We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Bahama Mama in Atlantis — Paradise Island

My Traveling Tales by Michelle

"Happiness is a day at the beach." ~ Unknown

"Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. Women need solitude in order to 
find again the true essence of themselves; that firm strand which will be the indispensable 
center of a whole web of human relationships." ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

   Recently I traveled solo to Paradise Island in the Bahamas to exhibit at an accounting conference. Tough duty, I know. But someone's got to do it, so it might as well be me. All kidding aside, it has been a difficult year full of trials and tribulations, and if you follow our sisters' blog, you will have noticed the abrupt change in blogging status since January.
   A one week getaway is exactly what I needed even though my time away from home would not technically be a vacation. I had one ticket to paradise and I would surely make the most of my non-working hours. And so it was, just as I had hoped, that after a week of embracing 'island time', and letting the stress flow away from my body, I was ready to get back to my 'real' life. I committed to myself that I would try to hang on to island time for as long as possible after my return.

The Royal Towers features the Bridge Suite, one the world's most expensive guest rooms at $25,000.00 a night. I particularly liked the the sea horses as architectural accents.
   On a Friday morning in Tucson I rose at 3:00 a.m. to start my travel day. Fourteen hours passed before I reached my final destination. It seemed as if everyone on the final leg, the flight from Atlanta to Nassau was headed to the conference. I had a nice chat with the accountant sitting next to me, Pete from Northern California, a quiet, professional elderly gentleman was looking forward to the days ahead partaking of educational courses and networking with peers and exhibitors. The next time I bumped into Pete it was at a vendor sponsored party at the resort's nightclub, Aura. Free booze flowed like a river for three hours. In a room full of accountants, there was much speculation over the sum of the bar tab. The three co-hosts surely gained a lot of American Express points that night.

The DJ shoots fog over the dance floor. As Austin Powers would giddily say, "Yeah, baby, yeah!."
My friend Kaydee hooping at the confrence's after-hours party hosted at the nightclub, Aura.
   The time was approaching ten o'clock, and the party had been raging for two hours. Pete's gray hair was disheveled, his shirt untucked, and he was three sheets to the wind. Amazingly, he was still on his feet, walking nonetheless, and had a silly grin on his face. When he saw me slowly passing him, his unfocused eyes suddenly zeroed in on my face in recognition. Pete stopped walking, which stopped the flow of human traffic behind him. I nodded my head at him, as if to say without words, "Hey there!" Pete grabbed my shoulders to stop my forward motion. He then proceeded to plant a big kiss on my cheek. I was thankful that his lips were dry. He staggered. I grabbed his waist, steadying him. As a potential future customer, I gamely smiled, patted his shoulder once I was sure he was once again somewhat balanced on his feet. Mom-style I advised him to be careful, wiped my cheek for good measure, then continued weaving through the maze of people who were idly popping some moves while gazing down upon the gyrating bodies that were getting their groove on the sunken dance floor. The blaring dance beats bounced off the walls and ricocheted across the night club. The laser lights zigged, then zagged. The strobe lights flashed. I was instantly twenty-two again when the DJ spun a set of 80's music. We whooped, we hollered, we danced, we had fun. I didn't see Pete again.

Weddings are held in the beach-side cabana that overlooks the aquamarine waters of the ocean. 
I learned from a friendly marine biologist that was seated next to me on my return trip home that the Bahamas is home to the second largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere.
   While checking-in I learned begrudgingly that I was assigned a garden view room. That would simply not do. C'mon, I'm on an island. I live in the desert. I want to gaze at the beautiful turquoise ocean as much as possible, even if it is for a limited time everyday. Upon my not-so-subtle prompting, the registration representative noticed that I was staying an entire week. A view of the ocean was definitely in order, we both agreed. The friendly Bahamanian pulled some strings to help a mama out. After a ten minute walk from the registration desk in the Coral Tower lobby to my Beach Tower room, I stood poised to slip my card key into the lock when I heard the air conditioning vent bellowing like a freight train on the other side of the closed door. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep with that racket. As I opened the door, the light from the hallway illuminated the darkened room in a dim glow, I could see that even in the low light that the room was unkempt and obviously needed maid service. The bed had been slept in, the covers were thrown back, the top sheet looked like a crashing wave tumbling over the shore of the wrinkled comforter. A quick glance at the bathroom yielded a view of  used towels piled on the bathroom floor. Because it was 9:30 at night, I thought the perhaps the room might be occupied. Regardless of the state of the room, I went to the window and pulled back the closed curtain and sure enough, there was indeed an angled view of the ocean from the deck.

