Monthly Archives: November 2010

Oklahoma Thanksgiving

Perfect first plate at Thanksgiving

I know everyone is probably tired of Thanksgiving recaps and ready to move on to healthy soups and light fare before Christmas baking catches up and becomes an all-consuming passion, but bear with me, because our thanksgiving was pretty awesome this year.  Above, you’ll note the dressing, turkey, mashed potatoes, and peas, but the cheesy-looking casserole is probably foreign to most of you. In fact, I’ll be shocked if any reader has heard of it or eaten it before. This is the coveted spinach-artichoke casserole that we eat once a year. We fight bitterly over who ate how much and who got the last bite. This stuff is amazing. Recipe in a bit. But first, a photo essay of sorts.

The impressive looking list

Surprisingly small amount of groceries (mom bought the turkey)

I helped shop this year after I successfully defended my English Masters exams at OU. That’s right, just call me Master Bear! (and thanks for being so patient with me, folks. I appreciate you). Anyway, I went shopping at the grocery store I worked at in high school. Does anyone else get that knee-jerk, “Omigod I’m going to see someone I know” kind of dread? No? Juts little anti-social me. Luckily, everyone was so crazy two days before Thanksgiving I avoided all awkward exchanges and went home to clean and make pie. My favorite TART apple pie will be featured in tomorrow’s post.

Mom's tasty pumpkin pie- perfect breakfast the day after!

We made everything on Thanksgiving day, which surprised me. If I was hosting Thanksgiving for 7, I would be a complete wreck and all the food would have been prepped two days in advance. Mom, on the other hand, is very philosophical about these things (and has way more experience doing Thanksgiving) and of course it all worked out the day of. We had a schedule of events on the fridge: pies in by 9:30, pies out by 11, turkey in at 11, turkey out at 1, veggies in at 1. As we went cooked, I realized many of the recipes have a heritage. We made Grandma’s stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, Mary Sheldon’s candied sweet potatoes, and the Sutton’s artichoke casserole. Although none of these women or families were present for our big day, it was really special to have their recipes on our table– food traditions are pretty much awesome.

The recipe: click to enlarge

Assembling pats of squeezed cooked spinach over marinated artichoke hearts

Browned on top and bubbly from the oven

The image of the recipe is above. I know it’s unconventional, but it’s certainly faster than typing it! leave comments if you have questions. Spinach artichoke casserole has a nice acidic flavor and the Parmesan-cream cheese topping can’t be beat. It is decadent and different. I hope you’ll try it for a side sometime this month.

Grandma's cranberry, mandarin orange, and apple jello

Best appetizer EVER!

We managed to fill up on a lot of vegetables this year. With the exception of the turkey and gravy, we had a fairly veggie-friendly meal. I was surprised by the giant vegetable platter one of the guests brought, but it was a great way to get some healthy food in before gorging ourselves on the big calorie items. Also, dessert this year was kind of epic for us. I know people do upwards of 10 desserts, but these 4 were overwhelmingly good.

pumpkin, apple, cherry, and a pumpkin roll

We had one of those peaceful family gatherings that everyone hopes for and only gets occasionally. It was amazing to spend Thanksgiving with family again, something I probably haven’t done in two years. While there was some snarking about who ate how much of certain items, I believe we all felt thankful for the day and the time together. Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving was great too! And maybe next year bring some spinach artichoke casserole. At least they’ll have something new to fight about.



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Autumn Pumpkin Mushroom Soup

Ingredients for pumpkin mushroom soup

It’s November in Houston and the weather is finally feeling autumnal. It’s slightly chilly at night and the days are sparkly and clear and the leaves are thinking about turning. (Neveryoumind that it’s still in the 80’s during the day and I have 4 tomatoes on my fall tomato plant). In honor of fall and all the Thanksgiving style cooking I keep seeing on other food blogs, I thought I’d try out something with pumpkin. What could be more fall-like than pumpkin and mushrooms? If you’re still holding onto summer, make some of this rich soup and feel the change!

Recommended cookbook

I dug out the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home for this one. A few years ago I was looking for a good vegetarian cookbook and I kept hearing about Moosewood. Apparently it’s a small empire with more than ten titles, but this book is supposed to be the original and the best. I adapted my recipe from their “Pumpkin and Porcini Soup” which is thicker (no food processor and less broth in theirs) and completely vegetarian. My recipe could easily be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the beef broth.

Rich and warming


1/2-1 Cup broken pieces of dried porcini or shitake mushrooms soaking in 2 cups boiling water

2 medium onions, minced

2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms (I use baby bella)

4 cups or 29 oz. baked and pureed or canned pumpkin

3-4 cups beef broth or vegetable broth

1/4 cooking sherry or Marsala wine

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Spices: 1 tsp thyme, 1.5 tbls sage, generous dash nutmeg, pepper to taste

stewed onions and mushrooms


1. Soak the dried mushrooms while you cook. Be sure to SAVE their liquid for the soup.

2. Melt butter and saute onions and garlic for about 10 minutes until very soft.

3. Add in mushrooms, thyme, and sage. Saute mushrooms until soft, about 7 minutes.

4. Stir in nutmeg, sherry or Marsala, and soy sauce. Add in 1-1.5 cup beef broth and allow to simmer about 5 minutes.

5. Allow to cool on back of stove while draining the soaked mushrooms. Make choices about how much of the soup you want chunky and how much you want smooth. I reserved half the soaked mushrooms and added them AFTER food processing.

Pumpkin mushroom chowder

6. Ladle mushroom and onion stew into the food processor. You don’t need a ton of liquid. Add in spoonfuls of canned pumpkin, about half. Process to desired consistency.

7. Pour the processed chowder into a LARGE pot. Add in the rest of the pumpkin, any left over stew, the reserved soaked mushrooms, the mushroom soaking liquid, and at least two cups of the beef broth. You may like your soup thinner or thicker– so use as much broth as you want– but don’t leave out the mushroom liquor! Moosewood also suggests adding a cup of milk at this point so you could do that too.

8. Heat and stir until incorporated. Taste for salt, pepper, etc. Serve with crusty bread.

Perfect warm and rich soup

This is a really flavorful, rich soup. I’m not going to lie, it tastes a little like kicking fall leaves around on a sidewalk and throwing a scarf around your neck. It’s also fairly guilt free and can easily be made vegetarian. What are you cooking that makes you feel like it’s officially fall?


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