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home : news : news
January 27, 2023

11/18/2022 10:26:00 AM
The luckiest guy in the world
by JEFF NORTON


This Thanksgiving column is going to be very similar to last year’s — at least in the opening paragraph here.

I am thankful for so much this year. It’s hard not to be when you’ve been as lucky as I have with my wife, my family, my friends and my job.

Always the first person  I’m thankful for in this column of  expressing gratitude to those important people in my life, is my wife Aly.

We’ve been through so much over the last nine years and almost all of it has been great. We just got back from a short weekend in Florida, and I’m reminded so often of why I love her so much and why I couldn’t imagine life without her. I’m thankful that she’s by my side through thick and thin and that she makes me a better person.

I’m thankful for my family. My parents have always been there for me and supported me in everything I’ve done. Even some of the dumb things I’ve done!
I’m thankful for all the time I’ve had with my Grandma Norton and Aunt Lisa. They’ve both had some health issues recently, and I’m hoping for many more Thanksgivings with them but also understand that I need to appreciate the time I have with them now.

I’m thankful for my dogs Benny and Jett. Even though Benny has been a crab apple lately and been a bit of a pain in the rear, I still love him.
I’m thankful for a roof over my head, a job I very much enjoy going to and great people to work with, not only in the office, but at the schools.

I’m thankful for my friends who I golf, gamble, play volleyball and watch sports with. They provide countless laughs, almost nightly, even if it’s just in group texts.
I know this column is technically the week before Thanksgiving, but I also understand most people don’t see their Thanksgiving issue until the weekend after the holiday, so I wanted to make sure everyone in my life knows that I’m thankful for them and our relationship, whatever it may be. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and gets to spend it with those that they love.

+++++

GARLIC 
MASHED RED
POTATOES
8 red potatoes, cubed
2 tsp. crushed garlic,      divided
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. half-and-half cream
1/4 tsp. steak seasoning
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. white sugar

Place potatoes into a large pot and fill with enough water to cover. Add 1 teaspoon crushed garlic to the water for flavor. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Drain potatoes and add butter. Mash until butter is melted. Mix in half-and-half, steak seasoning, garlic powder, sugar, and remaining crushed garlic. Mix potatoes with an electric mixer until smooth.

+++++

PECAN SQUARES
CRUST
1 1/4 lbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

TOPPING
1 lb. unsalted butter
1 c. good honey
3 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 lbs. pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zest in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

+++++

CIABATTA STUFFING WITH CHESTNUTS AND PANCETTA
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) butter
8 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (7.4-oz.) jars roasted peeled whole chestnuts, coarsely broken
1/4 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 lb. day-old ciabatta bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1 c. (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 15 by 10 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a large bowl. Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and garlic. Saute until the onions are very tender, about 12 minutes. Gently stir in the chestnuts and parsley. Transfer the onion mixture to the large bowl with the pancetta. Add the bread and Parmesan and toss to coat. Add enough broth to the stuffing mixture to moisten. Season the stuffing, to taste, with salt and pepper. Mix in the eggs.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down, and bake until the stuffing is heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

TFD: “What if today, we were just grateful for everything?” - Charlie Brown



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