Thanksgiving Lunch

Kiddo enjoying a meal in my old highchair

I know it’s a few weeks late but I had wanted to share my culinary delights with you. Well not necessarily delights, rather akin to pretty darn good eats. Plus it gives me a chance to warm up into writing again, I’ll be a bit rusty based on how often I’ve been getting posts up to the blog. Granted some of it was entirely technological fubars, I still hope to be more regular here at least.

Luckily, I still have my index cards and some picture evidence to be sure of what I cooked that day. When you’re cooking outside of your own home, it makes it a lot easier to go ahead and plan in advance, which is pretty much what holiday cooking is all about when you get down to the pearl of it. I like to keep an index card box with recipes by course for easier meal planning. Some of them are very basic but it certainly lends efficiency to your shopping list.

Appetizer – Eggplant Caviar (Vegetarian)

I’m big fan of the simplicity of this recipe. I made it the night before and it held up just fine in the fridge overnight. It wasn’t very good but I think that was mostly due to the eggplants being overly ripe and a tired cook.

Main – Turkey

I used a 12lb organic free-range turkey, I just rubbed it down with some oil, kosher rock salt, and ground black pepper. I stuffed her with some garlic cloves, thyme, rosemary and saved the usual bagged bits for a gravy. I tucked some fresh sprigs of the thyme, rosemary and garlic into the folds. Cooked it for 3 or 4 hours under a foil tent breast up and let it rest for about an hour. It was pretty moist, thankfully.

Sides – Candied Yams, Au Gratin Potatoes, Apple Walnut Stuffing, Green Beans

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Au Gratin Potatoes, Store bought Croissants and Candied Yams

Candied yams is probably the unhealthiest dish on a table for the holidays, but if you simplify it and omit the usual marshmallows you’ve got a lot lower calorie dish that’s still delectable. Take some fresh yams and boil them for about 10-15 minutes, until they’re tender and the skin is easy to remove. Remove the skin and chop them up into bite-size pieces, place them in a buttered casserole spaced out evenly. Top them with pecans, chopped or whole as you wish. Then make a syrup with 1/3c water, 2/3c sugar and 1-1/2Tbsp butter; boil them over medium heat for 5 minutes. Pour syrup over your yams and bake 20 minutes in a 400’ oven. This dish has considerably less sugar and calories than getting a can of yams and it’s a lot more filling, crispy and crunchy than the shortcut recipe.

Potatoes are another mainstay of the holiday table. I prefer au gratin or scalloped over mashed any day of the week. Soak your potatoes after washing in cold water for an hour at least, remove the skin and parboil them while whole for at least 15 minutes. Grease your casserole and begin layering slices of potatoes into the bottom. Alternate layers of potatoes with grated cheese, salt, pepper, pressed garlic, flour, and butter. Sort of like a lasagna, the layers really sell on the plating presentation. Fill the casserole with enough milk to cover. 400’ oven for about 15 minutes and then add some grated cheese on top for the remaining 5-10 minutes so it gets bubbly without burning.

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Stuffing, Turkey, and Green Beans

The apple and walnut stuffing I made was not so great, it stuck horribly to the pan and I think that was the main problem with enjoying it. Finding vegetarian bread cubes is harder than you might think so I had to make them the night before. One loaf of white bread was plenty for this recipe split in half. We barely managed to dent the amount of stuffing with 8 people in attendance.

Green bean casserole is one of my favorites, but I pretty much OD’d on it when I was pregnant a few years ago. So I took one my brother’s favorite fresh green bean recipes and made that instead. We broke up the beans the night before. I boiled up the green beans shortly before it was time to eat, while making the sauce on another burner. 2Tbsp of minced onion, 3Tbsp of butter, and 2tsp of fresh lemon juice make up the sauce with some salt and pepper to taste. Drain your green beans and toss them with the sauce. This recipe also works well with canned green beans if you want to save some hassle. Keep in mind that you’ll need to drain the can from all excess water.

Dessert – Pumpkin Pecan Crumble Cake (Vegetarian variation)

I really liked this recipe but was put off by the use of Cool Whip, it’s not vegetarian. My work around was to replace the frozen topping with fresh whipped cream. I think it made it a little harder to handle the “frosting,” but it still came out firm enough to stand up at the table. The only other tips I can make with this desert is to really press in the pecan layer and bake it first thing in the morning to give it plenty of time to cool. If you’ve got some extra frosting, it makes a great stir in for post-dinner coffee.

Cooking at holidays means cooking for family. Which means you may find yourself trying to make some delicious vegetarian dishes that everyone can enjoy. Let me assure you that even if you only have one guest that’s a vegetarian, almost every recipe can be converted very easily. In this list everything but the main course is vegetarian. It may take a little longer than opening up that box of stovetop or getting a restaurant to cater, but it’s worth it if everyone steps away from the table with a full tummy and a sleepy smile.

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