Monday, 25 November 2013

Movember, Thanksgiving and Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

Sometimes a small idea blossoms into a great movement. October is  Breast Cancer Awareness month encouraging women to be more aware of breast health and breast cancer. And who can forget all those pink ribbons? In November, there is Movember, which encourages men to grow facial hair and raise money to support men's health issues - prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health. I originally thought that this was just an Australian thing as I hadn't heard of it until we moved to the land down under. However, upon closer examination, it has become a worldwide movement that is popular in 20+ countries. And just to think it only started 10 years ago at a bar in Melbourne after a night of drinking and the fear of a rectal exam. Who says advertising in the middle of the night doesn't reach anyone?!
Travis Garone, Movember founder

In 2003, after a night out at a bar, Travis Garone saw a TV advertisement advising men to get checked for prostate cancer. He then Googled prostate cancer to get more information and learnt that it was the second cause of men's death in cancer but has great results if detected early. For his 30th birthday, Garone challenged his friends to grow moustaches (hence "Movember") and compare them. The next November, they got the Prostate Cancer Foundation involved and had a public appeal for men to grow mo's (it's Aussie so it 'moustaches' has to be shortened) and raise money. They raised $54,000 that year, $1.2 million the next year and expect to raise $140 million worldwide this year. Wow! This is the best outcome from a night out drinking that I 've ever heard. He had me at Googling "prostate cancer' in the middle of the night. Who does that? My insomnia (not brought on drinking) consists of stressing about when I'll fall alseep and how will I get through the day so tired. Any attempt at electronics is turning on the TV to see yet again a Seinfeld episode that I have already seen a dozen times, all the while wondering why I even like to watch those selfish superficial characters. Yes, they are funny. I was very inspired reading this story. Go Travis Garone!

I've been amused yet admiring all the swarthy hairy men walking around this month. It is surprising to see a man that you wouldn't think was the facial hair type having a mo, beard or goatee. Even the ones that look bad or a bit suspicious can get away with it - it's for a good cause. Besides, they can always shave it off at the end of the month. I was quietly thrilled that my husband did not grow something this year. For at least half of our marriage, he has had some type of facial hair - a goatee, a soul patch, the bikini wax, a full beard. You name it, he's grown it, shaped it and enjoyed it. We will make our donation hairless which works too.

I am glad that Movember is getting a lot of attention down under because my favourite US holiday, Thanksgiving, is not. Not that it should. I am living in Australia after all. As I had to explain to an American friend back in the US, Thanksgiving is not celebrated here because there wasn't a Mayflower, Pilgrims, Indians, a terrible winter, nor even Thanksgiving like food. And while Halloween is growing down under, I just have to accept that there will never be a Thanksgiving in Australia. When in Rome....

We do celebrate Thanksgiving in our own way here in Sydney. We invite 2 different Australian families to dinner on Thanksgiving Day. They are usually very curious about what the holiday means and eating a traditional turkey with all the fixings. Trying to get the meal together can be an expensive adventure in itself as pecans, cornmeal, stuffing, dried french onions, cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, and decent gravy can be hard to come by in my neck of the woods. I have to go to various gourmet speciality stores to gather these foods. With fresh turkey selling at $15/pound and $6 for a small can of Libby's pumpkin puree, Thanksgiving dinner is like a Christmas present to the family. This year, I am trying a frozen turkey and keeping my fingers crossed.

We also celebrate another Thanksgiving each year with American ex-pats. It is a potluck meal and we usually meet at the beach to eat, relax, play games and let the kids run around. This year, we celebrated early and seven American families from the area came. They're a nice diverse group of people and we've all become friendly over the past few years, united by our nationality. We're all from different parts of the US and probably wouldn't have met if we were living back in the States.

Carving the Turkey

Yummy Pies

For the ex-pat Thanksgiving, I made a tasty Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. I grew up with my mother making Pecan Pie, one of my father's favourites. It is delicious and nostalgic for me. My Mom always used the simple and very good recipe on the back of Karo Corn Syrup. Over time, I've adapted the Karo recipe and made my own version of the pie, adding molasses, more vanilla extract, some chocolate chips and whiskey. I really think the small amount of both chocolate chips and whiskey added make the pie "pop" with flavour. They are so subtle that you wouldn't know that there was alcohol nor chocolate in the pie yet they make a huge taste difference. I also have found a pie crust that is excellent and easy to make. In the past, I have been put off by butter pie crusts. I make my crusts by hand and found with butter crusts that you have to get the butter to the right temperature for the crust to work. This crust recipe was given by a friend, Meg, and it is so easy. Of course you can always use a store bought pie crust.

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie 
adapted from Karo Syrup recipe

1.5 cups Flour
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Cold Water
dash of salt
* makes 1 bottom crust for "open faced" pie, double if you need a top and bottom crust.*

1 cup Karo Syrup (or Golden Syrup)
3 Eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup of Sugar
2 tablespoons Molasses (or Treacle Syrup)
2 tablespoons Whiskey (Jack Daniels or Irish Whisky works well)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1.5 cups of Raw Pecans

1/4 cups Chocolate Chips (semisweet or dark taste best)

1) Preheat oven to 175 C or 350 F.

2) Make Pie Crust. Put all 4 ingredients in bowl. Mix with a fork and knead dough with your hands until it is a ball and all bits of flour have been kneaded through.

3) Using your hands, work crust into the bottom and sides of your pie pan. 

4) Mix all the ingredients except the pecans and chocolate chips together and stir well to combine. Then, add the pecans and stir through so all the pecans are swimming in the batter.

5) Sprinkle Chocolate Chips on bottom of pie crust.

6) Pour pie batter into crust.

7) Place pie on top of cookie sheet in center of your oven and bake for 60-70 minutes. Cool at least  2 hours before serving. Serve on its own or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

- Use raw pecans as they will get naturally toasted in the oven.

- Sometimes the pie edges get burned during long cooking time. If they look like they are burning, put some foil along the edges. 

- It is important to put the pie on a cookie sheet because if it overflows while cooking, it is difficult to clean your over; a real sugary sticky mess. 

- It is often tricky to know if is done cooking. The pie should still be a little jiggly/soft in the middle. You do not want to overcook it. Cook in the center of your oven 

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