When you’re a bachelor living in the Gulf, it’s astonishing how quickly your friends become your family.  And no time is this more acutely felt than during the holidays.

I love the holiday season.  LOVE.  In bold caps lock.  I have come to the habit of putting my Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  But to avoid the Doha crush of holiday parties that begins in a few days all the way through Epiphany, I decided to have friends around for Thanksgiving and to gussy up my flat a.k.a. Santa’s grotto for the event.

I can’t cook for a crowd.  But I can certainly bake for one.  550 cookies.  200 cupcakes. 78 guests over nine hours later, and I’d say it was a most exhilarating open house.  The roasted turkey and chickens were gone in hours, but the sweets kept emerging to the very end.  The menu at TANsgiving 2013:



Mexican Wedding Cakes — my all-time favourite holiday treat, the ground pecans melt in your mouth while the icing sugar leaves a trail of happy on your lips and all over your clothes.



Chocolate Peppermint Brownies — well, served in a hand-held cup.  There’s crushed peppermint on top and crushed mint cookies inside.



Cashew Sandies — modified from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe many years ago, I normally make this sandy, crumbly cookie with almonds but tried a new nut this year.  Quite enjoyable indeed.



Open-Faced Mince Pie — a taste of Christmas in your hand.  Less hassle than individual pies but all the satisfaction intact.  I added cranberries to the mince and loved the added tartness.



Pina Colada Cupcakes — banana, pineapple and coconut with an orange cream cheese frosting. That’s four servings of fruit.  Bam.


Strawberry Cheesecake — a no-bake version that takes just minutes to prepare, thanks to gelatine and bagfuls of ready hulled strawberries.



Chocolate Cranberry Bars — admittedly, they looked disastrous but tasted a dream.  One guest even called it the dessert of the evening.  Shocking.



Orange Cranberry Cupcakes — I can’t get enough of these.  Classic Christmas combo, in my books.  Made a raspberry buttercream to mix things up.



Tipsy Trifle — lots of my friends are Brits, and what’s Christmas without a trifle to make you tipsy.  Angel food cake soaked in a triple sec and raspberry coulis with custard, pomegranate and strawberries.  Learned a new method of pouring hot jelly (jell-o) onto the cake pieces.  VERY fascinating effect.  It’s a keeper.



Chocolate Mousse — not the best picture, but a GT signature regardless.  I can’t bear the thought of raw eggs, so made a chocolate custard before adding the meringue.  All 70 mini pots vanished.



Italian Nut Balls — a staple in the family’s holiday cookie basket, these were filled with a fruits of the forest jam.  Finger lickin’ fantastic.



Date Crispies — shredded coconut rolled with dates and rice puffs I got from Nepal.  My friend arranged them to look like a Ferrero Rocher advert… quite the hoot.



California Rangers — as a thank you, I sent everyone home with oatmeal and raisin cookies that my family calls California Rangers for some reason.  Gotta love tradition.

Happy TANsgiving to you and yours!  Hope it was delicious.