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Thanksgiving in a small way

ricotta cookies I have to tell you that Thanksgiving is NOT my favorite ‘family get-together’. My memories of Thanksgivings past are colored (stained?) by visits to a relative whose culinary skills focused on putting butter into everything and sending my gall bladder to an early grave. Other people watched tv on Thanksgiving – a much younger Aunt Toby was in the bathroom. I have never attended a Thanksgiving where a fairly large proportion of people were not suffering within 30 minutes of the meal’s end.

The first Thanksgiving was NOT like that. The socalled Pilgrims had arrived in November the year before and at least half of them died of starvation and disease by the next November, when a ship arrived with more Pilgrims and, Halleluiah!, provisions. They had food. They might make it through the winter! Now THERE was something to celebrate. The local natives supposedly provided five deer, which meant that the traditional food for the holiday should have been venison, except for the probable lobbying efforts of the folks from Land o’ Lakes or something like that.

So, seeing as how we’ve been eating non-traditional foods for what actually was a celebration for NOT starving to death, I’m going to suggest the following for this Thanksgiving: Think small. Think dainty, even.

Turkey: If you’ve just got to have ‘the bird’, get the guy behind the counter at your local store to put that baby through the bandsaw, right up the middle (leaving you with one leg, one wing, etc.) and wrap up each piece separately. Unless you are feeding the Mongolian hoards, half of one of those big birds is going to provide you with enough meat for 6-10 people, trust me. A couple of slices of turkey provides anyone (even a starving Pilgrim) with enough fats and protein to live another day or two. No one needs to go into tryptophan overload. What do you do with the other half? Ah…put that in the freezer. You will probably have left-overs for the weekend anyway. Now you have another half a turkey to cook for another time instead of 10 pounds of already cooked turkey that you will need to find things to do with..quickly.

Twist on the Turkey: Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. While it is heating up, put the half a bird bone side up in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Put together your own favorite bbq sauce and paint the bone side and put in the oven. When the preheat “I’m done!” ding goes off, flip the bird skin side up, paint that with the bbq sauce and lower the heat to 350 degrees F and finish off the turkey until a meat thermometer stuck into the leg and breast reads 165 degrees. Baste with more bbq sauce as you go as well as the juices from the bird. Yum.

Veggies. What would we do for Thanksgiving without veggies? Actually, looking back on the First Thanksgiving, what they had probably was some version of squash, since that is what the natives grew in the area, plus soaked dried beans and soaked dried corn – succotash. Now, cooked up winter squashes and succotash would fill anyone up – I’d suggest choosing one or the other and serving whatever greens you can lay your hands on, whether it is a green salad, broccoli, chard, cabbage, kale, whatever. If you can still get locally grown greens, so much the better, but even in the Northeast, we can get cabbage family to eat at this point that is locally grown.
Twist on the Veggies: Please, please, please don’t put butter in the veggies. No one loves mashed potatoes more than I do but if you want to do something wild and crazy with mashed potatoes, sauté up a couple of cloves of garlic in olive oil, smash them up with the oil and then put all of that into the potatoes. For green veggies, just lightly steam – no “boiled up until they are grey”, please. Make the cooked green veggies the last item just before you put things on the table. If you want to dress them up a little, squeeze a little lemon or lime juice on ‘em.

Cranberry Sauce: I don’t care if you are a whole-berry fan or a Jellied fan but cranberry sauce is, in my opinion, one of the truly great inventions. However, canned is full of things like high fructose corn syrup, so here is what we do at Chez Siberia:

Twist on the Cranberries: One bag of whole cranberries, the same size bag of frozen blueberries, 1 cup of water. Put all three in a pan and simmer until the cranberries pop. Smoosh everything down. Taste. Put in ¼ cup of sugar, simmer and taste again. This should be sweet enough but if not, add another ¼ cup of sugar. This should be all you need and you’ve now saved a lot of sugar. The blueberries will gel up the sauce nicely; it’s a different color and has a nice perky taste. Oh, and did I say you saved at least half the sugar?

Dessert. I love dessert. There is not one dessert of any sort that Aunt Toby has not found her name written on it with an engraved invitation attached to it. But I ask you…how many times have you really gotten a dessert that people really went ga-ga for at Thanksgiving? Trying to figure out what people are going to like is why we end up with three different types of pie and one gets mostly eaten…one gets half eaten…and the mince gets one piece taken out of it and you’re stuck with the rest for the weekend. Do a plate of cookies. BUY mixed Italian cookies if you’re stuck for time. People LIKE cookies. Pie is like potato salad. People SAY they like potato salad but even if you used one big potato to make the salad’d end up with left over potato salad. People will eat cookies. Even weird cookies that they have never seen before. As long as you say it’s a cookie, they will eat it.

Here’s a weird cookie that people will eat and you can secretly feel good about because the ricotta adds some protein.

Ricotta Cookies
Basic recipe:
2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups of whole milk ricotta

Liquid. If you want lemon cookies use this:
1/8 cup of lemon juice
2 tsps of dried lemon zest

If you want the cookies to taste like something else, you can use one of the following:
1/8 cup of strong coffee; or
1/8 cup of orange juice concentrate; or
1 tsp of almond extract plus 1/8 cup of milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or waxed paper. Don’t grease the sheets and try to do the cookies that way.

Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl.
In the mixer bowl, beat up the butter until softened; add the sugar and beat until fluffy.
Add the eggs, the ricotta, the lemon juice and the zest and beat up.
Add the flour/baking powder mixture. It should have the consistency of the sort of cookies that you spoon out onto the cookie sheet.

With a table spoon, spoon out onto the cookie sheet. These cookies are more like ‘cakies’ – they do not spread much at all. They sort of rise. If you want them flatter, use a moistened spoon and press them down a little bit.

Bake for 15 minutes and when they are brown at the edges, take off the sheets and cook on a rack until they are cold.

Mix up glaze.
Basic glaze:
1 ½ cups of powdered sugar
1/8-1/4 cup of liquid.

If you used lemon juice or orange juice in the cookies, then use the same thing as the liquid in the glaze. If you used coffee, then melt up ½ cup of chocolate chips in the microwave with a couple of tablespoons of water and add that the sugar to make chocolate glaze and put that on top of the cookies.

When the cookies are cold, spoon about ½ tsp onto each cookie and gently spread on the cookie; allow them to harden for about 2 hours before serving.

Buon Appetito!!

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  1. Lea says:

    Cranberries and blueberries are on the stove…can’t wait to see how they turn out!

  2. Lea says:

    Cran-blueberry sauce a big hit…thanks! Sharing it at the Beach House now. (with a link, of course)

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