Our Black Friday Tradition


For so many people the day after Thanksgiving is about shopping, or decorating the house or going to the movies so they have a few hours of being with family without having to talk to each other.  Our family tradition is for friends to come up to the farm and after some outdoor wilderness time we go into the thriving metropolis of Danville, Virginia to have lunch and support the local economy.


For so many people the day after Thanksgiving lunch is about a really good turkey sandwich made with all the leftovers, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mayo and as much turkey as they can keep on two slices for bread.  For us our day after Thanksgiving means one thing, Mexican food, more precisely El Vallarta.


See my Dad is a preferred customer at El Vallarta so going there with him is like getting into the VIP section of studio 54 back in the day.  He has a regular table and all the waiters like him because for Danville, he is a really big tipper.  So whenever we go there we get exemplary service and the Mexican food is not bad too boot.


But today things were a little off.  First, our friends the Toms were in Florida for Turkey day and they were missing their annual trek to the farm.  This caused quite a bit of dissension in their family since Logan would rather be at the farm than almost anyplace and it was sad for my Dad who is particularly fond of all the Toms.  Second, when all 13 of us arrived at El Vallarta we discovered at party of 25 at my Dad’s regular table, who had made a reservation.  We were shocked that it was taken but, even more so that anyone had ever needed a reservation at El Vallarta.


The worst thing about our Mexican food tradition is that I had to sit through the large chips/salsa/queso consumption prior to the arrival of lunch.  But the good news is that El Vallarta has many healthy options if you just tell them to substitute salad for all the rice and beans.  I was thrilled to have a yummy cammerones Cancun, which was grilled shrimp and pineapple — nothing resembling a turkey or potato on any of our plates.


After our lunch and a touch of shopping it was back to the farm for games and children driving any number of recreational vehicles all around the farm while my Dad tells stories about the farm, both historic and current day. It’s a tradition that’s hard to beat.

The Secret Sponsors of Thanksgiving

I hope that you and yours had a happy turkey day. That everyone around your table got along, that no politics were discussed, that your Aunt brought her traditional sweet potato casserole with the pecan crunch on top and that no children spilled anything on your mother’s heirloom tablecloth that she insists on using, but then holds her breath through the whole meal as gravy and cranberry are dipped upon it.

Our Thanksgiving was small with my sisters staying in Washington, too busy with work to make the drive. My father invited his cousin Rose and her brother and a friend. Although all my cousins, their many children and my Aunt and Uncle were right next door, so we had a great time visiting with them, walking dogs back and forth between the houses, as children who just learned to ride their bikes rode on the farm road free of any cars or tractors to run them onto the verge.

I had made my Thanksgiving meal contributions at home before we got here. I want to report that my crust less pumpkin pie was a huge failure. Since I have made it many times before I am not sure what was off about it. I will attempt it again and update the recipe if I figure out what went wrong.

My father made all the fattening things that make Thanksgiving so happy, like stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. If you asked most Americans who the sponsor of Thanksgiving is, I would venture they would say Butterball or the Turkey Producers of America. Watching my father cook I would say that the secret sponsor of Thanksgiving was Land O’Lakes or the butter producers of America.

My father’s only butter measurement is sticks. “How many sticks of butter should go in the mashed potatoes?” “Should I put just a stick of butter in the green beans?”

Between the butter in pie crusts and pie filling, the butter unnecessarily rubbed on turkey skin (hint, the skin is all fat already, no extra fat needed for it to brown, just high enough heat), the butter in casseroles, vegetables and potatoes and lastly the butter on the table to be slathered on rolls, biscuits and bread I think that butter is the star of the meal.

Really the turkey is just bigger and flashier, but the butter is stealthier in its omnipresence. I am sure that I consumed more butter today than I have in the last three months combined and I only had one small serving of everything, except bread or pies with crusts, just my really poor crust-less pumpkin.

