Not Your Mom’s Thanksgiving

Everything about 2020 is different, and the holidays will be no exception. Gatherings will be smaller, you may be spending more time outside, and masks will be the hottest holiday accessory of the year. But we’re determined to keep things festive and fun, and why not take it as an opportunity to start some new Turkey Day traditions while you’re at it? Here are our tips for hosting a non-traditional Thanksgiving.


Maybe this year, you’re celebrating with your roommates, or a few friends or family members in your “bubble.” Keep it low key and stick to an easy Thanksgiving menu, or use this opportunity to try out something totally new:

  • •There’s never been a better year to order takeout from your favorite neighborhood restaurant (hooray for supporting local). Use your fanciest dishes and make sure to leave a good tip!
  • •If you are in the mood to cook, let’s talk turkey – tbh, is it really anyone’s favorite part of the meal? (don’t @ us)…There are plenty of turkey alternatives that can be just as delicious and festive – try chicken, steak, lamb, lasagna, stuffed mushrooms, cauliflower steak, or hey, if you’re in the mood for hamburgers, go for it. Thanksgiving knows no bounds in 2020. 
  • •It’s also a perfect year to test the waters with something totally new (hello, boozy cranberry sauce; trash can turkey or sriracha turkey; fried mashed potato balls; apple pie salsa; everything bagel stuffing). We’re calling it – This is the year of unique Thanksgiving dishes, so let your creativity fly.




We love a big packed cozy dinner table as much as anyone else, but this year has other plans for us, and that’s OK. We’re all about the joy of switching it up, and a non-traditional Thanksgiving calls for a non-traditional setting:

  • •Pack the car and have a Thanksgiving campout. Does it get any cozier than sharing what you’re thankful for around a campfire and under the stars? We don’t think so. Campfire roasted turkey, here we come (or if you’re ok ditching the turkey, this camp kitchen pesto halibut recipe never fails). Keep the rest of the setup easy with our tried-and-true camp hacks
  • •Host a driveway distanced BYO dinner. Supply the drinks and let everyone bring their own picnic. It’s a real win-win when everyone gets to eat exactly what they want.
  • •If you are set on keeping it traditional, the backyard is where it’s at. Twinkly lights and outdoor heating will set the mood, and if you live somewhere extra cold, make sure your dress code calls for warm, casual, comfortable, and soft (might we suggest the Flatlander fleece collection?). And if you’ve never dined in an igloo before, here’s your chance (yep). If it’s snowing and you’re in the mood to take things up a notch, here’s your guide to building one. Whatever route you take, al fresco is the name of the game when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving 2020.




You may not get to spend the holidays this year with your whole usual crew, but this year we’re giving thanks for technology (and our pets).

  • •Host a virtual pre-dinner cocktail hour or set up a computer at the table so you and the family can all enjoy your meals virtually together. For more interaction, plan a virtual scavenger hunt, trivia night, or cookie decorating contest.
  • •Make a collaborative holiday playlist that the whole family can contribute to, near and far.
  • •Take it old school and write good old fashioned letters and cards to those you’re missing this year. Everyone loves snail mail – so send ‘em a note as to why you’re thankful for them and what you’re looking most forward to about being together IRL next year. 



So while Thanksgiving dinner is looking a little different, we’re seeing it as an opportunity to get creative, switch up the dinner menu, and spend a little extra time being thankful, even if it’s from afar. And who knows – maybe some of these alternative Thanksgiving traditions will stick for years to come. Bon appétit!

Winner Winner, Grilled Cheese Dinner

Since the dawn of time (okay, since 2012), we have gathered for our annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown – a gourmand competition where teams throw down their cheesiest masterpieces for a chance to win the coveted Golden Spatula Award. This year marked our 8th annual Smackdown… and the first time we went totally virtual. 

Instead of a panel of esteemed judges sampling each sammie, we gave that task to you – THE PEOPLE! – to vote on the best recipes in our first ever Smackdown-meets-Instagram competition. 

The winner? The Dracula Slayer, made by our newest Toad, SJ and her beau, Tommy. This recipe is equal parts Van Helsing (absurd amounts of garlic) and Martha Stewart (homemade bread baked by Tommy). So we recommend enjoying with a someone who will put up with your garlic breath. 

