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Joni Woolf: Wrapping up the Thanksgiving menu

During the past few weeks, we have featured a variety of foods for feast days — special times like Thanksgiving. We have featured cakes and several sweet potato recipes, and we used again a recipe we gave two years ago for making the dressing weeks ahead, and freezing. I now have three gallons in the freezer, waiting to be defrosted and baked for the big event. I have desserts planned — cakes, cookies, pies; have purchased the necessary ingredients for my favorite Bloody Mary (always a Thanksgiving morning treat); and have made a couple of old-fashioned snacks, like the ever-popular Chex Party Mix (does it ever grow old?) I am almost ready.
To all the traditional rich, delicious, and popular foods already featured, we now add something healthy — and tasty — those green vegetables that balance the carbohydrates and fats that will be in abundance on Thanksgiving Day. A healthy (as well as attractive) plate always balances color and texture, and green vegetables do that, in abundance. So, make your last lists and gather enough greens to balance the menu for this special day.

French Green Beans
1 ½ pounds thin green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
15 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 to 3 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, tarragon, basil)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then set the colander with beans in the ice water bath, making sure the beans are submerged. In the same pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and heat until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Drain the beans, removing all water, and return them to the pot, along with the tomatoes. Add the olives and herbs and toss to combine. Drizzle the vinegar over all, and stir to coat. Can be served hot, warm or cold.

Braised Cabbage
2 tablespoons bacon grease
1 medium head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
½ cup chicken stock or broth
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat the bacon fat over medium heat until sizzling. Add the cabbage and saute until the cabbage starts to wilt, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until cabbage is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. (This is one of my favorite ways to cook cabbage. I always have a bit of bacon grease saved for dishes like this.)

Broccoli Casserole
8 cups coarsely chopped broccoli (about 2 large heads)
Salt to taste
2 ½ cups Campbell’s mushroom soup
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 scant cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
½ cup chopped onion
2 large eggs, beaten
1 long sleeve Ritz crackers (crush in their sleeve)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Bring large pot of water to boil, and drop in the broccoli. Boil 5 minutes after it returns to boiling. Drain broccoli in a colander and put in a large bowl. Add cream of mushroom soup, eggs, cheeses, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into a casserole dish and top with crushed Ritz crackers. Drizzle melted butter evenly over top of casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 to 30 minutes, until top is golden brown.

One last Thanksgiving tip: Some of us really like cranberry salads and sauces made with whole cranberries. But there remain a few friends and family who want what they always had: the jellied cranberry sauce that comes in a can and is served in slices or chunks. So be sure you have 2 or 3 cans on hand, and serve it with a smile. It’s Thanksgiving — time to give thanks for all our kin and friends, and enjoy the moment. It is brief.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net