Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Final Blessing: Thanksgiving Desserts

Someone will almost always bring a pumpkin pie and/ or a mincemeat pie. There are variations, but it is always safe to use the recipe on the back of the canned pumpkin can for reliably good pumpkin pie, and by the end of a wonderful dinner, a lot of men just want good-ole-pumpkin pie, nothing fancy, you know, the way Mom used to make it. So go ahead, make one of the plain old pumpkin pies for him.

Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 (15 oz) can Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can Carnation Evaporated milk (12 oz)
1 Unbaked 9-inch deep dish pie shell

Mis sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in canned pumpkin and sugar spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake in preheated 425 F (220 C) oven 40 – 50 minutes or intil knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours and then serve or refrigerate.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Roll
This is a little more challenging, and you have to have a jelly-roll pan. Once you have done one of these roll things, though, you know it’s a whole lot easier than it looks. Yayyyyy.

This is a great Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert when you are sick of the same-old same-old desserts. Plus, one of these old fashioned rolled desserts always looks really fancy!


Powdered sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup chopped walnuts


1 package cream cheese
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
6 Tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 15” x 10” jelly roll pan. Line with waxed paper, grease and flour paper (there is a reason!) Sprinkle a flat tea towel or dish cloth (flat woven, not terry cloth) with powdered sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and sugar in a larger mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin, stir in the flour mixture. Spread evenly in prepared jelly roll pan, sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Bake 13 – 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake out of pan onto prepared tea-towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla in samll mixer bowel until smooth. Carefully unroll cake, remove towel, and spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Roll cake back up again (it will want to be in the rolled position after cooling that way) Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Soused Apple Cake
From Quail Country: The Junior League of Albany, Georgia.
If you don’t have brandy, don’t bother with this one – the brandy give it the punch, even though all the alcohol cooks off during baking. Kids hate this cake, adults love it.

4 cups cooking apple 2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup raisins 2 teaspoons baking soda
brandy 1 teaspoon nutmeg (grate it fresh, it matters!)
2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salad oil 1/4 teaspoon mace
2 eggs 1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups flour whipped cream

Peel, core and finely chop apples; put into a bowl with raisins and cover with brandy, and soak overnight. Drain apples and raisins, set aside.

Combine sugar, salad oil and eggs. Set aside. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and mace. Add to oil mixture. Mix in apples, pecans and raisins. Mix well and pour into an oiled 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook in 325 degree oven for 1 hour.

Cut into squares, serve topped with sweetened whipped cream. Yield 15 – 20 servings.

** I use a tiny bit of ground cloves instead of mace. I also have used all sorts of whiskeys and brandies, but my favorite remains calvados or . . . rum! It is one of my favorite recipes.

Pecan Pie
When I saw pecans during Ramadan, I bought them up, da*n the expense. Pecans! This recipe is also from Quail Country, by the Junior League of Albany, GA. It is permanently marked in my cookbook!

3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 9-inch deep dish pastryt shell, unbaked

Beat eggs slightly; add sugar, corn syrup, salt and vanilla. Blend well, but do not overbeat; add butter. Stir in pecans. Pour into pastry shell. Bake in preheated 350 F (180 C) oven about 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Six servings.

OK, that (above) is the fail-proof recipe.


To me, it comes out very flat and thin, so I double the recipe and cook it in a French tart pan (large round glass or ceramic cooking pan with fluted straight edges), and then cut thin slices. This is very rich, very sweet.

November 20, 2006 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Recipes, Thanksgiving | 11 Comments

Thanksgiving Side Dishes – Branching Out

Sometimes Thanksgiving food gets a little old. We have stopped doing mashed potatoes altogether, because no-one in this calorie conscious age wants to waste their calories on potatoes and gravy, not when there is roquefort dressing and pecan pie to consider! So here are some relatively low calorie additions we have made in recent years, trying to substitute rich taste for fat.

Balsamic roasted Sweet Potatoes
(Oh, so easy!)

Scrub sweet potatoes and take off any growths, etc. Leave skin on and cut into circles about 1″ thick (2.24 cm) Spray a baking pan with olive oil, and lay sweet potato rounds in the pan – they don’t have to be flat. Sprinkle with sea salt (yes! it matters!)

