Thanksgiving 2013! Lessons Learned and a Lovely Day in Photos

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Things have been pretty eventful around the Delightenment Kitchen so far this holiday season. Thanksgiving was a wonderful day filled with friends, relaxation, some beautiful sunny outdoor time and plenty of cooks in the kitchen. No holiday is right without a few missteps and opportunities to learn something new. Here are a few tips I learned, followed by Thanksgiving 2013 in photos!

1) Oven bags are not brining bags. This is kind of a no-brainer, I realize. (Or a no-briner, really. Hehe.) Somehow I thought I could make it work. (With a 20lb turkey! Silly girl.) Though, after running around to any open grocery store in the area at 10pm Wednesday night, the boys saved the day with a cooler just the right size. That little blue cooler is now the official tool for large meat marinating.

2) Always ALWAYS check (and re-check) your instant read thermometer and make sure it is not set to Celsius. This mishap was caught just in time and only resulted in the bird being a few more degrees than intended.

3) Wrapping the turkey in bacon once it’s breast side up is delicious, keeps the meat moist and makes the most wonderful gravy I’ve ever tasted. It also may cause a grease fire.

4) When a grease fire erupts and threatens to engulf the kitchen:

1. Do not blow on it.

2. Do not whip a towel at it.

3. Do not run around the kitchen with your hands over your head yelling. It’s not helpful.

4. Don’t bother with the fire extinguisher (it’s just too messy).

5. DO grab some white vinegar and baking soda, mix in a jar (quickly) and toss it at the base of the fire. This chemical reaction creates carbon dioxide and smothers the fire. Thanks Titus!!

5) And lastly, I’ve known this since childhood, it’s always my favorite part of the holiday season, but here it is anyway… Pumpkin pie, especially the gluten-free, dairy-free (made with coconut milk, yum!) low sugar variety that Katie creates, makes an excellent breakfast! Even better thank dessert! I’m thinking next year we should have one for dessert and make one specifically for breakfast the next couple of days.

Anywho… A photo essay. (Recipes will be included in a follow up post.) Injoy!

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Citrus fruits and delicious herbs from the garden for brining.

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The turkey’s in!! Molasses, plenty of pink sea salt and lots of love.

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I have never seen the dogs quite so attentive as when I’m rubbing butter and spices under the skin of a 20 lb. turkey!

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Slow simmering the neck and organs into a stock on the stovetop makes for a delicious and nutritious base for gravy!

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Bird goes in breast side down for the first hour or so to ensure a slower cooking of the tender breast meat.

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Don’t forget to have a good breakfast! We went with green smoothies and latkes (Happy Chanukah) made by Titus!

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The ladies carried on the tradition of taking a walk and collecting lots of live natural objects for the centerpiece. Here’s Pepper putting on the finishing touches.

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Orange cranberry sauce on it’s way….

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Delicata squash roasted with cinnamon, cloves, coriander and nutmeg.Also, brussel sprouts with shallots and maple smoked bacon.

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Lightly blanched green beans with ginger and garlic. Scalloped potatoes with goat cheese and fresh herbs.

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I will totally buy the love of dogs with bacon. That is all.

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Aaaaaaand… the guest of honor. Thank you delicious turkey for sacrificing your life so that we may come together and be nourished and celebrate. Also, the pig who’s bacon got into several dishes and was even wrapped around the turkey for a good portion of the roasting. (Not pictured.) Namaste.

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Dessert time! Gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie; GF/DF apple crumble pie, with apples from the front yard tree. And (oops) frozen coconut whipped cream!! Such a wonderful meal with lots of fantastic leftovers!

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Vegan Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms

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I love making this dish for my vegan friends, but when I cook for myself, I tend to incorporate it with an entrée that has more of a paleo approach, ie. not-so-vegan ingredients. Like chicken (pictured). This pesto recipe has walnuts in the place of the Parmesan cheese, and plenty of fresh basil and garlic. Although my diet is not entirely dairy-free, I actually enjoy this pesto more that the cheesy variety. It’s fresh and light and delicious raw as well as baked (as in the stuffed mushrooms). For a raw meal, just incorporate it into a salad, add it to raw zucchini pasta, or use as a dip for cucumber, broccoli, carrots etc. This dish can be wonderful as an appetizer or, as I like to present it, as part of a main dish with a protein and vegetable. Makes a great holiday recipe! Injoy!

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     Ingredients:

1 cup walnuts

2 cups fresh basil

½ cup high quality olive oil

2-4 cloves garlic

1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. salt

Dash of pepper

12 mini Portobello mushrooms

     Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until incorporated, but slightly chunky.

3. Pull stems off of mushrooms and place them face up in a 9×13 baking dish. Spray lightly with olive oil.

4. Fill each mushroom with 1-1 ½ Tbls. pesto.

5. Set some aside if you’d like to include a bit of dressing on fish or chicken.

6. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

 

Thanksgiving Traditions and Pumpkin Seeds!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions recently. Highlights of childhood that still exist in yearly practice, and others that have faded into distant memory. For me, the holidays seem to harness the most abundant traditions, particularly as a child. Gathering at church to sing carols on Christmas eve, then getting to open one present under the tree before bed; the large juicy orange we always found at the bottom of our stockings on Christmas morning; running around the neighborhood banging wooden spoons against pots and pans to ring in the new year with a loud ruckus; huge Easter egg hunts in frilly dresses with all of my siblings and friends. Our traditions were about celebration. Family time, connection, silliness. These days, in addition to the connection and silly time, the traditions that permeate my life tend to revolve around food. Food is a part of me. It’s how I express my love and creativity. How I lose and then rediscover myself. How I connect to the seasons.

