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updated: 11/5/2012 11:46 AM

Time to start Thanksgiving menu planning

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  • Tiny But Mighty Popcorn

      Tiny But Mighty Popcorn

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Geez. I'm still finding candy wrappers from Halloween in the couch cushions and already I have to switch into Thanksgiving mode.

According to the experts at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, you should finalize your menu two to three weeks in advance -- which is now -- to avoid forgetting anything.

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Honestly I don't have the menu set, but I do have some pretty solid ideas about the dishes I want on the table (a vegetable casserole, something with quinoa, for instance) but am still on the hunt for specific recipes.

One reason to be prepared is so you can start shopping and keep an eye out for early savings offers. Also, you can take advantage of Thanksgiving-themed cooking demos and classes offered around the suburbs.

Like Friday's class atDave's Specialty Foods, 105 W. Prospect Ave., Mount Prospect.

Chef Dave Esau is hosting a free seminar he's calling "How to Prepare and Cook Thanksgiving Dinner Without Freaking Out." Chef Esau will share all his plan-ahead organized prep tricks to help you through this needlessly stressful holiday.

The class runs 6 to 7:30 p.m. and you must RSVP to attend. (847) 259-9510. This is a BYOB event, because wine makes everything better, right?

In the next two Food sections -- Wednesday, Nov. 14, and Monday, Nov. 19 -- I'll share a bunch of Thanksgiving recipes to help you round out your menu, so stay tuned.

The little kernel that could: We've grown accustomed to the adage "the bigger the better," but when it comes to popcorn, that might not be true.

Case in point, Tiny But Mighty Popcorn.

Tiny But Mighty is an heirloom variety that can be traced to Iowa in the 1850s and has been called the "missing link" to varieties cultivated by Native Americans. A farmer, Samuel Kelty, passed the kernels down to generations of his family and it was grown until the 1970s when it was virtually forgotten.

According to Oak Brook's Kevin Sabo, the company's chief "pop"erating officer, when Kelly's great, great, great grandson returned from the Army he found the last remaining seeds in a jar. Richard Kelty popped some and planted the rest and realized this was not like any modern-day popcorn.

The diminutive kernels don't grow like other kernels and can boast as many as three stalks and 36 ears from a single kernel (as opposed to one stalk per kernel in other varieties).

The kernel has an extremely thin hull so when popped it disintegrates. That means there's no annoying crisp fiber to get stuck in your teeth -- a bonus for kids with braces. And the inner good fiber remains and is easily digested.

The tiny kernels pack a lot of flavor too. While you can get it pre-popped in sea salt and white cheddar flavors (look for it at Whole Foods Markets; $5 for two bags or about $5 for the unpopped kernels), it's also quite delicious popped on the stovetop in a splash of olive oil.

Community cookbook celebration: Last winter the Cook Memorial Public Library District asked the community to share recipes for a cookbook and was overwhelmed with responses. After spending the summer culling through the recipes, the library staff on Tuesday will unveil the cookbook at a community cooking event at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Libertyville Civic Center, 135 W. Church St.

Besides debuting the hardcover cookbook, which costs $15 and features 370 recipes from local residents, businesses and restaurants, the library will offer samples of recipes from the book. Attendees also will be treated to demonstrations by chef Michael Maddox, former owner of Le Titi de Paris, and chef Jean-Marc Loustaunau of Cafe Pyrenees.

Registration is required. Call (847) 362-2330 or visit cooklib.org to register. Cookbooks will be available at the event for purchase.

Proceeds from the sales will help to enhance library services, programs and collections.

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at dpankey@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend on Facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram @PankeysPlate.

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