Make up a mixture of about 1 cup olive oil to 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle about half of this mixture over the sweet potatoes. Put them in the oven about two hours before the turkey is finished roasting, and after the first hour, every fifteen minutes or so, when you baste the turkey with turkey juices, baste the sweet potatoes with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil solution. The roasting concentrates the sweet flavor, which is complemented by the vinegar.

Green Beans
It’s the French in me. I gotta have the green beans.

Fresh green beans are best – make sure to take off the strings, and I like to cut off the little ends, too. Bring a pot of water to a boil, pop the beans in and WATCH closely! As soon as they turn bright green – about one minute – take them off the heat, and maybe one minute later, pour out all the water. Put 2 Tablespoons of butter in the pot with the green beans. Sprinkle a little sea salt over them. That’s it. They’re good, just like that.

Thanksgiving Spinach

If you can get your hands on fresh spinach, that is the best. In a very tall pot, sautee about five cloves of finely chopped garlic in really good olive oil (about 1/4 cup), turn the heat down, add just a little water and add a whole lot of fresh spinach. Put the lid on. Give it maybe five minutes to steam down, then open the pot, add a little sea salt, and stir so that the spinach glistens and the garlic is mixed well into the spinach. Oh! So simple. So delicious!

*If I knew, really knew the way Kuwaitis and Qatteris know, how to make machboos, I would serve Machboos with the Thanksgiving meal. It would be perfect.

November 20, 2006 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Recipes, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

More Side Dishes – Salads to Give Thanks For

For me, the cranberry salad is mandatory – but not for you! If you want to give it a try, the Sultan Center has cranberries in the frozen section. Frozen is good enough. I have even made this with jellied whole cranberries from a can, but that is sheer desperation.

Mom’s Cranberry Salad

I must have given this recipe to nearly 100 people by now – it never fails to make a big hit. In Tunis, and in Amman, where fresh cranberries were no where to be found, whole cranberry sauce dissolved down worked wonderfully. It’s amazing what you can do when you are motivated! Note – I use raspberry or cherry or strawberry jello instead of lemon, because I like it to be red for the holidays.

1 1/2 C cranberries (wash, pick over and cook until soft
1 1/2 C water

add 1 Cup sugar and boil one minute
add 1 small pkg lemon jello (I use raspberry or cherry or strawberry because I like red)

When all is dissolved, add juice of one No. 1 can of pineapple (Mom’s recipe says a #1 can – use one of the small cans.) When cool, add diced pineapple from can, and 1/2 cup finely diced celery and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Refrigerate until firm.

One small buffet mold.

(This recipe is from the 1950’s. I double everything, Pour into mold for the holidays, or into a crystal bowl from which it can be served without having to unmold)

Mom’s Roquefort Dressing

This recipe is so BAD for you. So much salt! So much fat! So incredibly rich and delicious, and so simple to make. They have REAL French Roquefort right now at the Sultan Center. No, I do not work for the Sultan Center. Momma says if it isn’t real Roquefort, don’t bother.)

1 pint sour cream

1/2 teaspoon each:
garlic salt
celery salt
paprika (red powdered paprika, best from Hungary)

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb Roquefort cheese

Mix all ingredients together except Roquefort, then carefully fold in cheese. Serve with green salad, but in a separate serving bowl so guests can control how much or how little they want to use! This is also good as a dip with fresh raw vegetables. Oh, so rich!

November 20, 2006 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Recipes, Thanksgiving | 5 Comments

Side Dishes – More to Give Thanks For!

Take another deep breath. These are not mandatory, these are just options!

Shrimp Cocktail

Buy BIG shrimp. Take the shells off, and with a tiny paring knife, make a tiny line down the back of the shrimp where you see that black stuff, and take the black stuff out. (Don’t think about this, just do it.) Bring water to simmer, put shrimp in and TAKE OFF heat. Let them turn pink – about one minute – and pour water out immediately.

