Thanksgiving

turkeystew.jpgUsually on Thanksgiving between 20-25 people come over for dinner. This year we had a smaller group. With 10, we had time to talk and there wasn't quite as much work getting the meal ready. Out of habit, though, we bought the same size turkey we always buy, a 25 pounder. So we assumed we'd have a lot of food left over, enough for several days of sandwiches.

When we looked in the refrigerator on Friday, we were surprised that we had very little cranberry sauce, almost no stuffing, and only enough white meat for a couple of sandwiches. But, happily, we did have a lot of dark meat and almost a gallon of turkey stock we'd made Thanksgiving night.

For our day after Thanksgiving dinner, I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and I wanted a good comfort meal. Dumplings with anything is always great, but with richly flavored turkey stew, there's nothing more satisfying.

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jello_biography.jpgHere's the deal about Thanksgiving dinner at our house: it's the same every year, except for one thing.   Every year one thing changes.  

Sometimes we try something new and it stays forever, like the apricot jello mold that's been a guilty pleasure of our Thanksgiving dinner for at least fourteen years.  

Sometimes it's something that makes the cut for several years - like sweet potatoes with pecan praline - and then, for no real reason, falls off the menu never to be spoken of again.

And sometimes it's a mistake, like the pearl onions in balsamic vinegar, which turned out to be a dish that was far too full of itself. 

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Simple-Cinnamon-Cranberry-Dinner-RollsThanksgiving is almost here and it's time to nail down those menus. Serving homemade bread is one of the best parts of the holiday meal.

We have so many choices when it comes down to what kind of bread or roll to serve. For me, it comes down to how many people I have to serve and what flavor am I looking to add to the meal.

Since Thanksgiving has so many savory dishes, I am always looking to add a little more sweetness to the meal. I love when dried fruit is added to stuffing. It helps give diversity to the meal. Since I often add the dried fruit to the stuffing, I thought maybe I would try adding it to the dinner rolls instead. It's always fun to change things up a bit.

I did not want the rolls overly sweet, so I added a little bit of cinnamon and only a half cup of dried cranberries to my regular dinner rolls recipe. It. Was. Perfect. The slight hint of cinnamon and a bite of dried cranberry smothered in butter was the perfect way to round out the meal.

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bestpumpkinpie2There are tons of pumpkin pie recipes, and in November all of the food shows and magazines are filled with both classic and innovative recipes. I think I’ve tried all of them – most started with canned pumpkin, and then the ingredients vary - some use heavy cream, others swear by evaporated milk, some are heavily spiced with cinnamon and cloves.

I love pumpkin pie, but have never found what I would call the BEST pumpkin pie until recently. I was watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (the leader in test perfected recipes) called “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving”. The ingredients and the method were quite original and I couldn’t wait to try it.

There are a few extra steps, but well worth it. If you don’t want to make your own crust, you can use a Pillsbury Ready Made crust. Feel free to alter the amount of cinnamon (I used Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon Click here for Penzey's), but the fresh ginger is key to the pie’s flavor.

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brussel_sprouts.jpgWhat exactly is the root of all this antipathy toward Brussels sprouts? Is it the color? Sometimes it's not easy being green. Or yellowish-green.

Is it the smell? You know what I'm talking about. Boil Brussels sprouts on your stove top for 10 minutes and the neighbors will begin to wonder which farm animal you recently adopted.

Is it your mother's fault? If she served mushy, water-logged, brown Brussels sprouts when you were a kid, it's not your fault that you hate them.

Let me attempt to ingratiate Brussels sprouts with you, especially since many of you will likely be cooking and/or eating them next week on Thanksgiving.

Though Brussels sprouts have been around since ancient times, they are named after the city of Brussels in Belgium, where they have been cultivated (and appreciated) since Medieval times. Brussels sprouts are members of the brassica family, so they're related to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kolrabi, none of which are going to win any popularity contests. That's why Brussels sprouts taste like cabbage and are sometimes referred to as "mini cabbages."

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