Sunday, November 23, 2008

Break away from drab Thanksgiving fare

This week we finally get to celebrate one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. Why do I love it so much? First, because I am a fanatic about delicious food, and there are certain dishes that we, as a culture, typically reserve for consumption only at the Thanksgiving feast (cranberry sauce and candied yams, I'm looking at you). Also, Thanksgiving was one of the holidays that as a child we spent gathered with all my cousins and aunts and uncles. I have many pleasant memories of those holidays with our close family. Another reason I love Thanksgiving is that I love the opportunity to intentionally tune in to all of the bits and pieces of life that we should be so incredibly grateful for. Lastly, Thanksgiving officially marks the beginning of "The Holiday Season," and I love this whole time of year: the weather, the carols, the shopping, the family traditions, the's all great.

I know Thanksgiving isn't for a few more days, but I wanted to post the recipes I plan to contribute to our family's feast this week. Perhaps by getting them out there early, I might help someone struggling to decide what to make. There are some definite Thanksgiving standards that ought not be messed with: the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy are the staples that I wouldn't dream of altering. I do feel that the vegetable and dessert dishes offer some room for experimentation, however.

Personally, I'm not really interested in wasting precious stomach space on vegetables at Thanksgiving. But it's probably a good idea to have them available. I happen to have a giant pumpkin that we never got around to carving at Halloween, and found what looks to be a very delicious recipe for pumpkin soup. So my veggie dish isn't green, but fits the harvesty mood of Thanksgiving, and goes in its very own receptacle (a bowl) so no valuable plate real estate is wasted.

Cream of Spiced Pumpkin Soup
A variation of a recipe I found on
15 servings/55 minutes

1 onion
1 clove garlic
4 T butter
2 ¼ pounds pumpkin flesh, peeled and diced
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp curry powder
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
1 ¾ cups milk
¾ cup cream

(This is SOUP, so all ingredients may be adjusted to suit your tastes/preferences)

1. Saute onion and garlic in butter until soft
2. Add pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg, and curry
3. Add stock and bay leaf
4. Simmer for 30 minutes
5. Puree in blender with milk
6. Season to taste and stir in cream as desired

Now, Pumpkin pie is definitely a Thanksgiving standard, but have you ever been to a Holiday feast where 3 or 4 people each brought one? I don't hate pumpkin pie, but haven't been exposed to much variation on the end result. So an overabundance of one dessert in my mind equates to deficiency of other options. (There is no rule against having chocolate at Thanksgiving, you know!) It's really awkward when someone's whole pumpkin pie is left untouched. Usually the embarrassing store-bought one. I would do a chocoloate dessert, but I have been wanting to try this recipe, and with our smaller group this year, we shouldn't have the copious pumpkin pie dilemma. So I'm going to bring a fun twist on the pumpkin-dessert theme:

Pumpkin Cream Sandwiches
Clipped from my trial issue of Real Simple magazine last fall

3 T butter, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (crap, I have to buy this!)
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

HEAT oven to 375 degrees (I love it when recipes remind you to do this first, because I always forget)

BEAT the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, and egg and beat until combined.

COMBINE hte flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a medium bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar and butter and beat on medium-ow speed until fully incorporated.

SPOON heaping tablespoons of the mixture 2 inches apart onto parchment- or foil-lined baking sheets. Bake until puffed and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes.

CLEAN the mixer, then, as the cookies bake, beat the cream cheese, heavy cream, and confectioner's sugar until smooth and spreadable.

SPREAD the flat side of half the cooled cookies with the cream mixture. Top with the remaining cookies.

If there is enough of my fresh pumpkin left from the soup, perhaps I'll try using it in the cookies instead of the canned stuff.

Mmmm. I don't know about you, but my tastebuds are ready for it to be Thursday. It's my first time making both of these recipes, so I hope they turn out okay. If not, I'll be the one bringing the embarrassing store-bought pie! (If the soup fails, I'm sure no one will miss it.)

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