Williamsburg Peanut Soup
(If you have help and want to serve in courses)

Fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes or stewed tomatoes, chopped and heat in pot.
Chicken broth – together with the tomatoes, about enough for all who are coming.
Sauteed onions if you like them can go in, too.
Add glops of CHUNKY peanut butter into the hot liquid and stir until you like the consistency. Salt if you think it needs it. Ladle into bowls and then sprinkle a few chopped peanuts over each dish. People will think you labored for hours on this soup, and it is SO delicious. Big bang for the buck on this one!

Shrimp Cocktail Sauce: Take about a cup of Heinz Ketchup, add 1 Tablespoon Horseradish and 1 Tablespoon very fine SWEET, finely chopped pickle or pickle relish. Mix together. Some people add a little chili powder, but you know your own family.

Use bowls or champagne glasses. Put a little salad greens in the bottom, and place shrimp over the rim around the glass or bowl. Put cocktail sauce in the well formed in the center, right on the greens (Hardly anybody ever eats the greens, they are just there to be pretty.)


Cornbread Stuffing
(Mandatory if you are married to a Southerner)

You can find cornmeal in any grocery store, but we like the coarser grind found in the health foods section.

Make a batch of cornbread according to the instructions on the corn meal you have bought. Cool it slightly.

While the cornbread is baking, sautee:
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
in 1/2 cup butter.
(You can use corn oil, but it won’t have the same flavor.)

Sautee 1/2 lb Jimmy Dean sausage, mild (here, in Islamic Kuwait, I am using smoked turkey sausage)

When cornbread is slightly cool, crumble it into a large bowl, add the sauteed onion, celery, parsley, butter and sausage, and stir together. Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans. At this point, you can store in the refrigerator until the turkey is baked.

Gather one – two cups turkey broth, mix into cornbread mix with one egg, salt, pepper, a little sage and thyme to taste. Pour into baking dish and bake 30 minutes at 300°. Serve with turkey as side dish.

November 20, 2006 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Turkey: Centerpiece of the Meal

I imagine it is possible to have Thanksgiving without a turkey, but I have never, never in my life seen one. Wherever we are, by hook or by crook, we find a turkey.

The irony is that it doesn’t even matter if you like turkey that much – and turkey can be tough and dry if overcooked – it is tradition. You can skip other things, but if you don’t have a turkey, you probably should at least have a paper turkey in the center of your table, something, anything, that will satisfy the need for “rightness” as in “this isn’t right!” if there is no turkey.

The good news is that left over turkey makes great sandwiches, filling for burritos, makes great sweet n’ sour, makes great turkey-noodle soup, cassarols – there are a lot of uses for cooked, left over turkey. If that doesn’t appeal to you, buy a bunch of those wonderful tin trays with lids at the supermarkets and send all your guests home with leftovers!

Your turkey will come with instructions. I usually thaw mine in the refrigerator – it takes up space that on Thanksgiving Day, when take the turkey out to cook, there is space for things I need to store for dinner. Space in the refrigerator will be a very good thing (says Martha).

Be sure to take out the innards. If you are going to make gravy, this is what most people use. You slow simmer the neck and gizzards in about a litre of water. You can pull meat off, and be sure to get all the bones out. That stock will be part of the gravy later on.

Your turkey roasting pan should have sides at least 10 cm (4 inches) high, because of all the turkey juice that leaks out. HINT: Spray that pan liberally with oil – it will be easier to clean down the road, trust me on this. I have a wonderful kitchen gadget that you put olive oil in and pump, and it sprays pure olive oil just like one of those store-bought sprays full of chemicals.

Spray the pan. Spray the turkey. Place the turkey in the pan, breast side up. (I have cooked them upside down and they were OK, too.) Put strips of fatty bacon over the top of the turkey.

Now here is the great secret: Put your turkey in a paper bag, tray and all, and staple shut. If you are using a meat thermometer, put it in the turkey right through the paper bag, it’s OK. Put the turkey in the oven at the temperature it says in your instructions that came with the turkey. (Usually around 180 C.) Every 30 minutes or so, spray that bag with water, like with the sprayer you use to spray clothes that need ironing.

When the turkey has an hour of cooking left, tear off that paper bag and begin basting, which is dripping the turkey juices back over the turkey. Baste every 15 minutes or so.

The house should smell wonderful by now. The turkey needs to come out of the oven about half an hour before serving. It needs to sit for 10 minutes and then someone needs to carve it, i.e. cut slices of it for serving. Often the big turkey wings are put on the plate of sliced turkey and some young man will eat the turkey right off the bone.

