A Thanksgiving Wish

November 25th, 2020

“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.”

Or maybe not this year.

Thanksgiving will feel a little different for many of us in 2020. I apologize if I seem like a Pollyanna, but I’m going to do my darndest to be thankful anyway.

Abraham Lincoln mandated the first official national Thanksgiving in 1863, during the Civil War. His official proclamation setting aside the fourth Thursday in November as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise” was written by Secretary of State William Seward.

It urged Americans not just to give thanks but also to use the day to ask God to “heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

If Americans could find time to spread thanks in the middle of our nation’s bloodiest and most divisive war, we can do it now.

It may not be easy. We have just come off an election that highlighted rifts in our society. We are beset by a disease that has sickened and killed thousands and that will keep many of us from celebrating Thanksgiving together in person this year.

Since March many of us have become accustomed to physical isolation. Nevertheless, solitude may be a bit harder to bear over this holiday. After all, the most familiar Thanksgiving hymn is “We Gather Together.”

In contrast, others long for a little isolation after spending months stuck in the house and sharing work and living space with partners, children, dogs, and cats.

Many of us are beset by worries about health and finances.

In short, we may have a little trouble feeling thankful this Thanksgiving.

Even so, we need to try to give thanks more than ever. Here’s my advice for the big day.

If you are used to preparing a large Thanksgiving meal, cut down your recipes … and give whatever additional funds you would have spent on the meal to a food pantry or to another group working to nourish our community, literally and figuratively.

Keep your eyes open for neighbors who are feeling overset by the current times. We can’t invite them to share our tables. We can reach out by telephone to share our lives and our thanks.

Despite COVID, despite political divisions, we have much to be thankful for: the love of our friends and relatives; the bounty of the harvest; the beauties of the area in which we live; and the stories we tell to inspire ourselves and each other to be just, thankful, and kind.

Recently, I saw a late-night interview with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. I have adored Booker since he was the mayor of Newark; I still stand ready to marry him as soon as he sees the light and dumps his movie-star girlfriend.

My future fiancé told host James Corden, “I’m always going to be a prisoner of hope.”

My Thanksgiving wish is that we can all find ourselves in that prison.

Below I share a simple recipe that doesn’t feed a crowd but will make you feel well nourished on Thursday. If you have leftovers, share them with anyone you know who is feeling isolated this week! Happy Thanksgiving from my kitchen to yours.

Corn Casserole

This simple, nourishing pudding-like dish is in my “Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and came originally from my college roommate Kelly Boyd. It may be as hot or as mild as you like, depending on the number of hot peppers you add. Feel free to double the recipe if you’re serving more people.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste OR (for more spice) 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 green, yellow, or red bell pepper, diced
fresh or pickled peppers to taste
1/2 of a 4-ounce jar of pimientos, drained and diced
1/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 11-to-15-ounce can whole kernel corn, undrained

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs together. Stir in the flour, the salt and pepper, the pepper pieces, the pimientos, the cheese, and the butter. Add the corn, along with its liquid.

Bake in a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish for 45 minutes. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Here is my corn-casserole video from Mass Appeal. I also reached into the archives of this blog and made my beloved cranberry upside-down cake.

Witch’s Hat Cookies

October 30th, 2020

This isn’t really a recipe, just a general formula. My Halloween isn’t going to be very different from my usual October 31. I live too deep in the country to get trick or treaters. I still decorate the house for the occasion, however, and try to make something fun to prepare on TV.

This year I decided to make some simple cookies that children (or even adults) could decorate for fun. I ALWAYS wear my witch hat for Halloween so the cookies, loosely based on a recipe from Hershey, take the shape of a witch’s hat.

They are fun, easy to make, and extremely sweet.

I should warn you (as you’ll see if you watch the video) that piping frosting isn’t one of my strong suits. Who cares? I make up for my lack of skill with enthusiasm … and of course sprinkles.

Happy Halloween!

I have no idea whether I’m scared here because Halloween is coming or because I have such lousy decorating skills. Or maybe it’s my grey hair!

The Cookies

Ingredients:

for the icing:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (plus a little more if neee4ed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 little milk or cream (if needed)
orange food coloring (or a little red and a little yellow to make orange)

for the chocolate layer:

3 chocolate kisses for each cookie on which you want to spread chocolate

for assembly:

12 2-inch-round cookies (sugar cookies, shortbread, whatever you like)
1 chocolate kiss per cookie
icing and melted chocolate
candy corn and/or Indian corn
festive sprinkles

Instructions:

Begin by making the icing. Cream the butter; then stir in the sugar and the vanilla. Add more sugar and/or a little milk or cream to make the icing taste right for you and easy to spread or pipe. Beat in the food coloring.