The Queen of Atlantis holds court. 
   Back downstairs I went, thankful that I wasn't dragging my overstuffed luggage behind me. God bless bellmen. I politely informed the lone employee who stood behind the concierge desk about the state of the room and the bellowing of the air conditioning vent. The young woman, who seemed to be on a word fast, tipped her braided head to peer at a computer screen and began tap-tap-tapping on a keyboard, clearly with the intention of assigning me a new room. Once again I felt trepidation over being on the receiving end of a garden view room. Hesitant to interrupt, but doing so anyway, I kindly shared my desire for an ocean view with the stoic woman. Without making eye contact, the concierge simply nodded her head and continued to stare at the computer screen without saying a word. I did my best to be patient. I'm sure she's tired of hearing the same tired request over and over again. Oh well, I thought, hope for the best and see how the situation unfolds. I learned later during the week that my experience was not unique. Many attendees that I spoke with at the tradeshow had changed rooms not once, but twice due to varying problems with the air conditioning and plumbing.

The incredible view from my room in the Beach Tower, which I was grateful for everyday.
   For the second time that night, I entered a darkened room in the Beach Tower. The first thing I noticed was that air vent whispered cold air into the room. Silence is golden. I flicked on the lights. The beds were precisely made, the closet was empty and the white towels in the bathroom hung appropriately in place. The washcloths looked like splayed peacock feathers and were placed decoratively inside carefully folded hand towels. Once again I pulled back the closed curtain that covered the sliding glass door. To my delight, through the glass I could see by the moonlight that the view from this room was better than the room before. Before me was a magnificent view of a pool and beyond the pool and unencumbered view of expansive ocean. I opened the glass door and heard the waves rolling over the sand.
   In the end, for a little hassle, and a nice concierge that didn't seem so nice while she was reassigning my room, I wound up with exactly what I desired. The room itself was fine, nothing to write home about, overall the hotel looked a little tired, but at least is was clean and had an amazing view. I called to ask the bellman to deliver my bags and then I had just enough time to grab a slice of pizza topped with jerk chicken and sliced banana peppers before the take out joint closed at eleven o'clock.

I learned it's not so easy capturing photos of the active sea life in the lagoons and aquariums. 
   To illustrate the size of Atlantis, the water park alone is built on 143 acres. Between the three towers—Beach, Coral and Royal—and the condo-hotel, The Cove, there are over 3,000 rooms. In addition to the pools, slides, and both fresh water and salt water lagoons, there is a two mile stretch of beautiful beach, the sand soft and white. The shallow ocean water is luminous clear green before mutating into dark blue in the deeper depths. I could clearly see the interplay of colors from my vantage point of my ocean view room. My friend, Monica, said that staying at Atlantis is like staying on a docked cruise ship. The experience is much the same. Atlantis is all there is on Paradise Island. You can take an excursion into town, but the round-trip shuttle ride just seems like a big pain in the neck.

A view of Paradise Lagoon. The Beach Towers are in the center and the Coral Towers on the right.
My favorite outdoor bar on the property sits under the cover of the seashell covered roof.
A favorite water attraction is tubing along the mile-long lazy river. 
   I enjoyed my time in the Bahamas. Mainly, I think, because I was by myself. Kate, a colleague from New Zealand was my booth buddy for the tradeshow. Kate had her own room and we maintained our own schedules unless we were working, or meeting in the late afternoons or early evenings for cocktails and then dinner. That was ideal. I could rise in the mornings, put a hat on my head and walk the seven minutes to the Coral Tower to order coffee and a croissant at Starbucks. I'd bring breakfast back to my room and sit on the deck, looking out over the pool and ocean like a Queen surveying her kingdom while sipping a venti latté and slipping flaky bites of croissant into my mouth. While I enjoyed my morning respite, the staff below worked at a steady, unencumbered pace while cleaning the pools, arranging deck chairs and feeding the sea life in the surrounding lagoons.

