Thanksgiving Memories and Leftovers: Turkey Burritos!

     Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where bits and pieces of memories from years past weave their way through my mind creating a rich Thanksgiving tapestry of sorts.  So many stories come to mind and whole scenes from different eras in my life and lessons learned.
     When I was a young kid, Thanksgiving was not an extended family affair. This was because my parents were both European, and not only was our extended family too far away, they also didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.  My parents, who became US citizens of their own right, were dedicated to all American Holidays, however, and to make the occasion grand they always arranged for a traditional Thanksgiving feast and for us to share the day with family friends.
     Thus, even though I am of European descent, my memories of Thanksgiving as a kid include the sound of American football playing on the TV in the background, a bowl of whole nuts next to a roaring fire, and a very traditional feast with Turkey, cornbread, stuffing, rolls, some decadent vegetables/cream/cheese casserole, yams or sweet potatoes and of course mashed potatoes and gravy.  My favorite dish was the stuffing – specifically my mom’s version – which she must have had to figure out on her own without the benefit of family tradition . . . the torch got passed, however, and when I first got married and realized we wouldn’t be able to make it home for Thanksgiving, I called my mom to get her recipe.  (Below is the well-loved index card where I recorded her recipe.)
     The morning was always dedicated to cooking, the afternoon to eating and the balance of the evening to playing games. Pie and a walk generally happened at some point during the evening festivities.  In those days, the ultimate goal was to stay up long enough to have a turkey sandwich at midnight!
     Beyond the basics of the day, my memories of Thanksgiving also come with thoughts of gratitude and grace.  There have been many Thanksgivings where one or another person held us spellbound as they recited their version of grace, or where they shared their grandmother’s favorite grace, or made up their own, or where we all contributed and reflected on what we were thankful for.
     But I remember one Thanksgiving learning about another kind of grace too.  On this Thanksgiving we had been invited to my Auntie Jeanie’s house (she was a beloved adopted “auntie”). . . and now just thinking of her immediately makes me recall the moment, while she was in the process of dying, that she asked me to speak her eulogy, and me in reflecting on her beautiful life and it’s undeniable impact on me and those around her, summed her life up in two words: “dignity and grace.” Auntie Jeannie was lovely and charming  through and through.
     On this particular Thanksgiving, as we all sat down to dinner, we became aware that a Thanksgiving Day travesty had occurred:  the turkey was burned to an absolute crisp.  Auntie Jeannie, however, did not fret for even a second.  She never apologized.  She never worried about her cooking or what we all might be thinking or what we were going to do without a turkey.  She simply put the charcoal black turkey on a beautiful serving platter in the middle of the table and said simply “Oh, it looks bit black”.  Not a single additional word was said.  And, with that leadership, we all took heed and turned the focus back to each other and the conversation to more interesting topics.  There was plenty of other food and we feasted gloriously, turkey or not.
     To me this simple act captured the essence of grace.  She knew instinctively what was important that day–and the fact that she had burned the turkey was not the most important thing, not even worthy of further comment really.  We were, after all, ultimately most grateful to be spending the day together and enjoying each other’s company.
     Now so many years later, our Thanksgiving feast has had to change to accommodate wheat free, meat free, sugar free dietary constraints.  Thus many of the stalwart favorites that seem to be the cornerstones of a Thanksgiving feast are not options–is this a travesty?  Not a chance–no matter what ultimately ends up on the table, we get to spend the day together cooking and conversing – what could be better?
     Below is our menu from this year’s Thanksgiving feast:
·      One small turkey breast (for the non-vegetarians)
·      One Quorn Turk’y Roast (a meat-free, non soy product)
·      Gluten Free Vegetarian stuffing (see below)
·      Mashed Potatoes
·      Vegetarian Gravy (Allrecipes.com)
·      Red Onion, Orange and Grapefruit salad
·      Green Beans with shallots and onions (WholeFoodsmarket.com)
·      Sweet Potato and Pistachio Quinoa (Food.com)
·      Stevia Sweetened Pumpkin Pie in a nut crust
     I don’t plan to write out all the recipes–just the gluten free vegetarian stuffing, (But, if you are interested, feel free to contact me for any of the recipes above) It was a fabulous feast!  Old stories were told and new ones were born . . . .
Gluten Free Vegetarian Stuffing:
Mom’s recipe                                                Udi’s                                                Mine
1 lb loose pork sausage – spiced with salt, pepper, nutmeg, sage, poultry seasoning
Omit –see seasonings added below
Prepared spiced bread crumbs (Pepperidge Farms)
1 loaf Udi’s Whole Grain Gluten Free Bread; 1 loaf Udi’s White Sandwich Gluten Free Bread
1 loaf Schar Classic White gluten free bread; ½ loaf gluten free rye bread
2 -3 onions chopped
2 onions chopped
2 onions chopped
Chopped celery (lots)
½ cup chopped celery
1+ cups chopped celery
Homemade chicken broth
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup vegetable broth
1 egg optional
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 eggs, lightly beaten
chopped parsley
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup chopped flat parsley
1 Tbl chopped flat parsley
3 Tbl chopped fresh sage
3 Tbl chopped fresh sage
½ cup chopped fennel
1 Tbl ground fennel seed
Some of mom’s seasonings added to taste:  nutmeg, rosemary, thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and pepper to tasteMom’s version:  Fry pork then sauté onions in pork fat
··    Mom’s version:  Fry pork then sauté onions in pork fat
·      Gluten Free version – make bread cubes:
o   toast bread and cut into cubes, put in a bowl with parsley sage, salt and pepper
·      Vegetarian version:  sauté onion in olive oil
·      To onion mixture add fennel, celery
·      Combine onion mixture with bread crumbs  and add eggs, stock, cream and gently toss
·      Add any extra seasoning to taste
·      Transfer to a buttered shallow baking dish and bake covered for 30 minutes at 325 degrees; to brown cook uncovered for an additional 20 minutes
——-
So Thanksgiving, 2011 has come and gone, but I will leave you with one final postscript and my favorite recipe using Thanksgiving leftovers, which I picked up from my mother-in-law and which has become a tradition in our house too:
Turkey Burritos!
These turkey burritos are no ordinary burritos —no these infamous burritos include all the thanksgiving dinner leftovers:
·      mashed potatoes
·      turkey (cut into cubes) or Quorn
·      stuffing
·      green beans or other vegetable casserole
·      gravy
·      sweet potatoes
·      cranberry sauce
·      everything! – all mixed up in one big skillet.
     After heating and mixing all the leftovers in one big skillet, you wrap it all up in a tortilla (corn or flour) and add a little homemade salsa (tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno) and voila! Yum!!! – McCandless Family Turkey Burrito leftovers — perfect peasant cooking food.
     So, take a look in your fridge – are there still Thanksgiving Day leftovers?  Forget about Turkey soup – make Turkey Burritos.  You will love them.

And last but not least my mom’s stuffing recipe, faithfully recorded and, as I mentioned, showing much love from Thanksgivings past . . .

 

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