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Cider-Braised Turkey and Garlicky Creamed Spinach

You may recall that my recommendation for roasting the perfect Thanksgiving turkey is to roast it in parts, rather than as a whole bird. By roasting the breast separate from the drumsticks and thighs, you can cook each part to juicy perfection, rather than allowing the the breast to dry out while waiting for the legs and thighs to come up to temperature.

If desired, you can roast a few drumsticks and thighs alongside the breast, at the same temperature and with the same seasonings. Cooked separate from the breast, the drumsticks and thighs will cook more quickly (in about the same time as the breast). Use an instant read meat thermometer to test for doneness, since cooking time will vary based on weight and your oven’s exact temperature. Aim for 160-165 degrees for the breast and 170-175 degrees for the thighs and drumsticks.

Or for a little something different, try braising the dark meat using this very simple, very flavorful preparation. The meat will become fall-off-the-bone tender and you’ll have a delicious, ready-made sauce to serve along with it! You can even braise the parts the day before and reheat on the stovetop at a gentle simmer when you’re ready to serve (though the skin will lose some crispiness with reheating).

Give it a try! I think you’ll like it!

And you can click back to HERE to see last year’s post on how to roast a turkey breast.

Bacon and Cider Braised Turkey

Ingredients

  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 turkey thighs, skin-0n, bone-in
  • 2 turkey drumsticks, skin-on, bone-in
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat the thighs and drumsticks dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over the thighs and drumsticks. In a large dutch oven pan, cook bacon over medium/medium-high heat until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, leaving the bacon drippings in the pan. Place the thighs and drumsticks in the pan in a single layer, skin side down. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the skin is nicely browned. Then flip the pieces and cook for about three minutes on the other side. Pour the cider and chicken broth over the chicken. (The liquids should come about halfway up the sides of the turkey, leaving the browned skin exposed.) Return the bacon to the pan. Cover and place on the middle oven rack. Allow to cook for 90 minutes, undisturbed. Then, remove the cover and allow it to cook for 30 minutes more (to crisp up the skin and allow the sauce to reduce). Remove from the oven. Remove the turkey pieces and place on a platter. Pour the sauce into a measuring cup and allow it to cool for a few minutes. As it cools, the excess fat will rise to the surface. Use a spoon to remove the excess fat. Then, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.

Serves 4

Garlicky Creamed Spinach

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 1 pound baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt (about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Ground black pepper

Directions

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach to the pan. (It will look like a tremendous quantity of spinach. Don’t worry…it will drastically shrink as it wilts.) Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until all of the spinach has wilted. Add the heavy cream, parmesan cheese, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Bring to a simmer and allow it to cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until the liquid reduces by at least half. Allow to cool slightly before serving, which will help the cream to thicken up a bit.

Serves 4

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How to Make an All-Butter Pie Crust

Making a homemade pie crust is not difficult to do. It just takes a few simple ingredients, carefully blended together to create a flakey, buttery crust to be proud of. And it really does make a difference!

The key to making a great pie crust is keeping the ingredients cool throughout the process. You want the butter to remain in solid form, dispersed in small pieces throughout the dough, so that when the dough is baked, the little bits of butter will melt between the flour, creating delicious flakey layers. To this end, work quickly and handle the dough as little as possible (so the butter doesn’t melt by the warmth of your hands). Start with very cold ingredients and refrigerate the prepared dough before using to allow the butter to chill before handling the dough any further. A cold work surface, such as a marble slab, is handy, but not necessary.

Some people prefer to use a food processor to make homemade dough, but it’s very easy to do by hand. The only special equipment needed is a simple plastic or metal pastry/dough blender.

This step-by-step guide will produce enough dough for two pie crusts (or one double-crusted pie). But while you’re at it, make a couple extra and freeze them for the next time you need a quick crust!

You will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small cubes*
  • 1/2 cup ice cold water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • A pastry blender/cutter
  • Rolling pin
  • Pie Pans(2)
*I use salted butter and skip the addition of extra salt. If desired, you can use unsalted butter and add a pinch of salt.

Pour 2 cups flour into a bowl.

Add 1/4 cup sugar.

Use a fork to blend the flour and sugar.

Add 1 cup (2 sticks) very cold butter (cut into small pieces) to the flour mixture. (I place the butter into the freezer for just a few minutes after cutting it to ensure that it’s extra cold.)

Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture, until the butter appears like flour-coated pea-sized pieces.

Gradually add the ice-cold water and stir with the fork until a loose dough begins to come together. You may need a little less or a little more than 1/2 cup.

You’ll know you’ve added enough water once the clumps of dough stick together when pressed.

Use your hands to pull the dough together into a ball. Remember, handle the dough as little as possible during this step.

Split the dough into two balls.

Flatten each ball into a disc-shape.

Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, or overnight.

Once cool, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface, into a roughly circular shape, large enough for your pie pan. Periodically shift the dough to ensure it is not sticking. Add more flour under the dough, if necessary.

Once the dough is sufficiently large for your pie pan, using the rolling pin to help you transfer the dough into the pan. Carefully press the dough into the pan.

Use a knife to cut off any extra dough, leaving about an inch of dough around the perimeter.

Fold the edge of the dough under and use your fingers to press the edge into a fluted design.

Refrigerate until using. Or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for later use.

Check out those flakey layers!!

Pumpkin Vanilla Custard

I call myself a runner. In fact, I’m going to run a 5k race this upcoming Sunday. Pretty impressive, huh?? More accurately, I will partially run, partially walk, and partially crawl a 5k on Sunday.

I am, in fact, a terrible runner. I can’t breathe. My muscles ache. I’m slower than a crippled snail. It’s not in my genes to be a runner. And yet I run. Diehard runners would probably call what I do “casual jogging”. But when I’ve got my running sneaks on, I feel like a runner. And so that is what I consider myself.

I started running sometime after having my second son. I was looking for a quick calorie burn to get rid of some of the extra weight I was hanging onto, without giving up my favorite foods. But what started as a means for losing the baby weight quickly became a treasured part of my day. The solitude. A chance to be alone inside my head for a few minutes. It made me feel strong and capable. It gave me peace and helped me recover a bit of the sanity that small children seem determined to abolish. And in that way, it made me a better, calmer mom.

I’d hoped to continue running throughout my third pregnancy, but fatigue and the waning evening light had other plans. Now, after months of not running (and some extra lingering baby weight), it’s been an uphill battle (both literally and figuratively) to regain my running ability.

This Sunday will be my first race since having my baby. I’m not ready. Not even a little bit. But I’m going to tie on some bells and run the jingle out of that Jingle Bell race.

I can run for 10 minutes (most of a mile) before I feel like I’m going to die. During the 5 minutes which follow, I start talking a variety of nonsense to myself. You’re a superstar. You’re strong. You can do anything! By the time I get to 15 minutes, I’m desperate and fully out of my mind. I’m screaming the lyrics to Pink’s Perfect in my pitchy off-key voice. They don’t like my jeans! They don’t get my hair! Which makes no sense since I almost exclusively wear sweatpants and keep my hair in an incredibly non-controversial pony tail. I’m quite a sight. Panting, crazy eyes, accusatory lyric shouting. Not exactly sure how I’m going to complete this race on Sunday… Ay! What was I thinking??

Run, Amy! Run!

The run will be good for me though, no matter how long it takes me, because I’ve been enjoying more pumpkin treats and apple pie (post coming soon) than any person should. Including this delectable pumpkin vanilla custard. It’s like a pumpkin pie without the crust. And it’s really good. Good enough to add a few more calorie-burning minutes to that run!

Pumpkin Vanilla Custard

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk*
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of ginger
  • 4 egg yolks
*Skim milk would work fine if you’d like to reduce the fat and calories.

Directions

Combine the milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking continuously so that the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Once the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, reduce the heat. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Gradually whisk about 1/2 of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, starting with a slow drizzle. (Gradually incorporating the hot milk into the egg yolks tempers the eggs, allowing them to slowly rise in temperature without scrambling.) Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the remaining hot milk mixture in the pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking constantly for about 3 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Pour the custard into individual serving dishes and refrigerate until set. Garnish with whipped cream and crushed vanilla wafers.

We all enjoy an occasional pat on the back for a job well done! And as a stay-at-home mom there are no pleased supervisors or satisfied co-workers passing out the pats..only little people who need more apple juice. Urgently. So, it was such a delight to be informed that The Gourmand Mom has been awarded the Editors’ Pick Best Food Blog award by the editors of Parents Magazine. What a fabulous recognition! Thank you, Parents Magazine!