A stairway leading to the Predator tunnel is located below the Lagoon Bar & Grill.  
The Lagoon Bar and Grill is surrounded by a lagoon filled with sharks.
I noticed some sharks at the bar, too. 
   I overheard plenty of couples quarreling in paradise over the course of the week. I thought, more than a handful of times, I'm glad that's not me. I have no one here to stress me out. No one I have to consider but myself and, of course, Kate. I did as I pleased. I ordered a Bahama Mama cocktail the size of my head and drank it down without guilt. I joyfully ate a croissant every day. I ate nachos slathered in pulled pork and doused with melted cheese. In between working hours, I wore sleeveless, flowing tank tops and didn't care if my arms looked fat. I did what I wanted, ate what I wanted, slept when I wanted. I came home to Tucson feeling relaxed. The question that loomed was how long the feeling would last. When I finally worked up the nerve to stand on the scale (I just couldn't help myself), I discovered that I lost nearly two pounds. That couldn't be right, I thought to myself. I weighed myself again, but the scale was consistent. I was consistently surprised. Twice over.

The departing view of the Bahamas from my seat at approximately 20,000 feet.
   On the way back home, I shopped the duty free shop at the Nassau airport. I looked at the prices listed for the various rums, whiskeys and scotchs and frankly the prices at my local Costco seemed better. I was about to exit the shop when I spotted a bottle of Nassau Royal Liqueur, which is a key ingredient in a Bahama Mama. I suspected that this particular liqueur would be difficult to source in Tucson, so I bought it and stuffed it with some difficulty into my computer bag. It felt like the weight of the roller bag doubled. Although I felt like a pack-mule, dragging that bag around, I'm glad I brought the bottle home.
   In the days following my return home, just as I could feel island time slipping away from me, I thought what better way to pretend we're in paradise, then to make a signature drink from the Bahamas. I gamely whipped up a gallon of Bahama Mamas for a family dinner over Memorial Day and they were a hit. By the end of the evening, there was nary a teaspoon left in the bottom of the pitcher. The fruity libation perfectly complemented Fallin' Off the Bone Baby Back Ribs and spicy chicken wings. Slurp down a Bahama Mama and you'll surely feel yourself slip into island time, too. No plane ticket required.

   Nassau Royal Liqueur tastes of vanilla and spice. Without the liqueur the cocktail would taste like a fruity kid's punch. The more complex flavor profile with the addition of vanilla and spice is especially nice. The Liqueur can be purchased on-line.

After a hard day's work, it's happy hour for Kate and me. Kate ordered a Piña Colada. 
My sister, Linda remarked that the Bahama Mama is as big as my head.
   "It turns out that the Bahama Mama is not just one-of-many monikers slapped onto overly sweet Caribbean crap drinks, but it actually is a concoction that, while varying from source to source, is a drink unto itself and will usually contain dark rum, coconut rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and grenadine." ~DJ Hawaiianshirt of Spirited Remix

   Even at Atlantis, where I ordered Bahama Mamas at two locations, the ingredients list varied slightly. This drink is on the sweet side, so you could very well choose to add a portion of Malibu rum, if you like the flavor of coconut. Recipes that added banana liqueur I shied away from because I don't particularly care for the taste of banana liqueur, and it wasn't included in the Bahama Mama's that I ordered at Atlantis.

Bahama Mamas for a Party

Yields 1 Gallon (16 8-oz drinks):

1-1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces) Myers's Dark Rum
1-1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces) Bacardi Dark Label
1 cup (8 fluid ounces) Kahlua Liqueur
1 cup (8 fluid ounces) Nassau Royal Liqueur
4-2/3 cups (38 fluid ounces) unsweetened orange juice
4-2/3 cups (38 fluid ounces) unsweetened pineapple juice
1-2/3 cups (12 fluid ounces) bottle Grenadine Syrup

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large container (I used a Cambro). Cover and chill. Serve individual portions over ice.

