Thanksgiving in the United States is a family holiday that is usually celebrated with a huge Turkey Dinner. Although Thanksgiving Celebrations occurred sporadically since the Pilgrims first Thanksgiving, it wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be the official National Holiday.
In 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday in November to be the official Thanksgiving Holiday. Before 1939, it was on the last Thursday in November and it was suggested to him, that if it was officially on the fourth Thursday there would be more time for Holiday Shopping and thus help to improve the economy which at that time was not very good due to the Great Depression.
The history of Thanksgiving in the United States goes back to the Mayflower Pilgrims, but the actual tradition goes back to ancient times to the Druids in Ireland. Societies all over the world and back into prehistoric times have always given thanks for a good harvest. In Jewish tradition, Sukkoth is celebrated shortly after the Jewish New Year.
Our tradition of Turkey dinner goes back to the first dinner that the Pilgrims celebrated with the Indians. Wild turkeys were plentiful at that time and that was one of the many protein foods that were eaten during the first Thanksgiving. Most of us have our family traditions which include not only Turkey but Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin and Cranberries. Even though most of us will probably have the traditional turkey and dressing some of you may like to make it a little different this year.
This year, for the first time in 125 years (the last event like this was in 1888) the first day of Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving. Because of this dual event, many families will be celebrating both holidays with food that may be somewhat untraditional for both holidays.
In our family, Sweet Potato Latkes (pancakes) are going to replace our usual Sweet Potato Casserole which is really very good. What I am going to do is take the flavors from our usual casserole and incorporate them into the Latkes. Other families will probably make the traditional Potato Latkes, but we do like our Mashed Potatoes and Gravy on Thanksgiving. Pictured below are Apple Latkes; the shape and texture are the same as Sweet Potato but the color is different. The method of making is the same.
Most of the recipes featured here are traditional, but with a slightly different twist from the original. The traditional Roast Turkey is on the menu but with a not so traditional Curried Fruit Dressing. Instead of candied yams try a Golden Squash Jubilee made with banana squash and dried apricots; for color contrast make fresh Creamed Spinach in minutes with the aid of your Food Processor and Microwave Oven. For the bread make Pumpkin Yeast Biscuits and instead of Pumpkin Pie, try a French Apple Tart made in a Pecan Crust.
You have all the traditional items in this menu, but made just a little differently for a surprising taste twist. The turkey is present with a traditional bread stuffing made not so traditional by the addition of dried fruit and curry powder. The orange vegetable in the form of squash (yams or pumpkin may be substituted) are present and so is the traditional pumpkin, but in the form of biscuits. The Thanksgiving pie is also present but made with apples, a fruit favored by more people than pumpkin. Add your own choice of appetizer and condiments and you will have a Thanksgiving feast that your family and guests will not only remember for years, but will request repeats of, over and over again.
Cinnamon/Vanilla Cranberry Sauce
Last Night’s Dinner was Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin with sautéed Spinach with Mushrooms and Onions. I had been busy most of the afternoon baking Gingerbread House Parts so my husband Ev, went to the store for me to pick up the Pork Tenderloin and a Vegetable. I had asked him to get whatever Leafy Vegetable he preferred and it could be fresh or frozen. He picked out frozen chopped Spinach. Now, I love Spinach, but chopped is another story. Anyways, I sautéed it with diced Onions and sliced Mushrooms. It came out pretty good, but the whole leaf would have been better. Anyways, I always cook too much for two people and there was a good size portion of the Spinach leftover. When we discussed what we would like to have for Dinner tonight, Ev wanted Pasta. I said okay but didn’t tell him what kind of Pasta we were going to have. Here is where the Makeover comes in. Listed below are the leftovers that I incorporated into the meal along with the additional ingredients that I had to purchase:
ON HAND PURCHASED
Lasagna Noodles Ricotta Cheese
Mushroom/Spinach Sauté Canned Diced Tomatoes
Egg & Cream Ground Veal (optional)
Fresh Basil & Garlic
Dried Oregano & Bay Leaves
Salt & Pepper
This was probably one of the easiest meals I have prepared in a long time. Below is the order in which I prepared this dish:
I – Making the Tomato Sauce
- Sautéing the Veal in a small amount of Olive Oil
- Crushing the Garlic and adding it to the Veal
- Add the Crushed Tomatoes along with the Dried Oregano & Bay Leaf
- Add half can (3 oz.) Tomato Paste along with Salt and Pepper to taste
- Allow to simmer until the Sauce is of the desired consistency
- At the end, add about 1/4 cup minced Basil
II – Spinach/Ricotta Mixture
- In small bowl I mixed 1 cup of Ricotta with 1 beaten Egg and then added about 1/4 cup of Cream.
