On her Cooking Channel show, Dinner at Tiffani’s, the actress frequently hosts star-studded dinner parties with her former castmates (SBTB‘s Elizabeth Berkley and Mario Lopez and 90210‘s Jason Priestly all made appearances in the first season).
But what about an appearance by her most notable ’90s on-screen love interest Mark-Paul Gosselaar? “You might possibly see that,” Thiessen tells PEOPLE of the show’s upcoming second season.
As for her transition from actress to food personality, she says it’s been a smooth ride. “It’s much more relaxed; it’s much more real,” she says. “I’ve been in front of a camera since I was a teenager so it was actually pretty natural for me.”
And for Thiessen, the show’s success in a saturated market of cooking shows comes from that natural vibe. “It’s not a typical cooking show in that you’re able to see these celebrities in a very organic fashion. You’re sitting literally at a table feeding your face — you can’t get more natural than that!”
Here, the actress — and spokesperson for Hefty slider bags — gives us two of her favorite Thanksgiving recipes: a squash soup with toasted hazelnuts, and a festive sangria (made with orange juice ice cubes so it doesn’t get watered down).
Thiessen, a mother of two, says you can adjust the sangria to make it kid-friendly. “You can make it without the wine and liquor of course for kids. Harper loves when I make those ice cubes ahead of time, because then she can just put it in her water and pretend that she’s just as fancy as the rest of us.”
Roasted Winter Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
2 carrots, chopped
½ onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
½ cup heavy cream
3 tbsp. hazelnut oil
⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
2. Cut your squash in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out. Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with 1 tbsp. hazelnut oil. Place in oven and roast for about 1 hour or until fork tender. Once cooled, with a spoon scoop out the flesh of the squash and discard the skin.
3. In a pot on medium heat add your remaining hazelnut oil, onions, carrots, nutmeg, salt and pepper and sauté for about 8-10 minutes until the onions are tender. Next, add the roasted squash and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Then add your vegetable stock and carrots and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the carrots are fork tender.
4. Using a blender or food processor, puree mixture until completely smooth. Then return the mixture to the pot on medium heat and add the heavy cream. Cook until hot but not boiling. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
5. Completely cool and store in a gallon-size freezer slider bag for a great make ahead dish. Can be stored in refrigerator or freezer. Then reheat over stovetop and serve hot. Garnish with toasted hazelnuts and a dash of ground nutmeg.
Holiday Sangria with Fruit Ice Cubes
1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
1 cup orange juice
½ cup orange liquor
¼ cup simple sugar
1 Honeycrisp apple, diced
1 lemon, cut into small wedges
1 lime, cut into small wedges
½ orange, cut into pinwheels
1 cinnamon stick
1. Make batches of festive ice cubes ahead of time by filling ice cube trays with small cut up pieces of limes, lemons and apples. Instead of water, pour orange juice over the fruit and freeze. Store ice cubes in a freezer bag.
2. Combine the rest of your ingredients in a tall pitcher and mix. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Pour sangria over the festive fruit ice cubes in individual glasses and enjoy. Cheers!
—Shay Spence, @chezspence