[Kehoe Beach, November 2011.]
Right — it’s November. The light, when the sun is shining, looks a lot like that photo above. I’m crossing my fingers very tightly (not when I’m typing, though; that would make things difficult) for sun next Thursday so we can slip away to Kehoe for a Thanksgiving walk before the cooking madness begins, but as of now the forecast is calling for showers. I’m still packing up my backpack for our proposed trip the following day, though, as I believe in the power of positive thinking. And anyway, what’s a few raindrops between hard-core camping types (if my brother is reading this he’s laughing at me because I typically wimp out and draw the line at backpacking in the rain, especially when — ahem — one’s tent is meant more for summer camping than fall/winter)? Oh, but pretty please: I haven’t been to Wildcat Beach in eons (read: a few years); my hiking boots need a workout; I’m longing to sleep out under the stars near the sea; come Friday I’ll be in desperate need of some physical activity after all the feasting.
For yes, the feasting is upon us. In November, regardless of light, regardless of weather, my thoughts turn inevitably to Thanksgiving, which I like to call ‘the cook’s holiday.’ And indeed it is a holiday for cooks — most of you reading this have probably been planning your menus for weeks now — or at least those who like to cook. A day off from work where the main activities are cooking, gathering, and eating? Sign me up.
I’ve been cooking and baking rather determinedly lately — not unhappily, mind you, just with a one-track mindset of get ‘er done. I’ve churned out several batches of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, a batch of vegan peanut butter cookies, a dozen or so lemon meringue cookies with the two egg whites I had leftover from baking a flourless chocolate cake, said flourless chocolate cake (recipe soon), vegan chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, pesto two ways (with cheese and without), a delightful cabbagey bean soup, a few serviceable vegetable stirfries with fried tofu … Today I’m working at home so am baking two loaves of pumpkin bread and gluten-free gingersnaps for the first time (to send East to the half of the family who’s celebrating Thanksgiving in Maine). I wish I could say this is a precursor to the craziness known as ‘Nicole’s holiday baking’ but it’s really just the norm for me. I don’t really need to wax poetic about it; we need to eat, I like to bake, and so I bake and cook and so it goes.
Still, Thanksgiving is special, yes? I’ve written many posts about cooking the vegetarian Thanksgiving meal, so this time ’round I think I’m going to direct you to stuff I’ve done previously just because, as I mentioned, there’s a lot of cooking to be attended to in the moment and I’m feeling a wee bit pressed.
This year there will be four vegetarians at the table — slightly thrilling for me, as for the first time in a long time I won’t be the lone turkey abstainer. I’m going back and forth as to whether or not I should do those delicious roasted and stuffed acorn squashes — pros: easy to make ahead, they’re a wonderful vegetarian main dish; cons: I’m already doing a sweet potato gratin that could serve as the vegetarian main — and I think tomorrow’s farmers market will decide that for me. I’m going with tried-and-trues this year, as is sometimes my wont, and as always the meal will be very vegetable-heavy.
The menu so far
Assorted cheeses + crackers
Sweet potato-tahini dip with sliced apples
Smoked salmon from the farmers market
Cauliflower soup with honey-herb biscuits
Roasted acorn squash filled with polenta or wild rice
Caramelized shallots with green beans and carrots
Roasted root vegetables
Mashed potatoes with vegetarian gravy
Sweet potato-chard gratin
(maybe also a roasted butternut squash-maple syrup puree, because I love it so)
Dry-brined turkey and cornbread stuffing
Cranberry upside down cake
In terms of suggestions for your vegetarian entrees or vegetable side dishes, I point you toward:
And of course if you need any tips, I’m only an email away …
While you’re plotting and planning and maybe even starting to cook already (!), might I recommend making some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies? I’ve made these twice in a week to make up for not making any all throughout this long and lovely fall — a real travesty, as these cookies are strangely addictive and delicious. I love them for their cake-like texture and the balance of brown sugar against the pumpkin puree; the chocolate chips give a bit of texture as well as, well, chocolate which is just the thing. May I admit I have eaten a handful, still slightly warm, with my morning coffee before 10 a.m.? But they would also go nicely with a pot of tea or a glass of milk any time. They will well fortify you through the upcoming ‘cook’s holiday’ — and beyond.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin. Add the flour and stir just until incorporated. Add the chips.
Drop by teaspoons on cookie sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned at the edges but not dark.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.