- Stir in the Mushroom/Spinach Mixture
III – Assembly
- Place a very small amount of Olive Oil at the bottom of the baking dish and spread it with a paper towel to cover the entire bottom surface.
- Arrange a layer of Noodles on the bottom
- Add a layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Add a layer of shredded Mozzarella
- Add another layer of Pasta and top with another layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Sprinkle some Parmesan Cheese on this layer
- Add another layer of Pasta and top with another layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Add Mozzarella Cheese
- Half hour before serving bake at 350 degrees until the Cheese is melted and slightly browned and the dish is hot all the way through – (about half hour)
IV – Serving
- Let the Lasagna rest for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving it.
- Serve with the Veal/Tomato Sauce and additional Parmesan Cheese as desired
I love creating new dishes out of leftovers. The act itself is a creative challenge and the results are always unique. This time is no exception. On Wednesday, I had a group of friends over to play Mah Jong, a challenging and interesting game, once played only by men in the Orient. When we get together the hostess always provides several snacks to nibble on. Needing to try out my recipes for my upcoming teen culinary camp, I made a hot Artichoke/Spinach Dip and served with crispy tortilla chips. This dip is also good with French Baguettes or croustades which are usually very thin baguettes, sliced and lightly toasted.
Since there were only five of us playing and there was more than one type of snack to nibble on, I only put out half of the dip that I made. The other half stayed in the refrigerator on hold. Since we never had to go into the second half, I now had more artichoke dip which my husband and I could probably have a meal of. Rather than do that, I decided to make Artichoke Turnovers. The dip was made with artichoke hearts, spinach, jack cheese, onions and garlic and is very tasty and would go well with the puff pastry I make turnovers with.
Turnovers can be made with pie crust, a quick puff pastry or purchased frozen puff pastry. The type of frozen puff pastry that is sold in the freezer case in the market is usually rolled and has to be thawed (in the refrigerator) before using. Since I have an upright freezer in my garage with lots of shelf space, I usually buy a 25 lb. box of puff pastry]. The pastry keeps indefinitely in the freezer and I only have to take out what I need, one sheet at a time. It takes only about 5 minutes to thaw out to be pliable enough to use for turnovers. To roll the pastry, you would have to let it thaw a little longer.
The puff pastry I use is 10 x 15 inches wide, thereby allowing me to cut it into 6 equal 5” squares. The best way to do this is totake an 18” ruler or yardstick and nick the dough at 5” intervals on all four sides. All you have to do the is to take your knife, start at one end and then look where you want to end up. If you keep you eye on your finishing point, your cutting line will turn out straight. If course, at the same time, you want to make sure you keep your other hand out of the way of the knife.
Once you have your squares cut, you need to line a baking pine with baker’s parchment paper or a silpat® sheet to place your pastries on. Also have on hand, a small dish of cold water to moisten the edges of the pastry so that they will stick together when you fold them in half diagonally.
Once you are ready to make your turnovers, turn each square of dough so that it looks like a diamond. Place a moderate amount of the filling on the lower half of each diamond. In the case of the Artichoke Dip, I placed a scoop of the dip plus some additional shredded cheese on top. Moisten two adjoining edges and then fold over to create a triangle. Use the tines of a fork to crimp together the edges so that when the pastries are baked, the filling will stay inside. Use the same fork to poke holes in the top portion of the pastry to allow steam to escape when baking.
