Our Military Life Blog

What to Bring to Your Thanksgiving Gathering!

Let’s give thanks!

I am so excited for Thanksgiving this year. We always celebrate with our little family with all the trimmings, but this year we are doing it a little different. Our neighborhood is throwing a Friendsgiving celebration of epic proportions.

Our community is filled with military families and most stay local for the holidays. So, we thought it would be great to get together and have a Thanksgiving dinner that no one will ever forget. Everyone has signed up to make something for the dinner and I opted to find some incredible hors d’oeuvres and dessert options.

You know how much I love a good recipe hunt and it was no surprise that I found great options for my friends to try. I let my daughters pick their favorites for the appetizers and we came up with two cheesy and delicious choices.

This first option we were looking for something that is savory and sweet. The garlic and herb cheese spread paired with the cranberries gives these little bites a delicious flavor combo any crowd would love


Cranberry Pecan Cheese Bites

Prep Time: 20 min Total Time: 20 min Makes 7 servings, 4 topped crackers each.


28 TRISCUIT Crackers

1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1/4 cup tightly packed fresh parsley, finely chopped 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

1 pkg. (5.2 oz.) garlic and herb cheese spread



Heat oven to 375°F.

Place crackers in single layer on foil-covered baking sheet.

Combine cranberries, parsley and nuts in shallow dish.

Shape cheese spread into 28 (1-inch) balls, using 1 tsp. cheese spread for each ball. Roll, 1 at a time, in cranberry mixture until cheese balls are evenly coated on all sides. Place on crackers.

Bake 2 to 3 min. or just until cheese balls are softened.



Make Ahead

The cheese balls can be prepared ahead of time. Refrigerate up to 24 hours before placing on crackers and baking as directed.


Nutrition Information Per Serving: 170 calories, 9g total fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 10mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 3g dietary fiber, 5g total sugars includes 2g added sugars, 4g protein

These bite sized cheese balls looked so good, we had to try them before making them for Turkey Day. They are so easy that I let my 7-year-old take charge in creating them and they turned out amazing!

Next, we decided to stick with the cheese appetizer theme but more on the savory side. My middle daughter picked out these cute RITZ Pumpkin Patch Mini Cheese Balls. Again, these were too easy to put together, and my 4-year-old loved helping with rolling the little cheese balls and adding the stem garnish. They were so good in the test kitchen, that they never even made it to the table!


RITZ Pumpkin Patch Mini Cheese Balls

Prep Time: 20 min Total Time: 20 min Makes 8 servings, 3 topped crackers each.


36 RITZ Crackers, divided

1 cup finely shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, divided 4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) Neufchatel cheese, softened

2 Tbsp. light sour cream

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

4 green onions, each cut into 6 (1-1/2-inch) lengths

1/2 cup shredded romaine lettuce



Heat oven to 350°F.

Crush 12 crackers into coarse crumbs; spread onto rimmed baking sheet. Bake 3 to 5 min. or until lightly toasted; cool completely.

Reserve 2 Tbsp. cheddar cheese for later use. Beat remaining cheddar cheese with cream cheese, sour cream and mustard in medium bowl with mixer until blended.

Roll into 24 balls, using about 2 tsp. cheese mixture for each ball.

Combine crushed crackers and reserved cheddar cheese in shallow dish. Roll cheese balls, in small batches, in crumb mixture until cheese balls are completely coated with crumb mixture.

Flatten cheese balls slightly to resemble pumpkins. Insert onion pieces into tops of pumpkins for the stems.

Top remaining crackers with lettuce and cheese balls.




Prepare using your favorite variety of finely shredded cheese, such as Mexican cheese blend.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 160 calories, 11g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 20mg cholesterol, 290mg sodium, 10g carbohydrate, 0g dietary fiber, 2g total sugars includes 1g added sugars, 6g protein

Finally, we found our sweet tooth’s looking for something that would please all the adults and kids at the table this year. We knew we couldn’t have just one dessert and we didn’t want to add to the dozens of pies we were sure everyone would bring. So, we found 2 desserts- one for the kids and one for the adults!

My kids picked out these adorable NILLA “Turkey Lurkeys”. Now, I’m not going to lie, the name alone pretty much sold my kids on these cute little bite sized Turkey-shaped treats. But the fact that they each could have at least one of their own little desserts was even better. I let each of my kids decorate their own turkeys and plan on having a turkey decorating table for the pre-dinner festivities while all the adults are enthralled in all the football games and parades.

