pumpkin bread & giving thanks November 23, 2011

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.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup (half of one 15 ounce can) pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup slivered raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar

– 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.


Kulsum@JourneyKitchen Nov 23, 2011 11:11 am

I don’t really cook with pumpkin and all those recipes on blogosphere make me want to! I loved loved reading your post, partly because this Eid (holiday time for us) I took a similar approach. Simple home cooked food. no one to impress, just good food and friends :-)

Wendy Nov 23, 2011 11:11 am

Lovely post, thank you for sharing it!

Sherry (BTLover2) Nov 23, 2011 11:11 am

What a beautiful post. Can I come to your house? Happy Thanksgiving!

Lakshmi Nov 23, 2011 11:11 am

Lovely writing, Tami. Stress can ruin the sweetest of sentiments. We are having a potluck at a friend’s home tomorrow. Kids playing, a movie perhaps, lots of food… couldn’t ask for a better setting. Happy Thanksgiving!

Heather @ Better With Veggies Nov 23, 2011 11:11 am

It’s funny how a holiday we’re supposed to be thankful so quickly can turn into a stressful holiday. Good for you, it sounds like you’ve got it figured out this year and are focusing on the important parts.

The bread recipe looks delicious, I bet it makes the house smell fabulous too – naturally! :)

Evi Nov 23, 2011 11:11 am

Love the idea of making a bread rather than pie- keeps it very relaxing. And I do like the choice of dinner/Thanksgiving that you’re having- those are the best!

Sarah B. Nov 23, 2011 01:11 pm

From the heart my dear…Happy Thanksgiving to you.

lis Nov 23, 2011 01:11 pm

Wonderful. Exactly why I really and truly love this holiday. It’s so much more about the placemats dammit. I found myself starting to freak out that we didn’t have enough chairs, or that our table is too small, or what if eveyrone didn’t love the stuffing. blah blah blah. I am mentally knocking back a really nice glass of wine (today) and saying to hell with it. The holiday is about giving thanks, eating with friends…no matter what the menu is or isn’t. Simple. We are having the traditionals- except most American turkeys won’t fit in our 1940’s apartment oven. So we are roasting a chicken. This, after we’d decied early in the week to scrap tradition all together and cook a big Mexican feast….that went out the window as we looked at eachother in the supermarket and knew Friday morning we’d want a turkey (chicken) sandwich for breakfast.

Hope your day is great! Happy Thanksgiving!

The Teacher Cooks Nov 23, 2011 01:11 pm

I’m with you on this one!

Paula- bell'alimento Nov 23, 2011 04:11 pm

I totally dig the jellied cranberry sauce too. There I said it and I feel better about it ; ) Happy Thanksgiving to you sweets! I’m so thankful for knowing you! xoxo

Melissa // thefauxmartha Nov 23, 2011 06:11 pm

Loved reading this. And your style. Simple is better and more enjoyable. Imagine that :) Hope the sweet potato patties are awesome. Happy thanksgiving!

merry jennifer Nov 23, 2011 07:11 pm

Oh, what I’d give for an evening at your house on Thanksgiving. It kills me that we don’t live closer. Five hours apart is just too damned far.

I’m sitting here, after a day of prep work, and my house is a disaster. Family is coming over for dinner at 1 tomorrow. And you know what? I’m okay with the mess. I’m just happy to get together and share a meal. Even though I’m going all out this year with the food, it seems easier for some reason.

I guess I’m just thankful for everything in my life this year. That makes the little stressors seem like no biggie for once.

Happy Thanksgiving, Tami. I’ll be raising a glass to you tomorrow.

MikeVFMK Nov 23, 2011 07:11 pm

It’s easy to go overboard, get lost in the glamour and expectation and forget the very reason we all get together to share in the moment in the first place. It’s not for the applause or the blog. Any of it. It’s for the people we care about. And you have that spot on, when everyone else, myself included at times, forgets about the heartbeat of the holiday.

Have a happy thanksgiving with the people that matter in your life. What I would give to try those sweet potato patties. And to watch him carve his first turkey. Always fun.

Sofie Dittmann AKA German Foodie Nov 23, 2011 10:11 pm

This is a wonderful story. We have been building T-day memories HERE, b/c having grown up in Germany I did not experience them in my younger years. This is great…

Lucy@acookandherbooks Nov 24, 2011 11:11 pm

I’d like to buy the world a Coke AND tell them they should read this post. Lovely, nail-on-the-head kind of stuff. “Toasted Marshmallow Topped Sweet Potato White Chocolate Gingerbread Men Martinis” just about says it all. Happy Thanksgiving – Hope it was happy!

DessertForTwo Nov 25, 2011 04:11 pm

Oh Tami, I have the same sentiments about the holidays flying by on blogs but not really in my personal life. I’m not quite ready til Dec 1st.

Your writing is so peaceful, you know that? I slow down and enjoy each of your words.

Hope your Thanksgiving holidays were joyous :)

Teresa Blackburn Nov 25, 2011 06:11 pm

A very apt and well put post. Happy Thanksgiving.

Jason B Nov 27, 2011 02:11 pm

Sounds Great Tami, wonderful photog as usual! Hope you & yours had a wonderful and free-of-stress thanksgiving.

joey Nov 28, 2011 02:11 am

Love, love, love you’re post! We don’t have Thanksgiving over here but I am certainly no stranger to how holidays can just take on a life of its own and morph into some crazy triple-decker freight train that runs away with all of us tumbling to catch up…and missing out on what’s really important, friends, family, love, laughter :) This loaf cake sounds delicious and much better than any fancy, over-the-top dish :)

Magic of Spice Dec 1, 2011 11:12 am

This bread is delightful and sounds like a lovely way to spend the holiday…hope it was a great one.

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Rosemary Wilcher Jan 27, 2014 10:01 am

Thanks, for posting this awesome looking bread recipe! I’m always looking for a bread that’s healthy and delicious!