Once you have all your pastries filled, you can then either bake them or freeze them. During the summer when the fruit on the trees have ripened, I usually make a lot of turnovers and freeze them for use throughout the year. When you are ready to bake the turnovers, preheat your oven to 400 degrees (375 for convection). Before baking, brush the tops with an egg white. For savory turnovers, such as the artichoke dip, you can lightly sprinkle some flavored sea salt on top. For fruit turnovers, sprinkle with Coarse Brown Sugar. (This is usually marketed as raw sugar, but it actually isn’t) When the desired heat has been reached place the pan in the oven and set the time for 20 minutes. When the turnovers are done, then should be a nice almost dark golden brown. The high heat is needed to make the puff pastry puff.
Puff pastry is made by incorporating a butter block into the prepared pastry and then rolled, folded, refrigerated and then rolled, folded and refrigerated about 4 more times – The multiple rolling and folding creates hundreds of layers, thereby making ‘puff pastry’ which when made correctly is a wonderfully flaky and delectable treat.
If you are baking only one pan, place the on the middle rack of the oven. If you are baking more than one pan, then you should use levels two (one from the bottom) and four Once the turnovers are finished baking, remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack and allow about 5 minutes before serving. Turnovers taste best when eaten fresh out of the oven. Puff pastry is handy to keep around and can be made to create all kinds of turnovers including meat, cheese or fruit or even vegetables. Try creating your own and see what you can come up with. Leftovers can give you all kinds of ideas asto what do make them from – the possibilities are endless.
When browsing through Costco’s Produce Section the other day, I came across a package of 4 large Portobello Mushrooms. These are the size that Mushroom Burgers can be made from and they are also great for a ‘Stuffed Mushroom Entrée’. After picking up the mushrooms, I then went over to the Seafood Section and purchased a King Crab Leg. The other ingredients that were needed were already at home.
To make the Stuffed Mushrooms, the first thing that I did was remove the meat from the Crab Leg. King Crabs have unforgiving shells; there are little bumps or thorn-like protrusions on them that make it difficult to handle. The best way to do this is to take a pair of kitchen shears and cut the shell lengthwise from top to bottom. If this doesn’t help to split open the shell, do the same thing on the other side of the leg. You can then pull the shell apart and remove the meat. If you were lucky enough to have the meat come out in large pieces, you will want to cut them up into smaller pieces. You should have about 1 cup Crab Meat.
You will also need about ¼ cup of chopped Onion and ¼ cup of chopped Celery. Remove and discard the stems from the Portobello Mushrooms. Wipe the Mushrooms off with a damp paper towel and place them skin side down in a baking dish.
To make the stuffing, melt about 2 Tablespoons of Butter in a sauté pan and then add the chopped onions and celery. Sauté the vegetables in the butter until they are limp and the onion just start caramelize. Then add 2 Tablespoons of Flour and stir into the Butter. Once a paste forms, stir in 1 cup of milk or half and half and continue to cook and stir until the mixture thickens. Add about ¼ tsp. -1/2 tsp. Salt and ¼ tsp. White Pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary and then stir in the prepared Crab Meat. This preparation is enough to fill two large mushrooms.
Top the mushrooms with shredded Parmesan or Mozzarella Cheese. Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the tops become lightly browned. Then place on a lower rack in the oven and continue baking for about 5 minutes more. Serve with a vegetable or green salad.
Our mushroom dinner was served with very young asparagus that I sautéed with just a tiny amount of water and sea salt and then drizzled with mushroom oil. Garlic bread was the final addition. This makes a very rich and filling meal. If you are preparing this meal for 4 people, just double all the ingredients mentioned above. If you are only preparing it for two people, then you are going to have two large mushrooms left over. On another night, you can make Mushroom Burgers. Keep posted to this blog to look for the directions for the Mushroom Burgers.
When you make your stuffed mushrooms, don’t feel that you have to stuff them with crab. You can use just about anything else that you prefer, including spinach, tofu or chopped mushrooms. Use your imagination and see what you can come up with.
