Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Without the Stress

Circumstances led us to celebrate Thanksgiving early this year. Being in a country where it is not a tradition made it easy to choose the day that best suited our family. As the name implies, the most important part of the day ought to be remembering that our many blessings come from a Giver, and not focusing on the food of the celebration. Aside from purchasing some groceries, my preparations did not begin until 11 AM, and lunch was served around 2:30 PM, after my husband and I both had showers--he had gone jogging, and I had an afternoon commitment to be ready for.

So what did we eat for our special meal? The easy part was two roast chickens from the grocery store in lieu of turkey, which was far out of our budget. I made a carrot-swiss chard soup, mashed potatoes, and green beans in a sauce. For dessert we had a sweet potato custard of sorts and my Mom's Preacher's Apple Crisp. A very simple meal, but it was delicious and we truly enjoyed it together.

For anyone who's interested in my recipes, I boiled 6 carrots whole in chicken broth and put them through the blender with the broth when soft. Back in the saucepan, I added some garlic powder (maybe a 1/4 t), salt (close to a teaspoon), a bit of basil and 4 chopped leaves of fresh swiss chard. Leave the fat from the chiken or else add a bit of butter for good flavor and to help absorb the vitamins of this thick soup.

Again I left the cambray potatoes whole for boiling in chicken broth and peeled them afterwards. Using a wood bean masher (shaped like a large pestle) I mashed 2 pounds of potatoes in a pan, adding 3/4 stick of butter and milk sufficient to mash. I seasoned with a bit of basil, garlic and salt, and did not care if they were lumpy.

By accident I overcooked the frozen green beans (a pound), but they ended up nice with the sauce made with the chicken broth they were cooked in. I added a generous tablespoon of flour and one egg yolk, plus a bit of salt. You probably know that to add the yolk, you put some of the hot liquid with it in a small bowl, stir it, and then add it back into your pan to boil about 2 minutes to thicken with the flour. Who needs Campbell's? Or even French's?

My sweet potato bake uses about 5 medium pieces boiled soft, then peeled. I either use a hand mixer or the blender to mix with 5 or 6 eggs, some milk (yes, evaporated works well) and spices such as ground clove, cinnamon and ginger. You could add sweetener, but I didn't because of various health issues I had to work around for our meal. Pour into a casserole dish and bake until cracked on the top, under an hour. The time depends on how deep it is in your pan. Thinner turns out drier than a thick layer in a smaller mold. Of course this can go in a pie crust, but it isn't necessary. When serving, my husband likes it best with honey drizzled on top, but that's because he hasn't tasted it with real maple syrup! This year he ate it plain, as he's trying to get his blood sugar down (and I must say, doing a wonderful job of it!).

May your Thanksgiving dinner be as stress free as mine, and may your family be filled with gratitude to the Giver who blesses you with food, a home, and loved ones to share it all with.

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