Countdown to the Throwdown: Planning a Thanksgiving Feast

I so love preparing a feast of epic proportions for my family and friends to enjoy.  I went to get a pad and pen to jot down my plan to keep from spending all day Thanksgiving in the kitchen this year.  Instead, I’m here, sharing my thoughts with you.  There will be four courses and lots of wine, and I want to partake in the festivities while I throw down in the kitchen.  As always, every single dish will be fresh and home made by me, except the pie crusts (total pains in the ass last year), the macaroni pasta, and whole grain cornbread, made from the Hodgsen Mill mix.  This will take some strategic planning.

The Branscomb Thanksgiving 2010 Menu:

1st course

Butternut squash soup

Green salad with grapes, pecans, and gorgonzola

Main course

Herb roasted turkey

Cornbread and crab dressing

Wild mushroom gravy

Roasted garlic red smashed potatoes

Macaroni and cheese

Old fashioned mixed greens

Sautéed green beans with shallots and almonds


Apple pie

Sweet potato pie

The plan:

Sunday – make herbed olive oil

Tuesday – make cranberry sauce and refrigerate.  Mix brine and refrigerate. Make butternut squash soup and refrigerate.

Wednesday – take frozen greens out and refrigerate.  Put together macaroni and cheese and refrigerate.  Put together sweet potato pies and refrigerate, make apple filling and refrigerate.  Bake cornbread. Saute dressing stuff and refrigerate. Soak the turkey in the brine.

Thanksgiving  day- Roast turkey, make mashed potatoes, saute green beans, toss salad, bake dressing, macaroni and cheese, and pies.  Fellow kitchen superheroes, what’s YOUR plan?


Nutritional Density: Let me break it on down (Part 3) Forget it, Just Eat Twinkies

Of course you have heard about the Kansas State University human nutrition Professor Haub, who lost 27 pounds eating Twinkies, donuts, candy bars, and other jank.  It was an experiment to test his theory:  “In weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most — not the nutritional value of the food.” So, that’s all folks, let’s just all stuff ourselves with ultra-processed snack cakes and live happily and skinnily ever after, Yay!


I absolutely hate these types of stories because in a society where the average viewer had the attention span of a flatworm, inevitably people will take this and run with it the wrong way.  So put the donuts down, I’m gonna break this on down for you right now.  Please share it with any over-zealous cake eaters in your life.


Every person is not fat for the same reasons.  Professor Haub expressed that pre-Twinkie diet, despite eating whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and occasional treats he wasn’t what he considers healthy, simply because he ate too much.  Too many calories, portion sizes too large.  So he was fat because he just ate too much.  On his Twinkie experiment he limited his caloric intake to less than 1800, instead of his normal intake of 2600 calories per day and lost weight.  However, not everyone is fat simply because of portion size/high caloric intake.  In many cases the culprit is an imbalance of the types of nutrients: fats, protein, and carbohydrates, which is directly related to nutritional density.  Take Judy (not her real name) for example.  Judy is from Georgia and grew up on some good old fashioned soul food, and you know what I’m talking about.  Fried chicken, greens with hamhocks, fried pork chops, and macaroni and cheese that would make you smack your mama.  Guess why she was fat.  She consumed way too much fat.  She did cut calories and portion sizes and would lose a handful of pounds and would very quickly plateau.  She wasn’t fat because she ate too much, she was fat because she ate too much fat.  Don’t get me wrong, she did have to reduce her overall caloric intake to achieve and maintain her healthy weight.  But the process went easier, faster, and lasted longer when she added more high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at the same time as her moderate overall calorie reduction.

On his nutrient deprived junk food diet the professor must have been starving, both literally and figuratively, and here is why.  Nutrient dense foods may have fewer calories but the comparatively higher water and fiber content makes these foods much more filling and satisfying.  For example, many years ago I used to eat Jiffy cornbread.  Jiffy is made with refined flour, is high in sugar and low in fiber.  [ 1/4 cup (1/6 package), 170, 4.5g, 27g, 2g Fiber: 1g]  I could eat the entire thing by myself, yes it is delicious!  But I switched to Hodgson Mill cornbread, which is slightly less sweet, tastes better, and is made with mostly whole grain, with [Serving size 1/4 cup (1/6 package), Calories: 130, fat: 1g, Carbs 27g, Protein: 4g, Fiber: 3g].  But the biggest difference is that I can’t eat another bite more than one or two slices of the Hodgsen Mill cornbread which adds up to about 130-260 calories, much less than the whole pan of Jiffy cornbread at whopping 1020 calories!

