It’s Thanksgiving!

Now that silly birthday things are out of the way, it’s time to get down to some very serious business.

IT’S THANKSGIVING!

Well, almost, but it’s my favorite holiday of the year, so I take it very seriously. I am also more than a little peeved about the unnecessary encroachment of halloween and Christmas on T-giving’s turf. Back up off my favorite holiday, yo!

I have a habit of not being in America for great American holidays, but in no way does that put a damper on the celebration. I’m actually pretty excited to be in the States for this Thanksgiving, because the last few years, I’ve kind of been all over the place… This one year I was on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, then I was in Budapest, the next year I was in Italy, then the year after I was in London and cooking for 25 with 1 oven and a raging case of meningitis, and then I was back in Budapest again and I nearly burnt down a really important historic building owned by the US Government. True story.

My preliminary planning for Thanksgiving may or may not have begun in February of this year… Stop it right now! Don’t you dare judge me. It’s called enthusiasm!

Like every family, we have our own traditions and favorite dishes, but I always like to try out a couple new dishes every year as well. Regardless of where in the world I’ve been or who I’ve been cooking for, I have a couple steadfast rules and traditions on which I will not budge.

  • There will be cornbread stuffing and it will be awesome
  • There will be no canned cranberry sauce (unless Lauren is there and only then)
  • There will be no canned cream of something soup anywhere near my green beans
  • Turkey is not that big a deal
  • If you want pumpkin pie, you can make it yourself, pecan is where it’s at
  • And most importantly keep the g.d. celery away from the stuffing! (celery makes me want to punch things)
So, all that being said, let’s talk menu. There are some things that will always be on my menu, some things will come and go. Here’s a look at how this year’s menu is shaping up:
  • World Famous Cornbread Cranberry Stuffing
  • Dried Cherry Cranberry Sauce
  • Horseradish and Chive Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole w Madeira Mushrooms
  • Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic and Shallots
  • Some kind of turkey
  • Pecan Pie
This week, I’m going to share some other recipes that would also make for a great Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

We had 3 days of sub-70 degree temperatures here in Southern California, which means it’s kinda, sorta officially autumn.  Time to bust out the scarves, jackets and boots and other autumnal things that are still completely inappropriate in this climate. I decided to go all out and just dive into the deep end of fall. I feel like the deep end of fall is most accurately embodied by pumpkin in it’s various forms. I dabbled around in the shallow end of pumpkin, with some gnocchi and lattes, a couple weeks ago, but brace yourself.

If you like pumpkin pie or even vaguely think that pumpkin scented candles are sort nice, you definitely need to go ahead and make this. The bourbon and chocolate chips are totally optional, but I think they are totally necessary. Just do it. This is a perfect dessert for any halloween or fall cocktail parties you have coming up. It would also be great for a casual Thanksgiving get together. So just go ahead and make it now. Everyone will love you.

Pumpkin Pie Bars (from Joy the Baker)

  • 1-1/3 cups flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF All-purpose mix)
  • 3/4 cup  granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup  (1-1/2 sticks) cold butter
  • 1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, uncooked (used Bob’s Red Mill GF Oats)
  • 1/2 cup  chopped walnuts
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 3   eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)
  • a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips for sprinkling on top (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13×9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides; grease foil.
  2. Mix flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar in medium bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats and nuts.
  3. Reserve 1 cup oat mixture; press remaining onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes. Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla, bourbon, pumpkin and spice with mixer until well blended. Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture and a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips (if desired).
  4. Bake 25 min.; cool 10 min. Use foil to transfer dessert from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

When I was living overseas, there was no such thing as pumpkin pie spice. Pumpkin just isn’t put in pie form in other parts of the world. But I was quite happy to learn that it was super easy to make your own pumpkin pie spice. I’ve never used the ready mixed version, I’ve always made my own and word on the street is that it’s pretty good.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
Combine all the spices in a small container with a lid. Shake together to combine. Shake it some more. Store in small jar or spice container.

Key Lime Pie with Pecan-Gingersnap Crust (Gluten Free!)

So last week, I had to cook for 19 people. NBD. I’ve done it before in much worse conditions. The key to cooking mass quantities of food for mass quantities of people is utilizing your time. Anything that can be made ahead of time, should be made ahead of time. Desserts are usually a sure bet in the ‘make ahead’ category.

Key lime pie seemed like the perfect solution to all my problems. Make ahead, light, fruity, summery. I was actually inspired when I was going through a pile of cookbooks my mom is sending to cookbook heaven (aka the thrift store). We have a stack of cookbooks that have been lurking around for years, but haven’t used in ages and decided to give them one last glace before they were gone. We stumbled across a little gem! The original recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Savoring America had a great sounding crust, but the filling was a bit too fussy. I wanted this to be able to make this ahead of time and have everything be ‘easy peasy lemon squeezy’ not ‘difficult, difficult lemon difficult’. Or lime, I guess I should say. (I am going to venture a guess and say only one person reading this got the difficult joke… (Hey Lauren!) If you would like to get the joke, go watch this movie and thank me later.)

The end result was perfect. The crust had a little bit of a ‘spicy’ bite to it from the ginger and it complemented the cool, sweetness of the lime perfectly. Everyone wanted some…

Key Lime Pie with Pecan-Gingersnap Crust

Pecan-Gingersnap Crust (Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring America, p. 218)

  • 28 gingersnaps (we used Trader Joe’s GF Gingersnaps)
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz/60g) chopped pecans
  • 1 tbsp chopped candied or crystallized ginger
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz/60g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Key Lime Pie Filling (adapted from this recipe)
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
For the Crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Butter a 9-in pie dish.
  2. In a food processor, combine the gingersnaps, pecans, ginger, sugar and cinnamon if using. Pulse until the mixture is finely ground crumbs, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix until the crumbs are evenly dampened and the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  3. Press the mixture in an even layer on the bottom and sides of the pie dish.
  4. Place the crust in the oven and bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer crust to rack to cool.
For the Key Lime Filling:
  1. Lower oven temp to 325F/160C.
  2. Combine the condensed milk, lime juice, and eggs. Beat until blended and pour into cool pie crust.
  3. Bake 15-20 minutes until the pie is just firm.
  4. Transfer to a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Before serving, mix sour cream and powdered sugar and spread on top of pie before serving.
  7. Serve and enjoy!