Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Turkey Day Trials 2014; Floating

25 Nov

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Sometimes, just silly things happen in the kitchen. Like when I went to strain a sauce and acting on habit, strained it down the drain. Or when (and this is from my mom’s perspective) I do a little kitchen jig when the food I make is good. Or spicy. Well, the other day, as a part of my Turkey Day Trials, another mishap came about that still has me giggling.

When Rob and I lived in Oregon, for a treat we would go for a cocktail and appetizers at the lounge at Bandon Dunes. We would dress up Pacific-Northwest-Golf-Club-fancy (yes that is a real fashion category) and watch as the cold-to-the-bone expert golfers would finish up the 18th. It was a little bit boushie and out of our Coos Bay ordinary, and we always struck up conversations with the most interesting (and sometimes famous) people. It got to a point that “our” bartender would put in the usual orders when he saw us walk in the door, and a few minutes later our Blue Cheese Chips were fragrantly awaiting our devour.

The bowl of freshly-fried potato chips always went down quickly and shook off the lingering chill from the constantly-present coastal winds. But what always added to our Bandon experience was driving by the cranberry bogs on the way to the golf resort. I’d always strain my neck to see what stage of growth the cranberries were in, and harvest was always the best time. Stretching fields of red bogs, like giant ruby blankets against the green pines, the floating berries were sucked up into a tube and then shot out like miniature cannon balls into a truck, ready for processing and distribution.

This water-powered firing of small, red fruit usually marked the autumnal season, signaling Thanksgiving was right around the corner. So this year, I paid homage to the cranberry by making an irresistible cranberry relish – one that puts even the coveted, jellied amazingness to shame.

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By simply taking 1 quart of fresh cranberries, ½ c sugar, a bottle of strong ginger beer (I like Reeds), a 4-in stick of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and (here’s the kicker), a tea infuser of chamomile flowers, you will end up with a reduced, naturally pectin-infused bowl of beautiful, fragrant, and more-than-tasty cranberry relish. The trick is waiting until the boiling bubbles are shiny and slow-to-pop in the pot, almost like preparing a jam. After the relish is cooled, it will be thick yet spreadable, sweet yet tangy. Simple perfection at the Thanksgiving dinner table, or just the everyday autumn and winter breakfast spread.

So what was so silly about making this relish? The fact that in my first batch (a major mishap), I added a bit of liquid, then a bit more, then a bit more, each time expecting the berries to be covered and give me a culinary visual of the accurate liquid amount. And after all those days watching the bogs, I completely forgot that… cranberries float!!! No matter the liquid amount, the cranberries will never sink in the pot like they do with other jam fruit. So stick with the recipe – it works, thanks to my silly mistake.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy with food, love, laughter, and memories!

Turkey Day Trials 2014

16 Nov

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While October seemed to have sluggishly ambled by, November has been no joke – it’s already half-way through the month and only a week and a half away from the biggest foodie day of the year. Already, Christmas decorations, songs, sales, and Santas have inundated the stores, almost like Thanksgiving is that afterthought of a day firmly arriving to devote its purpose solely to the day after, when all the crazy shopping happens.

Really, people?

Let’s slow down for a moment and savor this season. It’s fall. Beautiful leaves, filling foods, and get-togethers lending perfect excuses to have just that one more glass of wine. For me, aside from the food, Rob has safely made it back from a deployment, creating another reason to celebrate. But this year, I’ve taken a different approach.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by small gatherings, simple entertaining, and outrageously good tastes. So, I’ve been creating small bites that are perfect for giant, festive entertaining, or just a special holiday dinner for two. My mom will attest that since I was old enough to chew, my favorite foods were the traditional turkey, stuffing, and cranberry dinner tastes. So for me to step out of the traditional American turkey day box is a little uncouth.

But go with it. Try it. You’ll be surprised – I was!

Try my Pumpkin Seed and Pomegranate Guacamole. Guac? On Thanksgiving? Oh come on, the avocado needs some holiday love, too. Especially with so many meatless options these days, this is a perfect stand-alone dip, elegant atop a crostini, or the silent hero in a leftover cranberry, lettuce and guac sandwhich. It’s creamy, with a roasted bite from the pumpkin seed oil, plus a surprising tang of sweetness only known by the pomegranate.

This guac is great and extremely versatile. Dress it up with a pairing of champagne, or make it comfort food extraordinaire while enjoying on the couch watching football. It is fancy enough to be a holiday-party-go-to, comforting enough to be a pot-luck favorite, and simple enough to whip up for a festive fall evening for two. No, it’s not a turkey, and no, it’s not stuffing. But in our house, this is definitely going to be a new Thanksgiving tradition.

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Seed & Pomegranate Guacamole
(this recipe serves 4, but alter ingredients to make as much as you need!)

