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Time to plan Thanksgiving dinner. November 10, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Yes, it’s only November 10th, but it’s not a minute too soon to start planning your Thanksgiving menu, assuming you’re the person who’ll be doing the cooking. And yes, at our house, that would be me.

Obviously, the number of people coming over for dinner will affect your menu in terms of how many dishes and how much variety you’ll want to offer, as will the ages of your guests. (Kids might prefer homemade applesauce to homemade cranberry sauce, and mac’n’cheese to corn pudding, and popcorn and string cheese to endive-boat appetizers, and chocolates to baked apples, not to mention, obviously, warmed apple cider to red wine.)

Our Thanksgiving celebrations tend to feature twentysomethings-and-up, so we can skip the kid-friendly treats and go directly to adult-only fare. And I’m vegetarian, so there won’t be any turkey (or, ewww, Tofurky, I hate pseudo-meat) on the menu. My menu tends to look like this:


Endive Boats (endive leaves stuffed with gorgonzola, blue cheese, or feta, pecan pieces, dried cranberries, and cracked black pepper); they’re addictive!

Baked Brie (topped with brown sugar and served with Table Water crackers, such as Carr’s)

Assorted cheese and crackers

Baguette slices topped with butter, sliced radishes, scallions, and salt

Quick, easy, delicious nachos, with tortilla chips layered with sliced jalapeno peppers and extra-sharp shredded white Cheddar cheese and baked until the cheese melts and the chips are hot

The classic black olives and celery, my father’s favorite; celery can be stuffed with cream cheese or offered with blue cheese dressing, as desired

Caesar salad (without anchovies, of course)

Soup Course

My luscious curied pumpkin soup, which includes lots of sweet onion, canned pumpkin (which is actually not pumpkin, but winter squash), cream, and Sambuca or other licorice liqueur

Hot dinner rolls and butter (I confess, I buy them, can’t make everything!)

Main Course

Unbelievably delicious dressing

Southern corn pudding

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Green and yellow wax beans

Baked sweet potatoes

Mashed Yukon Gold potatoes

Crock-Pot mac’n’cheese

Cranberry sauce


Baked apples

Pumpkin roll (as with the dinner rolls, I buy this from local Mennonite farm stands rather than making it from scratch)

Pumpkin-swirled vanilla cheesecake (ditto, a wonderful local bakery makes this)

Chess pie

Pecan pie

Apple fritters (also from a local bakery, i hate deep-frying)

Apple crisp

Poached pears

I hope I don’t need to say that I don’t make everything on this menu every Thanksgiving! I tailor the menu to the year, the guests, and how long it’s been since I’ve made any given dish and how much I’m craving it. Fortunately, these dishes tend to make excellent leftovers, though, so even if you overdo it (as I tend to do), you’ll be able to enjoy Thanksgiving for at least a week. And since I love this more than any other holiday—the opportunity to celebrate both abundance and gratitude—I’m delighted with that!

A few tips: Don’t overdo the appetizers and desserts. One or two appetizers and one dessert are plenty. Don’t forget that cheese, dried fruit, and a good tawny port can be a fabulous and very traditional dessert course (in which case, you’ll want to skip the cheese plate when you’re serving appetizers). And if you happen to love fruitcake or plum pudding (neither of which will be appearing on my table anytime soon, or ever), it’s winter enough to bring them out for dessert, and, in the case of the fruitcake, pairing it with cheese and port. Me, I’d rather have some cheese and slices of crisp apple and maybe some dried apricots and mixed nuts. (No peanuts, please. Those aren’t nuts!)

Soup, especially a rich soup like my signature hot curried pumpkin soup or a cream of tomato or mushroom soup, will certainly both warm and fill your guests. But think about their appetites and what else you’re planning to serve before you decide to add it to your menu. A Caesar salad or some crudites might give them an opportunity to snack while not filling up before the main course.

Mix it up when making your main course. Choose deep green, orange, white or yellow, red or purple, and brown veggies. Roasted Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, strips of yellow bell pepper, and sweet onion slices make an absolutely yummy complement to mashed potatoes. Asparagus is actually a spring crop, but roasted green and white asparagus drizzled with olive oil and a seasoned salt such as Trocomare is a rich dish that will complement your other Thanksgiving dishes. And don’t forget pasta. If you’re too busy to make corn pudding or even Crock-Pot mac’n’cheese, you can always make creamy pasta with shells, sour cream, and butter, to add richness to the Thanksgiving table in place of the mashed potatoes.

What will you serve this Thanksgiving?

‘Til next time,



Cranberries: cooked or raw? November 21, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. It seems to me that there are two kinds of people when it comes to Thanksgiving cranberries, those who like them cooked in cranberry sauce, and those who like them raw in cranberry relish. (There are also all of us who love dried cranberries, aka “craisins,” and folks like our friend Ben who grew up with the cranberry jelly in a can and have remained faithful, serving up a big slice for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Fortunately, he also likes my from-scratch cranberry sauce.)

