It is that time again folks! Time for Turkey Day - otherwise known as Thanksgiving! Traditional Thanksgiving food is my absolute favorite holiday meal. There are a few must-haves for me, and then some extra traditions that I've grown very fond of.
First off, I know people who have ham or other meats (and some non-meat entrees) for their Thanksgiving meal, but this girl MUST have turkey. If there's no turkey, to me, it just isn't Thanksgiving.
Second, is the mashed potatoes and gravy. Now here's where things get seriously diversified based on the region of America you are in. Since I'm originally a yankee from Ohio, I was raised on "yellow gravy," which is nothing more than chicken or turkey broth,
(and there better be a lot of it) that is brought to a boil. While that's happening, you put a few fork-fulls of corn starch in a measuring cup then add evaporated milk to it, stirring until smooth. When the broth is at a rolling boil, you pour in the corn starch mixture, continuously stirring the broth. The corn starch makes the broth thicken, then you add some seasoned salt, seasoned pepper, and a couple of drops of yellow food coloring (at least that's what my grandma and mom do), and you got yourself some Thanksgiving gravy.
However, when I moved to Oklahoma, I got an entirely new experience with what is called giblet gravy. I haven't made it yet, but it's a broth-based gravy as well, only it has poultry parts in it and pieces of diced hard-boiled egg. Not to mention, this gravy is apparently used in reserve, meaning -- the Ohio gravy I was raised on is cooked in a very large pot, and is consumed in large quantities, so you can fill the potato well AND drown all the rest of your food with a couple of ladles of creamy yellow gravy. In contrast, the customary giblet gravy portion seems more like a flavorful gravy suggestion. I admit that the giblet gravy not only freaked me out when I first tried it, but I was also disappointed that I was not having my traditional slathered feast. I realized that gravy was more important to my traditional Thanksgiving meal than I had thought. That being said, over the years I have grown to appreciate and even enjoy southern giblet gravy. Thanksgiving at my dad's though, is generally gravy deficient. We've developed a tradition where instead of gravy, we have chicken and noodles as our mashed potato topper! I know, it might sound weird, but we love it.
If there's any turkey left (don't worry, you can always make more yellow gravy), there's all kinds of stuff you can do with the leftovers - but that's another post.
Now, here's where most people would say the stuffing was an imperative part of the Thanksgiving feast. Up until last year, I would not have been one of those people. Believe it or not, I spent my life passing the stuffing on to the next person at the table. Why? Well, as a kid I hated onions, so I was not about to go anywhere near stuffing. Then over the years I eventually came to love onions, but I still have a texture issue with their crunch, not that that has anything to do with stuffing, I'm just carrying on. So I spent the next few years thinking about trying tiny bites here and there, and then a couple of times I actually did, but the couple of ones I tried were either too soggy, or too salty. Then a miracle happened last year at Christmas dinner (which happened to be the same meal as Thanksgiving - I know lucky me, right?) and I tried some stuffing that I hadn't had before. OMG! It was soooo good! I finally understood what everyone's deal with stuffing was! And then, I heated up the leftovers, which were a little dry, but that's ok, because I found a good use for the giblet gravy ;)
Ok, then next is green beans, whole cranberry sauce, dinner rolls
with lots of butter, and candied yams - none of which I will put above the other, because this whole meal goes together so perfectly! It is the sum of its parts.
My mom always makes her AMAZING pecan pie, and pumpkin pies as well. If you love fall as much as I do, I'm sure you and your family have been eating pumpkin everything since like September. When it stopped being a bazillion degrees outside and I could use my oven in good conscience again, the first thing I baked were a couple of pumpkin pies. Even though I am all about the traditional Thanksgiving goodies, I have also just about reached my pumpkin pie quota by the end of November. But I still like that pumpkin-ness for the feast, so I figured out something a little different. I'm just going to leave this here for you. I hope you enjoy!
Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese – softened
1 cup pumpkin (about half a can)
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon (plus some for dusting)
1 graham cracker crust pie shell
Whipped cream for topping (recipe found here)
In a large bowl, stir the softened cream cheese until it is smooth (no lumps). Add in the pumpkin and vanilla and stir until it is smooth and creamy. Blend in the brown sugar and spices. Transfer mixture into the graham cracker pie shell and smooth off the top. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the freezer for about 2-3 hours or when pie is nearly frozen. Pull it out, decorate with dollops of whipped cream and dust with cinnamon. Slice and serve immediately.