Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Easy as Pie

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Felt Turkey from Munky King Stuffed Show
Pie really isn't that easy to make. I don't know who said that! My personal culinary hero was the recently departed Peg Bracken. She wrote the "I Hate to Cook Book". Now, I don't really hate to cook, I just like to have lots of time to really plan my cooking. In this day and age of working overtime, traffic and busy schedules, who has time to cook? Not me, that's for sure! Besides, why waste time in the kitchen when I could be knitting or crocheting?
I used to cook all the time. I am a good cook. People expect me to turn out an excellent meal when I invite them to dinner. I usual comply. However, I have taken Peg Bracken's philosophy of using prepared, canned and frozen food to heart and have tried to come up with guaranteed crowd-pleasing side dishes with little or no effort.
OK! You are invited to a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. You don't have to bring the turkey (thank goodness), but you are expected to bring a side dish. Here are some easy "recipes" that will please your hostess and their guests. If you're going to make any of these recipes, you must go to the market right now! These are not last minute choices. There is de-frosting to be done!
That easy pie I was talking about? Well, it's pumpkin ice-cream pie. Get yourself a prepared graham cracker pie crust at the market. Pick up some seasonal pumpkin ice cream and a can of whipped cream. When you get home, leave the ice-cream out so that it melts. You may want to scoop a bunch out of the container into a bowl so it melts faster. Once the ice-cream is sufficiently melted, pour it into the graham cracker pie crust. Cover the pie with the plastic domed cover the crust came with and pop it back into the freezer overnight. When you're ready to serve the pie, top it with whipped cream and slice! This is an excellent substitution for "real" pumpkin pie.....very light and refreshing after that heavy turkey dinner!
Your hostess asked you to bring a vegetable side dish. Don't go all ordinary and bring that tired old green bean casserole with the mushroom soup (although this is an excellent dish, using my beloved cans o' stuff). Instead, bring a delicious spinach souffle. Back at the supermarket, pick up 5 containers of Stouffer's Spinach Souffle. Once at home, release the souffles from their packages. You may want to just dump them into that large bowl to defrost them, or you can dump them directly into your 13" x 9" serving dish. (Note: Awhile back, I was thinking of writing the "Dump and Shove-It Cookbook"). Once all the souffles are melty, smash them up a bit and distribute the spinachy goodness evenly in the serving dish. Bake the souffle according to package directions (usually about an hour). You may have to cook this a bit longer so it's not soupy. Keep a watch on it thru the oven door. You'll know when it's done. Pop your perfect souffle into a hot carrying case and take it over to your Auntie's house.

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Cousin Marilyn and Larry @ Past Family Gathering
If your hostess asks you to bring something starchy...something like potatoes? Dazzle her and say that you'll bring a Mac 'n Cheese casserole! This is the same idea as the spinach souffle, above. This time, go to Trader Joe's and buy 5 containers of their frozen macaroni and cheese, it's positively delicious. If you don't live in an area where there is a Trader Joe's Market, then good ol' Stouffer's can be substituted. Defrost, place in baking dish, smoosh around. I like to add extra grated cheese on top with some bread crumbs and a dash of paprika before baking....about 35 minutes.
If you volunteer to bring the cranberries, you can do this at the last minute. Buy a can of whole berry cranberry sauce (the chunky kind). Then, buy a can of mandarin oranges. Open up both cans, drain the mandarin oranges and cut them up a bit Mix the cranberries and oranges together, place in an attractive serving bowl, chill and serve. If you really want to impress, grate a bit of orange rind as garnish on the top.
You'll be the hit of the party with your divine contributions to an excellent meal!
What is my family doing this year for Thanksgiving dinner? We're going to a restaurant!!!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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At 8:58 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That picture of Larry is priceless. Like a little kid anxious for the line to move along.

Happy Thanksgiving Ellen!

At 9:01 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS: All your ideas are great!
My favorite trick is to get the oven roasted veggies at Whole Foods. They are all yummy with some kind of orangey sauce, and they are vegan so they fit in with our son-accomodating menu.

At 9:46 AM PST, Blogger Kath said...

I'm also a big fan of Peg Bracken, but I have to say I like your cookbook idea quite a bit! And I am so going to use your pumpkin ice cream pie recipe, I can also see how that could adapt to other seasons easily using a different ice cream. Thanks for sharing that!

I get Real Simple magazine and one of my favorite sections is the "Fake It, Don't Make It" page where they show you how to throw together something that's delicious and looks like it was a whole lot more work. My favorite is the spinach lasagna using layers of frozen spinach and large raviolis!

At 10:44 AM PST, Blogger Jenn said...

I would so buy a book called "Dump and Shove it!"
GReat tips, thanks! And happy thanksgiving to you!

At 12:28 PM PST, Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Ladies! Thanks for your comments! I'm so glad I could make your T-giving cooking time easier with more time to knit and crochet!!!

Oh Kath! I forgot about that ravioli as lasagna idea! Thanks for reminding me!

At 2:03 PM PST, Blogger mary said...

I love your "dump and shove it" recipes! Just up my alley! have a great one!

At 5:44 PM PST, Blogger Madge said...

No doubt about it, you must write The Dump and Shove It Cookbook. Love your recipes, esp. the mac n cheese which I have been lucky enough to taste firsthand.

Wishing you, Larry and your families a yummy turkey day!

At 6:02 PM PST, Blogger mehitabel said...

Peg was my hero, too. But you could definitely make the grade with the dump-and-shove it idea. I even have a few great recipes I could contribute--with all those hungry teenagers in the house, I learned to do quantity, quality, and quick!
Enjoy! My mother's answer to what she always made for Thanksgiving: reservations!

At 10:55 PM PST, Blogger Viva Scrapper! said...

I totally baked a pie for the Pre-turkey day shin dig we attended... made a Pear and Ginger pie...Ok so Everyone though it was apple and it got about the same attention as the ready made Marie Callanders Pumpkin year I'm gonna get a pie at Denny's and say I made it myself.

At 10:56 PM PST, Blogger Viva Scrapper! said...

p.s. I don't cook for love...I cook for compliments...=)

At 6:44 AM PST, Blogger Allison said...

Ellen, I think you should write that cookbook! I have a few recipes I could contribute.

The pic of Larry is hilarious!


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