I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Give thanks for pumpkin pie

When I was a kid, I overheard two woman having a conversation about how they dreaded the holidays.  They were griping about having to shop and wrestle with the tree and this, that and the other and they were just going to be so glad when it was all over.  As a kid, I just could not imagine the horrid thought of not wanting to celebrate the holidays!  How could you not look forward to putting up a Christmas tree and baking cookies and going to parties and having loads of presents from Santa??  I vowed right then and there that I would never be a grumpy grown-up like them.

But guess what? 

In those years of teen-angst when I wanted nothing more than to become an adult, I didn't realize just how much of a rip-off adulthood actually is.  I didn't know that I would grow up to become a woman who did not acquire the seemingly mandatory female shopping gene and someone who hated crowds. I didn't realize it would be challenging to scrape together extra cash for buying gifts because there were so many bills that needed to be paid.  And where does one find the time to totally redecorate their home and bake dozens of cookies and attend holiday parties after they work 40+ hours each week? 

I can totally sympathize with those women from long ago and fully understand what they were talking about.  Now, don't get me wrong - I've managed to overcome these obstacles in years past what with the advent of online shopping and 0% interest credit cards and such. But on top of everything else, I have had alot of sickness in my family these past few months and a recent tragic death and I don't feel like "doing" the holidays this year.  Even my favorite holiday, Halloween, passed by without much fanfare this year and Thanksgiving will be much the same.  I don't care about all the hoopla and bling - I just want to spend time with my family and loved ones and be thankful for yet another year together. 

With my recent switch to more real foods, I wanted to prepare a Thanksgiving feast this year with nothing but real food.  No processed soups in my green bean casserole.  No canned turkey gravy and no white flour in my breads and desserts.  But there was no motivation to research and test recipes.  No excitement to shop for ingredients.  No desire to prepare food for days to impress my guests. 

Boy Toy is in charge of frying the bird and I'll do the regulatory sides, but nothing fancy this year.  I made my favorite Trader Joe's Copy Cat Cranberry Walnut Tart and cranked out a couple of pumpkin pies.  I used my secret ingredient in the pies: Chinese Five Spice.  I love this stuff!  It is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves but the addition of star anise, Sichuan pepper and fennel give it a subtle kick. I like to use it interchangeably in recipes like my cinnamon roll recipe that calls for alot of cinnamon.  I know it sounds weird to use peppers and fennel in a sweet recipe, but trust me, it works.  The mixture is not overpowering at all and leaves people wondering what the taste is and feeling like they can't quite put their finger on what it is exactly . 

Serve this pie with freshly whipped cream and give thanks that it is so easy to make! 

Easy Pumpkin Pie
Serves 8

1 frozen deep dish pie crust, thawed
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1-1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten

Heat oven to 425.  In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients.  Pour into pie crust.  Carefully transfer to oven rack.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 and continue baking 30-40 minutes longer or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool 2 hours; refrigerate until serving time.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

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