October through December is definitely the season of festivity. Parties and celebrations and gift swaps galore! And it seems like everyone has birthdays around this time (nine months before now is Valentine's Day, soooo I guess that makes sense). We even have a couple anniversaries squeezed in for good measure.

nana and papa anniversary setup

Last weekend we kicked off the celebrations with Nana and Papa's 50th wedding anniversary. Fifty years! The whole family gathered from across the nation.

nana and leilani

We all wrote letters to Nana and Papa sharing our favorite memories and lessons learned from them.

cooking carrots with the veggetti

I realized that one of the big things I've learned from this whole family is a love of parties and hosting. They take such joy in the intricacies of it all. I remember Nana pulling a jar of whole vanilla beans from her cupboard one of the first times I visited her home, and we spent the rest of the afternoon concocting creme brulee from scratch.

papa

Papa's no stranger in the kitchen either, showing me the ropes of fish tacos and perfectly-crisped bacon.

party drinks

Now that I think of it, he's also the one who taught me how to pour a respectable drink. Seven and Seven is his cocktail of choice, and I quickly adopted it for myself. The request often gets me funny looks from bartenders, who undoubtedly expect me to demand an Appletini or Lemondrop.

attendees at the party

Everyone at the gathering was SO familiar, which seemed really funny to me. How well do most people know the friends of their grandparents-in-law? These people have offered ongoing fellowship, present at our weddings and baby showers.

family gathering

I've been a part of this family now for nine years, and what strikes me most is how warm and welcoming everyone has been as we gather old and new faces around the buffet table. It's funny how food and friendship can be so intertwined.

veggetti with zucchini

We all agreed not to give Nana and Papa any gifts, but you know I'm a big rebel rule-breaker. I passed along my new favorite kitchen gadget, the Veggetti, to the couple who has everything they could possibly need. I'll admit I found a little delight in contributing some sort of wisdom back to the people who have been such amazing teachers and hosts to me throughout the years.

apple carrot latkes cooking

They know I've been making an ongoing point to eat healthfully and have even tweaked a few family favorites (gasp!) with some pleasant – and occasionally not-so-pleasant – results.

Nate eating apple carrot latkes

Everyone's been really good sports about it, only rarely rolling their eyes when I insist on replacing canola with avocado oil or swapping out their beloved spaghetti in favor of zucchini strings. I always rejoice when my recipes get Nate's stamp of approval, as he's by FAR the pickiest one out of the bunch. Fortunately, the Veggetti has been a BIG win, with my party dishes being a hit over and over again. I concocted a couple new crowd-pleasers last weekend and promised to share the recipes with Nana for her next gathering.

Gluten-free carrot apple latkes

Apple Carrot Latkes

7 large carrots, shredded thin with a Veggetti
1/2 large gala apple, minced
4 Tbsp flour (I used Bob’s gluten-free)
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
Palm shortening

Heat palm shortening over high heat in a large skillet – use enough to heavily coat the bottom of the pan.
Combine remaining ingredients, making sure eggs are thoroughly beat in.
Using an ice cream scooper, scoop out carrot and apple mixture into pan and spread to about 3 inches.
Fry for approximately 2 minutes on each side, until brown and crispy.
Use a slotted spatula to move from skillet to paper towels, let sit briefly before serving.

Gluten-Free Kielbasa Zucchini Pasta

Kielbasa Zucchini Pasta

1 pound baby zucchini, shredded into long noodles with the Veggetti
1 standard kielbasa, chopped
6 green onions, diced
4 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Combine zucchini with kielbasa, green onions, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes and salt.
Heat olive oil in large pan.
Add zucchini kielbasa mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 7 minutes.
Stir in half and half and Parmesan cheese and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Serve hot.

Do you ever shake up your family's traditions with new ingredients or ideas?

The Veggetti product, gift card, information, and additional gift pack have been provided by Ontel.