Single Serving Bahama Mama

1-1/2 ounces Meyers's Dark Rum or Bacardi Dark Label
1/2 ounce Kahlua Liqueur
1/2 ounce Nassau Royal Liqueur
2 to 2-1/2 ounces unsweetened orange juice
2 to 2-1/2 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
1 ounce Grenadine Syrup

1. Put all the ingredients in a shaker. Shake well and pour into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry, if you please.

I made sure to visit the various aquariums located across the property on a daily basis. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Paleo-Friendly Tangy Four Bean Salad

by Michelle
When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate
When life is sour, say thank you and grow.
                         —Shauna Niequist

Bean salad gains its unique flavor from lounging in a sweet and sour marinade.
   When I gamely agreed to adhere to a stringent Whole30 Challenge last January, I was forced to adapt favorite family recipes to fit within the rules of the program. I'm constantly tinkering in the kitchen so I looked at the requirement of adapting long-loved recipes as more of an adventure than a pain in the neck. Modifying recipes to be gluten-free or Paleo compliant has introduced me to a variety of new ingredients that I now include as standards in my already overstocked pantry. These items primarily include coconut-based items such as: Coconut Aminos, Vivapura Coconut Flour, Coconut Sugar, and Coconut Oil. I also particularly like Wellbee's Super Fine Almond Flour, Red Boat 40°N Grade Fish Sauce and Avocado Oil. I have also successfully swapped honey and homemade honey syrup for refined sugar in a number of recipes including salad dressings, marinades and beverages.
   This year for my "Going Clean in 2016" campaign that I kicked off the second week of January, I have further reduced the amount of unrefined sugar in my diet. I no longer add honey to my coffee, or any beverage for that matter, and I am consciously doing my best to identify and eliminate excess sugar from my diet whether it is refined or unrefined. I've been juicing vegetables everyday for a nutritional boost and I've started exercising daily. No matter what program my husband and I follow for improved health, one thing is for sure. He will not forsake Four Bean Salad. He loves it so. I documented his love for Four Bean Salad in this post with a recipe calling for granulated sugar.
   What makes Four Bean Salad so delicious is the sweet and sour marinade. Honey is actually sweeter than granulated sugar, so it should not be swapped one-for-one in a recipe. For a non-baking recipe, to replace one cup sugar, you can reduce the same amount of honey by two to four tablespoons, depending upon your desired final outcome. We like the marinade to be on the sweeter side, so I reduced the amount of honey by 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup.

Red bell peppers take the place of kidney beans in a paleo-friendly bean salad.
   To be clear, this recipe is not Whole 30 compliant. It is loosely Paleo-friendly, if the garbanzo beans and kidney beans are omitted. I say "loosely" because a Paleo lifestyle completely eliminates refined sugar and only small amounts of honey are allowed. Granted, this recipe has a lot of honey, but my husband and I use a slotted spoon to scoop up portions of the bean salad as a quick and tasty topping for green salads and we let the marinade drain back into the bowl. From my unscientific estimates, once the beans are drained, most of the marinade is left behind. After I finished being stringently Paleo, garbanzo beans were added back to the mix. Why? Because we love them so. Especially in this super smooth hummus recipe. Divine!
   I tried to strictly eat Paleo through the last months of winter and in to early spring of 2015 and found the kitchen prep too labor intensive. And this revelation is coming from me, a person who cooks regularly from scratch with whole foods and lots of organic vegetables. I really tried to stay true day after day, but on hectic evenings when I just needed to whip out a dinner, I did what I needed to do (without guilt, I might add).

