Thanksgiving menu — this time with recipes!

Easy lunch box ideas: Hummus topped with ground beef and onions with cheese; ham; and aged gouda. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Last day of school! Last day of peace. Where’s my bourbon?

Going to keep it brief today because, after all, nobody cares about anything except Thanksgiving. So today’s lunch is leftovers from dinner last night — hummus topped with ground beef and onions with a sprinkle of cheese.

Meanwhile, here is my Thanksgiving menu annotated with recipes and instructions, etc. Hope everyone enjoys an amazing holiday with friends, family and heaps of food. And bourbon.

Starters:

  • Cheese and fruit platter

    Just your average assortment of yummy cheese and fruit, stuff to nibble and overeat before the real feasting begins.

  • Warm phyllo cups with brie, cranberry sauce and bacon

    Plan is to fill mini phyllo cups (the ones I use for Parker’s mini quiches) with a hunk of brie, a spoonful of whole-berry cranberry sauce and a hunk of cooked bacon, then bake them until the cheese is melty and delicious. I’ll assemble them ahead and bake off just as people arrive.

  • Apple-liver pate with homemade seed crackers

    The pate was simple. I sauteed some onion in bacon fat, then added a diced peeled apple, 1 pound of chicken livers and a bit of salt and pepper. Once the liver was lightly browned, I deglazed with 1/4 cup of apple brandy. Dump the whole thing in the food processor and pulse until smooth. I’ve frozen it and will thaw it 24 hours in the refrigerator before serving. The crackers are from a book/blog — recipe here. I’m not a follower of this diet, but these crackers are fantastic and easy to make.

  • Warm Triscuits topped with manchego-stuffed dates and wrapped in bacon

    I’ll be filing this recipe to the wire tomorrow, but meanwhile it’s pretty simple. I stuff dates with hunks of manchego cheese, then set each one on a Triscuit. Then I wrap each in half a strip of bacon (bacon overlapping on the underside of the cracker) then bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes. I’ll assemble these in the morning and bake off as people arrive.

  • Cucumber cups filled with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill

    I love these. I cut English cucumbers into 1-inch rounds. Then I use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds (but not all the way), creating tiny cups. In a processor, I combine 8 ounces smoked salmon, 8 ounces creme fraiche (sour cream works, too), fresh dill, salt, pepper and a healthy splash of Sriracha. I pulse until mostly smooth, then spoon some into each cup. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll top each with a caper.

Mains:

  • 23-pound turkey dry-brined with bacon salt

    God help me. I don’t even like turkey. And we’re getting enough of a crowd that I may actually roast two birds! One is 23 pounds, the other is 18. I made bacon salt the other night. It was easy. I cooked off about 12 ounces of bacon, then dumped it and about 1 1/2 cups of kosher salt in the processor. Then I processor until the bacon was the same consistency as the salt. Today I will dry brine the birds using that salt. First, I’ll arrange fresh sage under the skin of one bird and salami slices under the skin of the other. Then I’ll liberally (1/2 teaspoon per pound) sprinkle bacon salt all over and inside both birds. Back in the refrigerator they will go until Thursday around 11, when I’ll cram them into a 350 F oven and hope for the best.

  • Spanakopita

    We’re aren’t Greek, but in my family it isn’t Thanksgiving unless Mom makes spanakopita. She makes it with kale instead of spinach. It’s incredibly good and we crave it all year. We always make enough for leftovers because it’s like pizza — even better cold. Time magazine wrote about our Thanksgiving a few years back and included Mom’s recipe. 

Sides:

  • Squash rolls
  • Sourdough bread

    I buy all bread items from an amazing local baker, The Crust and Crumb. 

  • Homemade truffle butter

    Stupidly easy, but so insanely good. Get yourself a quart of heavy cream. Dump it in the food processor and processor for about 5 to 10 minutes. First it becomes whipped cream, then it breaks and pretty soon you have a huge lump of the most intense butter ever sitting in a pool of buttermilk. Strain it, then dump the butter in a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to work the butter, pressing it against the bowl. This extracts additional liquid. Pour off the liquid. Season the butter with flaked salt (I use truffle salt). Don’t refrigerate it. It’s best as is. You will be astounded.

  • Cranberry sauce

    I usually make this recipe.  But this year a guest is bringing the cranberry sauce, so I decided to experiment. See below.

