Monday, November 21, 2011

Food, Glorious Food

After preparing us a plate of spaghetti with canned sauce, my friend Kathy said, "Remember, I'm a writer, not a cook."

I have lived by that ever since. It covers every eventuality in the kitchen and serves as the perfect excuse for eating out, something my husband and I do a lot.

While I do make exceptions (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, exhausted), cooking is just not my thing. It's a time-consuming, messy, math-heavy activity that is never as good as the photographs. And even if I really, really concentrate on a good outcome, it rarely happens.

I'd much rather read a book.

And now, three days shy of Charlie's favorite day of the year (like the Old Man in A Christmas Story, he is a turkey junky), I am schlepping canned goods from one end of the Jewel to the other.

After queuing in the checkout, a senior citizen continually whacked my backside with her cart.

Lady, I cannot move ahead in the checkout line because there is nowhere to move.

I haven't begun to cook and already I'm thinking Chinese restaurant.

My family is particular about food traditions. I bore myself silly cooking the same old things (that's you, green bean casserole). But try to swap out a few dishes and you'd think Santa wasn't coming to town.

When I mentioned the possibility of a new dish this year (keeping in mind our 2 1/2 year old grandson), our daughter told me I was making her nervous.

"What's this new thing you're making?"

"Something Zach might like."

"What is it?"

"Wouldn't you rather be surprised?"

"No way. Tell me."

"Mac and cheese. With Gruyère."

"Oh. Well. That's probably okay. But there must be spinach casserole. And don't forget the crescent rolls like you did last year."

"I don't remember that."


"How about you figure out the desserts?"

"Why can't you make sherbet parfaits like you did last year?"

I don't remember making parfaits last year. At all. Clearly, it was such an innovation that I dazzled myself into forgetting all about it.

What do you make for Thanksgiving that your family can't live without?

For us, it's Stephen's Spinach Casserole. Below is the recipe, the first -- and only -- time Naperville Now will ever post anything to do with cooking.

Spinach Casserole
2 packages frozen chopped spinach (The stuff in a box. Birds Eye is superior.)
6 oz. cream cheese at room temperature (use the remaining 2 oz. on a bagel)
8 Tablespoons butter, softened (yup, the entire stick)
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese (grated, ground, your preference)
1 can artichoke hearts, well-drained (you can buy big; you can buy quartered; it's all the same, just not the marinated in oil kind.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare spinach according to directions. Transfer to sieve (I own one of these precisely because of this recipe) and press out excess moisture with a fork or spoon.

Mix cream cheese and butter; stir into hot spinach.

Place cut artichokes on bottom of casserole. Cover with spinach mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake 30 minutes. Recipe is easily doubled.

Whole Foods. You didn't really think I made this, did you?


Anonymous said...

We are very simple cooks. Hugh and I can't do without the pumpkin pie and Steph cannot live without mashed potatoes and gravy to go along with the traditional turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your beautiful family!
The Beatties

Janice said...

Our very traditional menu is set for this year, but some fancy dinner in my future is going to include your spinach recipe, which I think should really be called "Spinach Cheesecake". The massive amounts of cream cheese and butter must offset any health value in the spinach, but once a year, could be worth it.

Lynn said...

In my family's opinion, holiday meals cannot and must not ever be changed. Each one of them "must have" certain things on the table, and I guess I'd be cursed for life if I, God Forbid, picked something up at, say, Boston Market (which we do not have here in the boonies). Clay's "must have" is a Jello Salad, but why it's called a salad has always escaped me. Maybe because it has celery in it. Here's the easy recipe:
1 large box orange Jello
1 can whole Ocean Spray cranberries
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chopped celery
Dissolve Jello in 2 c. boiling water, add cranberries instead of cold water. Stir, add nuts and celery. Pour into Jello mold and put in refrigerator until set.

Apparently this is something his stepmother used to make, and although he didn't really like her that much, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it. But it is a pleasant change from ordinary cranberry sauce, and it'll be on the table again this year. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the JP's and their families! Miss you guys!