You can check out the complete list of blog award winners here.

Fried Pumpkin Wontons

A few weeks ago, I found myself at the McDonald’s drive-thru. Fast food is a rarity for me (well, except for our regular Friday night Five Guys burgers and fries). But McDonald’s was running their annual Monopoly game and I got it in my head that I was going to win. I could practically smell the cash. I was feeling lucky.

I was wrong.

But on the occasion, when I stopped at my McDonald’s dreaming of Park Place and Boardwalk, I ordered one of those little apple pies. Heck, I was already throwing dietary caution to the wind. Why not add dessert too?

Imagine my surprise when I bit into a pumpkin pie, which had been packaged in an apple pie box. Ewww. I like pumpkin pie, but the taste and texture just didn’t compute with the bite of apple pie my mouth was anticipating. The second bite was better than the first, though it was nearly impossible to get past the bitter taste of disappointment over the boring St. Charles Place game piece I’d earned.

These little fried pumpkin wontons are sort of like those McDonald’s pumpkin pies, only smaller and much tastier. A guaranteed Park Place win! Perfectly crispy wonton ‘crusts’ hold a burst of smooth, spiced pumpkin in the center. If you’re interested in putting a different twist on the standard Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, these little goodies are the answer.

Make them for Thanksgiving or any time you need to satisfy your pumpkin craving. They’re best hot out of the pan, but if you’d rather get the frying out of the way earlier, I suspect they’d warm up nicely with a few minutes in a 300 degrees oven. (They were gone before I had a chance to test that theory.) These little packets of heaven will have everyone feeling thankful on Thanksgiving!

Fried Pumpkin Wontons

Ingredients

For the Wontons:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 40 wonton wrappers*
  • Vegetable Oil (for frying)

For the Spiced Sugar:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
*My grocery store carries the wonton wrappers in the frozen foods section. Some grocery stores may store them near the refrigerated produce.

Directions

Combine the pumpkin, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger until well blended. Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper around the filling, using a wet finger to seal the edges. (Check out my wonton folding tips in this Apple Cinnamon Rangoon recipe.)Place each folded wonton on a piece of wax paper as you work.

Once all wontons have been prepared, heat about 1/4″-1/2″ of vegetable (or other neutral tasting oil) in a skillet over medium/medium high heat. Test the heat by placing one wonton in the pan. It should immediately sizzle and cook very quickly (less than 30 seconds per side). Flip when the bottom is golden brown. Cook for a few seconds on the other side. If they are cooking too slowly, raise the heat. If they’re cooking faster than you can manage to flip them, turn down the heat. Use a spatula to remove the wontons from the oil and place them on a paper towel to drain. Immediately sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Serve warm.

Favorite Thanksgiving Ideas

Hard to believe Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. I’d better get my butt in gear and start preparing.

To be honest, I’d been struggling to come up with new Thanksgiving recipes to share with you. I’m just really in love with my standard Thanksgiving dishes. It’s a menu that’s evolved over the past several years and in my mind, it’s the perfect Thanksgiving feast. But, as my husband reminded me, Thanksgiving is very much about tradition.

So, this Thanksgiving, we will be enjoying what has become our traditional Thanksgiving feast, but I have come up with a few new ideas to share. Over the next two weeks, keep your eyes out for a Pumpkin Vanilla Custard, How to Make an All-Butter Pie Crust Photo Guide, Spiced Pumpkin Wontons, From-Scratch Green Bean Casserole with Homemade Crispy Onion Straws, Garlicky Creamed Spinach, a fun twist on a classic Apple Pie, and Braised Turkey Drumsticks.

Yikes! Ok…it’s probably unrealistic that I’ll be able to get all of that posted before Thanksgiving. But I’m gonna give it an honest effort. Let me know if there’s anything in that list you’re especially interested in seeing and I’ll try to prioritize that post.

