One month from today it will be Christmas Eve. The little kids are anxiously counting down the days. Are you anxiously counting the days or enjoying counting the days? This next month is meant to be a time of joy and anticipation and we shouldn't spoil it with stress and anxiety. It is a beautiful season that should give enough good vibes to make it through the entire year. One doesn't have to half kill oneself to do an extravagant amount of extra work or spend money one really doesn't have in order to have a holiday season that all the family will remember. If one can keep the young ones from watching all the toy commercials, that would be a good starting point to keep their expectations down to a manageable roar.
With this week being Thanksgiving week, it is a good time to teach our children about being thankful for what we all have and to help those who need our help receive it. Some families volunteer, the entire family, at a soup kitchen or church community meal for the lonesome and/or the ones who need a good meal. If the budget can afford it, maybe get food or gifts for someone who would appreciate it. Stay concerned about those who can't help themselves and help them all you can, but don't waste your time, money or concern on those who are able to join the human race but are just too lazy to try to help themselves and want to be given everything. This past week, the anniversary of JFK's assignation brought back his charge to Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." If more people would do that, there would be fewer problems in our country. The citizens responded to that challenge back then and there is no reason not to respond to it in this time. How is your family celebrating Thanksgiving? Will it be a family time or will the stores steal you away to shop for those "fantastic deals/" Remember, those "deals" are only material things and could be replaced. Your family can't be replaced and no one knows what tomorrow might bring. Treasure each day you have with them and spend time together, no matter what you choose to do. Thanksgiving is a day that we concentrate on to give thanks, but we all should be aware of all for which we have to be thankful every day of the year. It helps to live with "an attitude of gratitude" every day, not just the day when that wonderful-tasting bird is put on the table. It is really easy then, but sometimes a little hard on other days and we have to work at it. Every day there is always Ssomething for which to be thankful!
Since the Thanksgiving-Christmas season is so much a family time, it brings back memories from years past. It is good for us to remember Grandma as we make the turkey dressing the way she taught us and to share the family tales and jokes. That is the way we communicate family history to the younger generation. It gives them memories to rely on when they might be having a hard time in their future lives, and that is a precious gift we can give them, just as it was given to us. Food is always a part of a family's traditions, so it is important for special "food" days, like these holidays that we record that special dish or pie before we forget it and it is lost forever. Those dishes feed the soul as well as the tummy. It is important to have a family journal to record our daily lives, but we also need to record a family cookbook, with any stories that might be connected to the dishes. I am very thankful for the recipes my mother and grandmothers left for me. Sometimes, it is a little difficult to "fill in the blanks" such as one grandmother who didn't record the amount of flour for cookies. Since they cooked on wood stoves, there wasn't a temperature guide and one just had to know what a "moderate" oven felt like or how many sticks of wood (and what kind) it took. We have it so much easier. Since many recipes were made up as needed for the supplies on hand, I think they had a special sense of what to do with what they had. Grandma Nichols never wrote down a recipe for a kind of pudding she called Thickened Milk that we kids loved. Mom didn't, so it never appeared in any of her cookbooks. Any time I tried to reconstruct it, it just tasted like a flavored milk and sugar gravy, so I finally gave up and decided it must have been just a kid's idea of good.
Find the Cookbook in today's paper and keep it. There are so many good dishes in it (and with good directions!) that you can spend hours just playing in the kitchen while you try some of the area's best cooks' recipes. I always make at least one for our Thanksgiving dinner, but I keep them all and do use them more than I do the commercial recipes. Since I had an insider's look at the finalists' dishes, I already know of two I am making this year. The recipes in this column are repeats - some of our traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes that will be at our house. Hope you like them.
Do have a joyful and peaceful Thanksgiving celebration with your family, help a truly needy person, start your Christmas decorations, go watch a Christmas parade next weekend, hide your credit cards so you don't overspend, and hug your kids three times a day! Much love to you all, and may God bless you and your family.
MOM'S CRANBERRY SALAD
Three small or two large packages cherry or strawberry gelatin
Four cups fresh cranberries
One-and-one-half cups sugar
One cup chopped nutmeats
One can (15- to 20-oz.) crushed pineapple
One cup finely chopped celery
Grind cranberries and orange, rind and all. Mix in sugar and let mixture sit while you make the gelatin. Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Make gelatin according to package directions, leaving out one pint (two cups) water. Use reserved pineapple juice and add water to needed amount of liquid. When gelatin is just starting to thicken, mix in cranberry mixture, nuts, crushed pineapple and celery. Let set in refrigerator several hours or overnight. Serve with a dollop of mayonnaise (or whipped cream!). I use a 13x9x2-inch pan to make this.
To compliment this dish, I make a pan of the following cabbage salad for a red and green salad selection. Mayonnaise can be used for both (no whipped cream on the cabbage!).
MOM'S PERFECTION SALAD
Three to four cups finely shredded cabbage
One to one-and-one-half cups finely chopped celery
One carrot, finally shredded
One small can crushed pineapple
Two packages gelatin - one lemon, one lime
One teaspoon salt
Drain pineapple and reserve juice to use with water for gelatin. Make the gelatin according to package directions, but reduce liquid by about one-half cup. Mix cabbage, celery, carrot and salt and place in a 13-x9-x2-inch pan. Pour prepared gelatin mixture over. If gelatin doesn't cover cabbage, add another package of gelatin, using one and one-half cups water instead of the two cups called for on the package. Serve with mayonnaise.
To serve these two salads on a buffet table, use a large plate or platter, cover with lettuce and add squares of red and green salad, alternating, on plate. Place a bowl of mayonnaise in the center.
One cup white corn syrup
One cup dark brown sugar
One-third teaspoon salt
One-third cup melted butter
One teaspoon vanilla
Three eggs, slightly beaten
One heaping cup pecan halves
Nine-inch unbaked pie shell
Combine all ingredients except pecan halves. Pour into pie shell and sprinkle pecans over top. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes.
To make this a Southern Pecan Pie, add a short of good bourbon to the mixture!
SWEET POTATO PIE
(Another Southern Pie)
Two cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
One-half butter, softened
Two egg yolks
One cup brown sugar
One-fourth teaspoon salt
One-half teaspoon cinnamon
One-half teaspoon nutmeg
One-half cup milk
Two egg whites
One-third cup sugar
One unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Mix the first eight ingredients together while potatoes are still warm. Add milk. Beat egg whites until stiff, gradually adding sugar. Fold egg white mixture into the potato mixture and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake until set. (Test with a silver knife same as for Custard Pie.)
ROQUEFORT CHEESE BALL
Two packages (8-oz. each) cream cheese
One-half pound Roquefort or blue cheese
Three tablespoons dried or frozen chives
Two or three fresh garlic cloves, uncut
One cup chopped pecans
Mix softened cheeses and chives. Place in bowl and add uncut garlic cloves. Cover and leave in refrigerator overnight or longer. Two hours before serving, remove garlic cloves, shape cheese into a ball and roll in chopped pecans. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Contact Patty Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org