Tender Heart, Tender Turkey

As a child, the work vs. play modes of your life aren’t that vastly different. Sure school is almost never fun when you’re 7, but then you have to consider there was always lunchtime, recess, chocolate milk in pouches, gym class, and a classmate’s birthday party. I don’t know about you, but I never looked so forward to holidays and spending time with family as much as I do now, especially compared to when I was a kid. While I love my working life and the hustle of New York, the ‘holiday family time’ is radically different from it. It’s a different sense of pace, a lot less responsibilites, endless amounts of days spent in jammies and nursing yourself through an entire pot of coffee, I crave that time these days.

Growing up, everyday life was frequently just like that ‘holiday family time’, although instead of working my way through a pot of coffee, it was probably 4 cans of Vanilla Coke….And at holiday time? It almost seemed no different, sure I was excited to celebrate something, but it also just seemed like another week with my family.

I wish as a child I knew how blessed those holiday moments were and how nostalgic I would get over them as an adult…

…Cozy mornings at my grandparents’ beautiful home in Elma, New York. The bedrooms always so dark, even in the bright mornings until my mother would come in & open the shades. Looking up from my green cot that I would sleep on, my sister almost always still asleep next to me in the bed, her full lips eternally pursed open & Winnie the Pooh stuffie nestled in her arm. I could hear the adults talking downstairs, clinking of glass breakfast dishes, lively discussions of various home improvements and political banter which were almost always lead by my Uncle Jim, my Aunt Lynda in the kitchen already prepping the turkey.

It was Thanksgiving, I was happy, Thankful? Sure, I was thankful but as a little kid, one doesn’t understand the complexity of appreciation much. I was mostly thankful that I wasn’t at school. I was mostly thankful that I could go watch the Thanksgiving parade while my Boppa fell into his late morning nap in his chair behind me. I was thankful that I could descend those step creaky blue-carpeted stairs and be greeted with cheery “Hi Gooey!”s and kisses from my dad and dear Grammy. I was thankful that those mornings were always filled with mini powdered doughnuts and sweet nut küchens, bowls of mixed fruit that compared to the doughnuts were lack luster but mandatory to eat for grandparently promises of regularity. I was thankful that later that day I would see other aunts and uncles, cousin and second-cousins, who would eagerly play along with my 7 year-old desires, i.e. using their lipstick, playing “house”, riding on the handicap stair lift, etc.

Looking back at those Thanksgiving days, I’m much more thankful for those moments, much moreso than I ever was a child. It’s those memories that have further enriched my life and all its goods, why I’m so blessed with each holiday that passes. Who knew creaky stairs and powdered doughnuts could have such power?

As I grow up and begin filling Thanksgiving with different memories and new traditions, I’ll leave you with this simple recipe, the first thing I’ll be making for the big feast with Dustin’s family. Perhaps it’s a recipe that may become a new tradition, perhaps not. As I slowly paste together my own traditions that I can continue as an adult, I’m constantly reminded on those of my youth, and realize that it’s not about the recipe or how the food tastes, but rather the company you keep while enjoying these meals & the appreciation that you have in your heart for them. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Note: This recipe is vegan and from the Minimalist Baker, while I haven’t tried to make a non-vegan version, I’m sure you could use dairy milk and real butter without any issues.

Simple Vegan Dinner Rolls
Ingredients:
-2 Tbsp. organic cane sugar
-1/2 tsp. sea salt
-1 packet (2 1/4 tsp.) rapid rise yeast
-2 C. unbleached all-purpose flour (sub up to 1/3 C. whole wheat pastry flour), plus more for kneading
-1/2 C. unsweetened plain almond milk
-1/4 C. water
-2 Tbsp. non-dairy butter, plus more for topping

-In a large mixing bowl, combine 3/4 C. flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
-In a separate mixing bowl (or small saucepan over medium heat), microwave the water, almond milk, and ‘butter’ until warm, about 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit (:45-:50 seconds depending on the strength of your microwave). It should be the temperature of bath water, if it’s too hot it can kill the yeast.
-Add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat for 2 minutes, scraping sides as needed.
-Add 1/4 C. more of flour and beat for another 2 minutes. Then gradually add remaining 1 C. of flour to make a soft dough. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Let rest for 10 minutes.
-Divide the dough into 10 pieces, shape into balls, and place in a greased 8 x 8 dish or 8-inch round pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit, brush the tops with additional melted ‘butter’. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until fluffy and light golden brown.
-Serve warm & enjoy!

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