The list of typical Thanksgiving activities, close gatherings of far flung friends and relatives chief among them, looks about like it was cherry picked from the list of high-risk activities for spreading COVID-19.
So with coronavirus cases soaring locally and statewide, and with almost a quarter million Americans already killed by COVID-19, questions arise for this year’s holiday.
Maybe this is the year to follow the lead of education, business, entertainment and shopping, and go virtual. Maybe this is the year that creativity in finding safer ways to connect becomes something to be thankful for.
This week, Waco and McLennan County health professionals warned that rising numbers of new cases and hospitalizations locally, plus a climbing positivity rate despite increased testing, put the county in “uncharted territory.”
In fact, the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District issued a Thanksgiving public health alert Friday advising against travel or multi-household gatherings for the Thanksgiving holiday and calling on residents to consider the age and health issues of anyone they might be considering visiting. Rather than a gathering with people outside one’s household, it urges alternatives to a traditional celebration.
“We’ve got to get this under control. … Our hospitalizations are the highest since June and July,” health district spokesperson Kelly Craine said. “This is a time to really tighten up. Wear the mask. Avoid social activities beyond the essentials.”
For anyone still planning to travel or attend a gathering with anyone outside their household, this weekend is the time to start self-quarantining and limiting outside contacts, said infectious disease specialist and McLennan County health authority Dr. Farley Verner.
“To those people I’d say, starting today, maximize their effort not to come in contact with others,” Verner said. “Stay at home as much as possible … if they’re expecting to not be infectious when they go see Grandma.”
Anyone who decides not to travel this year will not be alone. The AAA organization expects to see a 10% drop in travel across the country and a 5% drop in Texas this Thanksgiving — the largest one-year drop since the 2008 recession.
Anyone interested in getting tested before Thanksgiving should be aware a test can only report on the short period before it was administered, Verner said. A person could test negative for COVID-19, contract the virus after the test and have it without symptoms for several days, with the greatest risk for spreading it during that asymptomatic period.
Even though masking and social distancing are effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus, no one should presume the risk of catching it or spreading it is zero.
“We were at a bad place prior to Halloween, and people approached Halloween like other holidays,” Verner said. “They were tired of all these restrictions, I guess, and as a result, there definitely has been an increase (in cases).”
For any gathering, someone needs to take the lead in setting and communicating rules and expectations for everyone about wearing masks and social distancing, rather than assume everyone attending will know those rules, Family Health Center CEO Dr. Jackson Griggs said during the city’s weekly COVID-19 press conference this past week.
Playing COVID-19 cop with friends and family may not be easy, especially if some disagree about protective measures, Craine said.
“It’s a lot to keep up with, and everyone in your group has to be part of that strategy,” she said.
Changing parts of a traditional Thanksgiving may provide bits of protection. Rather than cooking a big meal together, order one from a restaurant for curbside pickup or delivery. Use disposable dishes and flatware to minimize cleanup. Seat fewer guests at tables and in multiple rooms. Open windows and doors for increased air flow. And, although Waco’s November weather can be fickle, outside dining and cooking are options.
The Salvation Army’s downtown Community Kitchen and Shelter, in fact, is erecting a 40-foot-by-60-foot outdoor tent that, when combined with its patio and parking lot, will provide adequate space for people to eat with a safe distance between them. Salvation Army spokesperson Diana Barrett said the center’s dining room is too small to accommodate the 200 to 300 people at the traditional dinner, but expanding outside will allow social distancing and management of the group’s size.
The different setup helps protect participants, many who lack access to health care or have underlying health conditions, which could have serious consequences if they contract COVID-19, Barrett said.
“We’re erring on the extreme side of caution,” she said.
The outdoors, plus a grill or firepit, expands Thanksgiving cooking options, said Michele Brown, a Texas State Technical College culinary arts instructor.
A turkey can be broken down and grilled, and sweet potatoes can be wrapped in foil and grilled over low heat. Kids can get into the act by roasting marshmallows, with supervision, that can be used to top the sweet potatoes, she said.
