I embrace Thanksgiving, as you will see from the slide show below. I don't worry about how much I eat, or what. It's a holiday for gosh sakes. If you're taking care of yourself, one day won't hurt and if you're not, trying to skimp on America's favorite holiday will surely make you cranky and won't make a whiff of different on your waistline. Sure, I'm self defending my own gluttony, but this is a day for FOOD. "Food, glorious food!" as it's sung. Stand up straight, tuck your napkin under your chin, and start chewing.
I know, I know. I sound un-American. Everywhere you look, the Grand Marshall of the TDay Parade is always that golden bird. He hasn't had the best day either, ya know. He's headless, naked, and even though he's bathed in any number of rubs, brines, herbs, butters and such, he's not always the most colorful part of your table. And so, I prefer to sing today of SIDE DISHES. They're like your best friend from grade school. They stuck even after you got all full of yourself during puberty, they were the only ones that told you the guy you were dating was scum and saved you from years of heartache, and they're the ones that will sit with you at the Dr.'s office and hold your hand even when the news isn't good. In short, they're what holds the big stuff together, and that's exactly what I'm referring to here. THEY STICK WITH YOU.
When I piled everything on my plate yesterday, I had to do it in two layers. We had sweet, creamy butternut squash, fluffy and goldenly-perfect in a way only Rumpelstiltskin could have appreciated. Light, russets whipped into white drifts and parted to encase the thick gravy that laid there like a lazy, muddy river. The candied yams, topped with the crunch of marshmallow and nuts, yielded at just the right moment in your mouth. Dreamy, yeasty rolls. Tangy cranberry relish dotted with gems of pomegranate gems. Then, laying randomly in glistening butter and frangrantly kissed with roasted garlic, the hericot verts melted in your mouth, while the blanched green bean salad with pear, celery, and hazelnuts created a crunchy note of sweetness as it let off it's mustard maple viniagrette onto the plate. Finally, my famous sausage, apple, french bread stuffing brought ooh's and aahs, alike.
By the time we took out the Chocolate Pecan Pie, ala David Leibovitz, the traditional pumpkin pie, and a special cake made for us by Amy at the Wow Factor Cakes in Charlotte, NC, we were well on our way to a satisfying food coma. And all YOU want to do is talk TURKEY?
Okay, the turkey was perfect, Margaret. She brined it, first time every for her, and it came out divine...it was the perfect accompaniment to friends, family and home!
I tried this recipe from averiecooks.com the other night, because I thought they looked like a divine way to overcome a day filled with bitterness. "Feeling crummy? Overdose on sugar!" I always say. At least a food coma is better than most other kinds of torture. Turns out they did the trick. And just like she says, they are "poppable," and very low on the guilt scale; unless you eat 15. (I won't tell!)
Check out this easy recipe. I found that mine needed to cook a little longer than what worked for Averie. And, as with most baking prep, DO NOT OVER STIR THE BATTER SO THEY STAY LIGHT.
Thanks, @averiecooks for a wonderful recipe.
RECIPE here: http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/06/cinnamon-sugar-mini-donut-muffins.html
If you have a knife, fresh herbs, garlic, unsalted butter, and 4 minutes, you can dazzle. Try any combination of herbs and ingredients, but this one was a HIT!
1 cube (1/4 C) butter soft (DO NOT
1 T fresh rosemary chopped FINE
3 small cloves garlic minced finely (roasted or raw)
Pinch of coarse salt
Slather it on, put under broiler, begin signing autographs.
I understand it now. It's the essence of being Southern, this sharing of something to eat that seems so complicated, but in actuality, isn't at all. Accessible, yet luxurious, devouring it is the cook's way of making you feel you owe someone, and you assume that you need a pedigree to take a bite. Suddenly you feel guilty about not going to church, or paying for groceries for that little lady ahead of you in line. Dang, you should have dropped that penny you found on the street, into the tips bowl at Starbucks.
What could bring you to reflect so severely on your entire self worth? I'm speaking of Pecan Pie. That little slice of velvety caramel indulgence topped with crunchy decadence, supported by a flaky, buttery and light crust that cradles every amazing morsel.
