Ciao'd while watching Chopped Junior. Really?


Like so many cooks, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The pre-game starts a week or two before the holiday and with each day comes a task or two. Stir up the cranberry sauce and roll the pie crusts (freeze 'em). Chop vegetables for the dressing and bake off those pies. Before you know it, you've cruised into the day before the big day (yes, you can make your mashed potatoes the day before). Set the table. Stock the bar. Finally, the kick-off! Chill the wine. Bring the turkey to room temp, season it and stick it in the oven. Cue the seductive aroma that lures guests into the kitchen. We all know this. You can create a magnificent hors d'oeuvres presentation on the sideboard and a lovely selection on your bar cart but everybody slinks into the kitchen - and stays. It's a tailgate for the big game aka dinner. 

As time has tumbled the years, the years have tumbled me, too. Count the wrinkles. I used to insist on making EVERYTHING for Thanksgiving. The turkey. The dressing. The sideshows. The pies. Even the rolls, God help me. When family and friends asked, "What can I bring,?" it was all I could do to sputter, "Wine." 

But now I've seen the light. I've quarterbacked many a holiday but I've realized that there are some plays I dread. I am not a baker. The pie crusts know this and they always fight back, shrinking in the pie pan. I would rather not make the appetizers either, but I  realize that if I assign that task to a guest, she/he may arrive late and that is so not cool. Fumble in the end zone.

So here's my theory re: appetizers: If you are relegated to making the appetizers, you can always buy them (shout out to Trader Joe's stuffed mushrooms). If I were a bigger person, I would do the same. You can serve shrimp cocktail (and you should) and maybe even a crudité platter for those guests who refuse to cast aside their CrossFit and Paleo diets.  

Hear me on this, though. While the turkey is roasting, the football games are toasting. That means a dip. That means a time-honored dip. And yes, my teammates, that means Onion Dip. Sure, you can opt for the soup mix based dip, no judgment, but why not make it from scratch? It's super easy and yes, you'll exalt in the applause from the spectators. After all, isn't this what playing for a crowd is all about? 

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This onion dip is "honest" because it's homemade and "good" because it's downright delish. Its sweet caramelized flavor and sinfully creamy texture make this dip irresistible. If you have the time, refrigerate it overnight and the flavors will sing even more harmoniously. Serve with potato chips, crackers, or vegetables.

Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Dash (or more) of hot sauce
Chopped chives, for garnish

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onions, a generous dash of salt, and the thyme and sautéuntil just beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and golden brown, another 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the onions to a bowl and let cool.

Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice to the onions and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. Garnish with the chives.  

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Ciao'd after setting out sunflower seeds for the winter birds. Welcome home. 



I live on the corner of persnickety and passionate. Sometimes I step off the curb into the universe of me. I am no longer young and malleable, though I try to remain open-minded. Age may be a bias but it allows the privilege and pleasure of making declarations and pronouncements.

I have a political hangover (don’t we all?). The events of the last week put into perspective the small things in life that ultimately define a life. I can’t control the zeitgeist but I can revel in my little world. The good looms large above it. The ridiculous ripples through it. So, yeah, I thought what the hell? Let’s let go of what the future may portend globally and stroll through the universe of me. Namely, a litany of my pet peeves and a symphony of my passions.  Something tells me you'll relate to at least a few. First, the peeves (even the word is annoying).

People who turn without using their turn signal. You are so lucky you haven’t been rear-ended. By me. On purpose. 

When people say “on accident.” It’s “by accident.” Take note Chance and Reyn.

Cold soup when it is supposed to be hot soup. If I can make this happen in my home kitchen, why can’t you restaurant people deliver it, too?

My husband’s bare feet touching mine. No further comment.

People who park in handicapped spots when they are clearly not handicapped, except by their sense of entitlement.

People who enter a store and then stop in front of the door. Especially the boneheads who do this while on their cell phones. I'm guessing these are the same people who phone it in crosswalks and on busy sidewalks, too. Forget Smartphone. This is Dumbphone at its finest. 

“Gluten-free” with no medical justification for the claim. Novak Djokovic gets a pass because he rocks. 

“Reply all.” Don’t.

Cyclists who hog the road by riding two or three or four across. And pretending they don’t see me riding their asses.

Fellow power yoga people who not only shower sweat but smell, too. Men, I am talking to you.

Okay, so. While  I could go on (and on) with the peeves, let's tack to the bright buoys. Like these:

The words “whisper,” ‘prairie,” and “lagniappe.”

The fat red squirrel who visits every morning. His name is Hilary. As in the Everest climber.

People over the age of 75. They are fonts of wisdom.

Sunlight illuminating stained glass windows in an old church.

Mary Oliver. Her poems. She is a national treasure.

The scent of tennis balls newly sprung from the can. Please let one be my lucky ball. 

The random souls who smile back when I smile at them. Love and kindness.

Parmesan, prosciutto and sparkling wine. Together.

My son’s laugh.

My husband’s patience.

Life teeters on the cusp of good and bad, happy and sad, hope and despair. I’m lucky to be a glass-half-full denizen of our crazy world. Except when I’m not.

We need beauty to nourish our souls. Whether we read a poem, contemplate art, ingest a child’s smile, or notice the sun rising, these perfections inspire us. They calm us. They save us from the insanity.

So here, the simplest, beautiful decoration for celebrating the season and punctuating the Thanksgiving table. You were wondering what to do with those pumpkins that still lurk on your porch, right? Well, here you go.  Laugh at the peeves. Give thanks for the passions.


Pumpkins (and squashes, too) come in all sizes, so they're perfect for stacking into a sculptural centerpiece for the table. Let your imagination guide you. If you like, include winter squashes and root vegetables, too. Be sure the top pumpkin has its stem intact. 

Here's how:

Arrange the pumpkins on a platter or cake stand with the biggest one on the bottom and the smallest on the top. Tuck autumn leaves or ivy, if you wish, around the base of the pumpkin sculpture and around the pumpkins in the sculpture, too.  Gorgeous!