In the mean time, take a look back at some of my classic Thanksgiving favorites:

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy

Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel 

Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing

Cranberry Orange Sauce 

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts 

Hot Doughy Buns 

Coconut Custard Pie

Halloween has come and gone. Just like that. The costumes have been washed and packed away (though I think I’d put my baby in his monkey costume everyday if it were socially acceptable to do so). The candy has been picked over for the good stuff. (You know who I’m talking about, Almond Joy.) And the daily morning frost makes it feel more like winter than autumn. We’re on the fast track to Thanksgiving.
And with Thanksgiving comes one of my favorite meals of the year. Comfort food just doesn’t get much more comforting than Thanksgiving dinner. Savory stuffings, tart cranberry sauce, vegetables doused in cream, doughy buttered rolls, and pie. Sweet, delicious pie.
This recipe comes by request of a reader in search of a recipe for a graham cracker coconut crust to use for a fresh pumpkin pie. I decided to use my crust to make a seriously satisfying coconut custard pie, but this crust would also work beautifully with a fresh pumpkin coconut pie filling or any other filling you can dream up.
This recipe is written for use with a deep pie dish. If you have a more shallow pie dish, you will probably have some extra crust and custard. Spoon the extra custard into cups and top with some of the extra crust mixture for a tasty little treat!
Coconut Custard Pie
For the Crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) melted butter (I use salted butter.)

For the Custard:

  • 3 cups milk*
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
*If you’re looking to reduce the calorie and fat content, skim milk will work just fine!

Directions

To make the crust: Combine graham cracker crumbs, coconut, brown sugar, and melted butter. Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a deep pie dish. Bake for 13-15 minutes at 350 degrees.

To make the custard: Bring the milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and cornstarch to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently so that the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Once the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, reduce the heat. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Gradually whisk about 1/2 of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, starting with a slow drizzle. (Gradually incorporating the hot milk into the egg yolks tempers the eggs, allowing them to slowly rise in temperature without scrambling.) Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the remaining hot milk mixture in the pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking constantly for about 3 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Stir in the shredded coconut.

Pour the custard into the prepared crust. Cool for a few hours, until set.

Garnish with whipped cream and toasted coconut or crushed graham crackers before serving.

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

Got pumpkins?

Perhaps a few small ones destined for fresh pumpkin pie? Or maybe a great big one, awaiting its jack-o-lantern fate?

Whatever the case, save those seeds! Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, make a delicious and incredibly nutritious snack. Follow this simple step-by-step guide on how to roast your fresh pumpkin seeds.

Step 1: Use a spoon to scoop seeds from the pumpkin.

Step 2: Rinse the seeds under cool running water, while removing any stringy, orange pulp.

Step 3: Dry the seeds on a paper towel.

Step 4: Spread the seeds onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the seeds with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Move the seeds around to evenly distribute the oil and seasonings.

Step 5: Bake for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Enjoy!

You can have fun with the seasonings for your seeds. I prefer basic salt and pepper pepitas, but you may enjoy cinnamon sugar, parmesan cheese, garlic salt, or even chile flavored seeds!

Thanksgiving Burgers

Three of the Most Embarrassing Moments of My Life:

1. The time in elementary school when one of my best friends took the opportunity to announce my crush to the entire class. Amy likes Anthony, my pal announced to her fully-attentive audience, leaving me red-faced and fumbling for words. If only I could have come up with some clever retort, like So’s your face or Your mama dresses you funny! Except that we all wore matching plaid uniforms… You can bet I kept my crushes to myself after that.

2. The time in high school, when, during a class exercise involving a map of Europe, I replied “Switz” in response to a question about SwitzERLAND. Hey…it said Switz on the map and none of the other countries were abbreviated. I wanted to crawl into a hole when the teacher responded, “Switz? Do you mean Switzerland?” Ummmm, yeah. The correct answer would be Switzerland…not the mysterious land of Switz; home to Switz cheese and Switz watches!

3. The time in college, when I discovered I’d been walking down Main Street with the back of my skirt tucked into my pantyhose. Yes, that really happens…to me, apparently. I only discovered my wardrobe malfunction after trying to decode the odd looks I’d received from my employer, who’d been standing on the porch of  the local bar and restaurant I’d worked at, as I passed by with my tushie on display. For goodness sake, quit ogling and tell a modest girl she’s half dressed in the middle of town!

Oh, and did I mention that I started high school with a face covered in poison ivy? Yeah, for real.

