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When you read food magazines and watch TV shows they use anxiety-provoking words like “Thanksgiving readiness,” “game plan strategy” and “attack plan.”
This is not war. This is a meal, a feast, a time to give thanks and celebrate family and friends and the people we love. It’s about good food, but it’s not about warfare.
So keeping that in mind, here’s a guide to help make the great American feast a bit easier and less stressful. Keeping stress out of the kitchen is always a good idea.
Kathy also has four recipes to share: Pie Crust; Cranberry Sauce with Orange, Ginger, Pineapple and Pecans; Creamed Spinach with Yogurt and Nutmeg; and Orange-Scented Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
She also answered many listeners’ Thanksgiving cooking questions in a live web chat on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Here are other great Thanksgiving recipes and tips from Kathy:
This is a basic pie crust that will work well for pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple, or any of your favorite pies. Make sure to leave enough time to chill the crust.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
About 3 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water
You can make the crust in a food processor or by hand. Here are both methods:
To prepare the crust by hand: mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter or your hands, break the butter up into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the 3 tablespoon of the water, adding more if needed, until the dough begins to come together and there is no excess flour in the bottom of the bowl. Add another tablespoon or two of water if needed.
To prepare the crust using a food processor: add the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of the processor and blend to mix. Add the butter and pulse about 15 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the water, a few tablespoons at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Mound the dough into a round, flat disc, and wrap in a large piece of plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour, or up to 48 hours.
Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Remove the chilled dough circles and roll it out to a circle about 11 inches across. Place the circle into a 9-inch pie plate, allowing the edges to fall over the sides of the pie plate. Place your filling inside the dough and proceed with your recipe.
You will have some extra dough – it can be used for a small tart or for making a lattice topping.
From “Notes from a Maine Kitchen” by Kathy Gunst (Down East Books, 2011)
Serve with Thanksgiving turkey or on turkey sandwiches, but this sauce is also delicious served with a cheese platter, or as a dessert sauce with butter cookies, pound cake or pie.
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 pound fresh cranberries (if frozen, do not defrost)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup very thinly sliced orange rind
1 cup finely chopped pineapple
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (rind)1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped candied or crystallized ginger, optional
1 cup pecans, or your favorite nut, coarsely chopped
Place the sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook about 15 minutes, or until the sugar syrup begins to turn a pale amber color. Add the maple syrup and the cranberries and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop. Add the orange juice, orange rind, and the orange zest and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Add the pineapple and the fresh and crystallized ginger and cook 2 minutes. The sauce should be full of flavor and slightly thickened. (If the sauce still seems thin — and remember, it will thicken as it chills— remove the cranberries with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Boil the liquid in the pot over moderate to high heat until it is thickened slightly, about 10 minutes, if needed. Place the cranberries back in the slightly thickened sauce.)
Makes about 6 cups.
From “Notes from a Maine Kitchen” by Kathy Gunst (Down East Books, 2011)
This has been a family favorite for years, beginning with my father who never loved vegetables but adored cream spinach. During the holidays we make it with heavy cream and freshly ground nutmeg but over the years I’ve lightened it up a bit. Instead of heavy cream I substitute local yogurt, or a thick Greek-style yogurt. If you don’t have either of those you can take plain yogurt and place it in a tightly meshed sieve for an hour or so until much of the liquid is released and drained and you’re left with a thick, delicious yogurt mixture. Also try to buy whole nutmeg and a little nutmeg grater (or you can use the very tiny holes on a box cheese grater); it makes a huge difference.
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh spinach or baby spinach, washed and thoroughly dried
2 to 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg*
About 1/2 cup yogurt, see head note, or heavy cream
*You can also all kinds of different spices: add a dash of cardamom, allspice, chile flakes, or cayenne.
In a large skillet, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Add half the spinach and cook, stirring, for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until wilted but not necessarily cooked through. Remove to a chopping board. Add another tablespoon of oil and sauté the remaining spinach in the same manner; remove to the chopping board.
Chop the spinach (some like it finely chopped and others coarsely chopped).
Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to the skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds. Add the chopped spinach, salt, pepper, and nutmeg stirring well and cook 1 minute. Add the yogurt (or cream), stirring it into the spinach, and let cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened and hot. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or nutmeg if needed. (The spinach can be served hot from the skillet or placed in a small casserole and refrigerated for several hours. Reheat in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until bubbling and hot throughout).
From “Stonewall Kitchen Winter Celebrations” by Kathy Gunst, Jim Stott, and Jonathan King (Chronicle Books, 2009)
A nice twist on mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (or squash) are pureed with orange zest and juice for a deliciously sweet, light side dish.
2 pounds peeled sweet potatoes, or butternut or other winter squash, seeded, chopped into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon honey
Fill a large soup pot with 2 inches of lightly salted water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork or small, sharp knife.
Drain the potatoes, and transfer to the work bowl of a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste, and the remaining ingredients, and puree until smooth. Season again to taste.
The sweet potatoes can be prepared ahead. Place finished potatoes in a casserole dish. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. To reheat, place in a 350 degree oven, covered, for 30 minutes, or until warmed through
Want more Kathy Gunst recipes and cooking tips? Check out Kathy’s page on our website.