Brown had other tips for inside dining:
Bake stuffing or filling in muffin tins rather than one common dish. Rather than pass around serving dishes, designate one person in the kitchen to serve plates and a second person to deliver them to the table.
Have a laptop or a tablet in the kitchen while cooking so other family members can join the conversation or recipe-swapping without having to be there in person. Have adults connect online for a virtual wine tasting or an offbeat soda-tasting one for teens and children.
Liven up mask-wearing by having everyone write something they are thankful for on the outside of their mask.
What is important is finding ways to connect with others for the holiday, Brown said.
“It’s super-difficult to be alone right now,” Brown said. “Rather than sitting in the dark and being sad about it, get your laptop or your phone and call somebody.”
5 simple pre-Thanksgiving recipes to check out this week
EatingWell: Healthy fall salad adds seasonal flair to Thanksgiving table
Serve this hearty and healthy fall salad with roasted pork tenderloin, chicken or salmon, or with your Thanksgiving meal. All of the vegetables are roasted on the same pan, so this recipe is easy to prep, and it tastes great warm or at room temperature so it’s perfect for holiday buffet tables. Cranberries add a sweet-tart edge, while the maple-tahini dressing provides depth.
Roasted Brussels Sprout & Butternut Squash Salad
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
- 4 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (3/4-inch)
- 3 medium shallots, quartered
- 4 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise or cut into quarters if very large
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Combine squash, shallots and 1 1/2 teaspoons oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; toss to coat well. Roast until almost tender and starting to brown, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine Brussels sprouts, 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl; toss to coat well.
3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven; add the Brussels sprouts to the squash mixture and spread the vegetables in an even layer. Continue roasting until all the vegetables are tender and browned, about 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, tahini, maple syrup, rosemary, pepper and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
5. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large bowl. Add cranberries and the dressing; toss to coat. If desired, sprinkle with nuts. Serve immediately or let stand at room temperature for up to 4 hours. (The salad may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.)
Recipe notes: To make ahead, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to two days. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe nutrition per serving: 224 Calories, Total Fat: 7 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 38 g, Fiber: 9 g, Total Sugars: 16 g, Added Sugars: 8 g, Protein: 5 g, Sodium: 325 mg, Potassium: 859 mg, Iron: 2 mg, Folate: 96 mcg, Calcium: 113 mg, Vitamin A: 15897 IU, Vitamin C: 108 mg
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)
©2020 Eating Well, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The Kitchn: Cheesy duchess garlic potatoes are the fancy French side you need
Move over, mashed potatoes: There’s a new side dish worthy of a spot on your holiday table. Duchess potatoes are everything you love about mashed potatoes, piped into picture-perfect mounds and baked until crisp. Did I mention they’re filled with cheese and bathed in melted butter? Here’s how to make ’em.
What are duchess potatoes?
Duchess potatoes is a French potato dish believed to be named after a British duchess who visited France. They’re crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and they boast adorable ruffled edges that brown in the oven.
Duchess potatoes are made by boiling potatoes until tender, then mashing them with butter, dairy (in the form of milk, half-and-half or cream) and egg yolks. We prefer to use Yukon Gold potatoes, which have a buttery, creamy texture that makes the mixture super smooth and lends the piped mounds a pretty golden color. The egg yolks help set the potatoes and give them a light texture, while the dairy keeps the interior moist and creamy.
Some recipes also add cheese to the mix — we like Gruyere for its strong aroma and bold, nutty flavor, but Comte, Jarlsberg and Swiss are all great options.
Piping duchess potatoes
Using a piping tip will give these potatoes a fancy ruffled look, but it’s not necessary. If you don’t have one, you can just load them into a large zip-top baggie, cut the tip off, and pipe them into smooth mounds. They won’t have the distinct ruffled edges, but they will be just as delicious.
Cheesy Garlic Duchess Potatoes
Makes 12; serves 6 to 8
- 2 1/2 pounds (about 15) medium Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 ounces Gruyere cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons whole milk, heavy cream or half-and-half
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Peel 2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes and quarter each potato. Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are very tender and can be easily pierced with a fork with no resistance, 14 to 16 minutes. Meanwhile, finely grate 2 ounces Gruyere cheese (about 1/2 cup) and mince 3 garlic cloves.