There’s the 3-day, completely from scratch, cherry pie for Katie’s birthday in July; the autumn trip to the pumpkin patch to pick out pumpkins, carve them, then roast the seeds (This is a newer one, but it counts.); and the yearly Thanksgiving feast at the Boys Haus. This will be the 11th year our little chosen family has celebrated the holidays in this special home. The core group of us have all lived there or at least stayed for a length of time over the years. For me, it was for several months when I moved back from California in 2003, then again in 2007 when returning from travelling in Southeast Asia. These days Jasson and Titus are the main inhabitants of the Boys Haus, with Katie and I visiting most weekends. We all have our stories and our personal connection to this little yellow house, and our years of Thanksgivings are among my warmest and fondest memories. The love and intention everyone puts into the dishes they bring to share, the collaboration of all of the conscious kitchens in our friend circle. Our largest attendance was 30 people one year, tomorrow I’m expecting a more modest 15 or so. I will head north and join Katie in the kitchen tonight. I’ll prepare the turkey fixins, get the bird brining for at least 8-10  hours and get the kitchen ready for tomorrow’s full house. She’ll make pies and we’ll prep several of the dishes to make room for turkey to be in the oven all day tomorrow. We’ll laugh and make a schedule for kitchen use and will most likely open a bottle of wine and really dive in. With so much to be thankful for, I love spreading our celebration into 2 days! I hope that you will be sharing Thanksgiving with your most favorite people, nourishing yourselves with the best foods available and honoring all that there is in life to truly have gratitude for!

As there will most certainly be pumpkin pie from scratch, here’s what I’ll be doing with those fresh seeds we dig out! Injoy!

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 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds With a Kick

       Ingredients 

One medium sized pumpkin

Salt

Olive oil

–Variations–

1. Season to taste with Cinnamon, a tiny bit of maple syrup, a pinch of sea salt and cayenne pepper

2. Season to taste with cumin, turmeric and sea salt

3. Season to taste with rosemary, garlic and sea salt

Instructions

1 Cut open the pumpkin by cutting a circle around the stem end with a sharp knife (knife blade angled in), and pulling off the top. Use a strong metal spoon to scrape the insides of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place the mass of pumpkin seeds in a colander and run under water to rinse and separate the seeds from everything else.

2 Measure the pumpkin seeds in a cup measure. Place the seeds in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to the pan for every half cup of pumpkin seeds. Add more salt if you would like your seeds to be saltier. Bring the salted water and pumpkin seeds to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

3 Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan or thick baking sheet with olive oil, about a tablespoon. Spread the seeds out over the roasting pan in a single layer, and toss them a bit to coat them with the oil on the pan. Season with one of the spice blend variations. Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, 5-20 minutes, depending on the size of the seeds. Small pumpkin seeds may toast in around 5 minutes or so, large pumpkin seeds may take up to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the pumpkin seeds so they don’t get over toasted. When lightly browned, remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a rack. Let the pumpkin seeds cool all the way down before eating.

Either crack to remove the inner seed (a lot of work and in my opinion, unnecessary) or eat whole.

**Also check out this recipe for cilantro and pumpkin seed pesto!

10 Healthy Habits for Holiday Parties

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This time of year can be a wonderfully festive time of connection and celebration. It is also full of opportunities to over-indulge and get off track with our wellness goals. Below are 10 tips to survive holiday parties while keeping your health and vitality as a priority.

  1. Do not arrive to parties on an empty stomach. Eat a cup of vegetable soup or a small salad 30-60 minutes beforehand. Especially on big holidays, make sure to eat breakfast and a balanced snack with fiber and protein earlier in the day.
  2. Make sure you get a physical activity in. Workout before attending holiday parties, or rally everyone to go for a walk after a big meal.
  3. Stay well hydrated. Thirst signals can be mistaken for hunger signals. Make sure you’re drinking at least half your body weight in ounces daily. Also, drink alcohol lightly, and alternate alcoholic and sugary beverages with glasses of water at get-togethers.
  4. Bring a healthy dish to share- quinoa salad, smoked salmon, bean dip, fresh veggies, hummus and lean meats, shrimp cocktail.
  5. Mingle with guests away from the food table. Don’t make it easy to snack mindlessly.
  6. Use a small plate at the buffet and choose just a few of the dishes to try. Moderation is key.
  7. Do not dress for bloat. No baggy pants at holiday parties. Wear that slimming dress that hugs your figure or a nice suit that fits perfectly.
  8. Eat slowly. Take the time to sit and savor your food. Pace yourself and try to be the last person to finish each course.  Take small bites and chew slowly and thoroughly. It takes about 20 minutes for you brain to get the message that your stomach is full.
  9. Ask the host of the party what you can do to help. Keeping yourself occupied and social will cut down on the time you are standing around munching.
  10. Plan your calendar to include holidays as higher calorie days. Eat lightly the rest of the week and avoid excess sugar and simple carbohydrates.

In conclusion, enjoy the holidays! Take time to be present with those around you, focus on non-food related activities and relax! Your body will thank you!