Thanksgiving is right around the corner. More than a few of us, including me and my family, will be celebrating Thanksgiving in a new environment as we continue to rebuild our homes after the flood in August. We are all praying we are back in our rebuilt homes by New Year's Day! But for now, new Thanksgiving adventures await. Whether you will be traveling to celebrate with family far away, with your neighbors, at a local community gathering (The Nathaniel Center comes to mind), or enjoying in your hotel room, the season brings out memories in all of us of Thanksgivings we have celebrated in the past. The traditions, savory smells, flavors and variety of special foods warms our hearts, souls and bodies.
The cherished dishes our grandparents (in our case, our Papou and YiaYia’s recipes) made repeatedly year after year – and God forbid we change or omit one or two – warm our hearts as well as our stomachs. In our home, if we skip or alter the tried and true favorites – or experiment with a new one I found on FB or Pinterest – the family will remind me that the annual recipes are not to be messed with and something new is not what they clamor for on Thanksgiving.
This year, we will be enjoying a complete Thanksgiving take-out feast from a local establishment, a gift from one of our neighbors who was not flooded and wanted to treat us with Thanksgiving dinner. My family is indeed overwhelmed and grateful for the generosity of our friend who shall remain anonymous. Thanksgiving is about family, friends and traditions old and new. So please “Join my Table” as we are stepping out of the box this year but also sharing some recipes and stories from our friends and neighbors.
Here are a few comments and memories shared by Tribune readers: Kathleen Broulidakis Kenepp Mousaka, my comfort food; David Brewer chicken and dumplings, ham hocks and beans, pork roast, brown gravy and mashed potatoes. Pretty much anything my grandma cooked was amazing; Carolyn LaFargue Banana pudding; Sam Havens Pineapple Upside-down cake in an iron skillet; Leaann Haley Hoffman Chucker, mashed potatoes and all topped with chucker gravy; Julie Boughton Valadez Avegolemeno soup; Kathy Kaehler Bean supreme; Anita Frazier Roast & Gravy--the best ever; Teresa Maas Cardin Mom was an excellent cook and loved everything she made. All seven of us kids loved her spaghetti and everyone wanted her spaghetti pot; Jennifer Day Chicken and dumplings girl all the way;
Cherryl Finney Pumpkin pie, my Mom made the best pumpkin pie; Jimmy Goson Rolled grape leaves with rice and lentils; Lisa Kijewski Soft boiled eggs with broken bread, ham loaf; Steve Shadd Fried pies, apricot and peach; Susan Lunson The best meatloaf; Brian Amburn Cathead biscuits and red-eye gravy; Sabine Ripley Brotherton German cucumber salad with Knorr’s dressing, and my grandma's twist on it. She would have to make so much, because it was always gone before dinner; Dianne Davis Spanikopita; and Lisa Dempsey Potato soup. Plain old boiled russets with a little milk, salt and pepper. Then Grandma would add chunks of aged cheddar when she served it and they were like gooey drops of heaven inside the potato soup.
Why not start your Thanksgiving meals with potato soup? This is a family favorite from Lisa Dempsey…
Grandma’s Potato soup
I don’t have Lisa’s exact recipe, but here is a quick and easy one that you may enjoy:
4-5 medium russet potatoes (cut into small chunky pieces)
2 cans of Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese Soup
1 can Campbell’s Chicken Broth
1/2 cup of Vidalia onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
6 pieces of bacon cut into small pieces
2 cups of whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon of each)
6 ounces aged cheddar cut into little chunks
DIRECTIONS: Boil your potatoes for about 15-20 minutes in salted water in a large pot. While the potatoes are boiling, saute the bacon until crispy in a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat. Remove the bacon pieces and put on a paper towel-lined plate, saving them for the topping. Add the onion and garlic to the bacon fat; cook for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and reduce to medium heat. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until it’s about 1/2 of the original amount. While the broth is cooking, in a large bowl mix together the cans of Campbell’s Cheddar Soup, the milk and black pepper. Add the cheddar cheese soup mixture to the broth. Mix well. When the potatoes are cooked, drain and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the potato water. Add the potatoes to the cheese soup mixture. Thin if needed with the potato water and check seasonings. Serve in bowls topped with the cheese chunks and bacon.
This delicious German Cucumber Salad is inspired by Sabine Ripley Brotherton:
3 medium cucumbers peeled and thinly sliced into rounds (I use seedless English cucumbers and leave the peels on for more color)
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped green onion tops or chives
1/4 cup finely sliced red onion
3 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 package Knorr Salad Kronung Dill-Krauter (available at Wal-Mart or Amazon)
DIRECTIONS: Place the sliced cucumbers in a medium-sized bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over the cucumbers and stir to combine. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving, stirring it a couple of times. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Not your Typical Thanksgiving Dessert … Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. Thank you, Sam Havens.
1 can (20 ounces) pineapple slices in juice, drained
1 jar (6 ounces) maraschino cherries, drained
1 1/2 cups spiced rum
1/3 cup real butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist yellow cake mix
1/2 cup piña colada mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil (not canola)
DIRECTIONS: Place drained pineapple and cherries in separate bowls. Pour about 1 cup rum over pineapple and remaining rum over cherries. Let stand 1 to 8 hours to marinate. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in ungreased 13x9-inch pan; place in oven to melt. When butter is melted, remove pan from oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter; set aside. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup rum from pineapple. Arrange pineapple slices in pan in 3 rows of 3 or 4 slices. Drain rum from cherries; discard rum. Place 1-2 cherries in center of each pineapple slice. In large bowl, place cake mix, piña colada mix, oil, eggs and 1/2 cup reserved rum from pineapple. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Pour evenly over fruit in pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Run knife around edges of cake. Place cookie sheet upside down over pan; turn cookie sheet and pan over. Let stand five minutes to allow juices to run down onto cake. Remove pan. Serve cake warm.