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Every Thanksgiving, my dad prepares the turkey, my mom makes various Chinese dishes, and I am responsible for any American sides or desserts that we want to have. Generally, this means that I am responsible for making (1) pumpkin pie, (2) cornbread stuffing, and (3) a sweet potato dish. When my cousin comes for Thanksgiving, I happily cede responsibility for (1) and (2) to her and serve as her assistant baker/sou chef. However, this year, I was on my own.

I haven’t found one particular pumpkin pie recipe that I can’t live without, so I usually scour epicurious for a recipe that (a) sounds good and (b) can be made with the limited baking tools at my parents’ house. My mom was never a huge baker, and I think a few hand mixers have come and gone since my childhood. One Thanksgiving, my cousin stocked our kitchen with a few baking essentials: measuring cups, measuring spoons, and spatulas. And as far as “stock” baking ingredients go, I’m surprised if my parents keep more than a half stick of butter in their refrigerator. But luckily, pumpkin pie can easily be made with few provisions/tools.

The cornbread stuffing is another epicurious gem that my cousin made one year and has since become an annual tradition. However, usually, due to the spartan baking kitchen described above, either my cousin or I will make the cornbread in advance in D.C. and ferry the loaves home. This essentially leaves only chopping and assembling for Thanksgiving Day.

I always look forward to my pie and stuffing preparations, largely because the yields are so addictively good. There are no mixes, premade pie crusts, or store-bought finished products involved.

So, how did this happen . . .?

What happened was that this year, I was so. tired. So, there was no pre-trip baking of the cornbread for stuffing. I decided that I would scrap the stuffing and just make corn muffins with green onions and sour cream from epicurious (once again), which my cousin and I have each made at home with limited provisions. But I still intended to make a simple pumpkin pie.

And then I got sick the day before Thanksgiving. That annoying, exhausting-kind of sick where all you want to do is sleep and will your ENT to clear. This made just the idea of my usual pre-Thanksgiving grocery trip for pie and corn muffin ingredients exhausting.

As I searched the web for a simple but not quite boring pumpkin pie recipe, my mom suggested that she simply buy a pumpkin pie. At first, I resisted. . . a store-bought pumpkin pie!? Oh, the horror. But then I was tired. And sick. And I have been making an effort to avoid choices that make my life unnecessarily hectic or stressed. And quite frankly, how much better could my homemade pumpkin pie really be? I didn’t even know which recipe I was using! So I resigned. And that is how we ended up with a “handcrafted, all natural” pumpkin pie from Whole Foods for Thanksgiving this year.

For the corn muffins, my dad told me he had a box of cornbread mix from Trader Joe’s in the pantry. I took a look at the box, the list of ingredients in the mix and decided that I could create a Sandra Lee-ish semi-homemade creation.

The mix essentially had all the dry ingredients for the corn muffins (flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and called for the addition of 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of oil, and one egg. Because the dry ingredients in the mix measured out to be nearly the same as the dry ingredients in the epicurious recipe, I made direct substitutions/additions:

  • 1 cup of sour cream (in lieu of milk)
  • 1/2 cup of melted butter (in lieu of oil)
  • the addition of another egg
  • 1 cup of chopped green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Although the mix had some dehydrated corn kernels already in the mix, I added another 1/2 cup or so of thawed frozen corn. To mimic one of the savory breakfast breads I had at Baked and Wired last month, I also added four slices of thick-cut bacon (chopped and sauteed before added to the mixture).

The only items I needed to send my dad to buy were bacon, sour cream, and butter. Although I had to describe where to buy bacon by the slice and what a container of sour cream looks like (you know your parents are immigrants when . . . ), this shopping list was significantly simpler and shorter than a from-scratch list.

The TJ mix box instructions called for an 8 x 8 pan, and I knew this would be a better option than muffins since I did not know the exact baking powder content. Alas, the only pans in the kitchen were 13 x 9, 9 x 5, or a muffin tray. So in the end, I went with the muffin tray . . .

With a 13-lb turkey in the oven, I used a countertop confection oven at approximately 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

And in the end, the “fortified” corn muffins were certainly not the prettiest, but they were pretty tasty! I thought the cornbread mix was a little heavy on vanilla flavoring (why add vanilla to cornbread??), but in a pinch, I’d make them again.

I hope everyone had a fun and *stress-free* Thanksgiving!