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Thanksgiving Inspiration

Are you having any holiday blahs, or a total lack of inspiration? Or are you already halfway through your menu, with groceries purchased and a bird in a cooler brining away? My Greenberg Smoked Turkey arrived yesterday and all of a sudden, I’m “in the mood,” so to speak. Also, I’m overcome by the desire to let you know that I am thankful, in a big way, for each of you. If your eyes are reading these words right now, know that there is a person in this world who is specifically grateful for your existence and your kindness. I appreciate that you have let me be a part of your kitchen routine, or a part of your culinary imaginings. I don’t deserve you. You have made PIE fun.

Consider this your pep rally. Get in the kitchen, grab some friends or family members (big or small, physically, emotionally or otherwise), turn on some music, preheat the oven, and start having fun. And if cooking is absolutely the LAST thing you want to do right now, then turn on the music anyway, get out your phone book or check out Open Table and make a reservation, for crying out loud. Let us all enjoy this holiday, in our own home, in another’s home, or in a great restaurant with nice people who are willing to work to make our day lovely. On that note, tip big.

So here is a PIE roundup of some recipes from the last year and a half that look like they have Thanksgiving written all over them. If there is a hole in your menu, consider one of these. Or let these be a mental springboard for something new and wonderful. One more plea before I start. Let us all promise to smile like giddy kids while we are in a half hour line just to get that pound of butter that “we” forgot. Smile, and talk to the people around you, and make them smile too. No grimaces, no bad moods, and no griping at the checkout lady or bagger. Because, we are lucky little birds. And a smile can change the course of the day for someone who needs a boost.

Ready, Set, Go!!!  Click on the highlighted titles to link to the posts.

The Quintessential American Apple Pie

Lily has demanded this one thing for Thanksgiving. We will bake it together and I will endeavor to remember the moment until my memory fails me one day, hopefully a very long time from now. This post about a pie, and my friend Jon, is a favorite. In it you will find a lot of information about making crusts and about baking with leaf lard, which is fun. I’m currently using fresh leaf lard from Dai Due in Austin. Recently, Tamara and Jesse were kind enough to bring several jars of their fresh, un-hydrogenated, pure white lard to me. I just now put my crusts in the refrigerator to rest. I’m so very happy to have a good source for leaf lard in Texas. The next time you are in Austin, you should consider taking a cooler and grabbing a few of the jars for yourself.

The pottery pie plate in the photo was  made by Julie Brown of Dallas. You can find her at many of the local markets, especially at Celebration, or at her website Work in Clay. This gorgeous earthy pie plate is my newest bit of treasure. So when I make my pie tomorrow, I will not only have my work in it, but also the work of Jon, Tamara, Jesse, Julie, and a lot of orchard workers in Washington State. I will also be helped by the work of one of the most interesting women I have ever encountered, Nancy Lou Webster of Elgin, Texas who recently made a Treenware pie server for me out of a tree limb. I will be telling you more about her later,  in detail. But rest assured that this pie will be special, no matter what.

Apple Cake

This particular cake was made with Gravenstein apples (gifts from my friend Jon, just as the heirloom apples in the recipe for pie were a gift from him). But, even if you do not have heirloom apples, you will love this cake. It is easy and it is stunning. The pecans give it a earthy component and the glaze was an idea given to me by our friend Matt Young, of Brooklyn. It was a recipe inspired by many. I think you will love it.

Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake

I’m including this link (no photo) because my dear friend from high school, Elizabeth Cumbie, said she was making this for Thanksgiving this year and I thought it was a terrific idea. But, then again, I always think Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake is a terrific idea.

Chocolate Pie

Mmmm. More chocolate. Chocolate pie with a leaf lard crust and sweetened whipped cream is a great finale for a feast. This recipe works, and doesn’t have any of the acrid, powdery, fake chocolate notes I have run into lately out on the town. I am a true believer in whipped cream topped pies.

I couldn’t help starting with the desserts, but now I will get onto the serious dishes. A few appetizers for your consideration…

Cranberry Salsa

It is beautiful, it is spicy, and it is sweet. This is a drop dead gorgeous salsa. Switch up the salsa on your football couch potatoes and see what they think. Or, substitute this for your traditional Cranberry Sauce. Don’t forget to buy a bag of chips. That would be an easy thing to forget on the grocery list. If you would like a more traditional cranberry sauce, read this post called Cranberry Jelly and Giving Thanks. Not only will you learn how simple it is to make Cranberry Sauce, but you can also read my thoughts about the craziness of the holiday and how I am making an effort to have a little more fun this year.

Gorgonzola Stuffed Pears

Again, this is a very simple dish to prepare. And, I think it is very elegant. It would make a great appetizer or a wonderful salad-type offering.. I think a large serving dish full of these pears would be stunning on any Thanksgiving table.

Spiced Pecans

This recent post was well-received by folks looking for a simple, yet nice, offering to take on the road this Thanksgiving. If you need to show up with something and don’t want to worry about keeping something hot, or keeping it cold, or whether it will end up all over the interior of your car, make a bunch of spiced pecans to take. These have Chinese Five Spice Powder on them, along with more traditional “spicy” spices for an interesting and tasty treat.

Rosemary Rubbed Beef Tenderloin

If you want a break from the traditional bird, consider beef tenderloin. This can be an intimidating cut of meat because of its price, but this preparation will bring you expressions of love and admiration from around the table. Just make sure you have a meat thermometer.

Collard Greens

As I said, I’m having a Greenberg Smoked Turkey on my table. Just today, it occurred to me that collard greens would be a stupendous Thanksgiving side dish for smoked turkey. I won’t be making the black-eyed peas that I usually make for this recipe, but the collard greens have been purchased and are in my refrigerator ready to go. I can’t wait.

Farmstand Green Bean Casserole and Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole

Over the last few weeks, I posted both of these recipes. The green beans are a fresh alternative to the old (but beloved) canned green bean casserole featuring cream of mushroom soup, french fried onions, and enough sodium to kill an elephant. This one has a sour cream base and a Ritz cracker topping. It is a must-do substitute if you are sick of the other one, but can’t imagine Thanksgiving without green beans of some sort.

The sweet potatoes are the classic preparation with brown sugar and a crisp topping. I never tire of it. It is practically a dessert dish.

Roasted Squash with Honey and Pecans

But…if you are tired of sweet potatoes, these are a wonderful option. Simple, humble, squash is roasted with honey and butter and sprinkled with chopped pecans.

Donna’s Good Luck Potatoes

Donna…Donna…Donna. Believe me when I say that if you need a little luck in your life, you need to make these potatoes. They were borne of the celebration of the life being lived by the mother of my friend, Donna. Donna Natale Mason is another high school friend. When her mom beat cancer, this was part of their celebratory feast. They are good luck potatoes. They have been viewed more often than anything else on The Meaning of Pie, by a long shot. So, I believe. Plus, you will never have a more delicious attempt at bringing a little bit of good fortune to your life.

Well, that is it. Those are my offerings for your consideration. Whatever you make, whatever you do, wherever you are…please have a happy Thanksgiving. I wish you love and peace and joy this week. And again, I am grateful that you take the time out of your busy life to read my posts. Thank you.

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