I was traveling through Home Depot at a trot, with my little dog, Madame, in the jump seat of my buggy. When what did appear before my wondrous eyes but Christmas trees twinkling totally everywhere. But wait it was Halloween and I had pulled out my favorite spooky tee shirt, actually my bride thinks all my tee shirts are spooky, which I wear just for that one day and night since it does glow in the dark.
What happened to Thanksgiving? Where were the giant size turkey balloons like the one my wife brings out of the closet every year and has Publix blow up. That generally sends Madame over the edge which always brings an extra festive air to those assembled provided they like little dogs barking.
Recently I thought about my dear friend John Tallman who left us far too soon. John lost his way at one point in mid-life but found his faith and in so doing became a counselor to others who had lost theirs as well. John also had this amazing talent for deboning a turkey. It was a complete show stopper bringing “oohs and aahs” for those lucky enough to be assembled at our Thanksgiving table for this amazing gourmet treat.
I should add that we stuffed the turkey with a traditional bread stuffing and when it was sliced those perfect slices with the stuffing would have brought tears to Martha’s eyes? Okay if not then Julia’s eyes depending on how much sherry she’d had in advance of dinner.
Over the years as our daughters moved away from Chattanooga and we moved to the Gulf Coast we have been celebrating with friends more often and also cooking less as a result. Nevertheless I cannot help from picking up several packages of fresh cranberries when they show up at the market and making my cranberry chutney. Actually it is indestructible and on more than one occasion I have discovered it in the back of the fridge. It goes well not just with turkey but with pork and it marries great as a spread on sandwiches like chicken salad which is much healthier than more mayo.
I also like the fall options in squash. I baked an acorn squash for dinner recently. It really is so easy to prepare. Hardest part is being sure you have a sharp knife so you can split the squash in half. Once that is done then scrap out the seeds and fill the cavities with real butter (taste best) and brown sugar then sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon wrap in foil and bake in the center of your oven until tender. I’ve thought a splash of rum might be tasty or honey in place of the brown sugar.
Another option for the squash is to bake until tender then scoop out the flesh, whiz in the blender with several eggs and real heavy cream (this is a holiday recipe, turkey) plus the brown sugar and turn it into a soufflé dish that has been coated with melted butter. Bake it slowly and serve it sprinkled with candied pecans or sugar walnuts. Yum!
I try not to consider calories on that feast day as I do the other 364. Recently I had a desperate craving for a vanilla shake from McDonalds. Apparently Ronald has now taken the happy out of his meals because there in big bold letters was the number of calories in a small shake. Why, I ask, spoil my occasional indulgence you clown?
Recently I read of the advent of a new super healthy restaurant chain called “Sweetgreen”. Among their other gourmet treats is the WastED Salad. This salad consists of carrot peel, cabbage cores, broccoli stalks and roasted bread heels dressed in a lime-cilantro or spicy pesto vinaigrette. Just reading about it would send most folks back to McDonalds for that vanilla shake plus a big mac AND the fries.
This Thanksgiving we will be joining other Chattanoogans, Peggy and Bill White and Ann and Rudy Waldorf, here at the beach for our Thanksgiving Dinner. That will make it very special and there is always a chance one of my daughter’s might make a surprise visit as well. Sometimes those visits are more Shock ( the grandchildren growing up so fast) and Awe ( IQ’s through the roof) than surprise but always welcome.
Next holiday up for us after Thanksgiving is Chanukah which comes early in December this year. I haven’t seen many presents piled up on the dining room table as of yet but my bride hasn’t gotten down to the serious business of gift buying either. And remember that Chanukah is a present a day for 8 days times 3 grandchildren. (Where is that in the Old Testament?) Also you can be sure there will be no gift certificates from Sweetgreen either!
Turkey Forever? Get over it with Turkey Lasagna
10- 12 oz diced cooked turkey
2 cups béchamel sauce
1 container (8 oz) part-skim ricotta
2 small or 1 large bunch fresh spinach leaves washed, stemmed and squeezed dry
2 large eggs
8 oz shredded mozzarella*
8 oz grated parmesan*
9 no-boil lasagna noodles (you will need enough to make 3 layers)
*If you like your lasagna really cheesy add more
Combine ricotta with eggs and nutmeg and mix well
Put a coating of béchamel sauce in the bottom of baking dish
Lay 3 or more lasagna noodles on top of the sauce
Put turkey on top of noodles
Cover with béchamel sauce
Top with shredded mozzarella (save some for top)
Add more noodles
Layer with fresh spinach leaves
Ricotta mixture next
Add more of the béchamel sauce
Top with grated parmesan (save some for top)
Final layer of lasagna noodles
Balance of the béchamel sauce
Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
Cover with aluminum foil
Bake at 325 for 25 to 30 minutes before checking to see if baked through and noodles are tender
Turn temperature down; uncover casserole and let top get golden brown
Out of oven let cool before serving. Easier to cut into squares
Can be made a day ahead then refrigerated and reheated as individual servings
You can punch up your taste buds by placing each slice on top of a seasoned tomato sauce
Note: Béchamel Sauce is the classic French name for a white sauce
I make mine with butter, flour and either milk or non-fat half and half
Seasoning can be simply salt and white pepper or add grated nutmeg for more flavor