As a food lover, I am fighting a constant battle between two ideals: 1) life is short and is meant to be enjoyed so eat whatever I want and 2) life will be longer and more enjoyable if I stay healthy and fit. I've come to the conclusion that all things in moderation is key, although that thought isn't exactly at the forefront of my brain when I'm staring down the barrel of an eggroll. However, I grew up eating a variety of balanced food so my tastes run to things that are generally on the healthy side. But that doesn't mean I don't like to see how the other half lives.....
Which brings me to Paula Deen - the Queen of Southern Cooking. I watch her show from time to time and always marvel at the amount of butter, mayonnaise and sugar in most of her dishes. Her sweet nature and southern drawl make for an all around entertaining show. Just don't watch it while you're hungry. Although most of her recipes seem appetizing (in a comfort food type of way), I have to admit I don't get the appeal of a shrimp "salad" which is made from chicken flavored Rice A Roni drenched in mayonnaise tossed with some shrimp. Yikes.
Paula Deen's Thanksgiving spread, however, takes the cake as being one of the most heart-attack inducing meals this side of the Mississippi (or the LA Reservoir). I know that Turkey Day is a day when most people set aside any diets (or willpower) and go for the gusto by putting as much food on a plate as possible. But man oh man. Check out the stick-to-your-ribs-and-arteries smorgasbord of Thanksgiving eats on this lady's table. Not a green thing in site!!
Let's start with a few "bite sized" appetizers while we all get our tummies ready for turkey. How about some mini cheeseburgers wrapped in puff pastry? They don't look so mini to me- each are about the size of Paula's hand. If you'd rather go for pork in your hors d' ovuers, there are some bacon wrapped breadsticks rolled in Parmesan cheese. The main course is your choice of a deep fried turkey or a turducken (chicken rolled in duck rolled in turkey with stuffing in between each layer). Don't get me wrong- it all looks good, but I think we've reached the 2000 calorie mark (per person) and we haven't even gotten to the side dishes! Speaking of which, how about some sweet potato balls? These consist of mashed sweet potatoes (mashed with brown sugar and a stick of butter) pressed around a giant marshmallow to form a ball, then rolled in a mixture of brown sugar, white sugar and sweetened coconut (er, because the two kinds of sugar don't already make it sweet enough?) The rounds are then baked in the oven so the marshmallow oozes out when you bite into these hefty balls. I had to agree with Paula when she exclaimed "Now can you believe that this is a vegetable?!" No, actually, I cannot. It looks exactly like a snowball. The Hostess kind.
While these little babies were baking in the oven, it was time to make the stuffing. No, not the stuffing that is rolled into the aforementioned turducken. It's time for the oyster stuffing, made with corn bread, white bread, saltines, butter and oysters. Are you getting full yet? Ms. Deen must have heard my "where's the veg?!" cry right through my TV screen and said "Nah, I am gunna take out my fresh corn and take off the kernels." My eyes brightened- could it be? A freshly grown veggie making it's debut at her Thanksgiving table? She then said "Nah let's take that cor-on and put it all in the bacon fat which we've already rendered." I didn't realize until later that the recipe was called "Mama's Fried Creamed Corn." After the corn is fried, it's finished off with (what else?) a stick of butter and crumbled up bacon. Move over traditional creamed corn- there's an even fattier version in town.
It's time for the dessert! It's a lovely apple butter pumpkin pie, topped off with whipped cream and crushed pralines. For those who think that apple butter contains actual butter, take heart. It's simply apples that have been cooked down and pureed into a butter-like paste. Phew! Saved a few calories on that one! The pie did look delicious but I can't imagine having the room for even a drop of water after all of that food.
Don't get me wrong. I think it's fabulous that Ms. Deen has built a virtual empire from humble beginnings with good, old-fashioned home cookin'. I realize that she is known for her country cooking and it usually involves something buttery and gooey. But I have to admit, the level of, hmmm, what's the word? Dairyness? Heaviness? Butterness? Baconness? of her Thanksgiving meal was particularly surprising. Even my sister called me and asked, "Are you watching this?" We were both in awe of dish after dish of such heavy food. I think I felt a combination of envy, disgust, longing, salavation (no, not salvation, salavation) and concern (for health!) watching the show. I guess I'll always be a girl who needs to see a little green on her plate.
But it was fun to see how the other half eats!
I can't include any photos of the show, so in the Thanksgiving theme, I thought I'd include some photos from my own Thanksgiving (my first doing all of the cooking) from last year.
Is it done yet? It's done!
Choux pastry waiting to be filled with pumpkin mousse and drizzled with maple icing and toasted pecans