Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Baste | Breathe | Repeat

That subtitle for a Wall Street Journal article on how not to stress about preparing the quintessential Thanksgiving meal caught my eye. Yes, I have stressed over that meal in the past, but not to the extreme outlined in the WSJ.

For me, the stressful part was making the gravy. I only make gravy to accompany a roast turkey, and doing that every year or so is not enough “practice to make perfect.” Add to that my mother and/or my two sisters hovering over my shoulder offering input, often conflicting, and you get the picture.  The times I’ve made decent gravy were the times I cooked dinner only for my husband, his elderly aunt and myself.  Being able to follow a gravy recipe from the newspaper, without interruption, did the trick.

I was never one to try new recipes at Thanksgiving, as my family and friends always wanted the tried and true, which was fine by me.  What does that mean? Turkey, gravy, the Pepperidge Farm dressing recipe with minor adaptations, baked sweet potatoes vs. a casserole, green beans or roasted veggies like Brussel sprouts, carrots, onions plus cranberry sauce and rolls.  Who needs more than that?  Truth be told, none of us really wanted to eat anything beyond turkey, dressing and gravy, but felt obligated to at least put something green in our mouths.

I haven’t cooked a Thanksgiving dinner in several years, as my husband and I have been invited to eat with friends or family for several years running.  The two years we spent with friends at their mountain house, I was only in charge of the dressing and baked sweet potatoes. Last year when we spent the day with friends locally, I was asked to make my specialty—Greek salad.

This year, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when the same friends asked me to bring Greek pastries from my neighborhood bakery.  That Greek bakery has become my go-to spot any time I need dessert, which is pretty much only when I entertain or take dessert to someone else’s house.

It’s been so many years since I’ve had to prepare an entire Thanksgiving meal that I was taken by surprise when I ran into Trader Joe’s this past Sunday to pick up Greek olive oil and found the store packed … until I realized everyone was stocking up for Thanksgiving.  That experience prompted me to give thanks that I was once again off the hook for the big meal.

With nothing to do except visit the bakery for pastries, I have time for other fun things, like trying a new recipe for cinnamon almonds.  Because I make sugared peanuts every year at Christmas, I was intrigued by a Facebook post for a similar recipe for almonds.  This one calls for prepping the nuts in a crockpot before baking them in the oven, unlike the peanut recipe in which the peanuts start in a big pot on top of the stove.  My plan is to take some to my friends on Thanksgiving day to see what they think.

Of course, my friends are so addicted to my sugared peanuts, it may not matter how good the almonds are. Why do I say that? Because the one year I failed to include the peanuts in the Christmas gift bags we couples exchange at our annual dinner, the outcry was deafening. Heaven forbid I disappoint them again.


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