I also started out with cranberry jelly in a can; real cranberry sauce, which my Mama made every year, was considered too bitter for a child’s unsophisticated palate. I have to agree: To this day, I cringe every time I see a recipe for cranberry sauce that simply includes cranberries and sugar or cranberries, orange rind and sugar. It’s enough to make your teeth ache just thinking about it.

But worse still, from my perspective, is cranberry relish, that ground-up concoction of raw cranberries, oranges and sugar. Yikes!!! It’s so bitter, and the texture is all wrong. Cooked cranberry sauce made right is succulent and delicious, the perfect complement to turkey and dressing. Raw cranberry relish is harsh, the absolute opposite of what Thanksgiving cranberries should be. (I’d make an exception if you made raw cranberry and horseradish relish, so it was a spicy, savory accompaniment to the rich Thanksgiving fare. Otherwise, eeeewwwwww.) And yet raw cranberry relish has innumerable fans.

For me, cooked cranberry sauce is king, and I’ve modified a recipe by Dorie Greenspan to make the most luscious cranberry sauce known to man. It’s so easy, and so good, it would be a sin not to at least try it. So here you are:

                Silence’s Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries

1 12-ounce jar apricot preserves

16 ounces orange juice

1/2 cup diced dried apricots

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

2 cinnamon sticks

heaping teaspoon ginger paste or 2 slices diced crystallized or minced fresh ginger

Rinse and drain cranberries and put them in a large, heavy pot (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven). Pour in orange juice and Grand Marnier. Add diced apricots, apricot preserves, cinnamon sticks, and ginger. Stir well to mix, then cook over low heat until cranberries “pop” and mixture thickens. Allow to cool, then pour into containers and refrigerate until needed. Keeps very well. Serves 12.  

No bitterness here, but it’s not cloyingly sweet, either. Everyone should love this sauce, from toddlers to centenarians.

As for those who fall in the raw-cranberry camp, I invite you to speak up and defend yourselves! I’d as soon eat raw cornmeal or raw okra as raw cranberries. Why does raw cranberry relish hold appeal for you? Inquiring minds would really like to know.

                  ‘Til next time,


Thanksgiving persimmon salad. November 20, 2012

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Silence Dogood here. For years, we’ve been trying to grow persimmon trees here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the middle of nowhere, PA. And basically, we’ve been failing, our poor little ‘Meader’ American persimmon still hardly coming much past my waist, and a new American persimmon we found this year at Meadowview Farm in Bowers, PA, no taller than my knee.

American persimmons, like Brussels sprouts, need frost to sweeten up. This is also true of the Japanese Hachiya persimmon. But it’s not true of the Japanese Fuyu persimmon, which is available in grocery stores now and is the star in Chef Marc Vetri’s Persimmon and Arugula Salad, featured in the past weekend’s Wall Street Journal (check it out at www.wsj.com). I was really thrilled by this salad, since it looked absolutely delicious and perfect for fall, and I happen to love arugula, Parmesan, lemon juice and persimmons.

Best of all, it’s so easy! To make the salad for four, buy 3 Fuyu persimmons, 4 cups baby arugula, Parmesan shavings, and 1 or more lemons. Chef Vetri suggests trimming the persimmon tops and ends, and peeling them if you choose, then halving and thinly slicing them. Toss the persimmon slices with the juice of one lemon, a pinch of fine sea salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Give them five minutes for the fruit to release its juices and the salt to dissolve, then taste and add more lemon juice or salt to taste.

Now it’s time to plate your salad. Put a cup of baby arugula on each plate, then top with 1/4th of the sliced persimmons. Drizzle with the sauce from the fruit bowl, garnish with plenty of shaved Parmesan, top with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, and sit back and watch your guests wolf down the most amazing Thanksgiving salad ever! So good, so easy. Yum!!!

            ‘Til next time,


Talking turkey. November 9, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Or not. Silence Dogood here. We have friends—Joy, Cole, Candyce, Edith, Rob—who think Hallowe’en is the greatest holiday of the year. Our friend Ben’s brother thinks Easter is the year’s premier holiday. But here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, Christmas and its family traditions rule, except when it comes to food. As far as food is concerned, the annual Thanksgiving feast—our celebration of the abundance of Harvest Home—reigns supreme.

Mind you, I’m a vegetarian, so no actual turkey makes an appearance on our Thanksgiving table, nor do the luscious turkey sandwiches and creamed turkey on toast I recall fondly from my childhood make a post-Thanksgiving appearance. But that’s not to say you can’t sub the Butterball for my main-dish entrees recommended below. If you follow my lead, you’ll have a spectacular Thanksgiving dinner, with or without the big bird.