NILLA “Turkey Lurkeys”

Prep Time: 20 min Total Time: 1 hr Makes 12 servings, 2 “turkeys” each



1 pkg. (4 oz.) white baking chocolate, melted

48 miniature pretzel twists

24 NILLA Wafers

1 Tbsp. orange sprinkles, nonpareils or sugar

24 candy corn, small gumdrops, cut into pieces as needed or small orange candies

48 mini candy button eyes (about 2 Tbsp.)



Cover baking sheets with parchment. Use about 1/2 tsp. melted chocolate to attach 2 pretzels to back of each wafer; place, pretzel side up, on prepared baking sheet.

Let stand 20 min. or until chocolate is firm.

Dip portion of each pretzel twist extending past top of wafer in remaining white chocolate; tap lightly to let excess chocolate drip back into bowl. Return, wafer side up, to baking sheet. Decorate with sprinkles. Let stand 20 min. or until chocolate is firm.

Decorate wafers with remaining ingredients for turkeys’ faces as shown in photo, securing all pieces to wafers with remaining chocolate.


Make it Your Own

You can decorate these fun treats however you like with ingredients you have on hand. Don’t have miniature pretzel twists for the feathers? Use small pretzel sticks, candy corn pieces, pecan halves or Mini NILLA Wafers. Faces can be made with any small candies or decorating icings. For added fun, let each family member decorate their own turkey.



Substitute melted white candy coating wafers or ready-to-spread frosting for the melted white chocolate. If using frosting, spoon frosting into microwaveable bowl and microwave just until slightly warmed before using as directed.


Serving Suggestion

Place turkeys on tops of frosted cupcakes before serving.


Nutrition Information Per Serving: 150 calories, 4.5g total fat, 2g saturated fat, <5mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate, 0g dietary fiber, 16g total sugars, 1g protein, 2%DV Calcium, 2%DV Iron

And for the adults I wanted to find something that was comforting and would go great with that after dinner cup of coffee or tea. Enter the CHIPS AHOY! Maple-Glazed Apple Pound Cake. This combines so many different flavors that I wasn’t too sure about it at first. But-Oh Mylanta! It seriously is one of the best pound cakes I have ever made. It is moist, and the glazed helps bring all the flavors together.


CHIPS AHOY! Maple-Glazed Apple Pound Cake

Prep Time: 20 min Total Time: 2 hr Makes 12 servings.


12 CHIPS AHOY! Cookies, chopped, divided

1/3 cup chopped pecans, divided

3/4 cup chopped peeled apples (about 1 medium apple)

1 pkg. (16 oz.) pound cake mix

3 Tbsp. maple syrup

2/3 cup powdered sugar



Heat oven to 350°F.

Line 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment; spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle lightly with flour.

Reserve 1/4 cup chopped cookies and 2 Tbsp. nuts for later use. Combine apples with remaining chopped cookies and nuts.

Prepare cake batter as directed on package. Spoon half the batter into prepared pan; cover with layers of apple mixture and remaining batter. Sprinkle with reserved chopped cookies and nuts.

Bake 50 min. to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, covering cake loosely with foil after 20 min. Cool 10 min. Remove cake from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

Heat syrup just until warmed. Mix with powdered sugar until blended. (Glaze will be thick.) Spoon over cake; let stand until firm.



Special Extra

For more flavor, add 1 tsp. ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to the reserved chopped cookie mixture before sprinkling over layered ingredients in pan before baking as directed.



Prepare recipe as directed, using chopped walnuts, chopped fresh pears and/or maple- flavored syrup.


How to Store

Store cooled cake in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days before serving.


Nutrition Information Per Serving: 310 calories, 11g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 40mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 50g carbohydrate, <1g dietary fiber, 31g total sugars includes 31g added sugars, 3g protein

I hope our Thanksgiving trials in the kitchen bring you all some new recipes to try. We had so much fun recreating all these appetizers and desserts and cannot wait to introduce them to our Friendsgiving table. So be sure you head on down to your local Commissary to grab everything you need to make these incredible delicacies plus all your Thanksgiving needs today!

Erica Hemmings