  • Cranberry “salami” (a thick, sliceable sauce)

    I was intrigued by this recipe in Tyler Florence’s new cookbook — “Inside the Test Kitchen.” I made it the other night. Very easy, pretty yummy. This is the recipe.

  • Vegan mashed potatoes (for mom)
  • Not-vegan mashed potatoes (for the rest of us)

    My approach to mashed potatoes is simple. I peel a whole lot of yellow potatoes, then I boil them all until tender. I drain them, then set a small amount in one pan and the rest in a larger pan. I set both pans over a medium flame for a minute or two to help dry them out. This makes them fluffier and absorb more yumminess. Next, I add vegan butter and vegetable broth to the smaller batch and mash away. In the larger batch, I add whole milk and as much butter as humanly possible.

  • Roasted sweet potato wedges glazed with orange bitters

    This is a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book, “Plenty More.” These sweet potatoes are outrageously addictive. This is the recipe.

  • Turkey drippings stuffing

    No real plan on this one. Bread crumbs, butter, celery, onion, sage and thyme moistened with turkey drippings and stock, then dumped in a casserole. I don’t stuff the bird. Too much trouble.

  • Vegan stuffing with pine nuts, dried cherries, thyme and sage

    Same idea as above, but will use vegetable stock and add some funky stuff.

  • Roasted butternut squash with shaved Brussels sprouts, lemon juice and ricotta salata

    So excited to make this. Plan is to cube and roast some butternut squash, then toss it with raw Brussels sprouts that have been shaved using a mandoline. The whole thing gets tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then topped with pine nuts and shaved ricotta salata.

  • Roasted carrots tossed with butter and topped with honeycomb

    Going to cut carrots into 3-inch lengths, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast until tender. Just before serving, I’ll toss them with melted butter and heap them on a serving platter. Then I’ll top them with gobs of whipped honey, which should ooze and melt over them. Might sprinkle some thyme on there, too.

Drinks:

  • Prosecco

     To go with starters. I also bought extra because the chef likes to start the day with mimosas while cooking.

  • Bourbon (duh!)

    Also for starters. And going to make this cocktail as a pitcher cocktail to have out.

  • Seltzer

    I am seriously addicted to my Soda Stream device. Will serve the seltzer at the table in repurposed bourbon bottles.

  • Red Wine

    Got the have some cab.

  • White wine

    For those who insist.

  • Sparkling cider (for the kiddies)

Dessert:

  • Apple pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Chocolate pumpkin pie
  • Coconut cream pie
  • Apple cake

    I don’t bake, so most are being purchased from my local bakery. A friend is bringing the apple pie and my mom is experimenting with a recipe for the apple cake.

If only I could be as organized about lunch as I am Thanksgiving

Easy lunch box ideas: breaded pork cutlets with cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla; yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Because for Thanksgiving I’m working off of a two-tiered spreadsheet.

A to-do list app that syncs between my laptop, my iPhone and my iPad.

An online grocery order.

A stack of well-organized recipes and ideas.

A well-stocked refrigerator.

Multiple dishes prepped in advance.

Lunch? Er… Not so much. Today — breaded pork cutlets slapped into a tortilla.

Usually, I don’t get too excited about Thanksgiving. That’s partly because by the time the real holiday rolls around, I’ve already had five or more full Thanksgiving dinners in the test kitchen.

Enough!

But this year I’m looking forward to it. After a hectic (we’ll use that word to protect the not-so-innocent) November, I’m eager for a day of family, friends and food.

The menu?

Starters:

  • Cheese and fruit platter
  • Warm phyllo cups with brie, cranberry sauce and bacon
  • Apple-live pate with homemade seed crackers
  • Warm Triscuits topped with manchego-stuffed dates and wrapped in bacon
  • Cucumber cups filled with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill

Mains:

  • 23-pound turkey dry-brined with bacon salt
  • Spanakopita

Sides:

  • Squash rolls
  • Sourdough bread
  • Homemade truffle butter
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Cranberry “salami” (a thick, sliceable sauce)
  • Vegan mashed potatoes (for mom)
  • Not-vegan mashed potatoes (for the rest of us)
  • Roasted sweet potato wedges glazed with orange bitters
  • Turkey drippings stuffing
  • Vegan stuffing with pine nuts, dried cherries, thyme and sage
  • Roasted butternut squash with shaved Brussels sprouts, lemon juice and ricotta salata
  • Roasted carrots tossed with butter and topped with honeycomb