3. When the potatoes are ready, drain through a colander. Place the empty pot back over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of the unsalted butter. When the butter is melted, add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons milk, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat.
4. Add the cooked potatoes and mash with a potato masher until smooth. (Alternatively, pass the potatoes through a ricer or food mill into the milk mixture.) Add the Gruyere and stir until melted. Add 4 large egg yolks and vigorously stir until they are fully incorporated.
5. Transfer the potatoes into a large piping bag fitted with a star tip or a large zip-top bag with the corner cut off. Pipe the potatoes into 12 (2-inch high, 2-inch wide) mounds on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them at least 1-inch apart. If the bag is too hot to handle, wrap a kitchen towel around the piping bag.
6. Place the remaining 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 10-second bursts until completely melted. (Alternatively, melt on the stove.) Brush all of the butter over the tops of the potatoes.
7. Bake until the potatoes are golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop until you have 1 tablespoon fresh chives. Sprinkle the chives over the potatoes and serve immediately.
Recipe note: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days.
Seriously Simple: This year’s Thanksgiving calls for turkey breast
It has been quite the year. And now we are faced with a pandemic Thanksgiving. That means many of us will be dining alone or with a significant other or maybe a family of four. That’s why this year I am cooking a bone-in turkey breast. It’s juicier than a boneless breast, I like the way it looks, and it’s Seriously Simple to prepare.
A bone-in turkey breast makes a festive presentation on a platter in the absence of a full turkey. This turkey breast will easily feed six people. And any leftovers will make great salads or sandwiches. Don’t forget to reserve all the bones to make a stock to use in a future soup.
If you are looking for other scaled down recipes for Thanksgiving, I have a great idea for you. My friend, cookbook author Cynthia Graubart, has authored a new book available on Amazon titled “Thanksgiving for Two (or Four).”
In addition to this turkey breast recipe, there is so much more. Directions for a scaled down holiday, other turkey and hen recipes, and ideas for side dishes and desserts make up this smart guide. If you love dark meat, there’s something for you too. This is such a good idea for cooks who generally make large portions for the holiday.
Graubart also suggests reaching out by phone or video to those who are alone this year or those you usually celebrate the holiday with. If you have a favorite recipe, you can usually cut it in half without a problem. Stick with fresh vegetables so you can buy just what you need, like 1/2 pound of green beans or two sweet potatoes. And, finally, package and label leftovers. Freezing right away will preserve their freshness and you’ll be happy to see them next week; or next month.
Bone-In Herbed Turkey Breast
- 1 large onion, cut into wedges
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 (6-pound) bone-in turkey breast
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock or broth
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
1. Heat oven to 425 F. Coat a roasting pan with cooking spray.
2. Line the bottom of the roasting pan with onion and celery. Pat the turkey breast dry and place it on top of the vegetables. Stir herbs and butter together and spread over the turkey skin. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Pour stock in bottom of roasting pan and move the pan to the oven. Roast the breast roughly 20 minutes per pound. Begin testing for doneness after 90 minutes. Baste as desired with pan drippings for a richer colored skin. The breast is cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 F on an instant read thermometer.
4. Remove the breast from the oven and move to a carving board. Let it rest 15 minutes before carving.
5. Pour contents of the roasting pan through a strainer over a skillet. Discard solids. Set heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Whisk together cornstarch and water in a small bowl to form a slurry and whisk into the liquid in the skillet. Reduce heat to low. Gravy is ready when thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve gravy with turkey.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)
©2020 Diane Rossen Worthington. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Recipe of the Day: Chicken Noodle Soup
Growing up, nothing was more comforting than a bowl of chicken noodle soup. It's a recipe that comes with a wave of nostalgia that can cure any bad day or cold. Sure, you can buy the dish canned from any grocery store, but if you have the time nothing compares to making it from scratch.
The combination of delicately sliced carrots, minced garlic and diced onion gives the chicken broth an added flavor boost. And the entire dish is pulled together with the tender chicken pieces, spaghetti and a touch of thyme. If you're a fan of meal prepping, this chicken noodle soup can easily be stored in the freezer and thawed for a weeknight.