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THE DRACULA SLAYER  – Makes 2 servings

4 slices rustic bread (we used homemade rosemary bread)

1 head roasted garlic

2 slices aged cheddar

2 slices Havarti

2 slices aged swiss

⅓ stick of butter

a little bit of fresh cracked pepper

optional (but so good) spicy brown mustard

Roast your garlic (chop off the head, drizzle with S&P and olive oil, roast at 400º for 45 mins). With your butter at room temperature, mash your roasted garlic cloves into the butter. Heat a griddle (or grill pan) to medium. Slather the outside of your bread in your garlic butter, spread a healthy dose of mustard on the inside, and stack up the cheese! Add a few turns of cracked pepper to the inside (very important), and close ‘er up. Grill each side until golden brown and crispy.

Tip: Cover your sandwich to up the steam effect while cooking each side. And E N J O Y with a tasty beverage. Serve with a Bloody Mary if you need more garlic. 

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Hibiscus Gin Spritz

Anyone else feel like we’re in a month full of Sundays? Well you know what they say: when life hands you Sundays, make brunch. Start with this Hibiscus Gin Spritz. It’s refreshing, citrusy, sweet, and has a healthy dose of DIY (because you’ve got the time). Toss on some Garden Party tunes and step into the sunshine. 

*Bonus: Make extra and and deliver to a friend’s doorstep. Nothing says “we’re in this together” like a cocktail delivery. 


Hibiscus Simple Syrup: 

  • 2 cups cane sugar 
  • 1 cup dried hibiscus leaves (get at certain grocery stores or online) 
  • 2 cups water 


Combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in hibiscus leaves and bring to a simmer. Keep stirring until you get a syrupy consistency that coats the spoon. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain hibiscus leaves and store syrup in a jar the fridge. Syrup will last for a week+ in the fridge and can be used in iced teas, over ice cream, in other cocktails, or anything else that calls for a sweet pick-me-up. 

Hibiscus Gin Spritz – makes 1: 

  • 1oz (standard shot glass) hibiscus simple syrup 
  • 2oz gin (full disclosure: we ran out of gin, so tequila works too!) 
  • 1oz lemon juice (typically the juice of 1/2 lemon) 
  • Tonic water 
  • Lemon slices 
  • Ice 


Fill a glass with ice (12oz glass or bigger is best). Add gin, lemon juice and hibiscus syrup. Give it a quick mix with a spoon. Top it off with tonic water and a few slices of lemon. Top with a flower from your garden if you’re feeling fancy. 


7th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

Melted, gooey cheese. Golden toasty bread. Maybe some roasted jalapeño, a healthy heap of pork belly, a fig jam spread, perfectly crisped bacon. Yes, we’re talking about the grilled cheese sandwich and yes, the possibilities are endless.

There’s no better place to show off the versatility of this practically-perfect-in-every-way sandwich than at our annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown – a battle among Toads, family, friends, and community members for the coveted Golden Spatula Award.


This year at our seventh annual, competition was tougher than ever. Here’s how it works: Everyone gathers in the Toad office backyard to watch our competing teams duke it out by whipping up their tastiest recipes. First sandwich off the grill goes to the judging table and the rest go to the salivating crowd (there’s a Peoples’ Choice Award too, so feeding the audience is equally as important!). If you can’t wait for the chefs’ creations, you can tide yourself over at the Make-Your-Own-GC station. And because nothing pairs with a grilled cheese like tomato soup and a cold one (or two, or three), we’re lucky that longtime partners Organic Soup Kitchen always show up with the soup and local fave Topa Topa was there to keep the beer flowing.


This year’s lineup consisted of 4 Toad teams, plus teams from our friends at Alpha Resource Center, Luno Life, Los Padres Forest Watch, Ontraport, Topa Topa, The Sandbox, SB Fire Department, and UCSB Bren School. A few masterpieces included “You Are Bacon Me Crazy,” “The Hogfather,” and “The Cubano.” Mouth watering yet? Us too.

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leadership cropped

Grill Nude


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When the sun sets, and panini presses are turned off, there can only be one Golden Spatula winner (OK, and a few runners up because we love to spread the celebrations). Congrats to the following teams!