  • 2 ripe Hass avocados, halved and pitted
  • Juice ½ lime
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • ¼ tsp roasted pumpkin seed oil
  • ½ tsp pomegranate balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds
  • s&p

In a large bowl, use a fork to combine all ingredients except for the pepitas and pomegranate seeds. Season to taste with s&p (I always find that I need a bit more pepper than expected when working with avocados). When well combined, top with the pepitas and pomegranate seeds. Serve as is with chips, or shmear on crostini, or slather on a sandwich for a perfect holiday-inspired meal! Enjoy!

Not Your Typical Thanksgiving Leftovers

7 Dec

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Never before have I had a whole week off from school during Thanksgiving.  Not having to work the Monday through Wednesday before the most important food day of the year was honestly an amazing treat.  Not only was I able to pretty much cook everything in advance (except the turkey, of course), but also I was able to enjoy the season with friends and family.  The Florida weather was perfectly seasonal, and even a deep-freeze warning one night brought back memories of cold, Oregon mornings, where Rob and I first started celebrating this holiday together.

As I looked around my living room last Saturday night, there were all the signs of the weekend after Thanksgiving: a couple dishes with creative leftovers lunches on the coffee table, Rob in and out of naps, college football on the TV, Sig and his cousin, Turner, also in an out of naps (but trying really hard to stay awake thus something, just something, happens where us humans will need their K-9 expertise – like cleaning up turkey bits), Jenn uploading silly pictures of us on her computer, and just as dusk was creeping up over the golf course, we are all probably very thankful that some lights were accidently left on because none of us were getting up from our comfy, blanket-nested spots on the couches.  Well, I know I wasn’t.

As always, my Turkey Day Trials did me well, and while I may have gone overboard on the amount of food we had, it made for a very festive, and belly-growing holiday.  Here was the menu:

Appetizers:

  • House Cocktail: mulled cranberry cider topped with brut and frozen cranberries
  • Spiced nuts
  • Boozie olives (olives warmed in the oven with gin, orange peel, and peppercorns)
  • Brie with onion jam, fig chutney, and water crackers
  • Pigs in a blanket (because they are simply awesome)
  • Shrimp cocktail

The Main Event:

  • No Fuss Turkey

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Sides:

  • Rob’s mashed potatoes
  • Spicy Leek and Sweet potato soufflé (with browned marshmallows!)  – some of these ended up on the wall.  Not exactly sure what happened.
  • Celery and Onion Stuffing
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Apple, and Rosemary
  • Steamed farm-fresh corn and green beans
  • Parker House Rolls
  • Jellied cranberries (yes, in the can, ridges and all)

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Dessert:

  • Pumpkin Pie (from Costco – the best!)
  • Pumpkin, Amaretto Custard and Whipped Cream Trifle.  SO GOOD.

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And finally….. food coma.

Ok, so Thanksgiving food is wonderful, obviously.  But Jennifer and I indulged in a leftover that was unlike the standard midnight turkey sandwich (don’t get me wrong, that sandwich is probably the most perfect thing I could eat – ever.  Like, ever, ever.).  So, after a couple glasses of wine, a lovely combination of the French-Canadian Poutine dish, American Thanksgiving, and a late-night Mexican tradition all found themselves together in a happy little co-mingling of sorts, creating an indulgence perfect for only the days after Thanksgiving.  There was honestly not a lot of thought to this dish, so there wasn’t much measuring.  Actually, there was no measuring at all.  But with these ingredients, you only need to go with what you like.

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I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, and put blue corn tortilla chips on an ovenproof plate.  Then, I spooned some leftover turkey gravy (the Poutine part), and sprinkled an abundance of leftover turkey meat over the chips.  Taking a shredded Mexican cheese blend, I spread the cheese evenly over the chips and popped it in the oven to melt.  When the OMG-amazing-super-delicious-ooey-gooey-cheesy-turkey-smell wafted through the kitchen, I took out the Turkey & Gravy Nachos, topped them with scallions and hot sauce, and Jennifer and I devoured them.  Really, not a morsel left. 

As that was a week ago, since then all the leftovers have been creatively constructed and eaten – some great, some not so much.  Christmas is well on its way, and I’m starting to get ready.  This weekend calls for making cookies and chocolates, sending out holiday cards, and constructing a wreath.  And just wait until you hear about what happened with our Christmas tree.  Let the O’Donnell – Tamminen Holiday Craziness begin!  Until then, I have two more weeks of school, lots to do, and feeling a little like Joey Tribiani at the moment:

“I’m thinking about starting an ‘I Hate Turkey Club.’  Although, I do love a turkey club.”

So, we’re eating a lot of sushi.  Happy Holidays!

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