Thanksgiving

Lentils with Roasted Squash and Dried Cranberries

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It’s all turkey talk when it comes to Thanksgiving.

But really – it’s the side dishes that everyone stresses about, right?

What to serve with the turkey.

Back in the day my Mom served the same menu every year: candied sweet potatoes (fabulous but with more sugar than I can even imagine using now!); baked cranberries (spiked with brandy); a green vegetable of some sort; her famous “filling” made with barley-shaped pasta, mushrooms, onions and celery.

I like to mix it up every year, although I stick to tradition too. So we always have some sort of sweet potato dish (sometimes – yes --- with marshmallow, sometimes not); the same baked cranberries my Mom made; lots of vegetables; and stuffing (the kids got tired of Nana’s “filling”).

We also have a vegetarian entrée, usually mujadarah or koshary. And I must be aware of allergies, so, no nuts in the stuffing, plus I try to make an additional vegetarian stuffing.

This year I am serving this lentil side dish also. It’s sort of like a salad but also like a casserole. And it can be made ahead. It’s a beautiful dish, filled with colorful, seasonal ingredients. It’s vegetarian. It’s a side-dish. It’s nut-free.

 

Lentils with Roasted Squash, Spinach and Cranberries

  • 2 cups diced winter squash (such as butternut)
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup green French lentils
  • 3 cups water, lightly salted
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons orange juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the squash and shallot on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour one tablespoon of the olive oil over the vegetables, toss and bake for about 20 minutes, tossing the vegetables occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside. While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils and place them in a bowl. Stir in the vegetables, cranberries and parsley. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss the ingredients. Add orange juice, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss the ingredients. Add more orange juice if needed for moisture.

Makes 6 servings

Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Dried Cranberries

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Our Thanksgiving feast has all the usual stuff -- turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and so on.

Also -- Brussels sprouts. We are a Brussels sprouts-loving family.

This is this year's version, with cranberries and apples. I like the seasonal aspect of the dish and the ingredients add some color and glamor to the plate alongside pale slices of turkey, rich sweet-potato-orange and crusty-brown stuffing.

 

Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Dried Cranberries

  • 1 pound Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 tart apples
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon or orange peel
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and trim the Brussels Sprouts and, if large, cut them in half. Place the vegetables on the baking sheet. Peel and core the apples, cut them into chunks and place on the baking sheet with the Brussels Sprouts. Pour the olive oil over the ingredients and toss to coat them. Sprinkle the brown sugar, shallot and lemon peel on top, toss the ingredients. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, tossing the ingredients once. Add the cranberries, mix them in and bake for another 5 minutes or until the Brussels Sprouts are tender.

Makes 4 servings

Spelt Stuffing

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Everyone makes jokes about getting along at the Thanksgiving dinner table. You know, like dealing with the political rants from your crazy Uncle Joe.

But in my family we are all pretty much on the same page politically and otherwise so that's not an issue for us.

Our issues, depending on the year and who's coming, have to do with food.

Like making sure there's at least one entree for the vegetarian(s). At least one nut-free stuffing. Extra turkey wings and necks because so many of us like those best. 

Many families deal with food issues, and those become more important when someone's health is involved rather than if, say, someone prefers pumpkin pie to pecan pie or one particular turkey part or other.

Gluten problems have been front and center for a while now. Fortunately there are ways to handle this particular issue. There are loads of gluten free products on the market these days.

If your menu must consider foods for people who have gluten sensitivities/intolerance, have a look at this recipe for Spelt Stuffing.

Spelt is an ancient grain and it is related to wheat but is vastly different than the wheat varieties used for most breads. People with diagnosed celiac disease should not eat spelt, but apparently, most people with gluten intolerance don't have celiac disease and many find that they can tolerate spelt and spelt products.

In fact, that's how Spelt Right, a company that produces spelt breads, bagels, pizza dough and chips, came into existence. Beth George, its owner, discovered that her son has a wheat sensitivity but was ok with spelt. She then set about to create delicious breads including the artisan rosemary bread that I used to develop this recipe.

If you can't find Spelt Right breads and other items locally, but use spelt products regularly, you might want to alert your local market about them. I've tried several varieties including the cinnamon raisin bread, whole grain, etc., as well as a variety of the chips and bagels. All terrific products. Or go to the website and call to ask where you can find some.

If not, I've given alternate instructions on how to substitute. This recipe also works using classic wheat based bread. 

 

Rosemary-Spelt Bread Stuffing with Hazelnuts, Apples and Dried Cranberries

 

  • 12 slices Spelt Right Rosemary Spelt Bread (or 6 cups toasted spelt bread cubes plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large, tart apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts
  • 1-1/3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the spelt bread slices lightly and cut them into cubes. Place the cubes in a bowl and set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add the apple and cranberries and cook for another 2 minutes. Spoon the mixture into the bowl with the bread cubes. Add the nuts and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in the stock, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place the ingredients in a lightly oiled casserole. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is browned and crispy.

