21 November 2010

Thanks for Thanksgiving

I must apologize for my lack of posts the past 2 Saturdays! It's terribly difficult to write anything of value or creativity when one's head is spinning and the coughing refuses to subside! In any case, I'm back now with with some lovely Autumn memories and a scrumptious pie recipe for you all, which I hope you enjoy as much as I have!

This Thursday marks one of the, if not the biggest, "foodie" day of the year. Thanksgiving day is a favorite holiday for many including myself, but not just because of the consumption of food itself. In my family it's always been about all the details that pull the day's big event, the grand dinner, together. From baking the traditional pies with homemade crusts the day before, to setting the beautiful fall table with shades of cream and pumpkin, chocolate brown, golds and greens while the sounds of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade whisper from the television in the background. My very favorite part of the entire process, though, has always been the menu planning, followed closely by seeing everyone enjoying the food, the conversation and one another.

The planning begins around the first of November and is honestly never finalized until the morning of Thanksgiving day! While there are rarely any variations on the traditional menu, I always make it a point to try incorporating a new twist on an old favorite. I may roast asparagus instead of serving sprouts or string beans, there might be whipped sweet potatoes (Actual sweet potatoes, not the more common jewel/garnet yams) with pecans instead of the staple marshmallow topped ooey-gooey yams of the 1950's table, or the dressing may be more on the sweet side, full of raisins and granny smith apple chunks and whole-wheat bread rather than the more tradition savor, herb-filled white bread dressing with which most of us have grown up.

This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving which I only do once every few years since we normally end up spending the day playing games and sharing time with my in-laws, or if we are incredibly lucky, my side of the family is able to come and we spend the day enjoying the music of my uncles, Chris and Jim and the stunning voice of my lovely cousin Rose.  While I always miss my family desperately this time of year if we are unable to gather and share the season, we all know each-other is loved and missed, and most importantly we are all so incredibly grateful for one another every day of the year.

Back to the food!  This year my menu is going to consist of a very traditional spread full of warm Autumn flavors and leftovers to enjoy for days, my husband's favorite part just after having a perfectly roasted Turkey leg all to himself. In addition to the menu listed below, while we play Scrabble, Pinochle and Uno Moo, we'll be savoring some lovely cheeses, a perfectly retro relish tray and deviled eggs, spiced mixed nuts. To quench our holiday thirst, a Sparkling punch made by combining:
2 liter Talking Rain pomegranate-lime sparking water
32 oz (half a large bottle) Apple Cider 
32 oz Pomegranate Cranberry Juice 
(or other 100% fruit juice)
Mix well, add ice and a few orange slices 
OR make a nice flavored ice-berg by filling a round cake pan to 2/3 full 
with juice, layer orange slices and freeze until set. 
Place in punch bowl and pour in other juices, 
and sparking water and mix with ladle. 
This will keep the punch cold without watering it down! 

 Finally, may I present
The 2010 Calkins Thanksgiving Menu 
(subject to change up to 11/25/10 12noon!)
  • Citrus herb roasted turkey (Stuff the cavity with quartered lemons, oranges and onions plus a few smashed garlic cloves. Make an herb butter and rub all over the outside of the bird including UNDER, as well as over, the skin!)
  • Mashed Potatoes (especially for my sis-in-law, Kaijsa) made with greek yogurt, butter and simple seasoning
  • Scratch-made gravy made with chicken stock, pan drippings and cream plus lots of pepper
  • Dressing with fresh herbs, lots of celery, onion and raisins, pecans and pork sausage
  • Undecided baked yam dish reminiscent of the aforementioned old-fashioned candied yams (for my dad-in-law, Bill) 
  • Classic green bean casserole (for my husband, made with fresh green beans this year by mom-in-law, Karen)
  • Cherry Cranberry Orange Cinnamon sauce
The green bean casserole was something new when I shared my first holiday meal with my now in-laws. My grandmother's table never saw it, and I'd honestly never had it growing up. Oh, how the salty, creamy, awful deliciousness of it all made me think I was seriously ripped of as a kid all those years! No, it's not good for us, it's not attractive, it's nothing a true foodie would admit a liking for, but once a year we have it, we enjoy it and we look forward to 364 days later when we'll partake again. 

Dessert this year will be a wee bit different as I have created two new pie recipes (One is a version of the classic pumpkin, one is full of walnuts, pecans and molasses) which have no refined-white or brown sugar, and instead rely on agave nectar for the sweet factors. These recipes were created because everyone deserves to enjoy a tasty traditional dessert full of flavor and fall spice without worry of restrictions for those who need to keep an eye on the glycemic index and blood sugar levels. We'll be heading over to the in-laws' house on Wednesday create these 2 specialty pies so I can share these lovely recipes with the whole family.

Here's the recipe for  my agave Pumpkin Pie to share with your family for a slightly more healthful Thanksgiving dessert. Enjoy!

1 Par-baked pie shell of your choice. (I use the recipe from Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and bake it for 10 minutes at 425)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, combine:
2 large eggs
1/3 cup agave nectar or raw honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice 
1 16oz can pumpkin puree OR  16 oz (2 cups) fresh pumpkin puree
1 12oz can fat-free evaporated milk

Mix well with whisk and pour into prepared pie shell
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes then turn oven to 350 and bake for another 40-50 minutes until a knife/cake tester comes out clean. After cooling to room temp, serve with agave-sweetened cinnamon-vanilla whipped cream! 

May you all have a beautiful Thanksgiving experience this year. May you enjoy the 3rd round of snacking late at night straight from the Tupperware containers as much as you enjoy the first meal around the table surrounded by family, friends, and memories new and old. After all, it's more than the meal we should take time to enjoy. Cheers!