Thanksgiving is next Thursday, and while it's not the big event for us it was 20 years ago, it's still one of our favorite holidays.
When Guy and I first got married, holidays were like the War of the Worlds -- my parents wanted me (their only child) to be with them and Guy's parents wanted us there. To add to the chaos, his older sister expected us to be part of her celebration, too.
On Thanksgiving Day, we would go to my parents' home for dinner at 1 p.m. and then would hit his parents' for supper at 4 p.m., followed by dessert at his sister's. We each gained 10 pounds every year and quite honestly didn't enjoy the day.
We did our turkey trot for five years before I finally came up with a simple solution -- have everyone come to our house for dinner. Although Guy's sister and her family still kept their own tradition, between our parents, aunts, us and whoever else was dinnerless that year, we usually had 10 to 12 people.
That alone would be enough to send anyone into panic mode, but those who have seen our house know what a true miracle creating a dinner that size was. Our kitchen would give me claustrophobia if it wasn't partially open to the living room. I have more counter space in my cubby at the newspaper than I have in my kitchen.
Our dinners are smaller now, our parents and aunts are no longer with us, and usually there is only the two of us and our son, and sometimes a few others who are near and dear to us.
I am a traditionalist. Only a cloth tablecloth and napkins, and my Mom's china, cut-crystal goblets and silverware are good enough for the day. The silverware has to be polished and gleaming, and there has to be tall taper candles burning on the table.
The menu also is traditional. No chicken, duck, goose or turducken for this girl -- just a large, golden brown roasted turkey. Over the years, Guy and I have perfected a bread and sausage stuffing, a far cry from my Mom's plain stuffing and his family's oyster dressing. Add Florida turnip, squash, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and rolls, and you have the yearly menu.
A few years ago, instead of the traditional cranberry sauce, I tried a recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine for a cranberry strawberry relish that was so much better. It's just as simple to make as plain cranberry sauce, but has that element of surprise when tasted.
Cranberry and Strawberry Relish
Makes 3 cups
1 10-ounce package frozen sweetened sliced strawberries, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
1 12-ounce package cranberries (about 3 cups)
Drain the syrup from the strawberries into a 1-cup measuring cup. Add enough water to equal 1 cup liquid. Set strawberries aside.
In a 3-quart saucepan over high heat, heat syrup mixture from strawberries, sugar and cranberries to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until cranberries pop.
Stir strawberries into mixture. Spoon relish into bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours.
Another gamble on my part was forgoing the usual mashed winter squash in favor of a Squash Crumble the Associated Press supplied last year. Being the only squash aficionado, I had the whole thing to myself. It was so good, I had two helpings for dinner and the rest for lunch over the next few days. I even heated a bowl up one night and topped it with vanilla ice cream!
For the filling:
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 baking apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
For the topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter, cold
1/2 cup pecans
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
To make the filling, in a small bowl mix together the brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the squash and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until just tender. Drain thoroughly. In a large bowl, mix the squash and apples. Add the brown sugar mixture, toss well, then transfer everything to the prepared baking dish.
To make the topping, in a food processor combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the pecans and pulse to chop and combine. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples and squash. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the squash and apples are tender.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.