Thanksgiving in my house when I was young – 9 or 10 years old – it was such a simple holiday for my family. There were only three of us and my mom didn’t go overboard. She’d cook a turkey that we’d eat for days after stuffed (uncooked turkey juice be damned) with her doctored up packaged breadcrumb mixture. Canned jellied cranberry sauce that went into the same Dansk metal & wood tray every year. Gravy from the pan juice and some sort of green vegetable. Oh…and those sweet potato patties? I dream about those things still. I remember the anticipation of that morning and early afternoon – being distracted from the smell of cooking turkey only by the Macy’s parade and the occasional task my mom would make up to keep me busy. We stayed in our pajamas. We ate cold sandwiches later that night. It was easy.
Once I got in my twenties, the anticipation of that meal was always married to the anticipation of stress and strain. Of mounting pressure to have everything be perfect. More people coming over meaning more focus on what was wrong & not just right. The centerpieces getting bigger. The glitzy placemats. Does this wine go with turkey? In the end, the pressure took its toll. On the end result – even before I became a vegetarian I haven’t been a fan of turkey because of those dry days – as well as my mom…and then myself. A few years before my mom passed away, I remember standing in the kitchen thinking “Why are we doing this to ourselves?”
That was the year the dishwasher and the garbage disposal broke and the power went out. There were martinis in the dark. We should have gotten the hint.
In between work, negotiating the choppy waters of dogs and cats living together, trying to keep the kitchen clean, working on soup recipes, installing a revolving door on the back of the house for all the puppy potty training trips…I’ve been watching the holiday whiz past me via the world of food blogs. One over the top recipe after another. Holiday recipe recaps 50 links deep. Toasted Marshmallow Topped Sweet Potato White Chocolate Gingerbread Men Martinis. Stories of people starting to cook a week in advance. My head is swimming. I need a Tums.
I’ve been thinking…I should post something. I should be cooking. I’m going to be so busy next month…you need to keep it up. After that fleeting thought and smidge of pressure creeping in, I look down at my feet and see Mingus…or I get to have lunch with friends or my sweetie…and those feelings are gone. In the quiet space here on the blog, I’ve been living life and giving thanks.
This year, with the new pup and traveling to enjoy Mike’s family gathering at Christmas, we’re hosting a small group for Thanksgiving dinner and then opening up the house for friends to gather (and have family detox time) around a fire for desserts and drinks. There will be the turkey which Mike is making for the first time. I’m giving those sweet potato patties a go. Roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranates & walnuts are being served, too – something that would have never made it to the table growing up. Tony is experimenting with a beet salad. Anne is baking a pie. I’m insisting on jellied cranberry sauce. We’ll all be bundled up around the fire pit, drinking cider or hot buttered rum, telling stories and laughing at/with one another. It’s going to be a loosey-goosey mish mosh of food and friends.
No crazy colored placemats. No ornate centerpiece that Grizelda is going to chew on once the plates are cleared. While we’d like to be in Louisiana with Mike’s family, it’s still going to be wonderful…and it’s going to be easy, dammit.
Mike has the day before Thanksgiving off of work and we’ll be cooking. Prepping cornbread for his family’s traditional dressing and roasting pumpkin for a soup I’m experimenting with. With an increasingly grumpy cat peering at us from atop the fridge and Mingus under foot, we’ll be doing what we do when we entertain on a “normal” day – listening to music, drinking a glass of wine and celebrating the life we have & the life we’re building together. It’s what I’m most thankful for this year. I know full well it’s tough out there for lots of people and we’re fortunate. Damn fortunate to have our home, our health, our human and animal families, our jobs and the finances to cook this dinner and share it with all of the incredible folks we’re lucky to know. It’s a life of blessings I wish on everyone.
This year, there will be food. Simple, delicious, home cooked food. This is our life – not a blog post. No Triple Stuffed Exotic Pumpkin from The Maldives Creme Brulee Cheesecake Napoleons…and I’m okay with that.
Almond & Brown Sugar Pumpkin Bread – makes 1 loaf – bread recipe adapted from this recipe on Simply Recipes
While I haven’t felt like doing a ton of holiday baking, I always like having a loaf cake or simple round cake around during Thanksgiving for breakfast & snacking while cooking. Pumpkin is a favorite of mine & I know Mike loves it, too. I love having a bit of crunch or streusel on top and this one is super easy – a pulse or two in the food processor gets it done and creates a lovely sugary crust. While I have not tested this mix as muffins, I have a hunch this would make delicious full size muffins – just divide the almond & sugar mixture evenly across all the muffin cups. Do let me know if you try this recipe that way.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. While the oven is heating, whiz together the slivered almonds and brown sugar in a food processor until roughly chopped and combined. Set aside.
- Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, beaten eggs, water, honey, nutmeg and cinnamon together. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Pour into an oiled or buttered 9″ loaf shaped baking pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar & almond mixture over the entire top of the batter. Bake 50-55 minutes (this depends on your over – I checked mine at 50 minutes) until a wooden skewer poked in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan so that the crunchy almond top has a chance to set. While you’re going to want to eat this warm, let it cool. It’s amazing the next day & the topping has a chance to adhere and get really crunchy and delicious.