 Makes 6-8 servings

 

Cornbread Stuffing

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There will be more of us for Thanksgiving dinner this year. 

That means: more stuffing.

So, I can always make my Mom's barley-shape noodle "filling" or a sorghum-based version of that.

Maybe my Bread Stuffing with Figs and Hazelnuts or my well-loved chestnut-sausage stuffing?

But this year I'm thinking maybe I'll add a cornbread stuffing to the mix.

This one:

Cornbread Stuffing

 

  • 6 cups cornbread cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 2 large eggs (or use chicken or vegetable stock)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a casserole dish (about 2-quart). Cut the cornbread into 1/2-inch cubes and place them in a bowl. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the parsley, thyme and salt to taste. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the vegetables to the cornbread and toss the ingredients. Beat the eggs and add them to the bowl. Mix and spoon the stuffing into the prepared pan. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the top is crispy.

Makes 8 servings

Carrot Spice and Honey Muffins

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I always make a few carrot dishes for Rosh Hashanah. It's tradition!

Most often it's soup, sometimes a side dish.

This year I baked carrot muffins. Big breakfast winner for everyone, especially the grandkids.

Freezable too, so you can have them on hand whenever you might have a need. Like Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving weekend.

 

Carrot Spice and Honey Muffins

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, brown sugar, yogurt, honey, cooled butter and vanilla extract. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently just until blended. Fold in the carrots and raisins. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the muffins are golden brown. Let cool in the tins for 2-3 minutes, then remove the muffins to a rack to cool.

Makes 12  

 

 

 

Grandma Hoffman's Skinny Noodle Crusty-Top Mushroom Onion Kugel

Kugel is the kind of food that people can get into an argument about.

The issues can become monumental.

Like -- should it be sweet or salty?

have cheese or not? 

if cheese-- what kind?

And lots more.

Including this biggie -- what width noodles to use!

Skinny? Medium? Wide?

OY!

Here's my answer. Medium or wide for sweet, creamy, dairy-based or fruit-laden kugels served as side dishes with dairy or for dessert, because you want more pasta-surface area to absorb the sauce.

BUT, definitely skinny noodles for a savory kugel because you want it crispy on top to crunch under the pan juices or gravy that come with the tender meat and vegetables.

I grew up in a family where salty kugels were the thing. And ALWAYS made with the skinniest of noodles.

Here's my grandma's recipe. If you make it in a shallow baking pan the entire kugel is one huge crunch. Use a deeper pan if you prefer some soft noodles under the crusty top.

Grandma Hoffman's Mushroom Onion Kugel

  • 10 ounces skinny egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces fresh mushrooms, any variety, sliced
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • paprika

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions, until the noodles are tender but not mushy. Drain under cold water and set aside. While the noodles are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Set aside. Place the noodles in a large bowl. Add the vegetables with any accumulated juices, and stir the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the eggs and some salt and pepper to taste and mix them in. Place the mixture inside a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake for about 25 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes or until the top is crispy and browned.

Makes 8 servings

Beet and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Now that my children are grown, with children of their own, I sometimes think about the “old days” and remember the good times, the festive occasions, the fun we had. The Jewish holidays rank high on my list of best memories, especially the Passover Seders. Whether I’m thinking about the times that my cousin and I would crawl under the table while my uncle recited the Haggadah or last year, when my grandchildren threw the styrofoam “hail” and plastic locusts as we mentioned the Ten Plagues, the memories are good, the kind that I love to deposit in my memory bank.

There are good food memories too, from my grandma’s famous chicken soup to the complaints I got when I first served haroset made with dried apricots, pistachio nuts and cayenne pepper.

My first Seder continues my family's generations long menu featuring matzo ball soup, followed by roasted turkey. Chremslich, of course. In fact, a double portion of that. 

But all the rest is different. Over the years there was one food change after another, little by little as new in-laws came into our family, tastes changed and allergies had to be considered. So these days we have our own family expected recipes -- matzo ball soup and turkey, plus homemade baked cranberries, spinach pie (made with a matzo crust), imam bayeldi, and lots of other vegetables and the now standard spicy dried fruit haroset.

I used to serve flourless chocolate cake, but we had that a little too often, so because Passover is also my grandson's birthday, I will serve homemade macaroons along with a traditional chocolate roll, the one I used to make when my daughter Meredith's birthday fell during Passover. (You can stuff the roll with whipped cream, jelly or parve lemon curd filling).

Every year I add one new dish to my first Seder. One year it was Ratatouille. A few times there was a new version of haroset. I even made matzo farfel chocolates one year.

