GIVING THANKS by Dotti Hydue

Welcome to the Levy County Kitchen. Even though Thanksgiving comes but once a year, we should make it a point to be grateful every day. Be grateful you have a warm bed to sleep in and that you woke up today. Appreciate the little daily events that bring a smile to your face—a soaring bald eagle, cavorting squirrels, laughing children, a familiar tune. When you lay down at night, instead of replaying the evening news or what you might deem personal shortcomings, dwell on five things you are grateful for. You will sleep better and wake up a happier person.

It seems Thanksgiving is all about food, family, and more food. Well, that and football. For most of us, our Thanksgiving meal will feature turkey as the centerpiece. Hunters can forego the store-bought bird by taking advantage of Zone C fall turkey season, which runs November 7 through January 3, 2016, and quail season, November 14 through March 6, 2016. The birds can be taken by all legal rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, crossbows, bows, and pistols. Either bird makes for good eating although you’d have to come up with quite a few quail to feed a crowd.

Whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving at your grandma’s house or are an invited guest at your neighbor’s, show your appreciation by offering to bring a dish to share. It can be something as simple as mixed nuts, an appropriate beverage or a small bouquet of seasonal flowers. Men folk can contribute by wielding the potato masher or moving extra chairs around the table. After dinner, cleanup goes faster when the chore is shared. Be grateful, give thanks.

I’ve been looking through my recipe files and cookbooks for new favorites to liven up my holiday meals. I try and keep appetizers and pre-dinner snacks to a minimum to help keep everyone’s caloric intake at a reasonable level. But with all the wonderful aromas emanating from the kitchen, it would be cruel to not have something to offer family and friends before the main meal. One light appetizer is celery sticks stuffed with softened cream cheese mixed with your favorite seasonings or cooked, crumbled bacon. Pimento/Pimiento Cheese can be used as well.

 

Pimento Cheese

Add finely chopped garlic, jalapeño or chipotle peppers, smoked paprika, ground cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce or keep it simple and go with this basic recipe.

10 oz. sharp yellow or white Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup finely chopped jarred pimentos

1 tablespoon brine from jarred pimentos

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Hot sauce to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Finely grate cheese. Combine with remaining ingredients and chill well before serving.

 

Shrimp Dip

This simple dip can be made with regular or fat-free sour cream and cream cheese without any loss in flavor or texture.

1/3 cup sour cream

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely diced onion or scallions

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon red pepper or to taste

2 (7-ounce) cans tiny shrimp OR 14 ounces cooked, shelled shrimp

Combine sour cream and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in celery and seasonings. If using canned shrimp, drain well and stir into the dip. If using fresh shrimp, chop into small pieces and stir into the dip. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Serve with a variety of crackers.

 

The following side dish is a cross between grits and cornbread with a dense, pudding-like texture. It will freshen up a dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers or any meal. Pair it with roasted chicken, pork chops or a pork roast.

 

DMS-ll-adSweet Potato Spoon Bread

4 tablespoons butter, melted (divided)

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), baked

2 and 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon fresh thyme OR 1 teaspoon dried (optional)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup finely ground white or yellow cornmeal

4 large eggs, separated

2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 2-quart casserole with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Peel the baked potatoes and mash them in a large bowl (don’t add any other ingredients to them). In a large saucepan, bring the milk, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper to a low boil over medium heat. In a slow steady stream, whisk in the cornmeal. Cook, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes until mixture is thick and pulls away from bottom of the pan. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Add mashed potatoes, egg yolks, remaining 3 tablespoons butter and baking powder. Stir to mix thoroughly.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into potato mixture, leaving visible swirls. Spoon into prepare dish and bake 35 to 40 minutes until edges are firm. The center should still be a little soft. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

 

THE COOL SEASON vegetables in my garden have not been happy with our extended summer. Temperatures in the mid 80s have endured to the second week of November, leaving my veggies in a wilt during the sunny afternoons. Time will tell if the collards and mustard greens go to seed early because of this late heat. I will have to wait even longer for fresh salad greens because lettuce seeds won’t sprout with temperatures this warm. The local grasshoppers are a happy lot as they dine on my pea, cilantro, and parsley seedlings. Good thing I plant extra so there is enough to share. How does your garden grow?

 

BE SURE AND check with your chambers of commerce and local newspapers for craft shows and festivals happening around the Nature Coast this holiday season. Take advantage of our great weather and explore the area’s bike/hike trails with an eye out for migrating birds now making their appearance along our beautiful Nature Coast. Happy Thanksgiving to your and yours. Until next time, the kitchen is closed.

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