   I also went on a bit of a gluten bender this summer, especially with my trips to Denver, New Orleans, and Northern California. Life is short—I wasn't going to pass up trying a Po' Boy and Beignets in the Big Easy or Dim Sum in San Francisco or cup after cup of Linda's Aged Holiday Egg nog. (Seriously, that boozy eggnog is bomb.) I paid for it though around my mid section.
   Much to my chagrin, I finally stepped on the scale on New Year's Day. After squinting to read the digits with my near-sighted eyes, I made a very sad frowny face, and then stepped off the scale. I may have even blurted, in an exasperated tone, a bad word or two. I didn't need a crystal ball with me in the bathroom to foresee my immediate future. I'd be joining the other millions of people who resolved to embark on a bright and shiny new year by undertaking a new eating and exercising campaign.
   I have once again locked down my eating and exercising routine. Unfortunately, this is not my first weight-loss rodeo. It's back to careful eating, with a splurge here and there (I am human after all), and it's definitely back to the gym. Channeling Nike's slogan, I just need to do it. At least I can still have this Four Bean Salad as part of my forthcoming eating regimen. Hallelujah for small graces in the kitchen.

Paleo-Friendly Tangy Four Bean Salad

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Juliette's Badass Bloody Mary's

by Michelle
"It is not so much a drink as a lifestyle." 
—A tourist from England describing the Bloody Mary that my sister Juliette 
prepared for him at St. Elmo Bar in Bisbee, Arizona.

  New Year's Day is officially National Bloody Mary Day. Yes, there is such a thing. Little wonder then that such a day is proclaimed after such a night as New Year's Eve. For all of you that are about to party like it is 1999 (which I fondly recall as one my happiest, best New Year's parties ever), you'll want to prepare your Bloody Mary mix ahead of New Year's day. Don't delay, make it now!

A little throw back action to our Millennium NYE Party.
Bottom photo from left to right:Michelle, Jay and Linda
   I will boldly make this proclamation: no one makes a better Bloody Mary than my sister, Juliette. She's got the skills, she's got the know how, she's got the experience. And lucky for you, she's sharing her recipe right here, right now.
   The key to an excellent Bloody Mary is to prepare the mix a least a day ahead of time to allow the tomato-y goodness to rest and let the flavors meld. Juliette compares making Bloody Mary mix to preparing a great soup. It's always better the next day.

Juliette's Badass Bloody Mary's + Variations

   Juliette recommends making the Bloody Mary mix at least a day before you intend to use it. It will keep in the fridge for at least a week. Back in the day when Juliette tended bar at St. Elmos in Bisbee, she used both V8 and Clamato in equal proportion. Then one day she read the label on the Clamato bottle and discovered, much to her surprise, that the ingredients list contained both high fructose corn syrup and MSG. What the H? Out with the Clamato and in with the clam juice. Feel free to omit the clam juice if you have any vegans in the house.

Makes one large pitcher of Bloody Mary Mix:
1 can (14.9 fl. oz.) Guinness® stout beer
2 quarts (1.89L) V8 Vegetable Juice
1 12-ounce bottle clam juice
about 1/2 cup green olive juice
4 key limes halved and squeezed
1/4 cup Lea and Perrins® Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Tamari (Gluten-Free) or soy sauce
1 Tbsp celery salt
1 heaping Tbsp prepared horseradish, such as Bubbies®
1 heaping tsp Better Than Bouillon, Organic Beef, Chicken or Vegetarian base diluted and smoothed with a little hot water
1/2 tsp Lawry's® Seasoned Salt or Trocomare®
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
10 good shakes Tabasco®, or to taste
10 good shakes Jalapeño Tabasco®, or to taste
10 good shakes Chipotle Tabasco®, or to taste

Per Serving:
3 ounces Vodka

stalk of celery, pimento stuffed green olives and lemon wedge and/or lime wedge
pickled veges, such as: okra, cauliflower, asparagus or green beans

In September I began making fermented vegetables. We garnished our
Bloody Mary's with fermented green beans, asparagus and Giardiniera.