I was never meant to be one of the cool kids anyway. If I were a food, I’ve always been more of a lima bean than a cupcake. I like unicorns, cried at the end of Battlestar Galactica, and won a bridge-building contest in my honors physics class (cause I’m cool like that). I trip over my own feet with concerning frequency and somehow manage to miss my mouth while drinking, more than I’d like to admit. I’m a clutz, a germaphobe, and a neat-freak.

It’s ok. I happen to like lima beans.

Knowing what you know now, are you sure you still want to hang out with me? Would you still like me if I told you that seeing the Christmas decorations currently on display in my local Target makes me giddy with excitement? There is no too early for Christmas stuff in my book. It’s coming and I can’t wait. And somewhere in between now and my favorite holiday, there will be Thanksgiving!

If you’re having a hard time waiting for that Thanksgiving meal, try this tasty burger on for size! The patty combines all the flavors of the turkey with the stuffing. Served on a doughy potato bun and topped with gravy and cranberry sauce, this turkey burger (with a twist) gives you a burst of Thanksgiving flavor with every bite!

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Burger

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound bulk breakfast sausage
  • 1/3 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup leeks, finely sliced *
  • 1/2 cup dried apples, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 6 potato buns
  • Turkey gravy, homemade or store-bought
  • Cranberry sauce (jellied or whole berry), homemade or store-bought
* Click HERE to see my photo guide on how to slice leeks.
Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using your hands, combine the turkey, sausage, celery, leeks, apples, salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper until well blended. Form into six patties. Place the patties onto a lightly greased baking sheet (a little vegetable or olive oil will do the trick). Cook for about 12 minutes, until fully cooked (internal temp of 165 degrees). Place each cooked patty onto a potato bun. Top with warmed gravy and cranberry sauce.

It’s Officially Christmas Season!!!

I’m back! After a few days of celebrating with family and visiting with friends, we’ve made our way back to our cold and snowy home. It’s nice to be home.

Thanksgiving morning was spent snuggled on the couch, under a blanket with the boys, while my Dad took his place in the big, green recliner. As the rest of the family slept, we tuned in to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I enjoyed each musical performance, as my Daddo predictably ranted about how the parade has been taken over by Broadway. The kids watched with wide eyes, as the unimaginably large Spongebob and Spiderman balloons made their way between the buildings and they danced along when the music moved them. And then, the moment we were all waiting for arrived. Santa made his way down 34th street. The Christmas season has officially begun.

I’ve mentioned my intense love of the Christmas season before. My anticipation for the entire season is so overwhelming that I physically ache with impatience. It’s beyond the point of normal Christmas spirit. It’s taken all of my self-control to restrain the Christmas in me up to this point. But, now that we’ve seen Santa in the parade, we can officially begin celebrating without shame. It’s time for twinkling lights and glittery ornaments, fresh baked cookies and holiday menu planning, gift wrapping and ribbon tying. Break out the silver bells. This girl is ready to ring in the season!

While the children ran around causing mischief in my childhood home, my dad and I began the holiday countdown by watching a nearly constant marathon of perfectly corny Hallmark Christmas movies. We laughed and we cried at the stories of angels, love, and Christmas miracles. During the commercial breaks, I completed my holiday shopping online, snuggled under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa in hand and a warm crackling fire burning to my side. It was the perfect way to begin the season.

Thanksgiving dinner at my Grammy’s was predictably delicious. We enjoyed our traditional feast of antipasto, fruit cocktail, stuffed shells, a full turkey dinner, and bountiful dessert buffet. We all left thankful for the delicious meal and quality time spent with family.

New recipes coming up tomorrow and stay tuned for the first Christmas cookie of the season! But for now, take a look back at my Four Variations on Thanksgiving Leftovers for a few ideas on how to finish up the turkey day leftovers filling up your fridge.

Lemon-Ginger Sugar Cookies

Earlier this month, we cooked up a full Thanksgiving feast, complete with all of the fixings. Then, we lived on various incarnations of the leftovers for three days straight. Interestingly enough, I won’t be cooking a single thing on Thanksgiving day. My family and I will be celebrating the day at my Grammy and Poppa’s house, along with my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. My Grammy’s Thanksgiving day feast is always a bountiful spread to be thankful for, so I’m certain we’ll leave with happy bellies.