This year? A new salad! Here it is:

Roasted Beet and Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • 4 medium beets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 pound (about 30) medium size Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or use Balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the beets and cut them into bite size pieces. Place the beets on a baking sheet and pour one tablespoon olive oil over them. Toss to coat the beets. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 20 minutes or until tender. Trim the Brussels sprouts (cut them in half if they are large). Place them on a baking sheet and pour one tablespoon olive oil over them. Toss to coat the sprouts. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 15 minutes or until tender. Place the vegetables together in a bowl. Mix the remaining olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and orange peel and pour over the ingredients. Let rest for about 10 minutes, place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

 

No Easier Cranberry Sauce than this one

Sometimes all you have to do is change one ingredient in a recipe and the entire dish tastes different. Like this one. I've made cranberries the same way for years -- bake them with sugar, let them cool, then add brandy.

This year I added some freshly grated orange peel. Huge difference! If you like the orange-cranberry duo, this recipe is for you. Plus -- this recipe is the next easiest thing after opening a can.

Baked Orange Scented Cranberries

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries (3 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice (or use brandy or rum)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash and drain the berries and place them in a single layer in a baking dish. Add the sugar and orange peel and toss to coat all the berries. Cover the dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove the cover and stir thoroughly. Let the berries cool. Stir in the juice. Chill thoroughly.

Makes 6-8 servings

Roasting a turkey half breast

Suppose you're not roasting a whole turkey for Thanksgiving?

For example, your family just likes white meat. Or dark.

A whole turkey does look festive. And is traditional.

Still, if you don't like one part or another, just cook the part you like.

Fortunately for me, my Thanksgiving gang likes every part of the turkey. But when it's just Ed and me, or when I have Eileen and Jeff over for dinner, it's breast-only.

So, if you'll be cooking turkey breast for Thanksgiving or some other time, here's one of my easy, go-to recipes.

 

Roasted Turkey Half Breast with Sweet White Wine

  • half turkey breast, about 4 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-½ tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-½ cups sweet white wine such as Riesling

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the turkey breast and place it skin side up in a roasting pan. Brush the skin with the olive oil. Scatter the ginger, garlic and thyme over the breast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Place the turkey in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Pour the wine over the turkey. Continue to roast for another 40-50 minutes, basting occasionally, or until a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast measures 160°F. Remove the turkey from the oven and let rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Serve with pan fluids.

Makes 6 servings.

 

How Many Ways Can You Make Mashed Potatoes

I'm thinking mashed potatoes at the moment. Probably because Thanksgiving is coming. But really I don't need a holiday to think about this dish. I could eat mashed potatoes any time. Any day.

My mother used to make them using what she called "all-purpose" potatoes (or "Eastern" or "Maine"). She'd cook the spuds and use an old fashioned potato masher to get them smooth, then mix in the most fabulous goodies: butter, cream cheese or sour cream (sometimes both), milk and plenty of salt and pepper.

Life is good when you can eat like that.

Years later I read that many professional cooks prefer russet potatoes for mashing. I tried it, but frankly, my Mom's version is much better. So I stuck with all-purpose until Yukon Golds came along. Those make good mashed potatoes too, with the right texture and lots of flavor.

Still, there are other considerations when making mashed potatoes, besides the actual potatoes.

For example, maybe you don't want to include dairy ingredients. No problem. I've made awesome dairy-free mashed potatoes

Maybe you like a crust? Here's a recipe for you.

Other ingredients? Sure. You can mix in roasted garlic or spice the spuds up with horseradish, and lots more of course.

One of our family favorites was when my Mom mixed cooked spinach into the mashed potatoes. She called that "creamed spinach" and that's what I thought creamed spinach actually was until I got to college and discovered there weren't supposed to be potatoes in it. 

In Ireland, justifiably famous for its potato recipes, there's a dish called Colcannon (variation, Kailkenny), which is basically mashed potatoes mixed with cooked cabbage or kale. I'd say it's similar to my Mom's "creamed spinach." And it's just as good. It's also more colorful and pleasing to the eye than plain old mashed potatoes.

Colcannon, Kailkenny -- a terrific dish, especially as a side dish for your Thanksgiving turkey, vegetarian Thanksgiving or on some other day to accompany roasted salmon.

Colcannon/Kailkenny

  • 1 medium bunch kale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 all-purpose or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 5 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup milk, approximately (dairy, soy or rice milk)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Wash the kale thoroughly, discarding any thick stems. Dry the leaves with paper towels or in a salad spinner. Chop the leaves coarsely. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the kale and stir to coat the leaves with the oil in the pan. Pour in the stock, cover the pan and cook, lifting the cover to stir the ingredients occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until the kale has wilted. Remove the cover and cook for another minute or until the liquid in the pan has evaporated.

Cook the potatoes in a saucepan in lightly salted water for 15-20 minutes or until they are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and mash them with a potato masher, fork or electric mixer or hand beater set on low speed. Add the butter or margarine in chunks and continue to mash until the mixture is free of lumps. Add the milk, salt, pepper and a few grindings of fresh nutmeg. Stir to distribute ingredients. Add more milk if you prefer a softer texture. Add the kale and stir it in.

Makes 6-8 servings