friends Sunday for football and a collectively planned and prepared dinner.

Like for any large meal, we began the day early with a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast to fortify ourselves for the day of prepping and cooking to come. Soon afterward, I began preparing my two dishes—leek cauliflower mashed “potatoes” (recipe in AmNewsFOOD, 11.17.16), herb-marinated, pistachio breadcrumb-crusted petite racks of lamb and blood orange rosemary cranberry sauce.

Not to be outdone in their own home, Bob made a few Cornish game hens sing and Quinn schooled me on her addictive Brussels sprouts (awaiting the recipe) and reproduced our obsession with the warm anchovy crudités dip, bagna cauda we love from NYC’s Basta Pasta (see recipe), and a dynamic cheeseboard featuring a local Virginia cow’s milk cheese and truffle honey

for hors d’oeuvres.

Bagna Cauda (warm anchovy dip)

2 cups heavy cream

6 to 8 cloves garlic

1/4 cup butter

10 finely chopped flat anchovy filets packed in olive oil, drained

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, bring cream and garlic cloves just to a boil. Quickly lower heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until the cream has thickened and reduced by half, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

In another saucepan, melt butter. Add anchovies and cayenne pepper and mash with a fork. Cook until the anchovies dissolve into a paste, about 5 minutes.

Combine the reduced cream and anchovy mixtures into a blender and purée until the mixture is very smooth. Enjoy with gently steamed and chilled vegetables of your choice and crusty bread.

Together with yams, mac and cheese, mustard and turnip greens, hot rolls and apple pies a la mode produced by their guests, Quinn and Bob’s first Friendsgiving in their new home was the perfect beginning and set my holiday on the right course for the days to come. I say, stay thankful my friends!

Happy eating and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback?  Invitations!  Email her at kysha@SCHOPnyc.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com. Follow AmNewsFOOD