To do so, just add the pasta to the soup's broth and cook it for about four minutes. The spaghetti should be slightly soft but not fully cooked. Once the pasta is done, allow the soup to cool completely, seasoning it with salt and pepper. Then transfer the soup to freezer safe containers or container bags. Be sure to seal the container bags in a way that removes as much air as possible. If you store the soup in a container, leave about one inch of space at the top and seal with a lid.
Give the soup at least 12 hours to thaw. Then pour it into a stockpot over medium heat, stirring until it's heated through. As the cold weather rolls in, be sure to stock up on plenty of comforting recipes. These slow cooker soups and stews will keep you full and warm all winter long.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 onion, pureed or diced small
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 10 cups chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
- 1 pound cooked boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into bit-sized pieces
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 8 ounces spaghetti, broken into pieces
In a large stockpot, melt olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add carrots, celery and onion; cook, stirring, until carrots and celery are tender, about 4 minutes.
Add garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Add chicken broth, chicken breast pieces, parsley and thyme.
Continue to cook, stirring often, until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
Add pasta and cook 7-8 minutes or until al dente.
Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.
This recipe is courtesy of Karrie Truman, Happy Money Saver.
Kary Osmond: Barbecue jackfruit sandwiches are easy and delicious
We are a household that loves sandwiches! So, when I made these saucy barbecue sandwiches, they were an instant hit. Especially when you have the contrast of a soft white bun, tangy barbecue jackfruit and crunchy creamy coleslaw, what’s not to love!
Jackfruit in a can is becoming easier to find; look for it in the international aisle or at an Asian supermarket. Sometimes you’ll find it in the canned fruit section; just be sure to grab young green jackfruit in water, not in syrup or a brine.
When you open a can, you’ll see large triangular chunks of jackfruit. I prefer to rinse the chunks to remove that metal tin flavor. Most recipes call to remove the flesh from the core and discard the core. I prefer to cut up the core and add them to the recipe so there’s no waste and more jackfruit.
Barbecue Jackfruit Sandwich
Serves 2 to 4
For the jackfruit:
- 1 can young green jackfruit in water (not syrup or brine), drained
- 2 tablespoons plant-based butter
- 1 large onion, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire
- 1/2 cup water
For the coleslaw:
- 2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
For the sandwich:
- 2 large or 4 small buns
1. Place drained jackfruit in a colander, rinse under cold water, then working in chucks, squeeze dry to remove most of the water. Place jackfruit on a cutting board and pull apart the flesh from the core. The cores and seed pods can be roughly chopped. Set aside.
2. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add butter, onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir until the onion softens and begins to brown.
3. Add jackfruit, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire and water. Cook and stir for 10 to15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened.
5. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine cabbage, carrot, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.
6. Once the jackfruit has reduced, turn up the heat to medium-high and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer for color. Remove from heat.
7. Divide the coleslaw on the bottom of 2 to 4 buns, top with jackfruit. Serve.
- To save time, replace ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar and Worcestershire with 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce.
- Garnish your sandwiches with a slice of dill pickle or a handful of salted potato chips.
(Kary Osmond is a Canadian recipe developer and former television host of the popular daytime cooking show “Best Recipes Ever.” Her easy recipes include helpful tips to guide you along the way, and her love of plant-based cooking offers healthy alternatives to some of your favorite dishes. Learn more at karyosmond.com.)
©2020 Kary Osmond. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
3 ways to enjoy the winter squashes of autumn
Piled high in giant cardboard boxes at grocery stores or stacked beside the peppers and potatoes at the farmers market, these thick-skinned, bright-orange winter squashes are ripe for the picking, in several shapes and sizes.
So many will never make it onto a dinner table. For that, you have Halloween to blame. According to the National Retail Association, nearly half of all Americans — some 152 million — were to chisel pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns. All told, Americans were expected to spend a whopping $687 million on carving pumpkins in 2020, or about $100 million more than last year.