All That Jazz: UCSB Bren School, Kimcheeze for Sheezy

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Best Solo Act: Toad’s Ian, The Big Cheesy

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Most Balanced: Los Padres Forest Watch, Gourmet Girls on Fire Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Peoples’ Choice: Alpha Resource Center, Pesto So Gouda

Pesto so gouda

Golden Spatula (Best Overall): Toad’s Guin and Helena, Frankenfromage 


AND we asked realllyyy nicely and got Guin and Helena to share their mouthwatering secret recipe with us. Get your aprons ready (and fair warning, this is some seriously gourmet stuff)!

What you’ll need:

  • -Equal parts Gouda and Gruyere
  • -Parmesan
  • -5 sweet white onions (we used Vidalia)
  • -Beef stock
  • -Sherry
  • -White wine (mostly for the cooks)
  • -Kerrygold butter (It’s the fancy-pants kind and so worth it)
  • -Milk
  • -Half and half (or cream)
  • -Flour
  • -Bay leaf
  • -Fresh thyme
  • -Fresh flat leaf parsley
  • -French bread


Chop, and then caramelize the heck outta the onions in a pot. Simmer 2 hours, de-glaze with 1/2 cup sherry and 1/2 cup white wine (the rest is for drinking, remember?). Cook down for 2 minutes, add a splash of beef stock, and a few thyme springs. Remove 2/3 of cooked onions (should be super brown for maximum tastiness), add to blender, and blend into a puree. Set aside.

Pour remaining beef stock into onion pot, add bay leaf, leave to reduce and simmer for a good long while. Salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile –

Grate all that cheese. Make a roux out of 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 cup flour, slowly add milk and half and half, (3 parts milk x 1 part half and half) until your reach nappe consistency. Teamwork really helps here—one whisking furiously while the other adds ingredients. Next, a handful at a time, add grated cheese until incorporated. Keep whisking until creamy and salt to taste. Add onion puree to cheese mixture. Once combined, pour mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment. Allow to cool then toss in the refrigerator until solidified (most likely overnight).

Next, chop parsley. Slice bread (we like the slices thick), butter the outside like there’s no tomorrow, crust outside of bread with parmesan, cook parm-side down on in a buttered pan using low heat. Remove chilled cheese loaf from fridge, slice 1/2 inch thick, place on top of bread, and sprinkle with parsley. Top with a second slice of parm-crusted bread and wait until it gets super golden brown and tasty tasty looking on both sides. Don’t flip it too early. Here’s how you’ll know it’s done: It should be a rich brown color, and if you tap the bread and it makes a low hollow noise, you’re good to go.

Remember the beef stock we set aside? Pour into cute little bowls and use as au jus for your cheese masterpiece!

And while we’ve got you in that grilled cheese spirit, we asked two of our esteemed Toad judges for their favorite full belly-approved Toad items to wear while chowing down on the good stuff.

Danny and Neil

“I’m a big fan of the Mission Ridge Lean Pant. They’re so comfortable you’ll think you’re eating your grilled cheese at home on the couch. And if I’m grilled cheesing it up in the summertime, I’m all about the Lounge-Out Cord Short—because classics like cords and a tasty grilled cheese were meant for each other. And also, stretchy draw-cord waist. Enough said.” – Danny, Sr. Sales Ops

“Nothing screams summertime grilled cheeses like some 4-way stretch shorts, so the Cetacean Block Board Short is my go-to. I like to keep it classy on top with the Mattock II Short Sleeve Shirt, which also looks surprisingly good with a napkin bib.” -Neil, Sr. Ops Manager

Apple Cider Donuts

Makes: A dozen
Time: 35 mins
Listen to: Rock the Holidays Playlist
Recipe from: Daisy, Copy Editor & Donut Enthusiast

Every year on Christmas morning we spike our coffee, settle into our respective couch/chair/floor positions, and dig into heaps of homemade Apple Cider Donuts. It’s a tradition that goes back to my Pennsylvania roots – where my grandmother proudly made her OWN apple cider in the fall and these donuts were her way of reminding us of the feat well into winter. We’ve since relocated to Southern California and substituted grandma’s homemade apple cider for the local farmer’s, but the tradition – and sugar rush – are still going strong.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup apple cider, organic or local is best


Pre-heat the oven to 350° and lightly grease two 6-doughnut pans (or a 12-cup muffin tin). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or a bowl with some serious elbow grease), cream 10 tablespoons butter (or 1¼ sticks), brown sugar and ¼ cup granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy ( about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time mixing until well after each egg, scrape the bowl as necessary. Beat in vanilla extract. Switch to low speed and add the flour mixture. Keep the mixer running and add the apple cider in a slow, steady stream. Scrape the bowl to make sure all the batter is mixed thoroughly – no weird bumps!

