11/14/2014 01:54 pm ET Updated Jan 14, 2015

Just Desserts: What's the Difference?

There was nothing different at our catering kitchen the day after Election Day. The lock on the front door was still tricky, and everyone who's usually there, was there again - still working longer and harder than they want, but not finding it any easier to get ahead.

So what's all the fuss about the big Election Day changes?

Yes, the Republicans won control of the U.S. Senate, and more seats in the House. People in Congress will be changing jobs and offices, with the likes of Sen. James "Global-Warming-Is-a-Hoax" Inhofe of Oklahoma, taking over the Environment Committee. I know what he can do, or in this case, un-do.

But for all that Election Day will change, it didn't change a thing - not at my kitchen, and not at a lot of other kitchens, small businesses, living rooms, classrooms, nursery schools or retirement homes. People still feel pressed by an economy that's making it harder for them and their kids to get ahead. The price of gas is coming down, but not the price of college or childcare. Women still earn less than men. Social Security still doesn't seem very secure.

So forgive me, for a minute, as I lose patience with the pundits and politicians so focused on what's changing in their lives, they're losing sight of what isn't changing in everyone else's lives.

Are we supposed to be encouraged that President Obama and the new Republican leaders are looking to cut deals on trade and tax reform to prove they can get something done? Who do you think those deals will help: big businesses or working people? Never mind, I know the answer. The President and his new BFFs will cut their deals but not much will change - not in my kitchen or a lot of others.

On the other hand, President Obama could take executive action on immigration and the Republicans will simply shut down everything.

I still believe government can make a difference for people. I've seen it. Been inspired by the change and the people who bring it about. Helped elect them.

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut championed the Act for Better Child Care, Family and Medical Leave, financial reform, and the Affordable Care Act, to name a few. His first Chief of Staff, now U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of New Haven (CT), begins her 13th term as a virtual life force powering every major piece of legislation aimed at helping women and families. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Mayor Marty Walsh in Boston, are full-throated, tireless advocates for working people. They've kept me a believer.

So too, has Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Shaheen is the only Senate Democrat to win a tight race this year. There are a lot of reasons she won - and in the interest of full disclosure, I know that because I worked for her, because I know New Hampshire, and I am certain that everyone in the 'Live Free or Die' state has an opinion on why she won. I think Shaheen's recipe for victory started with the fact that she makes government work for people, and it's something she's been doing in New Hampshire for a very long time.

I'm a Democrat. I work hard to help Democrats win. So yes, I believe Democrats need to figure out how to get back to winning - especially the tough elections, especially when the top of the ticket is an anvil instead of an airplane - so we can make a difference for people.

I want Congress and the President to pass things that will make a difference for people. In my book, that's stuff like a higher minimum wage, allowing families to refinance student loans, safeguarding our air and water, encouraging clean energy, and a tax code that rewards working people instead of companies shipping jobs overseas. That's what will make a difference at my kitchen.

Now, I'm making some pumpkin pie - because some things, like Thanksgiving desserts - shouldn't change. Here's the recipe.


  • 2 c GINGERSNAP COOKIE CRUMBS (From About 40 Cookies)
  • 5/8 tsp SALT
  • 2 T HONEY
  • 1 1/4 tsp GROUND GINGER
  • 1 tsp CINNAMON
  • 1/8 tsp GROUND CLOVES
  • 1 1/4 c HEAVY CREAM
  • 1/3 c WHOLE MILK
  • 1/4 c ORANGE JUICE

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine cookie crumbs, walnuts, 1/8 tsp salt. Stir in butter, transfer to 9" deep-dish pie pan. Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom and side of pan. (Plastic wrap on top of crumbs helps from sticking) Bake 10 minutes, transfer to cooling rack.

In large bowl, gently whisk remaining ½ tsp salt with rest of ingredients, EXCEPT ¼ c sugar, cranberries, and orange juice. The mixture should be smooth with no bubbles. Place cooled pie crust on baking sheet, pour in pumpkin filling. Use offset spatula or back of large spoon to smooth top; transfer to oven. Bake until pumpkin filling is set but still has some wiggle in the center - 60-75 minutes. (If edges get too dark, cover with aluminum) Cook on rack.

Set aside a few cranberries for garnish. Boil remaining cranberries with ¼ c sugar, orange juice and ¼ c water, until berries pop, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Press berries and cooling liquid through fine strainer. While sauce is warm (NOT hot), spread across cooled pie with offset spatula. Roll reserved berries in sugar and place on pie.