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My family is not big on what you might consider typical traditions. Maybe it’s because we don’t belong to any church, or maybe it’s just that standing on ceremony isn’t our style. We were mostly vegetarian when I was a kid, so I don’t have memories of big, brown turkeys coming out of the oven at Thanksgiving, or Christmas hams. We didn’t have a stack of worn-out recipes passed on through generations, although we did have my Aunt Dotty’s cranberry butter (technically she was my cousin twice removed, but who knows what that means?). Our main dish for Thanksgiving was usually vegetarian lasagna, since we never cooked much meat, and even my dad, the closest to a carnivore in the family, thinks turkey is overrated. I had no clue what a green bean casserole was for a long time, and still can’t figure out why people put marshmallows on sweet potatoes. We kind of made our traditions up as we went instead.

I always have to have pumpkin pie (although ironically, this year, I am making sweet potato pie instead). And stuffing. Stuffing is my favorite. I have a soft spot for the store bought stuff, the Pepperidge Farms herbed stuffing, that you can add pretty much whatever you want to. When you first dump that bag of dry bread into the pot with the melted butter and stock it doesn’t seem like there will be nearly enough moisture, but sure enough, with persistent stirring (and losing a few bread cubes over the side of the pot) you’ll get there. I’m pretty sure my dad was putting apples, cranberries and pecans into our stuffing before it was trendy.

I’ve only spent one Thanksgiving with my family in the last 9 years. New York to Portland, Oregon, on a 4 day weekend is nearly impossible. So, I’ve sort of carried on the tradition of not having traditions — or at least making them up as I go. Quite a few of my New York Thanksgivings have been with my college friend Gemma, and we can’t seem to have a big feast without a wheel of brie, baked into Pillsbury crescent dough. That’s a good tradition. I also can’t make it through Thanksgiving without watching (at least once) Home for the Holidays. I’ve not lost my middle school crush on Dylan McDermott and his blue eyes, despite the fact that his hair cut in that movie is frighteningly similar to Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy pseudo-mullet of the early 90’s. You know the haircut I mean.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Food, friends, wine, and as an added bonus, it’s non-denominational. Enjoy, stuff yourselves, and I’ll post all about my dishes after I’m able to wear pants that button.

It hasn’t really gotten that cold yet. It’s almost Thanksgiving, and I was walking around yesterday without a coat on. There’s something unnerving about that, partially because if I think about what’s happening to the polar bears I might cry, and partially because it might mean that the winter will be especially terrible.

Despite the dearth of frigid temperatures, I’ve been drawn to soups. They are so homey and make your house (and by house I mean tiny one bedroom New York apartment) smell amazing. I saw a recipe for sweet potato soup on The Kitchn, adapted it slightly, and away we go. The only thing with soups is that, even with such a rich, thick texture as this one, unless I have something to pair with it — some crusty bread, crackers, what have you — I feel a little unsatisfied at the end of the meal. Since somehow crusty bread seemed like the wrong accompaniment for this particular soup, I decided to pair it with some mango coconut rice. Yum!

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gratin

Saying you’re making a “gratin” (especially if you pronounce it “gruh-taaaan”) sounds super fancy. Secretly, it’s not that hard. (sssh!) This particular gratin combines two of my favorite things: swiss chard and sweet potatoes. It even charmed Brian, a swiss chard skeptic. It’s a bit of work, what with the prep of the chard, the slicing of the sweet potatoes (I have no mandolin) and the making of the bechamel, but it’s worth it. This would be a fabulous vegetarian side for Thanksgiving. In fact, maybe I will make it again!

I got the recipe from smitten kitchen, and I have to say, I feel pretty lazy when I visit that site these days, because Deb, the proprietress of the blog, just had a baby and yet — and yet! — still manages to post lovely photos and delicious recipes. My many excuses for laziness pale in comparison.

I didn’t have any gruyere on hand, but I did have most of a log of goat cheese, so I substituted the cheese. I also used some sage in place of parsley — again, using ingredients I had on hand. I topped mine with a bit of parmeggiano reggiano for some color and tang. Here’s the recipe as posted on smitten kitchen. Enjoy!

pumpkinbread

I love pumpkin desserts. I’m always shocked when someone says they don’t like pumpkin pie. Pecan pie I understand, with its cloying, syrupy sweetness. But pumpkin? Spicy, creamy, not too sweet — it’s dangerous when there’s a pumpkin pie in the fridge. You never know when I’ll just stick my head in, wielding a knife, and swipe a little piece.

While it’s a little premature for a pumpkin pie, and I’m not in the habit of just casually baking pies for no particular occasion, pumpkin can be used in so many other ways. A few weeks ago I made this amazing bread recipe from Martha, that had wheat germ, bran, apples, dates, and spices. It was healthy but super delicious. It gave me an idea that maybe apples and pumpkin in a bread would be perfect. So faithful Google sent me to the Amateur Gourmet, and a recipe from the Gourmet cookbook for just that. Pumpkin apple bread.

You can find the recipe here, along with Adam’s ever-charming commentary. The only changes I made were to use gala apples (only ones on hand), cardamom instead of allspice, and just 2 c. sugar (although it could use even less, in my opinion). This bread is awesome. Super moist, lots of flavor, and chunks of apple all throughout. The topping gives it this crispy crunchy layer too. Soon enough it won’t be considered gluttonous to eat some pumpkin pie. Until then, I’ve got this bread.

eggplant

…and it’s November. I’ve been MIA, doing various things, including tackling the GREs. But I’m going to make an effort now, even with the Yankees on in the background. I am such a fair weather sports fan — suddenly I find myself yelling “go Damon!” at the TV, when a month ago, I had no idea who Johnny Damon was. Who cares! Go Yankees!

Anyway, here is a nice wintry stuffed vegetable dish I made last week. I love these recipes where there are a few constants, but pretty much all the ingredients are interchangeable. Stuff a pepper, a tomato, or an eggplant with this filling. Make it vegetarian. Put the filling in a pita instead of a veggie. Whatever floats your boat. I went a little Mediterranean with the flavors this time, but you could easily swap for Italian by changing the herbs & cheese.

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