Members of the Cucurbitaceae family serve as lovely seasonal table decorations. But the gourds — which include everything from pear-shaped butternut to plump little sugar pumpkins to striped cushaws and grayish-blue monster-sized hubbards — also are a relatively inexpensive and flavorful way to pack some nutrition into a fall or winter meal.
One of the newer varieties is 'Tetsukabuto,' an innovative kabocha/butternut cross with Japanese roots that's making its debut this year at Who Cooks For You Farm in New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
"It's my favorite," says Chris Brittenburg of the squash's sweet and nutty flesh, which cooks up creamy like a custard in the oven. "It's so much more moist."
This has been a pretty good year for winter squashes, says Brittenburg, who started the first-generation organic family farm with his wife, Aeros Lillstrom, in 2009. Well, so long as farmers had access to water, that is. The colorful fall fruits love hot and dry weather. But they also need an occasional drink to ensure a bountiful harvest.
"The quality has been pretty good this year," agrees Adam Voll, manager of Soergel Orchards in Franklin Park, where butternuts, acorn and spaghetti squashes are popular buys in the farm market. Soergel also offers blue hubbard squash, a hard-shelled variety that many find intimidating. It can grow up to 20 pounds and takes a real effort to cut, but cooks are rewarded with a sweet and nutty-tasting flesh.
Hubbard is the quintessential squash to puree into a filling for pie, breads and pasta dishes. They store for an exceptionally long time if kept in a dry and cool place, Voll says.
Eating squash may be even more American than apple pie. Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere, winter squashes have been grown in North America for thousands of years. Native Americans roasted or boiled them and also preserved the flesh in syrup as jams. When the colonists arrived, they were initially skeptical of it but with time included it in their diet. The squash was among the few foods that sustained them during the long and inhospitable winters.
Today, Michigan grows the most squash in the U.S., followed by California, Oregon and Florida. The vast majority is sold fresh.
Technically, all pumpkins are a type of winter squash but not all winter squashes are pumpkins, although the terms are often used interchangeably. All belong to the same genetic family — Cucurbit.
Sweeter than the zucchini, pattypans and other summer squashes, the winter squash's flesh is high in fiber and betacarotene. The squash is hard because it is fully ripened on the vine instead of being picked before the seeds and rinds begin to harden. Delicata squash is an exception, with its tender and edible skin.
In addition to popular orange hues, winter squashes can be yellow, white, green, striped, speckled, red and even blue. They can be large and smooth, or small and covered in bumps. One of the most visually striking is turban squash, a rich and nutty heirloom variety also known as Turk's cap or French turban squash. Picture a pumpkin wearing a brightly striped hat, and you've got it. It's excellent for baking and stuffing.
An added winter squash bonus is that it can last for weeks and even months because of its hard exterior.
Because they're firmer than their summer counterparts, winter squashes play a starring role in everything from soups and curries to lasagna, casseroles and countless desserts. They can be stuffed with meat, grains and vegetables, too.
Don't fret if you don't have a can of pureed pumpkin because it's incredibly easy to make it at home. All you need to do, says third-generation farmer Patty Janoski, is to break the stem off any variety of pie pumpkin, cut it in half vertically, scoop out the seeds and bake it face-down on a greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for an hour or so, or until the shell falls off the pulp.
"Then scoop the insides out and put it in a blender," she says.
Don't toss out the seeds. When seasoned with sea salt, they are perfect for snacking. First rinse the seeds and then bake in a 250-degree oven until they're dry and crispy.
When purchasing a winter squash, look for one that feels heavy and has a dry, sturdy stem. Avoid those with soft spots, cracks, bruises or mold. Warts and minor discolorations are fine.
When it's time to start cooking, you'll need a sharp serrated knife to cut through the rind. A steady hand helps, too.
Guide to popular varieties
Delicata: Very sweet, it tastes similar to sweet potatoes. Its skin is tender and so it doesn't have to peeled. It can be stuffed, sliced into rings and roasted, sauteed or steamed.
Butternut: One of the most popular winter squashes, it has a distinctive bell shape. The bright-orange flesh is mild, sweet, buttery and nutty. Can be pureed for soup, roasted or cut into cubes for stews and curries.
