Foraging for Flavor: The meal before the big meal

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake
Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake (Pillsbury.com, Carroll County Times)

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving I am thinking about food literally all day. I am touching it, tasting it, writing about it and sometimes cursing it; so much so, that I frankly wonder how or why I would ever want to eat again.
But I do. On Thanksgiving morning I always wake up starving. And so does the rest of my family. Obviously, I don't want to spend too much thought or effort on breakfast when I have a long day ahead. But I still want to feed my family and guests something hot, delicious and appealing.
It would be nice if my meal was also nutritious, but in a nod to my family's sweet tooth we often leave space for something just that - sweet. My one and only caveat is that breakfast must be both fresh and homemade, from scratch, as well as easy.
I tend toward recipes easy enough for my children, although the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade makes stiff competition for their attention... until the scent of French toast or cinnamon rolls begins to make its way through the house.
I'm thinking most of my readers will already have their noses buried deep in any number of foodie magazines, planning side dishes, mulling desserts and considering cocktails. But don't forget about breakfast!
Here are some recipes to get you and your family through to the main event. I chose these recipes because they can be made ahead of time with ingredients you most likely already have on hand. The frittata should be made fresh, but who doesn't have eggs?
Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake
I cannot recommend this beautiful and delicious cake enough. Katie Prechtl Cooke of Annapolis recently brought it to an event I attended and I found it to be unusually stunning. You can make it in the weeks ahead and freeze, carefully wrapped in plastic then foil.
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
Raspberry preserves
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9- or 10-inch spring form pan.
In large bowl combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar and butter. Cut until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mix.
To remaining mix, add baking powder and soda, salt, sour cream, one egg, and almond extract. Spread batter over bottom and 2 inches up the sides of spring form pan.
In small bowl combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and second egg. Blend. Pour over the batter in the pan.
Spoon preserves evenly over batter and cream cheese. Combine crumbs and almonds. Sprinkle over the top of the preserves.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.
Banana Blueberry Bread
From Courtney Smotherman
This recipe is an old one from Smotherman's Texan family, with a new twist. It started off as a traditional banana bread recipe with pecans in it. Her dad grew blueberries in his garden, and one day the family decided to try substituting fresh berries for the nuts. The rest is family history!
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
2 eggs
3 mashed bananas
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
Cream sugar, shortening and butter. Add other ingredients and beat 3 minutes in a mixer. Fold in blueberries and pour in loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour.
Sangria Compote
From "America's Best: A National Community Cookbook to Benefit the U.S. Ski Team"
For Thanksgiving morning, I need something light and kid-friendly. A little of this dish goes a long way. The main dish is the yogurt, and the compote is a tasty highlight. Serve with hearty toasted High Country Crunch bread from Great Harvest in Annapolis. PS: You can use water or cider in place of the wine - use about 2 cups liquid or the dish will be insipid. The alcohol in the dish cooks off - you won't be lightheaded even with a hefty serving.
1 lemon
1 orange
12 ounces pitted prunes
12 ounces dried apricot halves
4 cups dry red wine
2/3 cup granulated sugar (can substitute honey or agave nectar for part or all of the sugar)
3 whole cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean pod
1 cup orange juice
Juice of 1 lemon
Plain Greek yogurt
Wash the lemon and orange, cut off the ends but do not peel. Cut into eights.
Place the fruit in a heavy saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are melded and the dried fruit is soft. Let cool, then remove cinnamon and vanilla.
Serve over yogurt. Garnish with toasted sliced almonds or pine nuts.
Wild Mushroom and Sweet Onion Frittata
By Ken Upton, owner, Ken's Creative Kitchen in Annapolis
Few dishes are as easy and effortless to make as a frittata. A savory start to the day, this frittata will give everyone the nutrition and energy necessary to get through the hours of cooking ahead. Upton says you can use just about any vegetable in this dish, so long as you saute it first.
6 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
In a bowl, beat the eggs, heavy cream, cheese, salt and pepper. In a 10-inch skillet melt the butter and add the olive oil on medium-high heat. When the butter foams add the onion, saute for 2 minutes, add the mushrooms for 2 minutes, then add in the garlic for a minute.
Pour in the egg mixture and reduce heat to low and cook until the eggs are firm around the edges. Use a spatula to lift the edges of the eggs and tilt the skillet to allow the uncooked eggs to run beneath, put a lid on top or just place under the broiler until eggs are firm. Invert a plate on top of the skillet and flip to unmold, then sprinkle with the fresh parsley.
Thanksgiving Morning Strata
From Katie Prechtl Cooke
My mother would make strata for every holiday and this reminds me of the warmth and comfort she brought to special occasions. The pimiento and ham give this recipe a slightly Southern twist. You could substitute green peppers for the broccoli if you are cruciferous adverse.
12 pieces white bread
8 ounces shredded cheddar
2 cups cooked ham, cubed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 9-ounce package frozen broccoli
1 2-ounce jar pimento (don't skip!)
6 eggs
3 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
Grease a 9-by-13 pan. Layer bread, cheese, ham, onion, broccoli and pimento.
In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt and mustard. Blend well.
Pour egg mixture over bread.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 to 70 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

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