Spoon (or pipe) the batter into doughnut pans, filling them about 2/3 of the way full. For Donuts: Bake 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until evenly golden brown. For Muffins: Bake 15-20 minutes, rotating halfway through ,until evenly golden brown. (For both, do the toothpick test: insert pick into the center to see if it comes out clean. If not, cook for a few more minutes).

While the doughnuts bake, whisk together the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Let the doughnuts cool for 5 minutes after baking, then pop them out of the pan, brush with melted butter, and dunk in cinnamon sugar – all while they’re still warm.

Serve immediately with spiked coffee and holiday tunes.


Need PJs? We got you covered for dudes and dudettes.

Camp Kitchen: Pesto Halibut

Words by Kaleigh Wood; photos by Gretchen Powers of Powers Provisions and Johnie Gall of Dirtbag Darling

Aluminum pouches are your best friend when it comes to a camp kitchen. You can prep, season and seal everything before heading out (or bring foil and make your pouches onsite). I grew up hunting and fishing in the Lower 48 and have really enjoyed harvesting my own food in Kodiak, AK this year. (And a major perk of living in Kodiak is receiving wild fish and game from friends.) When transfer season rolls around in the Coast Guard, everyone gifts you the leftover food when they clean out their freezers. With lots of halibut in our freezer and friends coming to visit, our recent camp menu was a no brainer.

The morning we left to go camping, I threw the frozen fish and a jar of pesto in the cooler. I prepped the veggies, hit them with a healthy dose of EVOO, salt and pepper, and sealed them in an aluminum pouch. I grabbed a couple bags of instant rice for an easy starch to round it out. You know, just for the hal-i-but.


Pesto Halibut with Veggies 

2 Large Halibut Filets
4 TBSP Basil Pesto (make it from scratch if you’ve got fresh herbs)
3 Carrots, 1 Red Bell Pepper,1 Zucchini, 2 Shallots – julienned
2 Bags of Boil in Bag Rice
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO, affectionately)
Fresh Basil

Get your grill going then crack a beer or make a whiskey as your charcoal gets going. Take halibut, pat dry, season with salt and pepper, then lay flat on foil that has a touch of EVOO so your fish doesn’t stick. Top fish with a healthy dollop of pesto and seal in a foil pouch. Bring water to a slow boil and add rice bags to jet boil or pot of water. Once grill is ready, place your veggie pouch and fish pouch and let the steam do the work. Take a peek in 10 mins or try a sample to ensure everything is cooked. Plate it up: scoop of rice, scoop of veggies, piece of halibut, topped with fresh basil on top. YUM.



Easy Oysters Rockefeller

Despite what you’ve heard, oysters are always in season. As long as you’re slurping oysters that come from healthy waters (like the ones from Tomales Bay), and they’ve been properly refrigerated, you can shuck from New Year to New Year. Hone your chops with this Oysters Rockefeller recipe from the Tomales Bay Oyster Company.

Oyster Rockefeller Recipe
24 Pacific Oysters, shucked
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp each of celery, parsley, green onions diced
2 tablespoons anise liqueur (optional)
cayenne, salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat, add garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Mix half of the garlic butter into breadcrumbs. Add spinach, green onion and celery to the pan, cook until the spinach wilts. Add anise liqueur, deglaze the pan and allow most of the liquid to evaporate and remove from heat before seasoning with cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Mix parsley and parmesan into the breadcrumbs. Place heaping teaspoon of the mixture on each oyster then breadcrumbs. Bake at 450°F until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Serve with cold beer and crusty bread. Cheers, mate. 

Save Water, Drink Tequila


Drought conditions are no joke (trust us, we’re headquartered in Southern California). We’ve become experts in reducing water consumption and one of the best ways is by offsetting the difference with tequila. You don’t even have to run the tap to whip up the Cucumber Margarita: a slow sipping, cucumber breeze that elevates your senses and carries you away to warmer places and friendly faces. Just don’t forget to hydrate (with real H2O, not tequila, please).