The fermenting caps by FARMCurious are terrific. Two thumbs up!
1. To make the mix, in a large 3 quart pitcher, add everything but the V8. Whisk well, then add V8. Mix again and refrigerate. This mix is best used cold (put the booze in the fridge or freezer too while you are at it). 
2. To make a Bloody Mary, fill a pint glass with cubed ice. Pour 3 ounces of an inexpensive good quality Vodka such as Svedka, Smirnoff, or Skyyy - anything else is overkill - you won't be tasting the vodka much anyway! Fill glass with mix, add a squeezed lemon wedge. If you like, cap the glass with a shaker and shake vigorously. Pour the Bloody Mary back into the pint glass and add celery stalk, olives and your choice of pickled gourmet veggies. Juliette prefers one extra long fancy frilled toothpick with okra, sweet cherry pepper, and cauliflower.

1. Bloody Shame - sans alcohol
2. Bloody Maria -  with tequila instead of vodka
3. Bloody Caesar - rim the glass with celery salt
4. Bloody Samurai - use Sapporo instead of the Guinness, wasabi instead of horseradish, Sriracha Chili Sauce instead of the Tabasco, and tamari (or soy sauce) instead of the Worcestershire. Use pickled green beans and long dried pieces of seaweed (Ito Wakame) for garnish. 

On the left, homemade Giardiniera and on the right, fermented asparagus. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Classic Pumpkin Pie — A Salvation Sisters' Day After Thanksgiving Breakfast Favorite (Gluten-Free)

by Linda

"Cut my pie into four pieces, I don't think I could eat eight." — Yogi Berra

   My brother-in-law, Jay, is fond of saying, "Nothing ruins a good dinner like dessert," and my sister, Michelle, who is married to Jay, has become fond of repeating this sentiment over the many years of their marriage, as well. As I have gotten older, I have grudgingly leaned more and more toward this perspective, although I do enjoy a scoop of ice cream, a piece of chocolate or a little something sweet after dinner from time to time.
   When it comes to Thanksgiving, our family has come to agree that when it comes to the biggest meal of the year, having a big slice of pie not too long after eating a very large dinner, is the final coup in feeling overly full and uncomfortable—an unpleasant exercise in gluttony.

   Not ones to cast aside dessert completely, especially at Thanksgiving, our family has stumbled upon a solution to this issue that seems to please everyone. I am pretty sure that we are not alone in adopting this tradition, but I have yet to see a food magazine touting having the requisite pumpkin pie for breakfast the morning after—which is what we now do.

   On the morning after the big day there is no 'Black Friday' for this family. We have traveled long distances to be together and enjoy each other's company. First one up makes coffee, and then as we wake up and gather in the family room, each of us grabs coffee and pie at our leisure. With a fresh palate, I enjoy my slice so much more the day after.

Vignettes from Michelle's beautiful holiday tableau.
My nephew Paul and his son Parker are top right.
My son Jordan and our mother Dianne are bottom left.
Our family enjoys a lazy morning after the big meal.
My nieces Avalon and Sonora take time to pose for a photo with their cousin Jordan.

Salvation Sisters' Classic Pumpkin Pie (Gluten-Free)

by Michelle

   This pumpkin pie is a combination of our Grandma Elsie's batter and Libby's recipe that is printed on every can of pumpkin purée. To make pumpkin purée from scratch you would peel, cube, cook and mash small pumpkins that are labeled "sweet". This one of the few occasions where we honestly like using canned pumpkin better than fresh based on taste, texture and ease of use. You may choose to substitute one rounded tablespoon pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, however the taste will be slightly different. Do not freeze a pumpkin pie, as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.
   I like to garnish the pies with piped Cream Cheese Frosting flavored with Amaretto liqueur and cinnamon-sugar dusted Pie Crust Cookies made from the leftover dough. 
   As part of a dessert buffet, the pies are gorgeous displayed with Apple Crostatas or All American Apple Pies and Pecan Tassies. Homemade Marshmallows or Meringue Cookies are a fun addition as well as Brownies for the die-hard chocolate crowd. 

The photos above are of the Absolutely Delicious All-Butter Pie Crust
that is gluten-free and gum-free. Your guests will never know the difference.

