I was always taught to be thankful. My grandmother told me to be thankful for all the toys I had and the Chanukah gelt she gave me. My other grandmother told me to be thankful I didn’t live in her old country so. My dad taught me to be thankful at odd times, such as when I got sent to my room for 10 minutes and he told me to be thankful it wasn’t 20. My mother tried to teach me to be thankful for my younger brother (like THAT was gonna happen!).
In Hebrew school, I was taught to be thankful for each new day and for the sun and the harvests and the Ten Commandments and the entire Torah that G-d chose to give to us instead of to another group. For a few years, I wondered who those other people might have been and if they would have sent their children to Hebrew school!
Anyway, being fairly bright, I got the idea, and so I said my prayers and the Sh’ma each evening and then listed all the things I was thankful for. I’m sure I never mentioned my younger brother — at least not then.
And then I grew up — a bit — and placed the idea of gratitude in a different place in my mind. I was grateful I passed that final in Adolescent Psychology because I kind of never bought the book because it was so expensive. Or I was grateful the editor printed my article in my college newspaper. Or that I got into the course I wanted, or that I got the job, or didn’t get the one I didn’t want but that my parents wanted me to take.
And then I met my husband and had my three beautiful children and, just one year ago this week, my first grandchild, a perfect, beautiful little boy. Being grateful and thankful has a whole new meaning.
Thanksgiving may not be a Jewish holiday, but to me it has meaning that is deeply rooted in my very early days of Hebrew school and my childhood when I was taught to be thankful, a lesson I have always remembered.
Plan ahead with these simple time-saving recipes that can be made in advance and will save you time on the busy day. These store and freeze well.
Turkey Stock for Stuffing and Gravy (Meat)
2 packages turkey necks, about 4 pounds
2 to 3 turkey wings
1 turkey drumstick or thigh
2 onions, cut into chunks
4 to 6 stalks celery, chopped
3 to 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 to 2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 leek, white and light green cut into 1-inch pieces
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil or use a throwaway half sheet pan. Set aside.
Place the turkey pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until golden, but not overdone. It is OK if some of the pieces are not completely cooked through.
Fill a large soup pot with water and add the onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, and leeks. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
Carefully add the roasted turkey parts. Use a bit of the water to gently deglaze the foil and carefully pour back into the pot. Let simmer for 3 to 5 hours, partially covered. Add more water, if needed. Add salt and pepper, but under-season as you will add seasonings in whatever recipe you use the stock for.
Skim off any foam that forms. When done, let cool and then remove turkey parts and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Discard or, if your family is like mine, eat and enjoy!
Pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a container and refrigerate.
When congealed, skim of any hardened fat and discard or save for a roux for the gravy. Makes 2 to 3 quarts. May be made 2 to 3 weeks in advance and frozen or 2 to 3 days in advance and refrigerated.
Simple, Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce (Pareve)
My family loves simple, no-frills cranberry sauce. The pomegranate juice adds a depth of flavor and the vanilla warms the flavor a bit. Use as much or as little sugar as you like.
24 to 36 ounces, fresh cranberries
8 ounces, 100-percent pomegranate or pomegranate cherry juice
2 to 3 cups sugar, more or less to taste
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Wash and pick over the cranberries and place in a large saucepot. Add the juice, partially cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for about 6 to 10 minutes, or until the berries start to burst and are softened. Add the sugar, mix well and continue at a strong simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring very frequently. Turn off heat and let cool. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Makes about 1 to 1-1/2 quarts. Make up to 1 week in advance.
Citrus Maple Glazed Yams (Pareve)
3 to 4 pounds, garnet yams, peeled, cut into one-inch chunks
1 to 2 oranges, peeled and cut in half and then segments broken apart
1 lemon, peeled, cut into pieces
2 to 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 3 tbsp. pareve, trans-fat-free margarine
1/2 to 1 cup pure, dark amber maple syrup
OPTIONAL: Toasted chopped hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts; dried cranberries or snipped apricots
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease two shallow roasting pans or disposable aluminum half sheet pans.
Place the potatoes, orange and lemon segments in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to coat. Pour into 2 shallow roasting pans, cover tightly and place in the oven. Cook for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and carefully uncover. Divide the maple syrup between the two pans, toss with a spoon to coat evenly and dot with the margarine.
Return to the oven, uncovered. Roast for about 25 to 40 minutes, until tender and browned in places. Remove from the oven and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with chopped toasted nuts. Serve with or without the citrus pieces. Serves 8+. This can be made two weeks in advance and frozen.
Super-Fast Sautéed Brussels Sprouts (Pareve)
1-1/2 to 2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned and ends trimmed
3 tbsp. pareve, trans-fat-free margarine
1 to 2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. thick, syrupy, balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Process the Brussels sprouts using a thin slicing disc in a food processor. You can do this one day ahead, Cover and refrigerate.
Heat the margarine in a very large skillet and add the garlic. Mix for 10 seconds and add the sliced sprouts. Cook, stirring often, until the sprouts begin to soften, 4 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the pan and mix well.
Cook another 3 to 6 minutes, until the sprouts begin to turn brown in some places. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a serving platter. Drizzle with the thick balsamic vinegar. Serves 8+. Make 2 days in advance and do not place on a platter. Reheat in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.