If you ever wonder about conspiracy theories consider this, Thanksgiving is really promoted behind the scenes by big butter business. I would not be surprised if Dick Cheney was the majority stake holder in Butter Inc. Christmas cookies are right around the corner and make my words, Hot Buttered Rum promotions are coming.

It is NOT the Eating Olympics

Here we are on the eve of the biggest eating day of the year. My childhood memories of Thanksgiving is about watching the Macy day parade on TV, not having any breakfast because we are told we are about to eat a giant meal and waiting and waiting and waiting until about 3:00 to eat what has been promised to be the best meal of the year.

By the time 3:00 rolled around we were so hungry and actually so bored from the waiting that it would not have mattered if we were being severed cardboard as long as it had gravy on it. And everything had gravy on it.

In truth I think my sisters and I liked the pillsbury crescent rolls almost the best since it was a treat reserved exclusively for thanksgiving and our parent’s dinner parties. We never got to eat at the dinner parties, but we got to have the crescent rolls for breakfast as we scavenged for food while my parents slept late after late night partying.

The big mistake about those childhood Thanksgivings was the not eating breakfast part. It was a long time from waking up until bird time and that made us throw down the stuffing like we had never had a meal before. I think that there was so much concentration by the adults on all the holiday food that they actually forgot to calculate how much more milk or eggs we needed and did not want us to consume them and thus be short for the sweet potato casserole.

This year we are having Thanksgiving at 2:00. That is a long time from the dinner I will eat tonight. My plan is to try and sleep in a little so I can eat my daily high protein Special K and raspberries at about 10:00. That will give me a four hour window before the main event. If I limit myself to one serving of the good stuff, hold back o. The potatoes and bread and eat a slice of crestless pumpkin pie I should be OK.

The potential pitfall time will be the 8:00 PM leftover-a-rama. It will be too soon for me to have made some healthy turkey soup so I’ve come up with a plan to have an arugula salad with sliced turkey and cranberry on it. Still in the theme of Thanksgiving leftovers but not button popping. The key is for me to have a plan so that I am not tempted by a new food idea. I keep reminding myself that Thanksgiving is not the eating olympics. Friday I will report if I am able not to medal in Thanksgiving.

Crust-less Pumpkin Pie


I’m not much of a piecrust lover, especially in pumpkin pie I think that for the most part it is soggy and bland and does nothing to enhance the pumpkin filling.  So the answer is to leave out the crust.  I also lighten this recipe up by substituting Splenda for sugar.  If you don’t want anything artificial or you don’t need to watch all those sugar calories go ahead and use the sugar.  What you do in your kitchen is your own decision.


3 eggs

1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree

1 12 oz. can of evaporated skim milk

2/3 c. Splenda – for baking, measures the same as sugar

1 t. vanilla

2 t. grated fresh ginger

1 t. cinnamon

Dash of all spice, nutmeg & cloves

½ t. salt.


Preheat oven to 400º


I do this all in my stand mixer, but you can do it in a bowl with a hand mixer or whisk.


Beat the eggs first, add the pumpkin and the milk and mix well.  Add everything else and beat for 30 seconds.


Spray Pam in a Pie pan.  (If you are opposed to Pam, lightly grease the pan with anything you want, just keep it to your self.)


Pour the pie mixture in the pie plate and place in the middle of your preheated oven.  Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 325º and continue baking for another 40 minutes.


Chill.  Serve and be happy you had a lighter dessert.

Raw Fruit Slaw

I went to make our Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and had a memory of a raw cranberry/whole orange chopped salad I made last year, but never wrote down how I made it.  What a mistake, since my mouth started watering for it even though my brain did not know exactly what was in it.


I looked at what I had in the fridge and made this recipe and although it is different I really like it.  It has the added bonus of being high fiber.


1-cup fresh pineapple

1 granny smith apple

1 whole orange

1-cup fresh cranberries

3 packets of Splenda (or 2 t. sugar if you want)

2 T. chopped Pecans


Cut the apple into quarters and the pineapple into like sized chunks and put in Cuisineart with regular chopping blade in it.


