“He who thanks but with the lips thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving comes from the heart.”
— J.A. Shedd
As I type this column, it is late October and I’m already looking forward to Thanksgiving Day – my favorite holiday. In fact, Dorothy Cook, my 94-year-old mother, is too. Last week on the telephone, she asked me if Jim and I were coming up to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. I assured her that we would not miss being there! Mom always says the blessing before we eat, so she said that she’ll have to “put on her thinking cap” to begin planning her grace.
As soon as the air turns crisp, my thoughts turn to food that reflects autumn’s colors, such as pumpkin – anything with pumpkin.
Pumpkin Muffins, a recipe I found in the 2005 “Southern Living Christmas Cookbook” published by Oxmoor House, makes three and a half dozen muffins if you use their recommended paper muffin cups.
I have never been good at navigating those little paper liners; more muffin left in the liner than in my tummy. So, I just spray muffin tins with Pam and use a one-third-scant measuring cup to fill each hole. My method results in three dozen muffins. Leftovers can be frozen for up to three months, so if you get last-minute holiday guests, you’ll have an instant breakfast treat or if you top the muffins with cream-cheese frosting, you’ll have dessert.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Ingredients for muffins:
? 4 cups all-purpose flour
? 1-3/4 teaspoons baking soda
? 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
? 1 teaspoon salt
? 2-3/4 cups sugar
? 1-1/4 cups raisins
? 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
? 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
? 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
? 1 tablespoon ground cloves
? 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
? 2-1/2 cups canned pumpkin (pure pumpkin; not pumpkin pie filling)
? 1 cup canola oil
? 1 cup water
Method for Pumpkin Muffins:
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine eggs, canned pumpkin, canola oil and water; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans immediately. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.
Ingredients for Cream-Cheese Frosting:
? 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
? 1 tablespoon light cream (I use half-and-half.)
? 2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
? 1 teaspoon vanilla
? 1/8 teaspoon salt
Method for Cream Cheese Frosting:
With a hand-mixer, blend together cream cheese and cream. Add sugar and more cream, if necessary (it was definitely necessary for me), to make frosting spreadable. Add vanilla and salt and beat well. Be sure that your muffins are completely cool before topping them with frosting.
“There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.”
— O. Henry
I’m reprinting Leigh Dwyer’s recipe for Sweet Potato Soufflé with Pecan Crumb Topping, because there may have been a misunderstanding about the amount of crumb topping for the dish. Besides, it’s the perfect side dish for Thanksgiving Dinner.
She said that if she makes the full recipe, she uses a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish, but she often cuts the recipe in half and bakes it in a round, 2-quart Pyrex casserole. If she uses the smaller, deeper 2-quart casserole, she does not need as much topping because of the reduced surface size, but she makes the full recipe for the topping anyway, uses about half for the smaller portion and freezes extras.
Sweet Potato Soufflé
with Pecan Crumb Topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
? 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (Leigh uses canned potatoes.)
? 1/2 cup granulated sugar
? 1/2 cup butter
? 3 eggs, beaten
? 1 teaspoon vanilla
? 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
? 1 cup sour cream
? A pinch each of baking soda and salt
? Raisins (optional) soaked in warm water to plump them
Method for Sweet Potato Soufflé:
Heat the sweet potatoes and then mash them. Add sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg. To the sour cream, add baking soda and salt; fold this mixture into the sweet potato mixture. Fold in raisins, if using. Place mixture in a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan and top with crumb topping (recipe follows); bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
Pecan Crumb Topping
? 1 cup brown sugar
? 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
? 1/3 cup butter
? Crumbled pecans
Method for Pecan Crumb Topping:
Mix all ingredients to form a crumb consistency.
“Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence.
— Erma Bombeck”
“Stuffing” was the original term for what goes inside a bird – turkey, chicken, duck-duck-goose (foodie pun, sorry) — but many people prefer the fancier term, “dressing.” To me, the difference between stuffing and dressing is this: Stuffing goes inside a bird; dressing is baked in a casserole and served as a side dish.
Any stuffing recipe can be prepared in a casserole, as long as you first moisten the dressing with a half- to one cup of stock, milk or wine, to make up for the missing juices that it would absorb when cooked inside a roasting bird. When I make dressing, I cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake it in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes. If you prefer a crispier top, remove the foil for the last 20 minutes and dot the top of the casserole with butter. Of course, these are general directions.
If you’re new to the dressing/stuffing routine, knowing how much to make is often confusing. General guidelines are: One cup of stuffing for each pound of bird. And the nice thing is, if you make too much stuffing, you can always bake it separately as above, or you can also shape the stuffing into balls and bake them in the pan around the roast during the last 30 to 45 minutes of roasting, basting occasionally.
Plan ahead: It is preferable to use bread that is two or three days old. Remove the crust and cut into cubes about 1/2-inch square. A 1-pound loaf of bread yields about eight cups of bread cubes.
“May your stuffing be tasty, May your turkey plump;
May your potatoes and gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious and your pies take the prize.
And may your Thanksgiving dinner stay off your thighs.”
The following recipe for Cornbread and Squash Dressing is from the 2008 “Southern Living Annual Recipes” cookbook published by Oxmoor House. An 8-inch skillet or pan of baked cornbread will yield about 5 cups, crumbled. If time is of the essence, you can make this dressing ahead of time. Prepare the recipe as directed through Step 2, then cover the unbaked casserole and chill up to 24 hours. Let stand 30 minutes or to room temperature, and bake as directed.
Cornbread and Squash
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
? 1 pound yellow squash, coarsely chopped
? 1/4 cup butter
? 1 large sweet onion, chopped
? 1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
? 2 celery ribs, chopped
? 1 (10-3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
? 1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth
? 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
? 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
? 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
? 5 cups cooked, crumbled cornbread
Method for Cornbread and Squash Dressing:
In a large skillet, cook squash in boiling water to cover for 8 to 10 minutes or just until tender. Drain well on paper towels.
Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat; add onion, bell pepper and celery; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in soup, chicken broth, black pepper, red pepper and poultry seasoning. Gently stir in crumbled cornbread and squash. Spoon into a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden. Yield: 8 servings.
My final Thanksgiving quotation is from Seneca, an ancient, well-known Roman philosopher and dramatist: “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” My heart is grateful for the love of family and friends and for all those who continue to read and provide positive comments, suggestions and recipes for “Marie’s Kitchen.”
(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)