Are we still allowed to talk about Thanksgiving food?

For Thanksgiving, I tried a couple of new recipes. One of the nice things about having a large family is that none of us has to make very many things. We each just bring a couple of things and then we have a massive feast. This year I contributed Brandi’s Green Bean Bundles, Smitten Kitchen’s Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Smitten Kitchen’s Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart (I used this crust recipe, which I found difficult to work with, but it tasted good, so I guess that’s all right).

First up! Green Bean Bundles. Brandi has been swearing by the Green Bean Bundles for years, and I finally decided to pull rank on Mike (who loves his green bean casserole) and make them. Here is the recipe:

Green Bean Bundles
1 pkg hickory bacon
1 bag frozen whole green beans (not cut into pieces)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 stick melted butter
salt & pepper to taste

Cut bacon in half across the width (not lengthwise). Wrap 8 green beans in a piece of bacon, secure with toothpick. Lay bundles in 9×13 baking dish. Combine all other ingredients and pour over beans. Cover and bake 45 minutes @ 375.

I used two bags of beans and a pack and a half of bacon, so I tried to adjust the butter/sugar combo as necessary. I personally do not like the sweet/salty combination, so I would cut back on the sugar a tad, but other than that I thought they were great. I really liked it. And, more importantly, so did Mike. So we can switch over from the green bean casserole to this. (I like green bean casserole okay, but it’s not my favorite.) And my family liked them as well. Other cooking notes from me: We baked them for 45 minutes and then uncovered them and turned on the broiler for about 5 minutes to brown the bacon just a little bit more. Also, Brandi says you don’t need the toothpicks, but they were nice for serving, so if you are making it for a pot luck, the toothpicks are a nice option. I don’t have any pictures, but they were very good, and you should make them. The end.

Second! I made Smitten Kitchen’s Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake. Note to my family: I only used the bourbon in the cheesecake itself, so that baked out. I did not use bourbon in the topping. You’re safe.

You know what I like about cheesecakes? They seem hard, but they aren’t, really. I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into this compared to the compliments I got about the flavor. I had made a pumpkin cheesecake last month for our Great Pumpkin Party, using a different recipe, and it was okay but it tasted kind of like pumpkin pie. So Mike didn’t really want me making another pumpkin cheesecake, but I talked him into letting me try this one. And he was so glad I did, because this one is really really great. I will probably be making it for family gatherings from now on, because my family really enjoyed it. I highly recommend this recipe. (I have a bunch of friends who tried Pioneer Woman’s Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake, and I will be interested to hear how it turns out, but we will be sticking with this recipe.)

Special cooking notes: My brother really really liked the pecans in the crust. (I think PW did this for her cheesecake, too.) Mine isn’t as flat as hers on the top, but I think mine really could have gone longer in the oven, not that I heard any complaints. I was ready to take it out because Mike and I wanted to go buy a rug for our front room.

And, finally, I made Smitten Kitchen’s Cranberry Caramel and Almond Tart. I made it last year and it looked better, but I had a lot (LOT) of trouble with the caramel last year. This year I had more caramel, so I had more filling, and it overflowed a bit. I think I almost had too much caramel, so it didn’t look quite as pretty this year, but I thought the taste was a little more balanced. (Since I had so much filling, I might also have cooked it a little too long. Either way, it looks okay, but it tasted awesome.)

Alternate view from Mike’s phone:

That’s my grandma’s back porch, where all the desserts are kept. Mmmmmmmmm.

I used her great unshrinkable tart crust recipe as well, and it didn’t shrink, that’s true, but I was worried about it when I put it in the oven, because I couldn’t get it to hold together very well when I was putting it in the pan. However, it baked up just fine and tasted great. I am thinking that maybe I just didn’t work with it enough. It’s hard when recipes call for a food processor and yours isn’t large enough (HINT HINT) and they don’t give alternate instructions. I will say this – it did not shrink. It’s my own fault for putting too much filling in. (The recipe also calls for a nine-inch tart pan, and ours is bigger than that. So I kind of guess on the amount of filling anyway. I’m lucky this tart wasn’t an utter failure, is what I’m saying, because I was totally winging it.)

Last year when I made the caramel, there was a Great Caramel Disaster, but I managed it a lot better this time, which I am very proud of. I used my Martha Stewart cast iron pot, and that worked pretty well. Mike had bought a back-up jar of caramel just in case (at my request), but I didn’t have to use it.

So those were our Thanksgiving contributions. This year Mike didn’t make anything, because I am tired of him making things and upstaging me. He took Wednesday off and relaxed while I worked in the kitchen. And maybe this is a little late, but I am thankful for all sorts of things this year, including the following: political signs to count, goldfish crackers, 6th graders with sweet smiles, road trips, Trader Joe’s, Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat, Big Bunny, 5K races, Johnson’s cheeseburgers, Chuck Bass, new houses with new kitchens, summers off, New York City, novels that can’t be put down, my Roomba, hula hoops, college basketball, Triad Stage, board games, Eef Barzelay, hammocks, farm fresh vegetables, and, of course, my wonderful friends and family. Especially Mike, my mom, and my brother. (Hey, Mike, how do you feel about being on the same list as Chuck Bass? Pretty awesome, I hope.) I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We’re still eating leftovers here, so I’m pretty sure it’s okay to say that. (Even though it’s the first day of Advent.)

(Mike tried to play Christmas music on Thanksgiving, but I nixed it. But he started the Christmas music first thing Friday morning.)

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