Cut the peel off the orange leaving some of the white pith on the flesh.  Put the peel in the Cuisine art.  Cut the pith off the orange and cut it into quarters.  Remove the center membrane from the quarters and put the flesh in the Cuisneart.


Add the Cranberries and the Splenda.  Pulse the Cuisnieart about 8 times until the fruit is chopped, but not pulverized.


Add the pecans just before eating because you don’t want them to get soggy.

In Praise of a Supportive Husband


I really have to give it to my husband Russ who has been a fantastic sport through this whole “Less Dana” thing.  He has endured not having his favorite or even much food around the house, and never complains when I suggest he eats some leftover for the fourth time during a week.   He runs out early in the morning to the Harris Teeter to buy milk when I discover that my morning staple has gone to the dark side.


Russ has not once complained about something potentially embarrassing that I might have written in the blog.  Nor has he suggested I skip a day of writing when I remember that I have not posted anything right before we are to go out for the evening.


Today he posted on Facebook the link to my television appearance on the Heart of Carolina Perspectives show and gave another plug for Less Dana.  I was on TV in support of the Food Bank’s Heart of Carolina Food Drive.  The only way I am able to devote as much time as I do to trying to feed hungry people is because Russ works his A** off at CMG Partners to provide for me and Carter.


He never complains about my lack of earning and often steps in to drive Carter to some appointment when I have a charity commitment.  Not once has he said that anything I am doing is less of a priority than what he is doing, when in fact it is.  Without him I could do nothing and I am eternally grateful for him and his always-generous ways.


So today I would like to publicly thank the best husband on earth.  I would not be where I am today without you.  Your constant encouragement, support and love make life much more fun.  I know you are the best human on earth because our dog Shay-shay loves you the best and we all know that dogs are much more intuitive than people.   I just want you to know that I love you more than Shay-shay does, I just don’t show it by jumping into your arms when you get home like she does.

Not that I wouldn’t want to, but I am thinking about protecting your back.

Sacred Thanksgiving


The biggest eating holiday of the year is coming this week.  I know that it is a day about giving thanks, but for most of us it is about eating and trying to get along with those you are eating with.  No one likes Thanksgiving more than my Dad.  He loves to cook and he loves to feed people so this is one of the days he really looks forward to.


The yesterday he called me up furious over an article in his local, no-prize-winning paper entitled the “Healthy Thanksgiving Plate.”  It was written by the “community dietitian” whose mere existence I fear for if my father ever meets her.  She espoused filling half your plate with low carbohydrate vegetables such as green beans, carrots, greens, broccoli, cabbage, you get the picture.  Then she allows you 3 ounces of white turkey meat, no gravy, no skin, no flavor.  Lastly you get half a cup of either potatoes or stuffing.    She wanted you to have some apples or pears for dessert. And forget the wine.


The idea of this being a celebration made my father crazy.  He got the wicked idea that I should read this menu to Carter and tell her this is what we were having for Thanksgiving, but include the good news we were not having oyster dressing at her request.  With a maniacal laugh he said, “The idea of this being our meal will make Carter almost as furious as I am.”


For me I certainly don’t want to gain an ounce after working so hard to get it off, but even I think this menu is an invitation to the depression zone.  Turkey, even the better tasting dark meat is not that bad for you.  If you can stay away from the skin go on and eat double what this prisoner of war camp guard dietitian is suggesting.


Yes, eating healthy veggies is your best route, and frankly my stewed tomatoes are almost my favorite part of the meal, but apples or pears for dessert is no celebration.  Later this week I will make my crustless pumpkin pie and put the recipe on the blog.  You can still have things with the flavors of thanksgiving while not over indulging.


So don’t worry Dad, no one is expecting us to have a spa Thanksgiving, but I am going to have to bypass the Thanksgiving-meal-on-bread late night repast.  One leftover-turkey sandwich for the rest of you is fine.  That Gestapo dietitian didn’t mention anything about leftovers.