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COVID-19 can’t stop good, holiday food

Kimberly Vardeman, Wikimedia Commons Hard to resist, pecan pie is a welcome dessert. Consider topping with whipped cream or ice cream.


More and more, I am hearing that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families across the nation should not plan on having large gatherings for Thanksgiving.

I can understand both sides of that coin, and I am not even sure what my own family is doing for the holiday. Some in the family have managed to sequester themselves and not see anybody, and others have safely visited.

Even though we will probably avoid a large group, one way or another, I am going to prepare all of my favorites, as I am not willing to skip any of them.

It’s been a year, after all, since I have enjoyed them and I am more than ready to continue the traditional feast.

If you are also still planning to celebrate Thanksgiving with or without a crowd, I hope you find some recipes here you might like to try. Stay safe as we get through what’s left of this crazy year.

Pecan pie

1 prebaked pie crust for 9-inch pan

For filling:

2 1/2 cups very coarsely chopped pecans

3 large eggs

1 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spread pecans evenly inside pie crust. Whisk the eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, melted butter, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl until combined. Pour over pecans.

2. Bake the pie for 50 to 55 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking time, you can place a pie crust shield on top of the pie to prevent the edges from browning too quickly. You can also tent a piece of aluminum foil over the whole pie if it is browning too quickly.

3. Remove finished pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. The pie filling will settle as it cools. Makes 8 servings.

Potato mash with kale and olive oil

This is something very different from the usual, fluffy mashed potatoes, and for those folks who are strict traditionalists, you might want to just skip this one.

2 pounds unpeeled yellow potatoes (or Yukon Gold), cut into 1-inch pieces

4 cloves garlic

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/4 cup chopped green onions

4 cups finely chopped kale (1 small bunch)

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1. Place the potatoes, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

2. Heat 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the green onions and kale, and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

3. Use a potato masher to coarsely mash the potatoes and garlic. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, the kale, scallions, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper. Continue folding until creamy, adding up to 1/2 cup more cooking liquid and additional drizzles of olive oil, if desired. Season to taste with up to 1/2 teaspoon more salt, and pinches of red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve hot. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Bacon, onion and cheese pinwheel rolls

1/3 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees, or as directed on yeast package)

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup whole milk, warmed

2 large eggs

1/2 cup butter, melted, divided

4 cups bread flour

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

12 ounces (6 to 7 slices) thick-cut bacon, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)

3 medium-size yellow onions (about 1 3/4 pound), thinly sliced (about 7 cups)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces Gruyere, finely shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Stir together water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine yeast mixture, warm milk, eggs, 6 tablespoons of the butter and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Mix on low speed until well combined, about 10 seconds. While mixer is running on low, gradually add flour and 2 teaspoons of the salt until incorporated. Increase speed to medium, and continue beating until dough is smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. Dough will be sticky. Transfer to a lightly greased large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour drippings through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl. Reserve drippings, discarding any solids. Wipe skillet clean; return 2 tablespoons of drippings to skillet over medium-low. Add onions, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer onions to a medium bowl and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4. Brush 18 muffin cups lightly with reserved bacon drippings. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour top of dough; roll into an 18-by-14-inch rectangle. Spread caramelized onions in an even layer, leaving a 1-inch border on both long sides. Sprinkle bacon and Gruyere over onions. Starting with one long end, roll up dough, jelly-roll style. Using a serrated knife or dental floss, cut into 18 (1-inch-wide) pieces. Place pinwheels, cut side up, in prepared muffin tins. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm place until increased in size, about 45 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 375. Remove plastic wrap, and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 24 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together parsley and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Brush butter mixture on hot rolls. Run a small offset spatula around edges of each pinwheel, and carefully transfer rolls to a wire rack. Serve warm, or cool completely, about 30 minutes. Makes 18 rolls.

Classic corn pudding

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

6 large eggs

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup butter, melted

6 cups fresh corn kernels (about 12 ears), or use frozen corn that has been thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350. In bowl, mix first 4 ingredients.

2. In another, larger bowl, whisk together eggs, heavy cream and melted butter. Gradually add sugar mixture, whisking until smooth; stir in corn. Pour mixture into 8 lightly greased 8-ounce custard cups.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until pudding is set and deep golden. Let stand 5 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Broccoli and rice casserole

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups milk

1 bay leaf

1 fresh thyme sprig

2 cups chopped onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1 package (8-oz.) sliced cremini mushrooms

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of ground red pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 cups fresh broccoli florets (about 2 heads)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Combine melted butter with panko crumbs and 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese; toss to coat.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring broth, milk, bay leaf and thyme sprig to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover and keep mixture warm until ready to use.

3. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a large shallow Dutch oven or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery to Dutch oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Add mushrooms to Dutch oven, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch each of black pepper and ground red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, 45 seconds. Stir in flour until combined. (Mixture will be dry.)

4. Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme from broth mixture. Gradually stir warm broth mixture into mushroom mixture. Add remaining 1 cup cheese, and stir until well blended and smooth. Stir in rice, sour cream, mayonnaise and nutmeg. Cover Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove Dutch oven from oven; increase oven temperature to broil.

6. Microwave broccoli, 1/4 cup water, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a covered microwave-safe bowl at HIGH about 2 minutes or just until broccoli is tender and bright green. Drain and pat broccoli dry. Stir broccoli into rice mixture in Dutch oven. If desired, transfer mixture to a broiler-safe serving dish coated lightly with cooking spray.

7. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over broccoli mixture. Place on middle oven rack, and broil 2 to 3 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Let casserole stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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