I love planning the Thanksgiving meal, as well as seasonal harvest dishes after the Thanksgiving leftovers have been enjoyed. And I have lots and lots of special seasonal recipes to share with all of you. So this year, I’m opening the floor to requests. Let me know which recipes you want, and I’ll publish them here at Poor Richard’s Almanac on the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Since I’ll be travelling this weekend for my father’s birthday and won’t be home ’til Monday evening (don’t worry, I’ve made tons of reheatable dishes for OFB), I’ll definitely be facing a Thanksgiving cooking crunch come Tuesday, and will be posting a make-ahead schedule for the rest of you who don’t want to risk heart attack or stroke from pressure on the big day.

Meanwhile, here are the options for a Silence Dogood blowout Thanksgiving meal. Vote for your favorites, and let me know which recipes you’d like to have! And needless to say, please vary your courses. If you choose the curried pumpkin or winter squash soup as an appetizer, don’t make sweet potatoes or the potato and winter squash casserole. If you make the luscious Endive Boats as an appetizer, don’t make the Green Apple Salad with Endive and Radicchio. No repetition!

So, everyone, place your votes and request recipes at will! I’ll be only too happy to serve them up.

              ‘Til next time,



Appetizers (choose 1):

Endive Boats

Curried Pumpkin Soup or Chaz’s Winter Squash Soup

Cranberry-Cream Cheese Rangoons

Martha Stewart’s Cheese Balls Three Ways

Salad Course: (choose 1):

Coleslaw with Cilantro and Scallions

 Aunt Debbi’s Coleslaw

Silence’s Quick Colseslaw

Bibb-and-Radish Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Green Apple Salad with Endive and Radicchio

Pear and Frisee Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Garlicky Caesar Salad

Delilah’s Lentil and Apple Salad

Lively Lentil Salad

Sides (choose 5):

Silence’s Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

Silence’s Amazing Cranberry Dressing

Toasted Sweet Corn Pudding

Amy Good’s Broccoli Saute

Cat Cora’s Brussels Sprouts

Silence’s Super Squash Casserole

Landis Store’s Sweet Potato Souffle

Sauteed Chiffonaded Brussels Sprouts, Corn and Sweet Onion

Dinner Rolls

Mashed Potatoes (OFB always insists on these)

Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Sweet Onions and Mushrooms

Stuffed Roasted Portabella Caps

Green Beans Amondine

Main Dish (choose 1):

Potatoes and Winter Squash Casserole with Gruyere Cheese

Delilah’s Crock Pot Mac’N’Cheese

Baked Curried Brown Rice and Lentil Pilaf

Jen’s Mushroom Carbonara

Easy Pesto Pasta

Super-Simple Creamy Pasta 

Apres-Feast (choose 1 or 2):


Black tea

Herb tea (preferably a digestive like peppermint. chamomile or fennel)

Tawny Port

Hot apple cider spiked with dark rum (Gosling is our favorite), cinnamon, and cloves

Cold Hard Cider

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pecan Pie


Fruit and Cheese Tray

Dark Chocolate Confections

Glaceed Apricots

Apricots or Ginger Dipped in Dark Chocolate

Medjool Dates


There you have it! Cast your votes!

The Thanksgiving menu. November 19, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and it’s not a minute too soon to start thinking about the menu, making your shopping list, and creating a timeline so everything’s done in time and ready for the table.

I’m vegetarian, so our groaning board will be missing that traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece, the turkey. But after Christmas, Thanksgiving—the celebration of another bounteous year, a reminder to give thanks for our many blessings, the culmination of Harvest Home—is my favorite holiday, so I want to make sure we and our guests have plenty of good food to eat. Here’s what I plan to serve this year:


endive boats (stuffed with gorgonzola and feta cheese, cranberries, and pecans)

poblano poppers (cored, halved poblano chiles stuffed with cream cheese and shredded Mexican cheese blend)


hearty tossed salad (endive, radicchio, romaine, escarole, arugula, kale, mustard greens, tons of chopped veggies, Spanish onion and scallions, olives, and cheeses, choice of dressings)

coleslaw (shredded green and purple cabbage, shredded carrots, diced sweet onion, diced Granny Smith apples, crumbled blue cheese, caraway and/or cracked fennel seed, black mustardseed, cracked black pepper, vinaigrette)

Delilah’s lentil-apple salad


curried pumpkin soup

Main Course

cranberry sauce

summer squash casserole

cranberry dressing

potato and winter squash casserole with Gruyere cheese, or mashed potatoes

roasted sliced sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and sweet onion

green beans

corn pudding


sour cherry pie

pumpkin cheesecake bars

pecan pie

Okay, even with guests, this is a ton of food. But the great thing about Thanksgiving food is that it keeps so well! Even after we send food home for guests, we’ll have plenty of leftovers to enjoy for at least a week. Hallelujah!

I’ll be sharing some recipes for this meal with you as we get closer to Thanksgiving. They’re too good not to try!

And please, share your Thanksgiving menu with us. We’d love to know what you’re having!

                   ‘Til next time,