The day after Thanksgiving was a beautiful day. We had no plans on that Friday – no errands to run, no school for the kids to attend, and no work to hurry off to. And, because of the abundance of leftovers in the fridge from the day before, there were no meals to cook.
After a lunch of turkey and dressing and green jello salad, we pulled the boxes of Christmas decorations out of storage and Sam unpacked our new artificial tree. Our old tree had two things going against it – first, the lights quit working on the bottom section two Christmases ago, and second, it was getting droopy. And while I love the smell of a fresh cut tree, my fear of the house catching fire due to spontaneous combustion of a crispy, dried out evergreen takes precedence any day. Hence, a new fake tree.
The kids and I unpacked the ornaments, and while I found high branches on which to hang the more fragile ones, Maddie and Oliver searched the lower branches for the perfect spot for each ornament they were in charge of hanging. The cats perched on a nearby chair, watching with anticipation as the sparkly objects were hung just out of reach, or so us humans thought. We took little breaks to warm our hands by the fire, because even though it was 68 outside, the house was chilly. And also because having a fire burning in the fireplace is a must when decorating the Christmas tree.
Later that evening, I cuddled on the sofa with the kids, the three of us covered with Oliver’s red blanket, and we watched Elf together. Maddie and Oliver snuggled together, laughing at the antics of Buddy the Elf and smiling when Zooey Deschanel’s voice filled the room with Christmas carols. The lights on the Christmas tree twinkled and gave the living room a warm glow. And I thought about how lucky we are to have each other.
Thanksgiving – the day itself and the days that followed – were filled with moments like these, moments of feeling incredibly blessed.
To me, that’s the beauty of Thanksgiving. It’s the one holiday of the year where the focus is not on material gifts — no baskets filled with foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, or plastic jack-o-lanterns overflowing with sweets, or stockings overflowing with gifts from Santa. On Thanksgiving, we can simply be grateful for those beautiful people who surround us.
On Thanksgiving, there are gifts, but they are ones that are less tangible and infinitely more valuable — they are the gifts of love and family and friendship.
And, of course, good food.
* * * * *
Even after prior bouts of recipe testing, I was at it again in the days before Thanksgiving this year. In an eternal recipe competition with myself, in attempt to best my own recipes, I’ve come up with the 2012 edition of the Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie.
I made two of these beauties for last Thursday’s feast. I always make them the day before, saving Thanksgiving morning for more pressing matters — like the turkey, the Parker House rolls, and my Waldorf salad. I used my all-butter pastry crust, and together, the combination is a winning one.
So this is the final edition, the easiest and best tasting pumpkin pie recipe I’ve got in my repertoire. And finally, I think I’m done. I’m done with the pumpkin pie testing.
Well, at least until next year.
Pumpkin Pie with Molasses
Yield: 1 9-inch pie.
The molasses flavor in the pumpkin pie is subtle but it adds a nice dimension to the pie. And while blind baking the pie crust seems like an extra step, I think it really is a necessary step. There's not much worse than a beautiful slice of pumpkin pie with a limp, raw bottom crust.
Pastry dough for a single-crust, 9-inch deep dish pie
3/4 cup (150 grams) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup half-and-half
1-1/2 tablespoons molasses
Blind Bake the Crust:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place oven rack in middle position.
On a well-floured surface, roll pastry dough into a 12-inch circle with a thickness of approximately 1/8-inch. Gently fit the dough into your pie plate, taking care not to stretch the dough, and trimm overhang to 1/2-inch. Crimp the edges with your thumb and finger or with the tines of a fork. Refrigerate the pie crust for 15 minutes.
Line the pie crust with parchment or nonstick aluminum foil (nonstick side down) and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully remove pie plate from oven, and then remove foil or parchment and pie weights.
Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Prepare Pumpkin Pie:
Whisk together sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl. Add in the eggs, egg yolk, pumpkin, vanilla, half-and-half, and molasses. Whisk the ingredients together until well blended.
Pour pumpkin pie filling into the still warm pie crust. Bake pie for 60 to 65 minutes, or until set in the center. Cool on a rack; serve with sweetened whipped cream.