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!

Snickerdoodles

 

I was feeling nostalgic yesterday – my daughter was traveling with friends on Spring Break, my son was visiting a college with my husband, and I was home alone for a whole day-and-night. Just the concept of cleaning the refrigerator uninterrupted was almost exciting somehow – pathetic, I know. But I also had the time to make something (and finish the process) that was self-indulgent. So, I made snickerdoodles.

cookie jar

These cookies have a history: they hark back to my first Home Economics class in 7th grade with Mrs. Bremer in Room 105. This will date me, but it was the type of Home Ec room that had six fully–supplied, complete kitchens for the class to break up into smaller groups and practice cookery. My first lesson in that class was “Summer Cooler” (basically homemade egg nog with a scoop of strawberry ice cream) and Cinnamon Toast Fingers (toasted under a broiler); but that’s another story.

home ec notebook

Mrs. Bremer gave us a lot of good, old-fashioned American recipes, and snickerdoodles was one of them. Possibly German in origin, they are indigenous to the Northeast. (Hence, I always include them in my New England-style Thanksgiving menu – yet another story.) Yes, they are self-indulgent, but fortunately, my son loves them, too. They are wonderful with a mug of coffee or glass of cold milk! Perfect for mother-son bonding (which we did when he came home from his college visit).cookie crumbs

½ c. unsalted butter
1½ c. sugar
2 large eggs
2¾ c. flour
2 t. cream of tartar
2 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt

Topping: 2 T. sugar and 2 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift together flour, cream of tartar and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, mixing thoroughly. Roll into balls, using about ½ T. of dough for each ball. Roll cookie balls in sugar-cinnamon mixture and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

snickerdoodles pan

Bake for about 8-10 mins. or until just lightly browned (but still soft).  Makes about 80 cookies.

Cranberry Mold

Many years ago, at one of my earliest Christmas parties, a friend brought this dish. She also gave me the undated clipping with the recipe from the Long Beach Press-Telegram, so to be accurate I need to give credit where credit is due: Thank you, Colleen, for bringing this salad, and thank you, Evelyn Tietsort of Long Beach, who originally submitted the recipe. It’s really good, has unusual ingredients, and is a snap to make if you can use a food processor. Jello molds are ubiquitous with Southern dinners, so of course, I included this in my Southern-Thanksgiving-do.

1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 orange
1½ c. sugar
1 pkg. (3 oz.) lemon gelatin
1 pkg. (3 oz.) raspberry gelatin
1 tsp. grated ginger
2 c. boiling water
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. chopped celery

In a food processor, grind cranberries and orange (including peel). Add sugar to fruit and allow to stand overnight in refrigerator.
In a large bowl, combine gelatin with boiling water. Chill in freezer to consistency of egg white (40 mins. or less). Add pineapple, nuts, celery, and ginger, and stir gently. Pour into a 13”x9” pan or a 3-qt. mold. Chill thoroughly.
Makes 12 servings.

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!)