I hope everyone had a marvelous Thanksgiving! Several of you wrote me and told me you brined a turkey for the first time...congrats!! That's really exciting. I ended up brining my turkey again this year (thankfully without any of the disasters of last year) and it was so deliciously moist and flavorful. I am officially a brining convert.

(By the way, this post is about chili, I promise–but we have to relive Thanksgiving first! Bear with me...)

The yellow table was packed to capacity (it fits 12, barely) again this year, and we had a ball. Somehow we only have 11 plates, 11 glasses, etc. so we had to sort of improvise with the twelfth setting. We also only have six matching chairs, so the rest were sort of a hodge-podge of spare folding chairs, drum stools, and anything else that resembles a seat. But despite our lack of sophistication, I'm still glowing a bit. I'm weird like that...every time I throw a dinner party–despite hours of prep and piles of dishes–I'm walking on clouds for days. I just love cooking for friends, and nothing gives me more joy than seeing the faces of good friends eating and laughing around the table.

I kept it low-key this year, just making the turkey and a few sides (butternut squash with red onions, spinach, and dried cranberries, farro with wild mushrooms, and roasted Brussels sprouts with lemon and Parmesan) and leaving everything else for friends to bring. That made my life easier AND it allowed for the culinary talent of our friends to shine through. We had fantastic cranberry lemon thyme cocktails to start (thank you Seth) and a lovely hors d'oeuvres spread of big green olives and carmelized nuts (thanks Kristen), Tuscan white bean tapenade with crudites and a slew of cheeses (thanks Vicki & Gabe), and amazing spinach cheese balls (thanks Katie!). Along with dinner, we had a beautiful loaf of zucchini corn bread (thanks Rachel & Tiago), plus cranberry sauce and mashed sweet potatoes (thanks to Vicki's mom!). And for dessert: pumpkin pie and gelato (thanks Esther & Chidi) and the most gorgeous apple cranberry pie I've ever seen (thanks Rachel!). And a few pumpkin spice macarons from BisousCiao (I couldn't resist).

In the midst of much laughter and story-telling, we did take time to go around and share what we were thankful for, which was considerable. It was great to take time to reflect on the past year and realize just how blessed we are. I feel so grateful to have such a wonderful NYC "family" with whom to celebrate life, around the table.

OK, OK enough about Thanksgiving...now for the promised chili recipe. After several meals of leftovers, I decided it was time to use up the rest of the turkey in a big pot of three-bean chili. I sort of made up the recipe as I went, and I loved the end result. The San Marzano tomatoes make all the difference–they provide the vibrant red color and intense sun-ripened tomato flavor. I personally don't like a fiery hot chili, but if you want more heat you can add in some cayenne or some more chili powder if you want. The recipe below (minus the optional cayenne) is just fine for me, heat-wise. I love this chili, not only because it's the perfect way to use up your leftover turkey and feed a crowd, but because it's so versatile! If you don't have roast turkey lying around (say in January), you can substitute roast chicken or use ground turkey, or you can just eliminate the turkey all together for a delicious vegan three-bean chili. It's also super-quick to make (less than 30 minutes), inexpensive, high in protein and fiber, and low in fat. Not bad!

I highly recommend making a big pot of this and watching an old-school Christmas movie. We watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and laughed hysterically. A perfect ending to a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.