WHIDBEY RECIPES | Too many cooks in the kitchen

You’re probably familiar with the old saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” which I usually take to mean that having more than one or two people in the kitchen fussing over any one dish will almost always spell trouble.

When you’ve been cooking as long as some of my family members have, there’s no such thing as suggesting any changes in their time-honored favorites, especially when they are the holiday “specials.”

We all have our own way of doing things in the kitchen, and when I’m in someone else’s kitchen, I keep my mouth shut. I expect the same courtesy from those who come to “help” in my kitchen.

All of which leads me to the inevitable Thanksgiving dilemma; what to do about the newer, younger members of the family who suddenly have some ideas of their own about what they’d like to bring to the table.

One granddaughter, for example, a recently born-again vegetarian, is currently trying to work out a turkey substitute that she can mold into a shape resembling a small turkey. She hasn’t quite got it yet, but if she does, it’s welcome to the table, at a respectable distance from the real thing.

But, when someone else, who shall remain nameless lest she read this column at some point, suggests replacing the mashed potatoes with what she swears is every bit as good but much healthier glop (I can think of no other fitting name for it) made from some substitute material sold to IBS sufferers, I draw the line. I’ll do my best to accommodate her IBS/lactose/gluten intolerant system, but I’m not open to the recipes from her variant cookbooks.

And that’s that. She will no doubt bring her cooler loaded with things she is able to eat, and we’ll all be happy, but not if she stands around in my kitchen suggesting changes

I should consider making to the dishes I’m going to be preparing.

Truly, the biggest problem we have in our family every Thanksgiving is that each and every one of us has favorites that we look forward to every year, and invariably one or two of us can’t resist introducing everyone to a newly discovered “you’ve got to taste this.”

This results in a Thanksgiving table that looks as though it’s meant to feed a small army, with a heavy emphasis on vegetable side dishes and desserts. Oh, those desserts!

So, one week from tomorrow, with open arms and closed minds, we’ll gather together to once again share not only the food and the memories, but ideas and suggestions for how best to tweak some of the offerings to make them “just a bit spicier or sweeter or healthier or whatever,” all of which will be ignored by those of us who know exactly how it ought to be.

It’s all part of the family tradition when you have “too many cooks.”


My “Holiday Recipes” file is so fat, it’s hard to know where to begin sharing some of them here. Too many delicious dishes, so little time. But, here we go.

Pomegranates are one of the newer additions to our holiday table. They are fast becoming a very popular fruit now, not only because of their beautiful red holiday color, but because they’ve been proven to be very high on the healthy foods list.

Trouble is, some of us are still learning what to do with pomegranates, starting with how to extract the heart of the pomegranate, its seeds.

There are two or three methods for doing this, but the underwater method is much the less messy of all. Cut the crown end off, removing some of the white pith with it. Lightly score the skin in quarters, from the stem to the crown end. Put the fruit in a large bowl of cool water and let it soak for 5 min., then working underwater, break the sections apart, separating the seed clusters from the membranes.

The pith will float to the top and the seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Drain well and they are ready to use. (Be sure to keep it all under water; pomegranate splashing will stain anything you’re wearing.)

As much as I love pumpkin cheesecake, this pomegranate glazed cheesecake will be on the dessert table this year.


For the crust: 1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs

¼ cup ground toasted almonds

2 T. sugar

5 T. butter, melted

For the filling: 2 pkgs. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 pkg. (8oz.) mascarpone cheese

½ cup sugar

½ cup heavy cream, or whipping cream

4 large eggs

¼ t. almond flavoring

For the glaze: 2 t. cornstarch

2 cups pomegranate juice, divided (see instructions)

1 T. sugar

2 T. pomegranate seeds

To make crust: Combine vanilla wafers, almonds, sugar and melted butter in a bowl. Press the mixture onto the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake the crust in a preheated 350-degree oven until very lightly golden, about 10 min. Remove from the oven and allow to come to room temp. Leave the oven on 350.

To make the filling: Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar in a mixing bowl on med.-high speed until smooth. Beat in the cream, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each egg, then beat in the almond flavoring. Pour into the cooled crust.

Place the spring form pan with the crust inside a larger pan filled with about 1 inch of water. Bake the cake until the center is still a little soft but the edges are set and the top is lightly browned, about

60-65 min. Remove from oven and let the cake cool to room temp., then chill at least 4 hrs.

To make the glaze: Stir the cornstarch into 2 T. of the pomegranate juice and set aside. Bring remaining pomegranate juice and sugar to a boil in a saucepan over med.-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced to about ¾ cup, about 20 min. Stir in the juice/cornstarch mixture and simmer 2-3 min. to thicken. Let glaze come to room temp. then pour over the chilled cheesecake. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds. Serves 12.

Another fruit I don’t mind trying new ideas with are cranberries, which actually look like mini-pomegranates.

Along with the traditional cranberry sauce, I’m going to put together a batch of this chutney, which happens to be outstanding with venison, by the way, should you be having a venison Thanksgiving.


1 pkg. (12 oz. fresh cranberries)

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and diced

1 T. yellow mustard seeds

1 small shallot, peeled and minced

2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

5 T. maple syrup

3 T. sugar

1-2 t. fresh thyme leaves, more if you love the thyme flavor

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

In a saucepan, combine cranberries, apple, mustard seeds, shallot, lemon juice, maple syrup and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to med. and cook about 20 min., until the chutney has thickened somewhat. Remove from heat, stir in the thyme and walnuts. Transfer to a bowl, cool, cover and refrigerate. Serve as an accompaniment to roast turkey or almost any roast meat; excellent with venison.

Margaret Walton can be reached at falwalcal@msn.com.

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