According to the highly respected Discovery Health expert, Dr. Mehmet Oz,

Since more than 40% of the calories in the American diet are derived from sugar or refined grains, both of which are nutrient depleted, Americans are severely malnourished.  Refined sugars cause us to be malnourished in direct proportion to how much we consume them.  They are partially to blame for high cancer and heart attack rates we see in America.

Nutritional density is extremely important to not only weight loss, but to overall wellness and disease prevention.  We didn’t even go into the disease discussion.

Families who live in food deserts, usually in very impoverished urban or rural communities, have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so they often rely on the kind of food Haub was eating. I also took offense to Professor Haub’s statement,

These foods are consumed by lots of people,” he said. “It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal. I just think it’s unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits. It may be healthy, but not realistic.

While I do agree that it is unrealistic (and unnecessary) to expect people to eliminate junk food entirely from their diets, I can not throw my hands up and say to hell with the fact that some communities basically get all of their food from convienience stores, and are suffering from obesety and various serious ailments as a result.  We will cover this important issue in a later post.

No Fake Ass Food and (New Rule) No Real Food Faking as Other Food

I saw this “healthy mac and cheese recipe” and my foodilicious panties got all in a bunch!  I am all for taking a classic dish and making it a little healthier.  Like greens, nowadays I use smoked turkey neck to season them if I’m using meat at all, instead of the traditional pork.  Or using whole grain pastry flour to make my pizza crust.

I saw this on the site of a totally cool healthy foodie but she lost major points on this one.  Here’s what’s in the fake ass healthy “mac and cheese”:

Looks delish huh?

spaghetti squash
nutritional yeast
Arrowroot starch (just for thickening)
lemon, juiced
dry mustard
sesame seeds or tahini
miso paste
sea salt

WTH!!!!  Does your macaroni and cheese normally taste nutty?  Lemony?  There’s no cheese nor anything remotely cheese-like!  I wanted this to be a good dish when I saw the spaghetti squash.  It has the shape of pasta but not the texture.  If you’re okay with that then mo’ power to you.  But one of the major attractions to mac and cheese is its TEXTURE!  It’s just not acceptable.  I’m being closed minded.  I’m not gonna even try that crap.  I may have been a little more understanding if this were not even offered as a mac and cheese alternative, but as spicy, lemony, nutty squash crap.  I’d try it then.

I have a better alternative to mac and cheese that won’t piss you off, cheesy quinoa.  Although quinoa is technically a seed it has a starchy mouthfeel.  And when you add some real cheese–badow!  you’ve got something your family won’t stage a violent mutiny over.  And oh, so simple:

Prepare quinoa as the instructions say.

Add a little milk or soy milk, stir in some mild cheddar cheese, and salt to taste.

Trust me!  I wouldn’t try to pull the wool over your foodie eyes.

It’s fine to substitute or make things similar to others but the nutty-lemony spaghetti squash trying to pass as macaroni and cheese is simply perpetrating a serious fraud.  Remember, everything tasty won’t kill you.

Hello World!

Some thoughts for today.

I have read some Gurdjief, a lot of Rumi, and studied a bit about “detachment” through Yoga, Sufism and Buddhism. I learn and take what I can from them. The stars and the moon, the tides of the sea, the rhythms of the wind and song of birds, the rhythms of the seasons- these are my Gurus. They are the Mistresses and Masters of all learning, of all being, of becoming and un-becoming. They are the only Mistresses and Masters to whom I can surrender myself.

If my work is about wholeness, it is because of my studies of our fragmentation. Nature is about wholeness, is wholeness. When something is out of balance, Nature re-balances itself. We seem to have built our societies on a culture of fragmentation, rather than integration and wholeness, which lead to growth. My answer to this is to paint women making themselves whole again, wholly integrated with Nature, because we are part of Nature, and to paint trees, and the sea and the moon. Over and over I try to present wholeness.

Noor Jihan is the Goddess of Art and Spirit in Motion. She’s a mystical, magical, woo woo, sparkly faerie mermaid whose favorite phrase is, “shut up and dance”. She is an elegant and graceful bellydancer, a patient, gentle, but tough vinyasa yoga instructor, and a talented painter. There is a deeply feminine, pantheistic, soulful energy to everything she creates. She is an animal lover, herbalist, experienced reiki practitioner, and tarot reader, and is always willing to share her priceless wealth of spiritual wisdom.