Butterkin: A hybrid between a butternut squash and a pumpkin. Sweet flesh that can be roasted and pureed for soups, stews, pasta, risotto, pies, and custards. It also can be stuffed.
Sugar pumpkin: Also known as pie pumpkin, it is on the smaller side. Its firm and sweet flesh turns creamy when steamed, roasted or sauteed. The pumpkin is a classic choice for pureeing for pies and other baked goods. It also can be stuffed or cut into chunks for stew.
Acorn: It has a thick dark green or white skin and sweet orange-yellow flesh. It can be roasted, stuffed, baked or grilled with the skin on. Its small size makes it relatively easy to cut and work with.
Kabocha: The hard and knobby green-skinned squash has a yellow-orange interior. Sweet with a nutty and earthy flavor, it has a slightly dry and sweet potato-like texture. A staple in Japanese cuisine, it's great for soup and curries and also can be braised, roasted, stuffed or mashed.
Hubbard: The extremely hard and thick skin is difficult to peel comes in grayish-blue, dark green, red or golden colors. The pumpkin is great for stuffing and baking, and is especially good for pies. It is often sold pre-cut because it can grow to up to 20 pounds.
Spaghetti: The smooth-skinned and mild-flavored pumpkin's flesh cooks into thin, spaghetti-like strands. It's great for pasta-like preparations and gluten-free diets.
ROASTED CHEESE PUMPKIN
Cheese pumpkin — also known as Cinderella pumpkin — is so named because its rind looks like a squat wheel of cheese. Related to butternut squash, its smooth flesh and string-free interior makes it great for stuffing and baking.
Here, a whole pumpkin is hollowed out and then stuffed with a mix of Gruyere and Swiss cheeses, cream, white wine and honey. This dish also can be made with a butterkin squash.
- 1 cheese pumpkin, 4 to 5 pounds
- 3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
- 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- Few pinches of nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 (12-inch) baguette, sliced thin
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled but intact
- Vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the top out of the pumpkin and scrape out the insides. (Save the seeds for roasting.)
Toss the cheeses and thyme together in a bowl. In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine the cream, wine, honey, nutmeg and salt.
Toast the baguette slices and rub each slice with garlic. Lay a few baguette slices in a single layer inside the pumpkin. Top with some of the cheese mixture, then pour on some of the cream mixture. Repeat this until all of your ingredients are used up. (You might have a bit left over; save any baguette for serving.)
Pop the top back on the pumpkin, place the pumpkin in a casserole or an oven-safe dish. Coat the outside liberally with oil.
Roast in hot oven for about 2 hours or until the pumpkin is tender all over and easily pierced with a fork. Let it stand for about 15 minutes.
Serve in scoops or slathers on top of toast rounds, crackers, pita chips or slices of apples.
— Adapted from food52.com
THAI PUMPKIN CURRY
Pumpkin curry is a standard offering on Thai menus. It's easy enough to make at home and is a great way to use up all those veggies in your refrigerator crisper. Any yellow flesh pumpkin or winter squash will do — I used chunks of sweet sugar pumpkin.
Red and green Thai curry pastes can be used pretty much interchangeably, but green is generally a bit milder than red.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 2 1/2 cups cubed kabocha squash or pie pumpkin
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 red chili pepper, sliced, optional
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Thai red or green curry paste, or more to taste
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Salt and pepper
Cooked rice for serving
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and turmeric and saute for 30 seconds.
Add the bell pepper, pumpkin, green beans and chili pepper, if using, and saute for 1 minute longer.
Add red curry paste, coconut milk and water, and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the pumpkin is tender and the sauce has thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm over steamed rice.
— Gretchen McKay
ROASTED DELICATA SQUASH RINGS WITH CHIPOTLE SAUCE
Delicata squash has a thin, delicate skin that doesn't need to be peeled before eating. It is creamy and sweet, and it gets even sweeter when it is cut into rings or half moons and roasted. To spice it up, I like to dust the squash with a little chili powder and cayenne and serve it with a fiery chipotle mayonnaise for dipping.