I’ve avoided making pecan pie because I couldn’t bear the thought of making it incorrectly and being banished for my transgression. And, well, because if I knew how to make it, I’d eat the whole dang thing and hide the evidence, adding a layer of criminality to a mid-week meal that would hard be to reconcile when I do go back to church. Here’s the truth of it. It’s so easy it IS criminal. It’s so good, you don’t CARE!!!
I decided to try a version from the Loveless Café, featured on an episode of Paula Deen’s show. Also, I settled on it because the light corn syrup in this recipe makes it look so pretty. if you promise to try hard not to slather it all over you, I will present the recipe here, because everyone deserves a little Southern blackmail every now and then.
Recipe from the Loveless Cafe.
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
1/4 t ground cinnamon
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups pecan pieces
1 10-inch pie crust
Mix first six ingredients together with wire whisk until smooth. Place pecans in pie shell. Pour custard mix over nuts and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until filling puffs and rises above the edges of the pie shell. Carefully remove pie from oven and let cool completely before serving.
No, this isn't a backstage quote from the recent MTV Awards, nor was it uttered by a dresser at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. It's me talkin', desperate to cook after a long week of deadlines and busy-everything, as I lay my hand on a package of organic poultry.
"What do you want to do tonight?" My husband had innocently asked me hours before, as though he doesn't know what I'm going to say.
"I haven't cooked in a week. I just need to relax and make something. Can't we just stay home?"
"Why would I say no to that?" He says and kisses my neck. And off I go to the store to gather something for a quick, (I'm getting into my #fabin40 stuff) and healthy meal. The final act? Invite a girlfriend, of course. Then we lit a few candles, got out some nice china, and pretended all was right with the world.
Check out my Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Thighs over Herbed Jasmine Rice and grab some thigh for yourself!
THIS SERVES 4 to 5 people.
6, boneless, skinless chicken thighs (buy organic or something without hormones. I deal with them enough every month, don't need them in my food and neither do you.)
1 C sliced Shitake mushrooms, discard stems after washing THOROUGHLY
1 T fresh thyme leaves
3 medium cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1/4 to 1/3 white onion diced finely
2 C fresh spinach leaves washed and dried
3/4 C Red Raspberry Preserves (I like a good high quality brand)
2 T Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar but a mild vinegar like fig or cherry; something sweet, will work.
1/4 t each cinnamon and coriander powder
1 C cooked white rice (I love Jasmine. Good flavor and very light tasting.)
1 to 1 1/2 C white wine. (I used a Chardonnay) you can use a good chicken stock instead if you prefer
4 T butter
3 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat oil in large saute pan til shimmering over medium high heat. Add thighs (make sure you've patted them dry.) Season with salt and pepper and the cinnamon and then the coriander. Sear on each side, about 3 minutes or so, and then remove from pan to another dish, cover and let sit. Loosen up bits of meat with 1/2 of the white wine, and reduce for 1 minute. Add the onion and stir for 1 minute or so. Add the mushrooms and let them sit as they sizzle, and then after about 3 minutes add the garlic and cook til onions are soft and mushrooms are browned. Then add the preserves which you have premixed with the balsamic vinegar (I use a whisk) and stir everything over medium heat for about 30 seconds until hot. Put the chicken back in the pan, and turn over and let them continue cooking until done, which if you're cooking them over med low heat, is about 5 to 6 minutes. Add 2 T butter and stir in and they're ready.
Now, in the meantime, cook the rice. I find it is FOOLPROOF to add the rice to the water, bring to a boil, cover and leave on LOW heat for 20 minutes. When done, remove lid and add the spinach. Quickly put lid back on so that spinach can wilt. When ready to plate, take lid off rice, stir in the now wilted spinach, add 2 T butter, about 3 T white wine, the thyme and salt and pepper.
Serve with the chardonnay. You'll be surprised at how yummy the dark fruit is with the dry wine. It brings out the flavor of the cinnamon, the deep sweet earthiness of the coriander and the mushrooms, and the lovely rich dark meat of the chicken.
Elegant and ready in less than 40 minutes.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.