Drinks:

  • Prosecco
  • Bourbon (duh!)
  • Seltzer
  • Red Wine
  • White wine
  • Sparkling cider (for the kiddies)

Dessert:

  • Apple pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Chocolate pumpkin pie
  • Coconut cream pie
  • Apple cake

You may have read about our nation’s bourbon shortage…

Easy lunch box ideas: Cambodian treats and a ham and cream cheese wrap on a whole-wheat tortilla. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

And lately I’ve been doing more than my part to foster it.

Apologies for the long silence. A confluence of kid, busiest time of the year at work, kid, outside projects, kid… Well, let’s just say my bourbon and I haven’t had much time for lunch blogging.

The kid’s still getting fed. Fear not.

Not sure he deserves it, but I’m signed on to keep him in food for the next eight years, so there we have it.

Today’s lunch is a whole lot of What the…?

I had a fun day yesterday exploring a Cambodian market in Massachusetts. A local who knows the language and the food was giving me a tour. Came home with all sorts of cool finds.

Took all my strength to not buy the 2-gallon bucket of Sriracha!

Some of those finds are in today’s lunch. The pretty pie-like thing is simply labeled “fruit, nuts and 2 eggs.” So there’s that. The lemon bar-like thing is kind of a dense sponge with a very not lemon filling. Even after eating a bite, I’m afraid I can’t be more specific than that.

And just to keep something within the comfort zone, we have the usual ham and cream cheese roll.

Hope everyone is gearing up for Thanksgiving! What’s on the menu?

Already one of those weeks…

Easy lunch box ideas: roasted pork tenderloin with cream cheese in a whole-wheat tortilla; and pretzels with hummus. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

And how can that be? It’s a short week.

Yesterday was nice. Parker and I went for a walk in the woods, then watched “Captain America.”

Appropriate for Veteran’s Day? Sure!

Anyway, today is back to the grind.

Lunch is leftover roasted pork tenderloin wrapped the usual way, plus a packet of hummus and some pretzels.

Nothing exciting to see here today…

The dinner (and lunch) that should not have worked

Easy lunch box ideas: spicy ground bison with butternut squash and quinoa with hummus on whole-wheat tortillas; a yogurt parfait; and pretzels. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Given Parker’s mood of late, my bourbon and I decided last night’s dinner would be a failure.

Any excuse for him to be a pest, after all…

And as we all know, an unfamiliar dinner is plenty of excuse…

I was hankering for a Middle Eastern dish I used to make frequently, but haven’t in many years. Basically, you make a big batch of garlic-rich hummus, then mound that on a serving platter.

Then you brown up some ground lamb and onions and season it with a heap of spices, including cumin, cinnamon and paprika. Spoon the meat over the hummus, then eat it scooped into chunks of flatbread.

Delicious! (And here’s a version of my basic recipe for this.)

Last night, I made it a little differently and I assumed it would be rejected by the resident boy.

I started by cooking up some red quinoa. While that cooked, I browned a pound of ground bison with finely diced butternut squash. I seasoned it with cumin, cinnamon and smoked paprika.

Meanwhile, I made hummus, but subbed cashew butter for the more traditional tahini. It’s great that way.

When the ground bison was ready, I dumped the quinoa into it, as well as a bunch of chopped fresh chives. To serve, I smeared hummus onto wedges of whole-wheat tortillas, then spooned some of the meat mixture onto that.

Parker ate three of them without question.

OK, then…

So I was happy to have two left over to include (cold) in today’s lunch. Add a yogurt parfait (with pine nuts, just to be different) and some pretzel rods, and that’s good enough.

Turns out all that math homework (and bourbon) have paid off

Easy lunch box ideas: Easy veg-rich chili and a yogurt parfait. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Because last night I learned a new mathematical theorem. It goes something like this:

VV @ DT is directly proportional to SBC in which VV = Vegetable Volume, DT = Dinnertime, and SBC = Sustained Brattiness in Child.

Ergo last night’s chili dinner.

Last night’s small batch of chili began with:

  • 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 12-ounce jar roasted red pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 large butternut squash

All of that got dumped into a blender and pureed. Sauce!

