Friday, December 19, 2014

A Thanksgiving Retrospective... Remembering what the season's really about

Please forgive me in advance - I may get a little soap-box-y in this post. 

I got a part time job at Marshalls for the Christmas season. After a few weeks of training where I was in multiple departments, mostly moving displays from one part of the store to another, they settled on having me greet customers as they came into the store. I love it - and I love that the store does it. Many folks that come in aren't expecting to be greeted and appreciate the time we take to say hello, make them feel welcome, help them find things, and assist them in getting their packages to their cars. Some people think I'm a mannequin, or think I'm giving out free stuff, or even think I'm a representative of some other company promoting something, but the majority smile and say hello back to me. But just this week I realized that people are getting cranky. There are more Grinches out there, like the guy taking his mother shopping who says "Well then she doesn't come in" when I tell him that our carts don't go outside for security reasons. (The wheels lock. Cheshire is the last Marshalls in the state that doesn't have carts like this.) She needed a cart to help her walk, which we totally understand. When she doesn't find anything he says, "Don't shop here anymore." Or the woman who says, "These clothes are ugly! The sweaters are ugly! My daughter's wardrobe is 10 times nicer - I'm going to West Farms Mall -" as she's heading out the door. These folks are still the minority, but I'm worried that the closer we get to Christmas, the crankier people will be. 

And that's unfortunate. Yesterday, one woman came in and said, "I'm still in the spirit!" and I knew she meant the Christmas spirit. Thank you, lady! Thank you for appreciating what the spirit actually means! It means being nice and smiling and appreciating what you have and the people you love. I don't think you need to show your love by showering presents on people. ("The avarice never ends!" says Jim Carrey's Grinch. It really never does. I hope it doesn't get worse each year.) 

So for today's post I am looking back at what I cooked on Thanksgiving to remind myself and my readers (whom I love - thank you!) that the winter holiday season is about giving thanks. Presents are just the icing on the cake. What matters to me is having my family around, having a home to stay warm in, and having friends to exchange holiday greetings with. Oh yeah - and lots of delicious food, of course. 

In addition to way too many pies and the usual salad (Julia Child's Caesar), I made a bacon cranberry orange chutney. It tasted just as good as it sounds. The recipe came from Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

Mmmm bacon. 

The chutney paired very well with the turkey. Our plate this Thanksgiving was a true picture of bounty: hunks of turkey, mashed potatoes pooled with gravy, cornbread stuffing, brussel sprouts, and salad. My mouth waters just thinking about it. 

I made another pumpkin pie (and still have bags of frozen pumpkin in the freezer). This one was from Faith Middleton's Food Schmooze and had a walnut brown sugar topping. 

I used a pre-made Pillsbury crust.

There was so much dessert but we stuffed ourselves, as tradition demands. My aunt made a triple chocolate cheesecake that was one of her best. She loves making cheesecakes, so much so that one year we got her the Philadelphia Cream Cheese book of like 50 cheesecake recipes. She loves trying new ones. This year's was definitely a win.

This holiday season, please try to remember what it's really about. The season is about celebrating what brings light to our lives: friends, family, and literal daylight. Things are great if you have the means, but money can't buy love. Treasure the people in your life. Share experiences instead of things. Don't let Christmas trample all the other holidays - embrace and acknowledge other traditions and everyone will be happier. 

To my readers: I am so thankful for you. Thank you for going on this journey with me. You keep me disciplined to write and I am so grateful for that. 

Be delicious this season! 

Happy munching! 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Giving Thanks for Pie

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a great holiday with lots of amazing food, good people, and some snow depending on where you are. We had some lovely flurries on Thanksgiving and a ground-covering snow the day before. The weekend before I went to a Friendsgiving party, the first I'd ever been to. It's a really fun idea: a gathering where you can be with friends and girlfriends/boyfriends - and have twice the turkey. For the occasion I made individual pumpkin pies. There was so much food that they didn't get eaten at dinner, but I was able to send them home with folks and with my mom when she went into work. 

Thanks to for the recipe! 

It calls for vanilla wafers but many people who commented recommended gingersnap cookies instead. The vanilla wafers got too soggy. I thought the graham crackers would be yummier than vanilla wafers and I was right!   

I used dark corn syrup instead of Karo Lite like the recipe suggested and it turned out just fine.

It took a lot longer than 25 minutes for the pies to set. It was probably closer to an hour. I kept putting it back in for 10-minute intervals.

The little pies were beautiful. Oddly though, the recipe was only supposed to make 18 - I had enough filling left over to make a whole pie! 

Instead of using the pre-made crust I had in the freezer, I used a bunch of the leftover ginger snaps! 

I found a recipe on and made the crust using gingersnaps, Mexican vanilla, butter, and sugar. I don't think I pressed it quite as much as I should have, but it came out pretty good.

Like with the individual pumpkin pies, no one cut into the pie because there was just too much other delicious food. When we were all playing games and the party was winding down, we had some tiny slices and it was good.

I still have so much pumpkin in my freezer... what to do, what to do?

Happy holidays to you and yours! (And happy munching!)