For as long as I know, it’s been my Grammy’s tradition to prepare the entire feast, from the antipasto platter to the baked pasta dish to the turkey with all its fixings, right down to the dessert buffet. It’s her holiday. But, recently, my Grammy had surgery on her hand which has made normal day-to-day tasks a challenge. So, a couple weeks ago, I called my Grammy and offered her some Thanksgiving help. I offered to make the stuffing or the mashed potatoes or the sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, or veggies. Whatever she needed, I’d make it all. But, my offer was politely refused. She’d already made her plans.

After a bit of insisting and offering to bring every dish I could think of, my Grammy finally had a request. How about you make the turkey cutout cookies, she said. They are a tradition and I’m not sure my hand is up to rolling out the dough. I paused. It was a long pause. And then I reluctantly agreed. How could I say no?

But the truth is that I loath making cutout cookies. Yes, my feelings about cutout cookies are that strong. I derive no joy from the process of flouring and rolling and cutting and baking, repeating this process again and again until all of the dough is used. Don’t get me wrong… I love baking. And cookies are no exception. But cutout cookies do nothing for me. I find the labor involved to be tedious and the result surprisingly underwhelming.

The decorating process provides no more satisfaction to me than the baking. In another life, I’d probably relish in the decorating, give my crafty side free reign to play and enjoy creating intricate designs with royal icing. But my current circumstances, constantly flocked by two busy little boys, makes tending to the details of decorating a challenge. Most activities are a rush against the clock, racing between naps, tantrums, short attention spans and doctor’s appointments. Time for attention to detail is not currently a part of my life. But that’s a tiny price to pay for the great joys of my little family.

Making cutout cookies was not exactly on the top of the list of ways I would have liked to help. But, how could I say no to this one simple request? And so I agreed. I love cooking with the kids and this task was right up their alley, so we turned it into a family affair. They were more than happy to help with the mixing, rolling, and cutting. We started with a basic recipe for sugar cookies from Martha Stewart and jazzed it up with a bit of lemon and ginger. My little quality control experts certainly approved.

Just as Christmas isn’t really about the gifts, Thanksgiving is not truly about the food. It’s a joy to be able to contribute a small, traditional part of our Thanksgiving feast. But, the day isn’t about turkey cookies, stuffing, or pies. It’s about family, friends, and love. It’s about good health, a warm house, and the ability to spend the day with loved ones. It’s about the love which exponentially multiplies as our family grows. We have so much to be thankful for.

And so tomorrow, as I sit down with my loved ones, to stuff myself with Thanksgiving goodies, I will pause for a moment and raise my glass of sparkling grape juice in thanks for all of my blessings; for my loving husband, precious children, and the new life growing inside me; for a comfortable home with a big, full fridge, our over-sized yellow lab, and the most comfortable bed I can imagine; for my siblings and sibling-in-laws, my friends, and all of my family; for my collection of reliable cookware and the ability to use it; and for chocolate, cheese, and spicy food. For all of these things and more, I am infinitely thankful.

Lemon Ginger Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe for Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 4 cups Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder

Directions

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Beat for another minute or two, until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ginger, salt, and baking powder. Gradually incorporate the dry mixture into the wet mixture until a thick dough forms. Split the dough in half and form to balls. Flatten into disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Once the dough is chilled, use a rolling pin to roll it out onto a well floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness. The dough may need a couple minutes to warm up to a rollable consistency. Use a cookie cutter to cut, as desired. The remaining scraps can be formed into a ball and rolled out again, until all of the dough has been used. Place the cut cookies onto a baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

Decorating the Cookies with Royal Icing

I’d be lying if I claimed to be any sort of royal icing expert. Truth is that, prior to today, I’ve probably only used it one or two other times; certainly not enough to lay out any expert guides for you. Fortunately, there are some wonderful existing guides to making and decorating with royal icing. My favorite step by step guide comes from Annie’s Eats. She lays out a clear visual for preparing and using royal icing. Click here for Annie’s guide to royal icing.

The royal icing recipe calls for Meringue Powder. If you are unable to find this ingredient in your grocery store, check the baking section of your local craft store. Allow yourself a big block of time and multiple Oops cookies. And don’t worry… the messy looking cookies taste just as good. Decorating with royal icing takes a little time, but it’s easy to get pleasing results, even for a harried royal icing novice such as myself.

Wishing you all a most Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for you!

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