Thanksgiving (pie, obviously included)

Oh, where to begin. With thanks, I suppose. There are so many things/people/ideas in my life that I am thankful for. I am thankful for my sense of creativity and my drive. I am thankful for my husband/partner/friend who I can trust with anything. I am thankful (believe it or not) for my pants being too tight and me not having enough money to go buy more, it is all that much more motivation to be conscious of what I eat and how much I move. I am thankful for my family, speaking very specifically and very loosely including a wide range of people who care for me and for whom I care for. I am thankful for food that nourishes me and food that just fills me up even if it doesn’t have nearly enough nourishment (think cheese and crackers). I am thankful for my school, what we do for and with the families that we serve. I am thankful for the concept of applied behavior analysis and how fascinating it is, it inspires me and has re-trained my brain in a very positive way. I am thankful for myself and what I do for this world, because it is good. I am thankful for my dogs, because they help me understand why it’s okay just to fall asleep on the couch in front of the fire.

I am thankful for so many things, and here I will display some of that celebration of thanks. In the form of food projects, as I typically express my creativity these days. Now, what kind of thanksgiving would it be without pie. We had 16 people at our thanksgiving in Napa this week and there were 7 pies. One of which was Great-Grandma Haas’s shoo-fly pie recipe, full of black strap molasses. Yum. Now, many people ask what a shoo-fly pie is. When I tell them it’s basically a cakey molasses pie, the look on their face is predictable. Yes, believe it or not, this exists and is amazing. It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe that goes back far in my husband’s family. You lucky folks who read this get the honor of seeing this recipe (I do not believe in secret recipes). But first, a photograph:

I couldn’t get a picture of it before we ate some. See that black gooey tar coming out the middle? That’s shoo-fly. I did adapt the recipe a bit to fit our new “health conscious” (ironic with this recipe) world. Great-Grandma Haas called for shortening. I replaced that with butter, as I’m sure  in her day it was not partially hydrogenated, but good luck trying to find some shortening of that sort these days (no thank you to Crisco). Personally, I think the butter works just fine, not noticeable at all. My step-mother-in-law (from here on out, Lisa) made some shoo-fly as well, from another recipe she found, which called for the lighter version of molasses. I recommend for those who are sensitive to intense molasses flavor to start with the light molasses, it was very tasty and much more mild. I will provide the recipe for this bad-b0y at the end of the post.

I also was asked to make a green dish. So I made a kale salad. This felt good because I think it was the only dish in the entire meal with absolutely no fat (well… there were slivered almonds on top, but pretty negligible fat content). I, historically, hate kale. It’s bitter, tough and not worth it when I can have spinach or even chard. But kale is extremely healthy and one of those “super foods” and I planted a bunch of it this year, so I figured I better start liking it. I was told that the secret to getting good kale is “massaging” your kale. Seriously. So I got a huge bunch of kale from the farmer’s market and destemmed, chopped and started rubbing. Like a good neck massage, just rub it in. I rubbed it for probably 2 or 3 minutes then added salt, lots of lemon juice and sliced apples. I was absolutely shocked at the tender and bright flavor of the kale, not bitter at all. This didn’t get a picture, but it did get a lot of raves at the dinner. Remember folks, massage your kale.

The third dish I brought (because obviously, Thanksgiving needs more dishes) was a butternut squash dish (recipe also at the end of the post). Thanksgiving tables tend to be filled with sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, which believe me, are delicious, but I thought something a bit different was in need. I love butternut squash with all my heart, and that combined with goat cheese is just tragically delicious (tragic for the dish because it will be eaten savagely). It isn’t really a recipe, more a putting together of things. And here’s my thoughts on that:

I am a really bad person to ask “what is your recipe?” unless it involves baking things like cakes, breads, pies, etc. Usually, I just say “well, you combine this and that and mix it with some of this other thing then cook it at whatever temperature until its done.” Not helpful for people who aren’t familiar with cooking. I had this conversation with someone at the Thanksgiving dinner who asked about this butternut squash recipe and I realized that there really are recipes, I just don’t really take them into account and just do it. But I will get as specific as I can at the end of the post on the butternut squash tasty dish.

I will provide a whole separate post on my other food projects soon, but I did want to get these recipes down. So here goes:

Great Grandma Haas’s Shoo Fly Pie

Note: This recipe makes 3 8″ pies or 2 9″ pies… great grandma Haas had 9 children, she needed as many slices as she could get. Feel free to halve it, it makes one very full pie:

Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

1 1/2 cups of light brown sugar

4 tbsp cold butter (remember the original recipe called for shortening)

2 cups of molasses (use light molasses for a more mild taste, or black strap molasses for a more traditional and richer taste)

2 eggs unbeaten

1 1/2 cups of hot water with 2 tsp of baking soda dissolved in it

Method:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flour, brown sugar and cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Put aside 2 cups to sprinkle on top. Leave the remainder in the bowl.

In a separate bowl combine the molasses, eggs and water with baking soda dissolved in it. When this is fully combined, add it to the flour mixture.

Pour into 2 9″ or 3 8″ unbaked pie crusts. Sprinkle on the rest of the crumb mixture (much of it will sink in, that’s the point). PUT IT ON A BAKING SHEET BEFORE PUTTING IT IN THE OVEN. I cannot emphasize this enough. In all likelihood, it will boil over and cleaning burnt molasses off the bottom of your oven is absolutely no fun. Bake it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. Cool and eat. It is also excellent in the morning with a cup of coffee/tea for breakfast.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese and Pecans

Ingredients (I will try to be as specific as I can on the measurements, but bear with me on that one):

One big butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes

Enough olive oil to coat all the squash chunks

About 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage

About 1 cup of dry roasted pecan pieces

About 6 ounces of goat cheese chevre (really the more the better, but however much you like/can handle)

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

Method

Put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and boil it. Reduce it to at least 1/4 cup or less. Put it aside for the end.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat the chunks of butternut squash with olive oil. Spread the squash in a single layer over a baking pan. Sprinkle one tablespoon of chopped fresh (I need to emphasize “fresh” here – very important, dried just doesn’t do it) sage all over the top. Roast it for about 20-40 minutes, or until finished (all ovens are different, just cook it until it’s sort of soft, but not too brown). When it’s finished, pour all the squash into a baking dish (one that you can serve in is nice). Mix in a fair amount of salt and pepper to taste (really, taste it, that’s the only way you know if it’s enough salt). Mix in the pecans and sprinkle on chunks of goat cheese. Top if with the rest of the chopped fresh sage. This will keep like this until just before you serve it, then stick it in the oven and broil it a bit to ever so slightly brown the goat cheese. Take it out of the oven and drizzle the balsamic reduction over the top. Drool and serve.

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