Sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table, my cousin and I were trying to discern whether or not a particular food was a yam or a sweet potato. And this is the moment when I realized I will never ever be the next Betty Crocker. Of course, the delicious food we were eating was neither of our guesses. It was butternut squash. Everyone at this point should be shaking their head at me and saying “Duh.” Thanksgiving and butternut squash go together like Christmas and candy canes. Apparently not in my mind, though.
This moment immediately reminded me of the time in second grade when I tried to bake peanut butter cookies with my father. They looked perfect, with a fork-made criss-cross on top. Just a few minutes after I put the cookies in the oven, the kitchen filled with plumes of jet black smoke. It turns out that our oven was broken and so the cookies started burning. But as a seven year-old, I correlated smoke to fire and so I ran out of the house screaming at the top of my lungs that the house was on fire. It was not.
The following day, I took the solid, black, burnt cookies into school for show and tell. I guess I was proud of my failure, or about my seemingly scary experience in the kitchen.
And so, it is true that I’m not always cooking up delicious things in the kitchen. It’s also true that I still can’t tell the difference between butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and yams. This may discredit my cooking abilities, I realize.
However, there is one success story that recently happened in my kitchen. After a hefty dinner on Thanksgiving Day, I decided to make something light: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup. Click here for the recipe:
My initial thoughts were: I have never roasted anything, this is a good opportunity to fail again. My second thoughts were: if I fail, at least it won’t be the first time. Roasting the tomatoes was perhaps the easiest cooking preparation I have done, and the soup came out spectacularly, much to my disbelief. My parents equally enjoyed the soup. The leftovers are perfect for freezing, as well as continued detoxing after holiday dinners.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, more than the beloved Christmas. Any holiday that is a celebration of family, friends, and gratefulness in a non-religious setting is my kind of day. There is something pleasant about celebrating what is present, past, and future with a dinner. Not gifts, shiny lights, and carols. Although Thanksgiving involves less than holidays such as Christmas, the simplicity of Thanksgiving makes the holiday personally more meaningful.
I baked (first use of the oven in over five months!) Apple Cinnamon Muffins the other day, which were delicious and made the house smell of autumn. The muffin batter was thicker than I expected, almost like a wet dough, although the final product was nothing like a cookie. It was a moist, sweet, addicting muffin. I added a cinnamon streusel on top of some of the muffins, which added a bit of crunch. If you prefer your muffins less sweet, make the recipe using 1 1/2 cups of sugar, as opposed to 2.
Recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything
Makes about 18 muffins
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups peeled, cored, diced apples (around 3 apples)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners.
Cream together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix until combined. Add the diced apples.
Fill paper liners almost to the top, about 3/4 of the way full.
Mix streusel ingredients with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle on muffins.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes.
Unbelievably, in a week I will be headed home where cilantro, black beans, good peanut butter, and real General Mills Cheerios await. Also, cold weather, cozy reading sessions by the fireplace, and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, will be a great contrast to the last few months of my life spent in Sydney, Australia.
Thanksgiving, while in college, is the perfect break; right before final examinations, and just as stress is starting to sink in. College makes me appreciate the moments at home, particularly moments like Thanksgiving where I am surrounded by people I love and those who I am truly grateful for. This year, after being away from home for the longest time in my life, Thanksgiving will seem even more special. I can’t wait for my family’s different characters to convene, sharing new and old stories, laughing at memories, making music out of wine glass rims, and most importantly, placing spoons on our noses.
And, at the risk of sounding like an old lady, I’m so excited to see my cats.
A few years ago, my parents hosted Christmas dinner which included a fat turkey that was put in the oven at precisely 5:00 in the morning. As usual, I awoke to the smell of roasting turkey, coffee, and pine (and I swear I could even smell the Entenmann’s fruit stollen, despite being in a packaged box). At 1 o’clock, guests arrived and enjoyed appetizers and joyful family banter. At 3 o’clock, folks were getting hungry but my mother concluded that the turkey was not ready. We passed the time by playing charades, eating more appetizers, and keeping the little children entertained. We anxiously started to feel like turkey would not be a part of our dinner. Finally, at 5 o’clock, just after the sun had set and about two hours after we had planned on eating dinner, the turkey dilemma was resolved. The oven was set on Broil, not Bake. But gosh darn it, it was the best, most tender turkey we’ve ever had.
Looking back, we all make sure to set the oven to bake when cooking turkeys, but at times, I wish we broiled it again. Broiling the turkey allowed us to embrace the family more. We spent more time laughing and telling stories than baking the turkey would have allowed. If someday I get the prestigious honor of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I could opt for a Tofurky, as unappealing as that sounds. But regardless of whether the turkey is real or not, I know that I will be broiling it, whether intentionally or not.