- 2 medium delicata squash, scrubbed clean
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For dipping sauce
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
- 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from can of chipotles in adobo
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Squeeze of fresh lime juice
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim the ends of each squash; cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon; cut the squash into half moons about 1/2-inch thick and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle oil over top.
Mix salt, pepper, chili powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle spice mixture over the squash slices, then toss to make sure squash is evenly coated.
Roast in the oven, tossing around the squash on the baking sheet about half way through until the squash is tender and lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.
While squash is roasting, make the sauce: Combine mayonnaise, chives, adobo sauce, garlic and lime juice in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the roasted squash to a platter and serve with chipotle sauce.
— Gretchen McKay
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How to have a cozier Zoom Thanksgiving
Capturing the view
For once, electronic devices at the table are something to celebrate. Think about how you will position your laptop or other device so those dining with you remotely can see as many people at your table as possible. This may involve changing up the seating arrangements, putting more people on one side of the table than usual.
Your computer or phone might sit on a buffet, side table or the table itself; move it around as the evening goes on.
Maryanne Sullivan of Jersey City, New Jersey, plans to leave the head of the table empty and put her laptop there, while her Massachusetts-based brother does the same at his family’s table. The effect, she says, will “be a continuation of one long table.”
Feeding distant guests
If you want to celebrate with family who might be unable to cook for themselves, think about how to get Thanksgiving food to their home. If they are nearby, drop things off well ahead of time; provide any necessary chilling, reheating or serving instructions so they can share the meal with you and not get lost in the preparations.
If your virtual guests are farther afield, consider ordering the meal from a restaurant to be delivered on Thanksgiving Day. Many restaurants will be creating Thanksgiving takeout or delivery menus, and you might be able to get the whole shebang delivered to your loved ones’ door.
To personalize things further, see if a nearby caterer or restaurant might prepare specific recipes to be delivered. Perhaps your Thanksgiving doesn’t feel complete without Aunt Sue’s roasted butternut squash, or your sister’s famous streusel apple pie? This might still be possible, if budget allows.
To feel more connected, create a menu together with remote friends or family. Choose specific recipes, and at least everyone can be eating the same Parmesan roasted Brussels sprouts and scalloped sweet potatoes.
Let everyone contribute a favorite recipe, perhaps. Then, when someone on the Zoom screen says, “Wow, this is the best green bean casserole ever,” you can heartily agree from your side of the internet.
Sullivan’s family is picking two recipes to make in tandem with her brother so she can feel like “you’re eating the same stuffing I’m eating.”
They are also both laying in a supply of the same prosecco to make it feel celebratory.
“Even though this is a very unusual time, it’s still a time we’ll remember, and we want it to be filled with positive thoughtful memories,” Isom Johnson says.
Send out the same cocktail-making kit or cheese boxes for everybody in advance, she suggests.
Matching cheese boards on Zoom? Very 2020.
Setting the stage
While many of us take care to set a nice table for the holiday, and perhaps create a seasonal centerpiece, this is a good year to take it up a notch to warm the homes of everyone celebrating with us virtually.
“There will be a lot more attention to detail with things like personalized name tags and fancy pieces of beautiful dinnerware and glasses, and all the bells and whistles of a very special, fancy dinner,” Isom Johnson predicts.
For the tech savvy, she also recommends creating a family holiday Zoom background for everyone. It could involve rotating or fixed images, perhaps of a childhood home, previous family gatherings, past vacations. Let the teens or millennials in your house take on this task.
Another good task for the younger set: creating a shared playlist.
Post- or pre-meal games are a great way to connect and spark conversation. There are personalized, online bingo and card games for a crowd, for instance, and many board games work well over screens. You can have some lively Scattergories games via Zoom if you send everyone the word lists ahead of time, and a few rounds of virtual charades are easy.
Think about coordinating a pre-Thanksgiving non-perishable food drop-off to the local pantry. Everyone can share in the good feelings that come with making sure others have enough to eat.
And especially in these difficult times, psychologists say that finding things for which to feel grateful can lift your mood. A week or so before the holiday, ask everyone to write down one or more things they feel thankful for, large or small. Put them in a bowl or in an online chat, and during or after the meal take turns reading your own or others.
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