November 20, 2006 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, Recipes, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Second – Get Organized

Here’s what you need for this step – paper, pen, phone, e-mail, WOM (word of mouth). Figure out who you want to spend Thanksgiving with. Give them a call. If they sound genuinely disappointed because they have visitors from out-of-town, tell them to bring their visitors – Thanksgiving is a great holiday for flexibility. (We usually have more than one table going, one for the kids, too, or several mixed up)

Our book says that we are to entertain strangers, that sometimes when we welcome strangers, we welcome angels without knowing it. Sometimes a stranger adds the most amazing memory.Our first married Thankgiving, we had a soldier join us who would soon be leaving the military. We still remember his delight and amazement at being included. We’ve never fogotten him – he added so much to that day.

When someone asks what they can bring – have some ideas ready! It’s usually safe to ask someone to bring a dessert – or drinks – or dinner rolls. If they have something else in mind, unless it is totally outlandish, say “yes” and just roll with it. It’s part of the fun.

Outline what you want to serve – finger foods before dinner, dinner – courses if you are including soup, dessert and coffee (in the same room? move to another room?)

Make a grocery list. Do the major shopping now, so you have everything you need. Go with what is available – for example, last night in the fish market, I saw the most amazing, huge shrimp, and the man told me they are from Kuwait. Believe me, we will have shrimp cocktail on our menu this year!

Figure out how you want the table(s) and check your linens to be sure what you need is clean and ironed. Make sure the silver is polished, the crystal washed and sparkling. Do this now! You don’t want to have to worry about this close to Thanksgiving. Give yourself the gift of time, by doing the little things in advance that can throw you off course if you let it go to the last minute. We want you to be thankful on Thanksgiving, happy and relaxed and delighted to see your friends – and that takes some preparation and work ahead of time.

(My preference is to set up a buffet table – that way people can eat what they want and pass on what they don’t want, without being conspicuous. You know, like you may adore creamed onions, and the kids will hate them! It’s OK. They’re kids. It’s Thanksgiving.)

Take another deep breath – honestly, this is going to be fun.

November 20, 2006 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Shopping, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

First – Take a Deep Breath (Thanksgiving 2)

You inspired me! I didn’t expect such a response to the post on Thanksgiving. Once again, I am baffled, and delighted, at what strikes your fancy.

So – how to do Thanksgiving. To do it properly, you have to focus on the right things. So first, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and allow yourself to feel thankful. Even in the worst of years, there are blessings. Bring them to mind. Feel them. Rejoice! Now you are prepared.

It’s all about the gathering. Yes, we have traditional foods, but in different parts of the country, traditions vary. Turkey is traditional, for example, but it can get so boring. In the South, you can buy a turkey that has been smoked (lovely!) or a turkey that has been stuffed with a duck that has been stuffed with a chicken. When we lived in Germany, I inserted tiny slivers of garlic under the skin – like hundreds of slivers – and served the slices with a variety of French mustards (WOW!). We’ll talk turkey in the next post.

Some Thanksgiving favorites:
Stuffing (also called Dressing)
Cranberry sauce
Mashed Potatoes + Gravy
Sweet Potatoes (usually served “candied” i.e. with a sweet sauce, covered with tiny marshmallows)
Green Salad + dressing
black pitted olives (kids put them on their fingers)
green beans
(South: creamed onions, cornbread stuffing, macaroni and cheese, jambalaya, peanut soup)
(Pacific Northwest: shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, smoked oysters)
Desserts: Pumpkin Pie, Mincemeat Pie, Fruitcake, etc. etc . . . )

The Thanksgiving Table is an excuse to get out all the good stuff you don’t use every day – beautiful white linens for the cloth and napkins, your silver, your crystal, the best china . . . polish up the silver candlesticks, put fresh candles in the crystal ones . . . but this is not the HEART of Thanksgiving, only the icing. We have had fabulous Thanksgivings with plates on our laps, as we gathered together with friends in countries where Thanksgiving is totally unknown. It’s the gathering that is important, not the food, not the table.

November 20, 2006 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural | Leave a comment