Planning Around Thanksgiving

Veggiful Pasta SaladYou’re having turkey for Thanksgiving on Thursday, right?  Well, that’s okay.  Most of us are.  What about before?  And after?  Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle.  Yet  I like to try to make a firm contrast to the menus for the week so that the turkey stands out like crazy.

Pre-Turkey, we go for a veggie day, so while I’m chopping all those ingredients for the turkey dinner, I manage to combine a large Veggiful Pasta Salad (recipe follows).  We live on that for a day or two.  Then after The Day, when everyone’s sick of turkey and the inevitable leftovers, I have all the ingredients ready for a Mexican buffet–just as completely DIFFERENT from Turkey as you can get.

While you’re chopping everything but the kitchen sink to add to the typical Thanksgiving dishes, plan ahead and chop enough for the Pasta Salad and the Mexican buffet; you’ll be so glad you did.

As for the Mexican buffet, I won’t provide exact amounts, but the gist of the idea is this:

Pile up one end of your buffet or kitchen table with a huge bin of tortilla chips, a covered stack of warmed flour tortillas (or whole wheat, or spinach or whatever type you prefer).  That will begin your journey down the row as you select what pleases you from the following selection:

–A pan of browned ground beef that’s seasoned with chili powder, cumin, chopped onion or onion powder, garlic, and if you like heat add smoked paprika (if done ahead this is a breeze to thaw out–put the cooled meat mixture into a zip lock freezer bag, mashed as FLAT as possible and freeze–it will be a breeze to thaw in a pan of hot water in just a few minute when you’re ready for it).

–Grated cheese of your choice

–Chopped onions

–Chopped tomatoes

–Chopped jalapenos

–Chopped or sliced black olives,

–Sliced avocados or guacamole

–Freshly chopped lettuce

and any other condiments you prefer on top of nachos

I recommend you add a bowl of chopped pecans and a bowl of coconut to your buffet–really elevates the usual nachos or taco salad

–Your favorite salsa to top it off and to dip chips in try:

–My favorite dip, a brick of creamed cheese popped into a mixer bowl with enough picante sauce to thin it to your desired consistency.

And as for dessert, you can go elaborate if you’re up to it this close to the holidays, or just place a bowl of chocolate covered mints at the end of the table and allow the food to be the star.

BEFORE Turkey day, we always go vegetarian (actually, no one at my house knows this; but if they will think back, we never have anything substantial other than soup or veggie pasta on the day before The Day).

My Best Dependable Veggiful Pasta Salad

Here again, I’m sorry, Friends, I don’t measure.  I boil a bag of my favorite pasta (the 3 colored corkscrew) according to package directions; drain and then drizzle with olive oil  and toss to combine.   Allow the pasta to cool, covered, while you throw together either 1) all the veggies in your fridge that you wish would go away, and whatever packages in the pantry still have just a half cup left in them.  Or 2) about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of each of the following ingredients, chopped into varying shapes: (all are raw)

Broccoli                                   Carrots                   Cauliflower

Bell Peppers in 3 colors           Onions                    Zucchini

Frozen English Peas                Chopped Pecans (or whichever nut you have on hand, but I like their flavor the best)

Dried Cranberries–or blueberries or raisins if you don’t want cranberries

Chopped oranges or tangerines or apples, whichever sounds good to you

Don’t skimp on the sweet stuff…the twang from the berries and citrus really makes a complete flavor profile with the pungent dressing and the smooth background of the pasta.

When you toss the pasta and veggies, the dressing you’re going to mix into them varies.  Either be a wimp and use lots of Ranch dressing, the boring American favorite (just add extra dill).  Or use a good Italian dressing–if you add in a large spoonful of mayonnaise with the Italian it will coat the pasta and veggies better.

I also like Catalina dressing or Russian by themselves or mixed with mayonnaise to taste.  Now, I say these last three because they’re easiest to describe when someone needs amounts.  The actual dressing that I love to use is:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

plenty of garlic powder (1/2 tsp or hopefully more) , 1-2 teaspoons paprika, a big dollop (1 tsp) of oregano, a shake of  smoked paprika, a teaspoonful or so of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, then taste and see if it needs anything else.

And if you have Anti-Vegetarians in the house, throw in a few shakes of REAL bacon bits and you’ve conquered that argument.  A few cubes of Cheddar, American, or Smoked Gouda or a spoonful of Parmesan will do the same thing.

Mix like crazy, then allow it to sit if you can leave it alone for an hour or so.  I’ll cover my Tupperware bowl with the lid, and chill but pick up and shake really hard a time or two over the next few hours till meal time.

ANY substitutions are welcome; after all, it’s YOUR salad.  If you have corn, or yellow squash, or green beans–hey, it all works.  Just toss it in.

A bit of forethought food-wise will help to get your holiday a bit closer to worry-free.  After all, that’s what we want, the chance to celebrate and relax without a lot of work that makes it seem tedious.  So plan ahead, enjoy your Veggiful Pasta Salad, that wonderful Traditional Tom Turkey, and then the easiest Mexican buffet you’ll ever serve!  (anybody for turkey nacho’s?)

Bon Appetit and may God bless you as you give Thanks for all that He’s created and continues to provide.

…His Blessed Kid

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