Sharon said...

Well, we're shaking things up this year, a new stuffing and mashed potato recipe (Pioneer Woman). We'll find out after dinner how well they were received. Stay tuned and Happy Thanksgiving!

Beth said...

I have an old recipe for a broccoli and cheese side dish that my family loves. Thanks for including your spinach recipe, it may be our new favorite!

Alison said...

Our Thanksgiving would not be complete without the creamed onions. Also the cranberry sauce right out of the can. I do mix it up to get rid of the ridges. Happy Thanksgiving to all the JP's from the Johnsons!

Naperville Now said...

The ridges were the most compelling aspect of cranberry sauce!

Natasha in Oz said...

That Spinach casserole sounds great! I might give a try at my next Thanksgiving dinner. I love it that it's easy!

Hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful. Have fun!

Blessings and best wishes,

Linda @ A La Carte said...

I don't cook much now that my kids are all grown and gone. Still I love a turkey and dressing and leftovers!

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Since my hubby and I've been empty is so easy to just grab something out or to do something like soup and wraps. But I actually love to try out new recipes and love when we all get together when we do! For my post, I mentioned my hubby's favorite sweet treat this time of year. anywho....Thank you so much for sharing your Spinach recipe (it sounds yummy!) and also sharing your humour! haha love it!

Blessings & Aloha!
We live in Savannha, Georgia, with kids in Kentucky and Missouri...and my dad in Wisconsin, brother in Washington state, sister in Minnesota, and all my hubby's family in Hawaii! (Sure wish that we all lived in the same state!)

So nice to meet you! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Betty (picture circa 1951) said...

We always have bread sausage, no cornbread...just regular old bread that's cubed and left to dry out a little. I got the recipe from a friend when we lived in Virginia Beach, VA in the 1970's. It was her father-in-law's recipe. I also make gravy the way my mom made it. After all, she taught me and it's good.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

My husband does most of the cooking- I would rather clean up any day. I absolutely cannot do without jellied cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. And it has to be canned and it must have the can rib indentations on it, sliced thinly. Delicious. Thank you for the recipe! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Smoked salmon. My family won't talk to me if I don't make it.

seriously..they are such babies about it that it's actually ridiculous...

Teresa said...

I get to do the sage/giblet dressing every year, which is kind of weird because I'm a vegetarian.

Vicki/Jake said...

I don't like cooking either, but always seem to be the cook on Turkey Day. Next year I'm going somewhere else, or find a man who likes to cook...hmmm, maybe to Australia where they don't celebrate it:)
Enjoy your time with the family, that's what it's really about anyway.

Morning said...

awesome share,

will visit a friend for the day.


Annesphamily said...

I am grateful you shared with us today. I am also grateful to know you here. Enjoy your food no matter how great of a chef you are or arent! Your recipe sounds yummy. Mac n cheese is awesome. My oldest makes one with 8 different cheeses! I need a bank loan to buy the cheese! Hee Hee

Sue said...

Me, too. A writer, not a cook. But my family does love an appetizer that they call "grapefruit stuff."

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tracy said...

i am really enjoying all the thanksgiving recipes

anitamombanita said...

wonderful post. I don't know about your cooking, but you definitely got skills in the writing department! Thanks for the good laugh. Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheryl D. said...

We had mac and cheese at the Thanksgiving dinner we went to this year. Sublime!

Anonymous said...

I can't take credit for the spinach casserole; the recipe was stolen, (although improved) from The Master School (Dobbs Ferry, NY) Alumni Cookbook, circa 1978 - when a extra stick of butter, or two, didn't crimp anyone's style.

Reminder - the casserole works for Christmas, too.

Jenny said...

I love to cook!

That casserole is going on our Christmas menu!

I always wanted to have about a dozen kids living on a farm somewhere.

But pizza is getting better and better every year!

Thanks for a fun and delicious link this week!

I love your style of writing.