Tex-Mex Thanksgiving

The holidays started last month with my husband’s birthday, followed by Halloween.  Even more than usual, they are flying by.  And no, it doesn’t help that Thanksgiving is late this year, making Christmas early.  I just have this feeling in the pit of my stomach, or the back of my brain: I should have finished my Christmas shopping last week already.  For those of you who have already finished your Christmas cards (memo to self: get Christmas cards), thank you for your inspirational role-modeling.  I’m hoping next year will be more organized.

In the meantime, I did plan my Thanksgiving celebration; it’s Tex-Mex this year, in honor of my son’s new Mustang status.SMU DreamerI just read it off to my son, who is in Dallas at SMU, and he said that it was making him hungry already.  So, I’m sharing it with you here.  Special thanks to Kim Pierce, who wrote a great piece for the Dallas Times on a Tex Mex Thanksgiving, way back in 2007 (talk about planning ahead!).

And I also got my invitations out, thankfully.  They were easy to do, but a nice blend of traditional Thanksgiving, and Tex-Mex touches.Tex-Mex Thanksgiving invite

Here’s my plan for the menu:

I’ll start with simple cheese quesadillas (for the few picky eaters in my family), garnished with my guacamole because I love it, and accompanied by Chipotle Shrimp Tacos.  Because Thanksgiving dinner is such a huge meal, I’ll substitute for the soup course with a light salad (thank you, Martha!), sprinkled with pepitas.

The entrée, high-heat roasted turkey (seasoned with Tex-Mex spices), will follow.  The seasonings for the Tex-Mex rub on the turkey are simply borrowed from the seasonings recommended by Kim Pierce for the chili gravy that she wrote about.  The high-heat method is straight out of Fine Cooking; their technique is not only easy but delicious.  I’ll just make a simple pan gravy from the turkey drippings; I think it will be a lighter complement to all the food on the buffet.

Now for the sides: Ancho Chilis Stuffed with Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry-Mango Relish, Tex-Mex Zucchini, Smoked Baked Potatoes with El Rancho Chili con Queso, Mexican Corn Stuffing Casserole (without the cheeses), and Flaky Cheddar Jalapeno Biscuits.  The sweet potato, cranberry, and potato dishes are from Kim Pierce’s article also; they read like authentic Tex-Mex recipes (not just traditional Thanksgiving dishes with Tex-Mex spices – like, ahem, my roast turkey recipe – !)   The zucchini recipe is from Fine Cooking, too, and the stuffing recipe is from cooksrecipes.com.  The biscuits will be a blend of two recipes, Flaky Angel Biscuits and Cheddar and Jalapeno Biscuits (from Simply Recipes.com).

Now, for the dessert.  It might just be my favorite part of the meal… Pumpkin Flan (adapted from a special family recipe), Pecan Pie (because my from-Houston-friend says every Texan serves pecan pie at Thanksgiving), and Chocolate Tres Leches Cake, because we need something chocolate, don’t we? (The Chocolate Tres Leches Cake is also from Fine Cooking.)

I know I have so much to be grateful for.  My family is basically healthy; my living-away-from-home-son is happy where he is, my teenage daughter is finding her way (whether she realizes it or not); my husband is infinitely patient with all of us; my dog plays like a puppy still; I have made some new friends who have stepped up as old friends have moved on; I still have old friends; and I have Thanksgiving Dinner coming up.  I am looking forward to the Conversation Starters we always use,conversation cupthe Pictionary Challenge that always follows, and our tradional placecards. Turkey place cards I thank God for these blessings, and I sincerely hope that you are blessed as well.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

The end - SMU Dreamer!

Greek Easter

“Greek Easter” has always been notoriously (well, if you’re Greek Orthodox) out-of-sync with the rest of Christendom. This year is exceptionally late: Greek Easter is on May 5; everybody else’s Easter is on March 31. That’s 5 weeks! Talk about Greek-time… (as opposed to on-time). Ah well, I guess we can buy Easter treats and decorations at half-price…

Except that traditional Greeks don’t really go in for the Easter bunny thing. Easter is the most important holiday in the Orthodox Church, and little bunnies and fuzzy chicks don’t enhance the drama and ritual of the celebration. The closest we get to Easter baskets is red eggs and Easter bread. The Easter bread sports a jaunty red egg baked in the middle, and sometimes the dyed eggs get wrapped in tulle and tied with a ribbon, but that’s about it.

