Thanksgiving menu 2008

Gracing our table this year will be:
• turkey
• ham
• mashed potatoes
• gravy
• green beans almandine (similar to this recipe, but I’m just going to do what I’ve done in the past — no measuring, exactly)
• sweet potatoes
• cranberry salad
• crudites tray, including dill pickles and olives
• sunshine panna cotta (from the November Bon Appetit recipe, crossed with our standard panna cotta recipe), adapted to make sure it’ll work and taste good sugar free
• iced tea and water to drink, plus coffee (decaf) to accompany dessert

All in all, I expect this to be a tasty, gluten free, sugar free Thanksgiving meal.

I’ve been notified of what a guest is bringing. We’ll also have:
• stuffing (I was taught it’s called dressing, though, when it’s not stuffed into the bird …)
• rolls
• pumpkin pie and the requisite cool whip, and maybe
• fudge


“Tater tot” casserole

I had a craving for this dish from my childhood, only to learn that all tater tots have wheat in/on them. At the same time, I also learned that the cheese soup we’d always used was also off limits (I’m living gluten free). Thus, I set out to make a gluten-free version of this fun easy meal.

“Tater tot” casserole
scant 2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cans french-cut green beans
1.5 pounds Velveeta
1 1/2 cups milk
1 2-pound bag gluten-free southern-style hash browns

In a large skillet, brown the hamburger; drain if necessary. Add the onion, chopped; cook until transparent. Meanwhile, chunk the Velveeta and place in a microwave-safe container and cook, stirring frequently, until melted. Stir in the milk. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread this meat mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. On top of this, layer the green beans, drained. Spread the hash browns atop the green beans. Pour cheese mixture evenly over the casserole. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the hash browns are cooked and beginning to brown.

A new spicy potato soup

While recipes for spicy potato soups abound, this one is quite different than any I’ve tried before.

Thrown together based on what we had in the kitchen, this meal morphed while it was being made. I started with the idea of doing potato soup, except with ground beef. Well, P and I decided that for that to seem right, we’d need to season the meat in such a way as to make it more like sausage. That seemed like a lot of work, so instead we ended up with this, sort of a cross between potato soup and tortilla soup.

Spicy Verde Potato Soup
1.5 pounds extra lean ground beef
2 med-large onions
10 or so medium potatoes
6 stalks celery
1 16-oz jar salsa verde
1 7-oz can of green chilies
2 cups or so milk
cumin (1 tablespoon+?)
black pepper (1/2 teaspoon)
granulated garlic (1-2 teaspoons)
salt (1 tablespoon+)

Brown ground beef in large stockpot. Chop onions and add to pot, cooking until onions are transparent. Scrub potatoes and chop to small-bite size. Throw those in, along with water, up to about an inch from covering the food. Cover, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook 8 minutes. While that’s cooking chop celery. Add to the cooking mixture. Allow to simmer another 10 minutes, or until potatoes and celery are done. Add salsa verde, green chilies, milk, and spices, to taste.

Good served with co-jack cheese atop it, and with tortilla chips.

Deli rolls and appetizer philosophy

Deli rolls

These deli rolls — spread a thin layer of cream cheese on a slice of deli meat and then roll dill pickles in it — are a reliable hit at parties. People are consistently surprised by the combination. I really enjoy them, and the presentation is somewhat festive, too.

This time I made them with ham and turkey. They’re also tasty made with roast beef. For ease of creation, work with whipped cream cheese (it spreads much better). For presentation, slice rolls in even sizes — I usually cut each small pickle in half; if there’s a larger one, maybe it’ll get cut in thirds.

I landed on this to take to a recent gathering after a bit of a struggle. It seems finger foods are always difficult for me to come up with. I want them to be:
• simple and relatively fuss-free in preparation,
• use normal, high-quality ingredients, and
• still be at least somewhat healthy.

This is a difficult set of criteria in appetizer land, it seems. I lean toward the safe and easy cheese & crackers or the straightforward chips & salsa. The appetizers I like, I don’t have recipes for because they’re generally so simple. But then when I need an appetizer for something, I have no way to look through the cards in my recipe box, since most likely there isn’t a recipe recorded for what I most like.

How to cook

As you’ll see below I just list the ingredients, no amounts or measurements. This is how 95% of cooking should be done. So many people would enjoy cooking more, and make better food, if they got there faces out of those cookbooks and just started cooking. They treat the act of cooking like some scientific procedure (by the way, this rant excluded delicate baked goods, so save your emails).

Recipes are great for what ingredients you may want to use, but should be treated as an idea-started, not some government mandated edict. Cooking times are also useful, so we’ll look at those, but as far as following a recipe to the letter when it comes to amounts of ingredients, I say “use the force Luke.”

I read this recently at Food Wishes, a cooking vlog I stumbled upon a bit ago. I embraced this cooking philosophy before I knew there was really another way to cook; this is who I am in the kitchen.

Read the rest of the post here.

Almond Hershey Pie

This is a family recipe from my husband’s side, handed down to us by his paternal grandmother. My husband’s usually the one who makes it. It’s on the menu for Thanksgiving.

Almond Hershey Pie
30 large marshmallows
1/2 cup milk
1 7-ounce Hershey bar with almonds
2 tablespoons freeze-dried coffee
8 ounces Cool Whip
graham cracker, chocolate cookie, or regular pie crust

Melt marshmallows, milk and coffee over low heat, stirring. Cool. Add Cool Whip and chopped Hershey bar. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Refrigerate.

Thanksgiving menu

So the menu is finalized for Thanksgiving Day. We’ll plan to eat at 1 p.m., and 10 adults and 1 child will be seated at the table.

The menu:
• turkey
• mashed potatoes
• gravy
• cranberry salad
• green bean casserole
• sweet potatoes
• broccoli and/or cauliflower with cheese sauce
• rolls
• relish tray

We’ll have a variety of sodas to drink.

For dessert, will have a plethora of pies: pumpkin, berry, Dutch apple, chocolate. Dessert will be served with coffee, of course.

I’m in charge of the turkey, gravy, chocolate pie, coffee, and sweet potatoes, sort of.