Sweet Chili Rim Salt

1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp coarse kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Swirl together on a plate until completely mixed. Easy peasy.

Cucumber Margarita

4 oz tequila
2 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp agave
1 cucumber, sliced thick
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

In a blender, add tequila, lime juice, agave, orange juice, and cucumber – pulse for 1 minute. Strain liquid into a cocktail shaker, add jalapeno slices, muddle. Shake with ice enthusiastically, then strain into serving glasses rimmed with sweet chili salt and filled with ice. Top with slices of cucumber or jalapeno to kick it up a notch. Olé!

Day 20 Advent: Crowd Pleasin’ Pie Recipes


Sure, cherry pies get all the glory at summer BBQs, but the undisputed Pie Season is winter. (In fact, we’re part of a formal petition to officially change the name of Winter to “Pie Season”, but that’s neither here nor there.) We love Pie Season because there’s no limit to what you can do – savory, sweet, 24 blackbirds, maybe it doesn’t even have a pie crust at all! The choice is yours. For Day 20 of our 25 Days of Toad Advent Calendar, here are just a few of our favorite recipes for Pie Season.


From Bon Appetit, Gentl & Hyers
From Bon Appetit, Gentl & Hyers

Cock-a-Leekie Pie

Think of this as Thanksgiving dinner in pie form. Bacon, leeks, chicken, thyme, prune and butter. Lots and lots of butter. Aren’t you hungry just thinking about it? Get the recipe here.

Frito Pie

Some people will tell you that a Frito Pie isn’t a real pie. Well those people are missing out on one of the BEST pies around. Just image you’re eating a pie straight from a pie tin and then it all makes sense. Crack open a pack of Frito lays, then dump in cheddar cheese, homemade chili, more cheese and serve. What it lacks in formalities in makes up for in pure tailgate bliss. Your inner 10 year old will thank you.

Cornbread and Beef Skillet Pie

Again, traditionalists will balk at the skillet pie, but true aficionados will embrace the inverted pie. With the meat and potatoes (literally) baked on the bottom, the cornbread “crust” bakes on the top, soaking in all the delicious flavors. The best part about this recipe? Fry up an egg and serve some breakfast pie in the morning.

Lobster Shepherd Pies

Since we’ve got roots in Freeport, ME, we’d be remiss if we skipped out on the Lobster Shepard Pies. Just ask Ponch, our flagship store manager for the last 15 years, there’s nothing better than potatoey, buttery lobster. Who needs pie crust when you have this?

Wild Mushroom Pie

Equal parts mushroom and more mushroom, this pie brings it home with a parmesan crust. Yes, a cheesy, perfect, flaky joyous parm crust. This recipe also features a handy guide for egg washes. Wanna make your pie shiny with soft crust? Brush with an egg and milk. Want more of a deep color? Just milk. Check it out here.

Mile High Apple Pie 

And for the true pie purists, go big or go home. This recipe for apple pie puts all other apple pies to shame. Ok, maybe not shame, but when this pie intimidates even the eagerest of pie eaters (that would be our marketing manager, Steve), you can bet that it’s doing something right. Featuring 6 pounds of apples and as much butter as you can stomach, the Mile High Apple Pie is a real crowd pleaser.

The Mariposa Margarita


Butterflies are to caterpillars what tequila is to agave plants: a magical transformation resulting in pure delight! In honor of National Tequila Day on July 24, we’re whipping up the Mariposa Margarita. Modified from our friend’s at Lily the Wandering Gypsy, the Mariposa Margarita (mariposa means butterfly in Spanish) is equal parts sweet, tart and pure delight. ¡Salud!

The Mariposa Margarita 

1 part grapefruit juice (fresh squeezed is best)
1 part club soda
1 oz. tequila (we like Hornitos blanco)
1 tsp. organic agave nectar
Organic cane sugar for rim

To sugar the rim, rub the rim with a slice of grapefruit and dip the glass in a plate of sugar. The sugar complements the tart perfectly.

Fill your glass half full with ice. Now order is important: Pour in the grapefruit juice, tequila, agave nectar and top off with club soda. Garnish with a wedge of grapefruit and viva la fiesta!