red egg

That said, it’s helpful to remember that Greeks are also known for independent thinking – Greece was the birthplace of democracy, after all. Translated, that means anything goes – I hope my mom is not reading this!  So, if you want a Greek menu and an Easter egg hunt for the little ones – go for it! (That’s what I do, anyway!)Greek Easter apps

Here are some of the options I’m considering for Greek Easter on May 5th:
Saganaki with french bread slices
Tyropites
Hummous with pita triangles
Tsatziki
Crudités

Barbecued leg of lamb
Rice pilaf
Roasted potatoes
Grilled sea bass
Spanakopita
Greek salad
Greek Easter bread

Kourambiethes
Karithopita
Kopenhai
Galactoboureko
Fresh fruit

Wines/spirits from Greece
Coffee
Chamomile tea
Potokalathes

Southern-style Thanksgiving menu

With thanks to Lee Bailey, and dedicated to my party-planning friend.

Hush Puppies with Tabasco Pepper Jelly
Relish and cruditee tray (pickled watermelon rind, cucumber spears, carrot sticks)
Pimento-cheese stuffed celery sticks

Shrimp Bisque

Roast Turkey
Cornbread Dressing
Scalloped Potatoes
Sweet Potato Medallions
Herbed Green Beans
Jellied Cranberry Mold
Flaky Angel Biscuits

Tossed Salad of butter lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and diced radishes, homemade Green Goddess Dressing

Pecan Praline Cake
Shortbread Cookies
Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Sweet Iced Tea
Red and White Wine
Coffee and Tea

Southern-style Thanksgiving

My son will be going away to college next year (if he gets his wish), so in bittersweet honor of his “last year at home,” I gave him the choice of “what kind of Thanksgiving should we have?” Did he want Napa-style? New England-style? Southern? Tex-Mex? Vegetarian? (That last suggestion was a kind-of joke; he’s a decided meat-eater.) Southern, he said. Really? Did he really know what Southern-style Thanksgiving meant? Turns out, he did, no, really. It’s all about the cornbread dressing, he said. And the biscuits. Needless to say, I was completely dumb-founded and impressed – and I will take his comments as compliments.He was right about the cornbread dressing, and the biscuits. But I have a few other Southern tricks in my apron pocket, thanks to Lee Bailey and my longtime partner-in-party-planning. Lee Bailey was a designer-writer-photographer-stylist, Louisiana-born and –bred, who wrote almost 20 fantastic cookbooks. Based on his recipes and comments, Mr. Bailey must have been a bonafide Southern gentleman, the epitome of Southern graciousness. Which reminds me of my party-planning-partner of arts-and-crafts fame – she is also Louisiana-born- and –bred, also knows her way around a Southern kitchen, and is bonafide Southern graciousness personified. So, planning a Southern-style Thanksgiving will make me bring out my favorite cookbooks and recipes for a gracious holiday that will hopefully inspire my teenage son to return home for holidays! (Phew!)

Nutcracker Tea

Little girls and ballet… little girls and tea parties… and at Christmastime, little girls and Nutcracker. When my daughter first started dancing in a local production of Nutcracker, I could not resist planning a Nutcracker tea party to celebrate her hard work and performances with her dancing friends and their moms. So I did, and they came, and we had a lovely afternoon.
E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original Nutcracker story involves a battle royale between an enchanted Nutcracker aided by his toy soldier Hussars, and an evil seven-headed Rat King and his mice henchmen. Marie, the young ingenue, sacrifices her sugar doll collection to the Rat King to save her magical Nutcracker, who is really a bewitched (and handsome) Prince. With her help, Nutcracker is able to vanquish the Rat King, return to his original form, and woo Marie. So, Nutcracker, as it’s originally written, is really a coming of age story about a young girl learning to stand up for those she loves. (The Kirov Ballet is most faithful to this version of the story – their Marie ultimately grows up and accepts the marriage proposal of her Prince. Most of the other ballet productions seen are similar to the Balanchine version, in which Marie wakes up to find that her escapades with her Nutcracker Prince are just a dream – most unsatisfying!)

But my point to all this, is that the Nutcracker ballet stories are filled with references to food: the Nutcracker and nuts, French shepherdesses – merlitons – and marzipan, Arabian dancers and coffee, Russian Cossacks and chocolate, Spanish dancers and spices, Chinese dancers and tea, the Sugar Plum fairy, Mother Ginger and the gingerbread cookies, the Land of Sweets, Lemonade River…
So, planning a Nutcracker Tea Party is pretty easy, if maybe a little indulgent with the sweets!