I then browned 1 pound of ground turkey and 1 pound of ground pork. Add a 15-ounce can of black beans, the sauce and seasonings (chili, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin and smoked paprika), then let it simmer for 30 minutes.

A veg-rich chili.

You want fewer vegetables in your dinner (and now lunch)? Stop being a brat.

 

Holy (expletive deleted)! Just go to school!

Easy lunch box ideas: leftover pork sausage; aged gouda; raspberries; and holiday cookies. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

As you probably guessed from the silence, it’s been one of those weeks…

Well, one of those last weeks and one of those this weeks…

You don’t need details. Not so much to protect the not-particularly-innocent. But because you live it. You know it.

We can all just take a little — though not nearly enough — comfort in knowing we’re all going through the same…

For simplicity, we’ll just call it the “same loving development stages.”

So today we’re back. With lunch.

Lunch today? Leftover pork sausage — some of which exploded in flames on my stovetop last night, but with a week like this I kind of just expect that. I offered to bun them. Ketchup them. Barbecue sauce them.

Whatever. He wanted them plain. You get them plain. Berries and cheese on the side.

And since it’s holiday cookie season in the test kitchen, he has some holiday cookies, too.

Not that he deserves them.

But we’ve covered that ground before.

And then there are those days when you say, “Screw it.”

Easy lunch box ideas: mashed potatoes; aged gouda; pumpkin cannoli; and penuche cream pie. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

And then you say, “Where’s my bourbon?”

One of those days. Misbehaving kid. Misbehaving electrician. Work piling up.

You get it. You know.

So those days come and you say… Whatever.

So you fill your kid’s lunch box with buttery mashed potatoes. And aged gouda.

And then you sort of give up.

And you ask, “Where’s my damn bourbon?”

So you toss in some pumpkin cannoli. Not because he deserves it, but because you don’t care.

And you ask, “Is it wrong to drink bourbon at 8 a.m.?”

So you toss in some penuche fudge pie topped with vanilla custard. And you don’t care that it slops into the container. Again, not because he deserves it.

Because… Well, you get it.

A lazy Sunday stew makes for a fast and easy lunch

 

Easy lunch box ideas: beef, butternut squash and carrot stew; buttermilk whole-wheat dinner roll; and a yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.comSo yesterday was a rare day. I cleaned the garage so that it can be parked in for the winter.

And that was about it. No plans. No demands.

So I decided to take advantage of a long and leisurely Sunday by taking on some cooking projects, the sorts of things my usual day-to-day doesn’t permit.

I started with a beef stew with butternut squash and carrots. For an experiment, I braised the beef for the stew in buttermilk for four hours before scooping it out (discarding the buttermilk) and adding it to a tomato base that I’d simmered down.

Then I added the rest of the ingredients — including a whole mess of basil, oregano and thyme — and let it go for another two hours. It was pretty delicious, though I’m not sure I’d bother with the buttermilk braise again. It supposedly makes the meat very tender. It worked, but a braise in any liquid would have accomplished that.

Next up… Buttermilk whole-wheat rolls. Sensing a theme? I found myself with four quarts of buttermilk in the refrigerator and was set on using as much as possible this week.

The rolls turned out delicious. A very basic recipe from “The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book.” It’s an old-school bread book.

So today’s lunch was simple — beef stew and a roll, and some yummy yogurt on the side.

Same meat, but now with added carbs and fat

Easy lunch box ideas: leftover mashed potatoes with Chinese barbecue pulled pork; apple crisp; and a buttermilk biscuit. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Still had a ton of Chinese barbecue pulled pork left over last night, so decided it needed a fresh take for dinner.

So I made killer mashed potatoes.

As in, mashed potatoes with buttermilk. And heavy cream. And butter.

I considered frying fresh sage in more butter and stirring the whole thing in… But got distracted.

Was delicious all the same with the pulled pork.

If the mashed potatoes look a little bluish, no need to adjust your display. They are. I only had four proper mashing potatoes, and that wasn’t quite enough. I wanted leftovers for today’s lunch.

So I tossed in a few purple new potatoes. They mashed up just fine and Parker didn’t even notice the color.

So today’s lunch started there — mashed potatoes topped with pulled pork (all packed together in a wide thermos). Add a leftover biscuit and the last of the apple crisp… And that’s fine for a Friday.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.