November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep Under Way!

We have finalized the menu for Thanksgiving, folks!

There is actually less creative license here than I’m leading you to believe. Don’t be fooled. People like what they like for Thanksgiving. And my people are no different. So, by the time we make sure we’ve included everyone’s must-have, there’s not a whole lot left to experiment with. This is hard for a girl with a gagillion cookbooks and food magazines. Sigh.

My brother has to have creamed spinach.

My dad needs to have regular mashed potatoes.

I refuse to swap out our cranberry sauce for any alternate recipe.

Stuffing is pretty sacred, and my mom’s is pretty rockstar. So when I want to experiment, I make a second version. Because you just can't risk having sub-par stuffing for Thanskgiving. 

Pumpkin pie. Maybe another one of my must-haves.

I’m wondering what my mom’s must-have is as I type this. I think she’d say gravy. But she’s generally more open-minded and flexible than the rest of us.

For Zach, it’s chocolate pie. Weird.

So, we’re having most of the regulars this year with a couple of new additions. To be safe, most of these are being added vs swapped. Phew.

Ina’s Perfect Roast Turkey & Gravy (my dad is always in charge of the turkey)
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese & Pecans—NEW for 2011, being swapped for the usual Sweet Potatoes with Glazed Apples
Cornbread Stuffing
Italian Sausage & Bread Stuffing—NEW for 2011
Creamed Spinach
Corn Pudding
Cranberry Pear Relish
Herb and Cheese Poppers—NEW for 2011
Cranberry Nut Bread
Pumpkin Pie
Great Grandma Vermeer’s Apple Pie (this is a recipe from my best friend’s family)
Upside Down Cranberry Cake—NEW for 2011
Chocolate Pie (b/c Zach insists this is Thanksgiving-ish)
Pecan Pie (that John-Paul always makes at a pie-making pre-Thanksgiving party)

Despite the fact that it's not largely comprised of new and creative recipes from the pages of Bon Appetit or the like, it still sounds delicious.

And I’m almost full just typing it.

This weekend I did all of the necessary prep. I made my shopping list, organized by store. Did you know this menu will require almost 20 onions, 3 cloves of garlic, and 3 lbs of butter?! Gulp.

I lined up all of my baking dishes and labeled them according to what will go in what.

I bought my favorite Crane napkins—they look like cloth napkins, but are disposable. This year I picked some that have a silver bark-ish pattern on them. Love those napkins for entertaining.

I researched which bottles of wine we’ll be buying tomorrow night.

We already have our friends’ card table from last year to add on to our dining room table. So, I guess it’s good we didn’t ever return it. They’ll actually be sitting around it this year eating with us!

I added a reminder on my calendar to pick up the turkey at Clancey’s on Wednesday.

I made the Herb & Cheese Poppers, and froze the dough. Also baked off a couple to try.

I already decided what we’ll have for dinner Wednesday with everyone in town after a day of cooking and baking (pizza from Broder’s).

I took a nap today in an effort to rest up for the marathon of cooking on Wednesday.

And speaking of the cooking that is taking place on Wednesday, I also looked at the weather forecast to see if it’ll be cold enough to use our porch as a second refrigerator this year. Questionable.

Food, I love you. This year, among other things, I’m thankful for you. J

November 6, 2011

It's Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Thanksgiving

Every year, when I’ve had more than my fill of Thanksgiving and its associated leftovers, there is one thing that I consistently wish we had made more of. And it’s not that you think. It’s not the stuffing. It’s not the gravy. It’s not the corn pudding. It’s not the creamed spinach.

Oh, and it’s not the pumpkin pie (although that would be a close second).

It’s the cranberry sauce.

The Cranberry-Pear Relish.

It’s bright, tart and sweet, fresh, and a much needed respite from the rest of the savory and rich fare. And even though we always double the recipe, there doesn’t ever seem to be enough for me to get sick of it. (Not that eating to the point of being sick of something should be a goal, I guess.)

So as a result, I’ve been known to hide it before. I’m not ashamed to hide food when I really believe I’ll enjoy it more than someone else who might snatch it up before me. My family disagrees with this.

But today when I saw the bags of fresh cranberries at the grocery store, I thought, why not get ahead of this? Why wait until Thanksgiving for cranberry sauce? It’s easy to make, it is chock full of antioxidants. It’s delicious. And it turns out the smell of it takes you immediately to warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving and promptly out of the Sunday blues.

I can smell it as I type, and I have fallen in love with it all over again.

Fresh cranberries brought to a boil with sugar and orange juice. Pears added at the end of the cooking time to make it a little sweeter. Orange zest added for extra freshness.

“What are you going to make with it,” asked my mom today when I told her I was making it.

“Nothing,” I said.


Maybe it’s a little odd, to make cranberry sauce without any of the other stuff.

I don’t care.

From now until the days after Thanksgiving, I’m on a very sensitive mission: eat enough cranberry sauce to not feel the urge to hide it from my loved ones, but not enough to be sick of it.

This is going to be hard…

Cranberry Pear Relish, adapted slightly from Fields of Greens

¾ lb fresh cranberries
½ c orange juice
½ c sugar
2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tsp orange zest

Place cranberries, orange juice, and sugar in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes.

Add pears and half of the zest. Cook for 1 more minute, until pears are heated through.

Let cool; then add remaining zest.