Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Operation Thanksgiving 2012: Tuesday

Devin and I are staying in Manhattan for Thanksgiving, since we can only afford to go home to California for Christmas. Thanksgiving at my parent's house is very specific, with a menu that's been unaltered for years simply because it is perfect. So this week, I am undertaking the insurmountable: I'm re-creating my family's traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but making every piece of a nine-dish Thanksgiving on my own. So! I'm starting early. Tuesday night, I made three things that will only improve with chilling in the refrigerator until Thursday.

Thing one: Whole cranberry sauce, which is something my grandmother usually makes. This year I changed it up a little by using raw agave nectar instead of granulated sugar.

Bring 1 cup water and 3/4 cup raw agave nectar to a boil, then add 12 ounces (one bag) fresh cranberries and simmer for 10 minutes. Let stand until it comes to room temperature--it'll thicken as it sits around.

I really like the taste of agave nectar, so I really like this. There's been a little agave controversy recently--it's higher on the glycemic index than granulated white sugar, and the non-raw stuff has tons of fructose, etc. I chose to use it because, while 3/4 of a cup of agave has the same glycemic index as 1 cup of sugar, it contributes fewer calories to the recipe. Also, it's yummy.

Thing two: Balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts. I nabbed a super-cool Brussels sprouts tree from Trader Joe's. Though I like it mainly for the novelty factor and by getting it I probably made more work for myself (I had to yank all the sprouts off the stalk before trimming and slicing them), I still think it's worth it. I also tell myself sprouts on the stalk are fresher, and it makes me feel better.

All of the little cuties sliced and cored.

How to: Put the sprouts in a pan, add 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, a few grinds sea salt, and a few grinds black pepper, toss to coat, and then put them in the oven at 375 for 25 minutes. So delicious.

Thing three: Fresh cucumber pickles. I've been making this dish as my Thanksgiving dinner contribution since elementary school. I think I nabbed the original recipe from a Ranger Rick magazine, a publication produced for kids by the National Wildlife Federation. But in my family, we call them Laura's Pickles. Here are my secrets.

Laura’s Pickles

2 large cucumbers, finely sliced
1 onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons celery seed
¾ cup sugar
½ cup lemon juice

What to do:
Mix sliced cucumbers and diced onion with salt and celery seed, and let stand for one hour at room temperature.  Meanwhile, mix sugar with lemon juice until sugar dissolves.  After one hour, pour lemon mixture over cucumber combination, and stir to blend.  Barely cover with water.  Store in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Chop the onions the size you’d want to eat them.
Barely cover with water (do not over-dilute).
Make sure to let marinate in fridge for at least 24 hours, more if possible.

To me, Thanksgiving smells like celery seed. It's one of those instant nostalgia-conjuring scents for my personal brain. 

Here are the finished pickles. They're only going to get more intensely delicious as they marinate in the refrigerator for a few days.

Get ready for Wednesday prep madness a little later on!


  1. These look delicious. Nice shout-out to Ranger Rick!

  2. I made cranberry sauce last night too! Mine has orange peel in it.

  3. Funny thing, it looks like my Thanksgiving!

  4. Making your pickles right now for Christmas dinner. Yay!