November 24, 2015

Dear Friends,

Four days after I met my husband he told me he loved me.

“You can’t possibly,” I scoffed, having heard that line before. “You don’t even know me.”

“Well, I really, really, really like you,” he responded.
That’s how I feel about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I really, really, really like to. So when I dine out on Thanksgiving and offer to bring three or four dishes, I really, really mean it. So can you imagine my chagrin when I arrived at my brother’s last Thanksgiving and saw the sideboard loaded with pies still in their bakery boxes?

When my brother called Sunday to ask if I’d bring my cranberry sauce and bourbon-mashed sweet potatoes to this year’s feast, I agreed and angled for cornbread stuffing.

“No, we have that handled,” he said. And for dessert?

“We’re making two pumpkin pies and buying a pecan pie,” he said.

“Could I maybe bring a pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust?” I wheedled.

Oh, yes. I think the gingersnaps cinched it.

So I get to make cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and a favorite cheesecake I haven’t had in years. I can’t even remember where I got the recipe but I’ve never found a better one. The cheesecake is rich
and creamy with a pronounced pumpkin flavor and just the right balance of spices.

By the time you read this my kitchen will smell like warm pumpkin and I’ll be wrist-deep in cornbread stuffing. Yes, I’m making the stuffing anyway, to go with the turkey I’ll roast Friday for Tony and me here at home. We won’t actually sit down to another Thanksgiving dinner. I just really, really like Thanksgiving leftovers, almost as much as I like to cook them.

P.S.: Tony and I were engaged two weeks after we met, so I guess he wasn’t handing me a line.


  • 1 1/4 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 12 walnut halves
  • Whipped cream

Mix cookie crumbs and butter. If grinding in blender, break up cookies first. Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes; cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Beat cream cheese, one cup sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in large bowl on medium speed until smooth.
Add pumpkin and mix well. Beat in eggs, one at a time, on lowest speed of mixer.

Pour over crumb crust. Bake at 300 degrees until center is almost firm, but still wiggles slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least three hours or overnight before serving.

For decoration, place two tablespoons sugar and walnuts in small pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar caramelizes and coats walnuts. Do not allow to burn. Spread on foil, separating nuts. Cool. Remove cheesecake from springform pan. Top with whipped cream and garnish with candied walnuts.
To skim or not to skim the foam that rises to the surface of homemade stock? I usually swipe away a few spoonsful and then and then say, “Screw it.”

Does it affect the flavor or just the looks? I found a guy who seems to know all about that scum.
Skimming is for aesthetic purposes,” writes Bruce Goldstein at

“The scum is denatured protein, mostly comprising the same proteins that make up egg whites. It is harmless and flavorless, but visually unappealing. Eventually, the foam will break up into microscopic particles and disperse into your stock, leaving it grayish and cloudy. The more vigorously your stock bubbles, the faster this process will occur.

“If the grayness or cloudiness bothers you but skimming is not an option for some reason, you can always remove the micro-particulates later through the clarification process used to make consommé.”

If you don’t want to skim, you sure as heck don’t want to clarify. Trust me.


A waitress at a restaurant Tony and I visited last week couldn’t contain her enthusiasm for the food at a taco restaurant down the street. Odd, no? Well, she was right. We checked out the other restaurant a few days later and loved the tender corn tortillas, the spritz of lime, the fresh herbs and inventive fillings. Get yourself to the Funky Truckeria and see what the fuss is about.

Two food truck chefs – from the Orange Truk and Wholly Frijoles – opened the small restaurant about a month ago. They merged their recipes and styles to come up with menu items such as the Southern Cali Mahi Mahi Taco with blackened mahi, feathered cabbage, avocado, fresh pico de gallo, queso fresco, chipotle crème, micro cilantro and lime on a soft flour tortilla; and the Tequila Lime Chicken Taco with lime-marinated chicken, chipotle crema, sautéed onions, queso fresco, micro cilantro and lime on a grilled corn tortilla.

The menu is all tacos with the exception of a couple of appetizers (nachos, risotto balls). The fresh décor is industrial Day of the Dead. The prices are easy to swallow.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday for brunch. Can’t wait to see what that’s about. The restaurant is in Norton Plaza at 3200 Greenwich Road. View the weekly menus on Facebook at TheFunkyTruckeria.


From Kevin Scheuring:
I’m curious as to why you suggest cooking a turkey breast to 170 degrees?

Dear Kevin: Because that’s what the experts (i.e., the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line) recommend. The recommended temperatures have fluctuated over the years, as the shape of turkeys have changed (the breasts are bigger now) and the science of food safety has advanced. I know that, bottom line, turkey meat must be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees, the temperature at which salmonella bacteria is destroyed.

So why 170 degrees? And why do the experts recommend cooking the thigh meat to 180 degrees? Hmmm. Curious, I phoned the Turkey Talk-Line. Flavor and texture are the reasons. “Thighs have to be really well done to taste good,” the Talk-Line pro said. “Otherwise it will taste like rubber bands.”
Breasts may be cooked to 165 degrees, she said. Cooking them to 170 degrees gives you a cushion to make sure the salmonella baddies are dead.

Everything you need to know about roasting a turkey, including time tables and techniques for roasting, grilling and deep frying, is at Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the subject that interests you.

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