Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Plan B

Look! I made a pie crust!

Every road trip for us seems to start an hour later than we planned to leave.  No matter if we pack up the night before, set the alarms, have the best intentions.  Thanksgiving morning this year was no different.  I somehow managed to sleep until 8:30, which is rare for me and should have been my first clue that something was awry.  We were planning to leave at 9!  After showering and getting dressed, we packed the van: vegetarian Shepherd's Pie for our main meal, portable DVD player, selection of movies, bag of knitting, pillows (were planning on heading back later that night), blankets (there's suddenly no heat in the back of the van), and two dog crates (couldn't bring ourselves to pay to board the dogs, since we had two emergency vet bills this past month!), two sets of wrist bands for car-sickness that both Owen and I are prone to.

And therein lies the story. 

Kira pulled out her book, Flyte, and started reading, Owen popped in The Dark Knight (which Will let him watch against my better judgment), I pulled out my knitting (a hat for my brother-in-law).

The back roads out of Bennington are quite windy, so after about 20 minutes on the road, I thought I'd better put away the knitting, since the wrist bands weren't feeling very effective.  In no time, I was overcome with the worst nausea since having to drive 2 hours to the airport wickedly hung over after my friend Mike & Katherine's wedding.  I seriously had it that bad! We had to pull over three separate times, my eyes were tearing up and I really thought I would yack.

Meanwhile, the beagle had also thrown up in his crate, turns out he's car sick too, and my daughter was already complaining about the lack of heat in the back, and I'm standing on the side of Route 112 not even out of Vermont yet, doing deep breathing.  Will just looked at me and said, "I think we should turn around and go home."  

So we did.  Enter Thanksgiving Day Plan B.

We had the main meal prepared already, so that was good.  Quickly looked around the house for side dishes and made a list for Will to hit the grocery.  Luckily there was still plenty of goodness from the CSA, so we pulled together a quick menu.  I rested on the couch about an hour and a half (watched this episode of the Daily Show, freaking brilliant).  Will called three times from the grocery store.  Don't know if that shows just how picky I am, or how clueless he can be, or both!

I threw the pumpkin in the oven to roast while I was resting, and once Will was back with the groceries I went upstairs and slept a full 2 hours, another thing I never do.  Kept the headache at bay, but it was still there in the background the whole meal preparation, so I'm still amazed the meal turned out so well. (I felt so guilty about disappointing my aunt in CT, but it was the best choice. I think I would have had a horrible, horrible day, and triggered a worse headache than I have today still.)

First, a word about the pumpkin I roasted.  The last blog post I showed a sugar pumpkin, but this time I used a Cinderella pumpkin, and what an interesting difference.  So much thicker, much less watery, great for pie! According to, they are "a unique French heirloom whose correct name is Rouge vif D'Etampes. The source of their nickname it that they resemble the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage. This pumpkin is recorded as having been the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner."  A little history and a little oo la la, how can you beat it?

I used a recipe that Lisa at the MFF distributed last year, from Rebecca Wood, the filling only.  The only change is I used 1/2 and 1/2 instead of cream, and I love cinnamon so I put in almost 2 tsp.  In my headachey stupor, I actually had CUMIN in my hand, open over the bowl, before my sense of smell quickly alerted me to the near disaster!!! phew!  Read here on Epicurious about why cook without the can.  Also, my friend (whose hangover after her awesome wedding I was reliving without having had any of the fun) Katherine blogged about her pie baking from scratch experience too (tip: don't start late at night!). 

As for the pie crust, I've always had trouble with them.  I think part of it is that my mom makes such amazing pie crust, how do you live up to it?  It reminds me of my problem making spaghetti sauce for years, it just wouldn't compare.  Now that I don't eat meat, I can have a marinara sauce all my own (my mom's best secret is slow cooking the meatballs in the sauce).  So this year I was determined to try my hand at pie crust, using a recipe different from mom's.  (There's a great piece on Slate about mother/daughter recipe/traditions, pressures and joys!)

Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening, All Vegetable, 24-Ounce Containers (Pack of 4)My friend Chris raved about using Spectrum organic shortening, so I looked for a recipe and found one here.

The first time I tried it, I left out the butter. duh.  And, this time, I used the Kitchen Aid to mix it.  The other key is being careful when adding the water to the dough.  (My mom uses orange juice instead, which I forgot and didn't have in the house.)  There's a great VPR show all about pies that features a baker from King Arthur Flour, located here in VT (nice links to recipes too).  She makes a point to use a spray bottle for the water, I'm going to try that next!

I was so amazed at how well this rolled out. And since last time it didn't even roll out to a full pie, I neglected to roll this one out all the way.  That was the only error: the crust was way too thick.  But delicious!

I also made a vegetarian stuffing from Pepperidge Farm mix that featured my favorite new veg, leeks!

My sister had sent me a link to Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef's blog that used raw Brussels sprouts shredded in a salad, and since it has nuts and cheese in it, two of my favorite cold salad combos, I had to give it a try. I made it with the added maple syrup and used gruyere, but I did roast the walnuts first, which isn't mentioned in the recipe. This was fabulous, but made so much we'll be eating it for days!
Gotta love these fresh from the farm, on the stalk! more recipes for brussels here

When I went to set the table, I had to smile at our fancy centerpiece. The kids had created this "village" and wanted to leave it set up on the table.  We never seem to be able to clear the center of it from collecting random items anyway (current collection: twine, lego pieces, band aids, mini-stapler, pin cushion, earrings, etc.).  The "Village of Happiness" was a perfect Plan B centerpiece, actually.

The dinner itself was wonderful, though Owen chose, rather excitedly so I said yes, to "invite the General" to dinner.  As in, leftover General Tso's take out.  (I know, I just said we weren't ordering out, but we did, Wednesday after I cooked the shepherd's pie I didn't have it in me to cook another meal!)

I actually didn't really like the pie last night--it was too warm.  I'm a huge fan of cold pumpkin pie.  Here's the piece I just had for breakfast.
Will you look at all that crust?  What can I say, I'm not a great baker!
Probably the best part of the whole day dealing with a headache was the fact that my kids didn't fight.  In fact, they played "Hogwarts" for hours.  Here they with their makeshift wands.
Plan B Thanksgiving had a little magic in it after all.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I would have to go to a restaurant or serve cereal!


If you visit my blog, leave me a comment. If you cook anything because you've read the blog, I'd love to hear about it!