Using a double boiler or your microwave, carefully melt the kisses for the chocolate layer.

Spread melted chocolate on as many cookies as you wish to, and place a kiss in the middle of each of these cookies to make the crown of the hat. Let the chocolate cool and harden.

When the chocolate has cooled, pipe or spread orange icing as desired. Use candy and sprinkles to make your hats more colorful. Makes 12 cookies.

And now the video:

Blue-Ribbon Apple Pie

September 30th, 2020

Tammy Hicks of Charlemont, Massachusetts, won first prize for this pie years ago at the Cummington Fair. I’m sure Tammy’s version of the pie looked a lot more polished than mine; as you can see from the photo above, my pastry was a little spotty.

My pie tasted good, however, and I’ll trade a spotty but delicious crust for one out of a box any day!

I found the recipe in a lovely family recipe book Tammy’s mother, Pat Lowell, helped put together, Mangia. The book pays tribute to Pat’s grandparents, who came to this country a century ago from an area of Switzerland where Italian was spoken. (It is now part of Italy.)

Mangia nicely blends family history and recipes. Pat and Tammy told me that they cherish the book particularly in this pandemic year, when they can’t have their usual large family reunion. The book connects them to the people they love.

Tammy says she likes to use Paula Red apples for this recipe. I used my favorite assortment of apples, those from various trees in my neighborhood.

Tammy’s Pie

Ingredients:

for the pastry:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
5 to 7 tablespoons cold water in ice cubes

for the filling:

6 to 8 cups peeled, sliced apples
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon pie spice
1 dash cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
2 teaspoons butter
milk or cream as needed

Instructions:

Begin by making the pastry. Sift together the flour and the salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry knife or blender, 1/3 cup at a time. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, and mix until the dough begins to stick together.

Turn onto a floured board and form into a ball. Cut the dough in half, wrap the halves in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

While the dough refrigerates, prepare the apples. Take half of the dough and roll out your bottom crust. (Leave the other half refrigerated until you are ready to use it.) Fit the crust into a 9-inch pie plate and fill it with the apples. Mix the sugar and flour with the spices, and pour them over the apples. Top with the butter.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the top crust, and adjust it over the apples. Crimp the edges, using a little water to seal the crust. Cut steam vents in the top crust and brush a little milk or cream on top.

Cover the crust with foil, and bake for about 50 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust lightly—or even a bit longer. Serves 6 to 8.

 

Roasted Peach Scones

August 31st, 2020

Peach season is in full swing around here, and I am enjoying the bounty. Peaches seem to sum up this season of the year, lush and golden. Of course, my favorite way to use peaches is just to eat them … preferably leaning over the sink so the juices don’t fly everywhere.

I do enjoy cooking with them as well, however. I never made peach scones until this year. I don’t like to use really wet fruit my scones. A recent newsletter from King Arthur Flour gave me the idea of roasting peaches for scones … so I decided to try peach scones that way.

Here is my (now) tried and true method.

The Scones

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups chopped peaches (about 2 large peaches), skins on, or even more if you want lots of peaches in your scones
1/2 cup sugar plus a bit more as needed for sprinkling
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional flavoring to taste: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger, or 1 teaspoon chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Instructions:

First, roast the peaches. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil. Spread the peach pieces out on the prepared cookie sheet.

Roast the peaches for 10 minutes; then stir them and roast them for another 10 minutes (but check them after 5 minutes just in case they are sticking or starting to blacken).

Remove the peaches from the pan (they will be wet so this is a sort of scraping process) and let them cool before adding them to the scone dough.

For the scones, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 baking sheets or line them with parchment. Combine the sugar, the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt. Stir in an optional flavoring if you wish. Cut in the butter, but be careful not to overmix. Stir the fruit into this mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the egg, the buttermilk, and the vanilla or almond extract. Add the peach mixture and blend briefly. Drop the batter in clumps onto the baking sheets. You may either make large scones (you’ll end up with 6 to 8 of them) or smallish ones (12 to 16).

Sprinkle additional sugar on top for added flavor and crunch. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes, depending on size.

Zucchini Bars

July 31st, 2020

 

My farm share has included zucchini now for a couple of weeks. I’ve put it in a lot of stir fries. Yesterday, however, I felt compelled to bake … so I made these easy bars or squares or brownies or whatever you’d like to call them. They’re light and chock full of the green stuff.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted sweet butter
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup sugar
1 egg. beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with foil and then grease and flour the foil.

Stir together the melted butter and the sugar, followed by the grated zucchini. Mix in the egg, stirring well to incorporate; then add the baking soda, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon. Stir in the flour, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the concoction comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Makes about 16 squares, depending on how big you cut them.