All-Butter Pie Crust 
Absolutely Delicious All-Butter Pie Crust (Gluten Free and Gum Free)

The remaining scraps of pie dough are great for making pie decorations.
Michelle purchased the cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma.
Jordan gives his mom the 'stink-eye' for bringing out the camera too early in the morning.
Pumpkin Pies—just out of the oven and piping hot.
Ingredients for Pumpkin Pie:
2 unbaked deep-dish pie shells of your choice from above:
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar, or 3/4 cup granulated and 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves 
1/4 tsp nutmeg
6 large eggs
29 ounces (about 3-1/2 cups) 100% pure pumpkin purée
2 tsps pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
24 fl. oz. half-and-half or evaporated milk, or a combination of the two

1. Arrange two oven racks so one sits in the middle or lower third of the oven and the other on the top shelf or upper third. Place a large cookie sheet on the top rack. The cookie sheet will act as a shield for the pies as they bake to prevent the crust and surface of pie from over-browning. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, vanilla extract and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk or half-and-half. Pour evenly into both pie shells.
3. Place pies side by side in the oven. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate pies after 30 minutes for even baking. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. If you wish, decorate rim of pies with piped cream cheese frosting and pie crust cookies. Serve with whipped cream. Yield: 2 pies

Pumpkin Pie: It's what's for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving at our house.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Retro-Style Thanksgiving: Mom's Cranberry Fluff Salad

by Linda

"Most of us have fond memories of food from our childhood. Whether is was our 
mom's homemade lasagna or a memorable chocolate birthday cake, food has a 
way of transporting us back to the past." — Homaro Cantu

   Recently when questioning our mother about the origins of one of our families long standing accompanying dishes to our family's Thanksgiving menu, she said that she does not really remember where the recipe came from. She said that she remembers making it one year, and the kids were wild for it—particularly our cousin Larry.

   I remember that it was one of those sides that became part of our traditional menu. So much so that it is still being made for our gatherings today. Michelle and I made it this past year when my son Jordan and I joined the family for a Southwest Thanksgiving holiday when we all gathered in Tucson to celebrate the day.
   This past year as I quickly chopped the cranberries to an even minced consistency in the food processor, I reflected on the days when I was a girl and helped our mom prep the cranberries on Thanksgiving eve with an old-fashioned meat grinder which was clamped tightly to our bread board in the kitchen on the farm in Lompoc. I loved the popping noise they emitted as the berries were crushed by the augur and then forced out the mouth of the grinder into a bowl.
   More dessert than a real salad, but still fifty times better that anything made with gelatin (however our niece Avalon vehemently disagrees with this bold statement as she absolutely adores molded berry spiked red Jello® on the Thanksgiving table) this fluffy pink side has remained unchanged and beloved by our family, and is now considered by us to be part of the requisite heritage sides for the big feast. Make the young and old happy at your house by giving it a place on your Thanksgiving buffet this year. It is a beautiful addition to a Christmas menu as well.

Down home, nothin' fancy Thanksgiving buffet. Just good eats and no fuss.
Cranberry Fluff
by Michelle
   Aside from being a beloved national holiday, I suspect most people adore Thanksgiving because it is a perfectly balanced meal flavor-wise: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The meal is an umami flavor bomb. To help contribute to the sweet portion of the meal, the favored combination is typically sweet potatoes or yams and cranberry sauce. Although it fell out of favor for awhile on our Thanksgiving table, I was reminded again last year of the joy of having Cranberry Fluff in addition to Cranberry Sauce on the menu. The sour portion of the meal is brought to the plate with Tangy Four Bean Salad, which we like to make Paleo-Friendly with a honey syrup and red wine vinegar marinade.
   The minced cranberry/marshmallow/sugar mixture for this dish needs to be made and then rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours before assembly of the final salad, so plan accordingly.

2 cups raw cranberries, ground
2 cups tiny marshmallows
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups peeled, diced tart apples (such as Granny Smith)
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup broken walnuts or pecans
1/4 tsp sea salt

Garnish: There is a note on the recipe card to trim each serving with a cluster of green grapes, if desired.

1. Combine ground cranberries, marshmallows and sugar. Cover and chill overnight.
2. The next day, add apples, red grapes, walnuts and salt. Fold in whipped cream. Chill. Turn into serving bowl, or as presented in the 1950's and '60s, spoon into individual lettuce cups. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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