Thanksgiving Menu Guide

November 15, 2012

With Halloween behind us, we are officially hurtling towards the Thanksgiving.  For me that means it is time to get serious about meal planning.  While Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy time-honored dishes, each year I like to try something new as well.  Here a a collection of special occasion-worthy recipes from My Pantry Shelf that my family loves.  What is your favorite dish to make for Thanksgiving?  Tell us in the comments below.  Feel free to add a link to your recipes.

appetizers

Fuyu Persimmon Chutney

Fresh Herb Chevre

sides and salads

Acorn Squash Rings with Apple Glaze

Brussels Sprouts with Garlicky Bread Crumbs

Chipotle Black Bean and Butternut Squash Salad

Forbidden Rice and Green Onion Hearth Bread

Orange Quinoa with Almonds, Olives, and Feta

Roasted Beet and Hazelnut Salad with Feta

Shaved Brussels Sprout Slaw

Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin

Stuffed Winter Squash with Rice and Sausage

dessert

Pumpkin Coconut Pudding

drinks

Cranberry Daiquiris

brunch

Bacon Breakfast Strata

Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes

Easy Cranberry Bread

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Thai-Style Steak Salad

July 2, 2012

At least once a week we opt for a dinner salad.  Tired from a long day of work or summertime adventures as it may be, dinner can be on the table in minutes with just a bit of forethought.  Our secret… grill enough meat on the weekend to have hearty leftovers.  Perhaps it is a breast of chicken spared from our ravenous tots or a generous morsel of salmon craftily hidden from my husband’s lunch, or as the case was last weekend, a nice piece of hanger steak.  Steak salad takes on endless incarnations, but this is one of our favorites from Sunset magazine years ago.

Thai-Style Steak Salad bursts with flavor from a mixture of fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables, salty peanuts, and a tangy dressing.  Using leftover grilled meat makes it a cinch to pull together, but you could certainly grill up a steak for the occasion.  The dressing is super light and oil free helping this dinner balance out the indulgences of the weekend.  The chili garlic sauce is spicy so adjust the amount to your own taste.

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Spring is officially here.  Time for fresh potatoes, crisp peas, and tender greens.  This dish celebrates them all.  With no resemblance to its more traditional mayo-based cousin, this potato salad is fresh and crisp with a delicate balance between marinated potatoes, plump peas, crunchy toasted walnuts, and peppery arugula.  The whole lot is tossed in a simple mustard vinaigrette to make an uncomplicated, appetizing side dish for any spring meal.

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This has been a cleansing week.  No work for me and no school for the kids means that we had a lot (too much?) time around the house.  Complications outside our control kept us from adventuring in the way we might otherwise.  The upside is that the floors are swept, the drawers organized, and the piles of recipes are neatly filed away.  This house is clean. Most importantly, the last of the holiday cookies and sweets have happily made their way (on way or another) into a better place, out of my reach.  I mean, who really wants to be looking at a cookie on January 5th?  Not me.

Though I am not swearing on to a year of clean eating, or anything as drastically healthy as that, I do find that the foods I crave are those which lack the butter, bacon, and sugar indulgences of the holidays.  This recipe I share with you today is probably the complete opposite of the holiday foods which filled my gut (and yours?) the last couple of months.  Fresh, mostly raw, brightly colored, acidic.  This salad is exactly what I want to eat right now (which works out well since our Satsuma tree is going gangbusters and someone has to eat all that fruit!)

Orange and Beet Winter Salad pairs bright juicy orange with paper thin slices of roasted beet, creamy avocado, and crunchy toasted sunflower seeds.  The greens are an accent instead of the foundation of this dish.  Eat this now and enjoy it, I know I am.

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Lest you think my family and I survive on berries and chocolate alone, I thought it was time to share an actual meal with you hungry readers.  Sure I know “people” who might on occasion settle in over a pile of brownies and call it dinner, but really, it is time to talk about real food, with protein and vegetables included.  This is the kind of food we should eat most of the time to make the indulgences of jam-piled pancakes and syrup-coated ice cream well deserved.

In truth, most of our summer meals resemble this one.   We have some lean grilled meat, seasoned up to our whim.  One the side is a pile of some kind of beautiful warm season veggie.  There may be some focaccia bread or rice, but more and more I find that we do not miss the starch when we leave it out.  In its place, I make a double portion of vegetables.  Yes, even the kids do not seem to notice this omission (I just make sure they get their piles of pasta on another night during the week).

Armenian Lamb Kebabs are very simple to prepare, yet just different enough to pass for something special if need arises.  They are perfectly seasoned to compliment the lamb without overpowering it. The Greek Salad is a fabulous side to the lamb, but it could be paired with any number of other meats.

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Some dishes seem to create themselves.  The ingredients radiate with pure excitement when they enter into each others’ proximity.  This was the case when the loads of astonishingly fragrant strawberries pushed into the log of chevre in the fridge the other night. They called to me in their sweet seductive voices to please toss them with fresh spinach and roasted almonds, I was powerless to resist. Luckily, this force is pure good.  This dish is  full of vibrant seasonal nutritional powerhouses, so the guilt factor is nearly nil.

While strawberries are often restricted to  dessert or breakfast dishes, they make an excellent salad.  Feel free to adapt this at will.  The spinach can be replaced with arugula or butter lettuce, the chevre with feta, and the almonds with walnuts or pinenuts, but do not leave out the STRAWBERRIES!  They are too good right now to miss.

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Our garden harvest is in a bit of a lull these days.  The profusion of kale and broccoli that feed us through the winter is done.  While artichokes are beginning to  grace our table, the peas and fresh greens of spring have not quite matured.  The herbs however, jubilant in the rain-chasing sun, are thriving!  We have piles of oregano, mint, parsley, and chives.  I love adding combinations of them to just about any dish.

Lentil Bulgur Salad with Feta and Mint  is similar to a tabouli, though heartier.  The lentils and bulgur combine to form a complete protein.  It is incredibly nourishing and satisfying.  The mint, parsley, and lemon add bright flavors and beautiful color.  The feta contributes a creamy, tangy element.  In summertime, I would make this dish with fresh tomatoes.  In springtime, why ruin a perfectly seasonal salad with mediocre tomatoes?  I used up some dried tomatoes from last summer, but you could easily skip them altogether as well.  Make this dish ahead for a nice light dinner or bring it along to a picnic or potluck.  It travels well.

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