To clear up some of the confusion, this will be an ongoing series that deals with different types of pasta. For our first installment we will deal with the flat pastas. But before we get into the shapes of pasta, you might want to consider what pasta is made from. The best quality pasta is made from semolina (hard durum wheat) and eggs with maybe a little salt and some olive oil thrown in. There is pasta that has no eggs in it and then there is pasta made for those with gluten allergies. To avoid pasta with gluten, you can buy rice pasta usually in the Asian Isle in the market) and pasta made from corn flour. There is pasta that is made domestically and then there is the imported dried variety. There are many types of Italian Pasta, most of which are very good. It used to be very difficult to find pasta imported from Italy, but now you can find them most anywhere.
There is fresh pasta which you can usually purchase from your local Italian deli or you can make it yourself. There are many pasta machines available on the market which help to make the production of pasta at home a fairly simple task.
The best way to cook pasta is to have plenty of boiling water which has been salted. The salt not only helps to flavor the pasta, but it also increases the temperature of the water which makes the pasta cook more quickly. Dried pastas usually have a recommended cooking time on the package and it is wise to follow that at least until you have cooked the pasta at least once. Pasta should be cooked to ‘al dente’ which means “to the tooth”. You should be able to bite into it, but not have it crunch.
The flat pastas include lasagna, linguini, fettuccini and papparadelle. Dried Lasagna noodles are usually about 2-3” wide and can be purchased in boxes either uncooked or precooked. Domestic lasagna noodles are longer than the imported ones; however most of the imported ones are of a better quality. You can usually also purchase fresh pasta which can be used for lasagna from your local Italian deli. Lasagna may either be served simply with a Bolognese (meat) sauce with shredded parmesan or more traditionally as a layered casserole. The sauce for lasagna can vary from marinara (tomato) to Bolognese, mushroom, vegetarian or seafood. There will usually be a layer of pasta, a layer of ricotta cheese, a layer of sauce and a layer of mozzarella. Sometimes the pasta and cheese is layered without the sauce and the sauce is added at serving time.
The narrowest of the flat pasta is linguini; linguini is long narrow pasta (about ¼” wide) which can be served with any number of sauces. A favorite that is served with linguini are clams in either a white wine sauce or a spicy red sauce. The next size up is fettuccini which is usually served with an Alfredo sauce (cream or béchamel) made with butter, heavy cream and parmesan. It is utterly delicious, easy and simple to make and loaded with calories. Not for those who have to watch their cholesterol intake!
Other than lasagna, papparadelle are the widest at about one inch in width. Papparadelle can be served with most any kind of sauce. Papparadelle go especially with vegetables primavera as they provide a nice contrast to the vegetable and are substantive enough to provide contrasting texture and flavor to the vegetables.
All of the above pastas are also made with variations in flavor. You can find [amazon Spinach ], Tomato or Squid Ink Pasta. The Squid Ink is a little more difficult to find and will probably be in specialty shops. In addition to the manufactured dried pastas there are also gourmet pastas which are made in different colors and sometimes have a decorative edging. Choose the ones that most appeal to you, add a flavorful sauce and make a salad and voila! You have a wonderful meal! See our recipe section for Papparadelle with Mushroom Cream Sauce. http://sylveeeskitchen.com/recipes/dinner/pappardelle-with-mushroom-cream-sauce/
What do you do with one leftover portion of mashed potatoes and a small amount of frozen spinach? Well, here is what I did with them.
Mashed Potatoes -whisk them up really well to get out all the lumps and then add one beaten egg and mix well.
Spinach – Thaw and drain well.
Combine the foregoing ingredients with ¼ cup chopped onions and 2 Tbsps. shredded Parmesan Cheese and then add salt and pepper to taste.
Butter a 1 quart casseroleand transfer the Potato/Spinach mixture to the casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the mixture is hot.
Place under the broiler for up to 5 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
Serve immediately. This amount will yield 2 medium portions. For more portions, just increase the ingredients.
This dish is very tasty and you do not have to wait for leftovers to create it. Just mix up some mashed potatoes and spinach (fresh or frozen), chopped onion and season to taste. This is a good way to get your starch and vegetables all in one dish.
Other vegetables that you can add to this dish are sautéed mushrooms, chives, green onions, or other vegetables that you may have such as chopped broccoli or cauliflower. Use your imagination and see what you can come up with.
If anyone does come up with a similar creation, please let me know. [email protected]
It will be interesting to see what other palates will create.