When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Favourite Thanksgiving treats

We are all really looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner at our house this weekend: juicy turkey with all the trimmings, favourite fall vegetable sides, and tasty pumpkin and apple treats for dessert. The feeling of happiness at holiday times always seems to be tied in part to special foods that we share together year after year, often from recipes passed down through the generations. When our family learned that Will and I have food sensitivities, I was determined not to let that stand in the way of us enjoying our treasured holiday food traditions. With some reading, thinking, and experimenting, I have re-created Thanksgiving dinner in a way that is safe for all of us to eat, and we all agree that the results are every bit as delicious as the originals.

For years, my mom has been practically world famous for an amazing sweet potato casserole that she makes for every holiday turkey dinner. Even the pickiest child at the table (usually one of my boys!) gobbles up his or her orange veggies when they are prepared this way. Because we need to avoid milk, eggs, and cane sugar at our house, I have had to modify the recipe quite a bit, but I am happy to report that it's still a favourite with old and young alike.

Sweet Potato Casserole

For the casserole:

6 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla

Stir these four ingredients together until well combined and place in a casserole dish that has been lightly greased with grapeseed oil.

For the topping:

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice

In a small bowl, toss pecans with spices and then sprinkle them evenly on top of the sweet potato mixture.

Bake sweet potato casserole in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes.

This dish can be made ahead and then reheated in time for Thanksgiving dinner, thus saving you from having too many things to do on the day of your big meal. (Warning: You may have to restrain yourself if you hope to have any sweet potato leftovers for the day after Thanksgiving!)

Ever since I was a child, I have loved having homemade cranberry sauce alongside turkey on special occasions. This recipe was inspired by the delicious sauce my grandma and my mom have made for years, but it is made with maple syrup (in a much smaller quantity) instead of white and brown sugars.

Cranberry Sauce

2  12oz (340g) packages of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Wash and drain the cranberries. Place them in a pot with the water, orange juice, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. 
Bring pot contents to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and break down a little. Remove cranberry mixture from heat.
While the sauce is still hot, stir in the maple syrup.
Allow cranberry sauce to cool, then store in an airtight glass jar in the fridge.

This homemade cranberry sauce is a lovely addition to any turkey dinner, and the added bonus of making it yourself is that your house will smell delicious for hours afterwards!

Whether or not your family needs to consider food sensitivities, these Thanksgiving dishes are sure to bring a smile to all the faces around your holiday table. I wish all of you a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving!