Wednesday, 30 November 2011


This year, like last year, the Thanksgiving celebration sort of came together and evolved the week before. Of course I had planned to have some sort of dinner for ourselves and it was extra nice that Robbie had asked for the day off. One other thing I had to plan in advance was the pumpkin pie because I had used my last can of Libby's last year, so this year I knew I would have to try to cook a pumpkin and make it from scratch. So with that in mind, when I ordered our pumpkins for Halloween, I got two extra small ones to try to cook for Thanksgiving (more on that later). Other than these things, everything else sort of just happened, almost last minute. 

A week or so before, Robbie's niece Charlotte texted him and asked if she could come visit us and Auntie Nancy some time in the next week. She said that Thursday or Friday would be best for her. That set off the light bulb in my head and I told Robbie to tell her that if she could come Thursday around lunch time we could have a Thanksgiving buffet with sandwiches, etc. (same as last year) and it would be a perfect reason to have folks come over. As with our last year's celebration I posted an event notice on Facebook (a lot of Robbie's family are on Facebook too) saying that if anyone was in the area they were welcome to stop by. Robbie also invited his second cousin Robert Owen and called our next door neighbors, Robert and Linda Sloan; the minister and his wife. Since we don't really have a dining room or room to have everyone sit down around a table, a buffet of finger foods is the easiest way. Also, since the invitation was open-ended, whoever could show up could come by any time since Thanksgiving isn't a holiday here and most people had to work.

Since I had never done such a thing before I tried to get an early start--Tuesday--on the pumpkin. After doing some reading, researching on cooking sites on the internet and then asking for opinions on Facebook I decided to roast it in the oven. I cut up both small pumpkins, seeded them and put it all in a large roasting pan with a little water and covered it all with foil. I have to say that I had my doubts about it all because, as I've noticed before, pumpkins here don't seem to be the same as pumpkins I'm used to in the US. The flesh is a lot more stringy and fibrous and not as moist, which is why I put some water in the bottom of the pan to sort of steam it all. Everyone said that it wasn't necessary to peel it before cooking because the rind would come right off after cooking

...And this is the result--roasted pumpkin for pie? 
When I took it out I was first worried about the color. It was very yellow, not orange. Ok, we can live with that but even though I baked it almost all afternoon it wasn't very soft and the rind was not slipping off like most resources had said it would. I sat most of Tuesday evening, while Monsieur Robaire (Robbie) did my roots for me, cutting off pumpkin rind. The flesh was still pretty firm and fibrous. The best I can describe the texture was like an unripe, rather slimy, cantaloupe.

In case you missed that, yes, Robbie did help me dye my hair which needed it badly. He's ok as long as all he has to do is squirt the bottle on my hair and he does a pretty good job. He's just very slow and sometimes by the time he's gotten all the color on, the early bits have dried out! Oh well, he's cheap and it sure is better than the throw-it-on-and-be-done-with-it manner I do it! And, we all need to spruce ourselves up for the holidays, however we can! 

Allright, back to the pumpkin--Day 2. The next day, Wednesday, I had to get my baking done and decide whether this pumpkin would work or not. I thought perhaps it just hadn't cooked enough so I put it back into the oven, covered again so it wouldn't dry out, and hoped it would soften while I got busy with my other baking and preparations. 

First of all, believe it or not, I made salsa. I wanted to make something easy and quick for dinner that night and decided we'd just have a taco night. Since I like my own salsa and had the ingredients for it, I made that first so it could set and develop the flavors. Of course, by the time Robert got home I was tired and cooked out and wishing we lived near a Taco Bell...
Salsa, not your usual Thanksgiving fixin'
Salsa done, I got busy on my cheesecake. Thanks to Paula Deen I had seen her recipe for caramel pecan cheesecake and thought I'd adapt that for Thanksgiving. I knew I might need a back-up dessert in case the pumpkin pie failed and it sure looked like that was going to be the case. We don't have graham crackers here or pre-made graham cracker crust so I had to substitute digestive biscuits for graham crackers which is the closest thing I can find and make the crust myself. 
Digestive biscuits, the closest thing to graham crackers

...and we get out all our frustrations crushing them to crumbs!
With the crust, one of the tips Paula had was to add chopped pecans to the crumbs for the crust to give it a better taste and crunch and that's what I did since I didn't want to add them to the cheesecake itself. I also substituted brown sugar for white in the cheesecake and then topped it with caramel sauce when serving. 

The finished Caramel Pecan Cheesecake
When I put the cheesecake in the oven, I took out the pumpkin and it still wasn't any softer. There was just no way I was going to be able to mash it with my potato masher, I don't even think if I'd had a food processor or blender it would have been of any help. I really think that this variety of "pumpkin" was more of a squash or even a gourd! Certainly not the usual "pie pumpkin" you can get back home. I quickly texted Robert and asked if he could find me some sweet potatoes. I knew he was stopping to pick me up some last-minute things like mixed nuts and pickles for the relish tray so I thought I might try to substitute sweet potato for pumpkin and make a sweet potato pie.

I have never made sweet potato pie before but I have had it and, to me, it tasted just like pumpkin pie. I also knew that, over here, people certainly wouldn't know the difference but if I said "sweet potato pie" I don't think a lot of people would want to try it. So, because of the Thanksgiving tradition, I made sweet potato pie and passed it off to the unsuspecting folks of Scotland as pumpkin pie--I'm confessing that right now!

When Robert came home--finally--around 7:30 in the evening he brought the BIGGEST sweet potatoes I've ever seen. These were yams on steroids! I put the sweet potatoes in the oven to bake and we ate our tacos. By the time I had cleaned up the dinner, cleaned up the baking things from the cheesecake I was exhausted. When the sweet potatoes were baked they were perfect for mashing--and even the right orange color! I just had a whole LOT of mashed sweet potato now that is waiting in my freezer. I didn't want to make another sweet dish so what I didn't use for my pie is in the freezer now.

I checked a couple of recipes from cookbooks I have for sweet potato pie and they were practically identical to my mom's pumpkin pie recipe so I carried on with the mashed sweet potatoes as if it were pureed pumpkin. 

Sssh...I cheated with prepared crust...
With the pumpkin disaster, I didn't get in bed Wednesday night until 2am but I doubt I'm much different than a lot of women in the US who stayed up late finishing baking and cooking and preparing for Thanksgiving and then had to get up early the next morning to get the turkey in the oven and set the table, decorate, etc. etc.

As I said, Robbie had specially asked for the day off and because he doesn't usually have a day off during the week he decided it would be a good day to have his pension
 advisor over to go over some of his retirement finances. Yes, I'm rolling my eyes! She was a lovely woman but the timing was not good! He thought if he had her come over at 10:00 it would give him enough time to do his business with her before everyone came for lunch. As a man, I know he didn't think of preparations that needed to be done...(trying not to groan too much!). I finally had to interrupt and get the turkey going and other things in the kitchen. As I said, she was a lovely woman who had friends in the US so she knew about Thanksgiving. We did invite her to stay but she had another appointment to go to. 

Well, to make a story short(er), and without going into too many details about how a husband can not only be unhelpful but an actual hindrance (oh my!!)--our Thanksgiving buffet was laid, we had a lovely visit with Robbie's niece Charlotte Graham. Robbie and Charlotte went and picked up Auntie Nancy and our next door neighbor, Robert Sloan, the minister came over too. His wife Linda was in Glasgow for the day but came by later and had some pie and tea. 

Thanksgiving Buffet. Since I didn't have any seasonal tablecloths or napkins it ended up being a blue tablecloth with red napkins--guess that's appropriate after all...
Closer view of table-from top: nuts & nibbles, turkey sandwiches (with stuffing & without), relish tray, caramel pecan cheesecake and "pumpkin" pie. 
Robert & Robert: Robert Sloan & Robert McCord (with his cousin Robert Owen we had 3 Roberts in the house!)

Auntie Nancy and Charlotte
Robbie's cousin Robert Owen enjoying "pumpkin" pie 
As I said to most people to explain Thanksgiving, it's really about being grateful for what you have and being with friends and family--food included! By that definition, no matter the disasters, irritations, frustrations, things missing, things substituted and having to make do, it was a successful Thanksgiving for us. And I'm forever grateful for the ability to phone family and loved ones to speak to them not only on the holidays but anytime and grateful I can share this with all of you thanks to the internet! 

Hope your time of gratitude and warm glow of being with loved ones was a good one and we all take a few minutes to breathe and relax in the upcoming rush leading up to Christmas! More later!  

One final note: Thanks to Robert Owen for supplying the pictures of the people. The pictures of the food were taken on my camera on my phone. Anyone who would like recipes for any of these dishes just email me or message me on Facebook. I'm more than happy to share!

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