In the Grateful Kitchen

November 23, 2011

I can hardly believe that the holidays have arrived again. And, that before the sun comes up tomorrow morning, I will be on a plane flying home to Boulder to spend some much needed time with a very high proportion of all the people I am grateful for in my life.

Last year, I was dutifully working away in the kitchen, planning an extravagant meal for a small gathering of good friends. I loved each minute of the intricate planning – stuffing tiny quail eggs, poaching seckel pears, labeling cheeses and tasting pairings for wine, and making sure that pie crusts were flawless and the table just so. I still enjoy reading the post about that Thanksgiving meal – it’s so much fun to pull off a fancy dinner, and to properly raise glasses of gratitude with those you love. But this year will be decidedly different.

Not because there a lack of intricate care going into the preparation, and certainly not because there won’t be loved ones to raise glasses with – I will get to share the cooking duties with all of my family members this year, instead of being the culinary conductor myself. It has been nearly two years since my family and I have all been together for a holiday meal this way – since, my father and grandmother have had significant health issues for us all to weather, my mother has changed jobs. There have been several cross-country moves, many milestones, much good news and some less good since we gathered last; all circumstances which may make our glasses of gratitude even deeper. We are all quite excited about lazing about on the couch catching up, spending time running and hiking in the mountains, playing board games, going to movies, and the like, than we are about making sure that the flavor profile of the vintage matches that of the dressing. No, this will be a “bowl and spoon” kind of feast – equally as grand and anticipated as last years celebration and for completely different reasons.

So, what are we having? My mother has a few tricks up her sleeve (this from the woman that, at one time, hand-made gingerbread boxes to wrap our holiday gifts in.) I’ll be bringing my recipe books as well, and a few new recipes to try. My sister is whipping up her renown mashed potatoes, and there will be my father’s favorite green bean casserole. We are opting for Cornish game hens instead of turkey (because this means that there is more time spent frolicking in the hills and less time babysitting a bird….)

Homemade hummus, artichoke dip, crunchy/spicy caramel corn and pumpkin seed brittle will be whetting our whistles as we wander in and out of the kitchen in our socks, watching football and giving impromptu hugs, cracking inappropriate jokes at each other that are long overdue. My father recently had a heart procedure and we’re all eager to get his hiking boots back on now that he’s well so I’m looking forward to packing some GingerBread in my backpack for us to enjoy at the top of the First Flatiron.

My mother and sister both have severe food allergies that prevent them from eating gluten, casein, and many refined sugars and we’re modifying a few favorites to suit them (I look forward to sharing the outcome of our experiments later) so we’ll sit down to versions of Sunchoke Soup, Roasted Squash + Lemon – Tahini Quinoa instead of stuffing, roasted brussel sprouts, a nice green salad w/ pomegranate seeds and slices of Fennel Seed Soda Bread, among other things. These recipes are delicious alternatives to more traditional American dishes that can be laden with unnecessary fats and refined ingredients, which means that they’re also excellent choices for runners and athletes that have not yet entered off season (ahem….just one more week to go!)

For dessert, I have been called in to turn the culinary wheels and so I can’t wait to make a gluten free version of The Apple Pie, and have been talked into a Fig + Berry Galette as well (because you can’t just have ONE kind of pie-like dessert at Thanksgiving….doesn’t everyone have two little slices of both?) I also cannot resist making Spiced Pumpkin Cookies + Brown Butter Frosting because everyone will want a little something sweet after their leftover lunch over the weekend.

So, tonight, I pack, and will enjoy a glass of wine or two before I go. I’ll be carrying with me the dry mix for the pie crust, and some fresh figs as a surprise (and for snacking on the plane.) My flight leaves before dawn so I’ll also pack Pumpkin Breakfast Bread (in muffin shape – hence the photos) in my carry-on. Usually this bread causes quite a ruckus as it’s higly packable, delicious with coffee (and also better than the airport cafe alternative,) and so sweet, and unique – but I am pretty sure that the hugs I’ll enjoy straight off the plane will have nothing to do with what I pull from the oven tonight, and more from the togetherness of it all.

I’ll post some photos and recipes from the kickoff of our holiday season next week. If you need still more ideas for Thanksgiving in the meantime, check out this Turkey Day database or these fresh, vegetarian ideas. Until then….ENJOY! And HAPPY THANKSGIVING wherever you are, whatever you’re cooking!

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