Cooking, Holidays

Mamma’s cranberry sauce

I mentioned last week how much I love Thanksgiving. I know it has come and gone now, but it is still on my mind. We had a wonderful celebration at my Dad’s house on Thanksgiving with a giant turkey and all the trimmings. With so many bad things happening in the world, it is a blessing to be able to spend quality time with family and friends in a safe and warm place.

Thanksgiving and the holiday season is certainly a time to reflect on what we are grateful for. I am grateful for so many things, but most importantly my dear friends and family.
Thanksgiving is also a little hard for me now. I lost my Momma to cancer just a few days before Thanksgiving in 2013. I know that for many who have lost loved ones, the holiday season can be difficult. The year my Momma died I was so grateful to be surrounded by family and dear friends.

My sorority sisters made a big difference in how I handled that first Thanksgiving without Momma. Momma’s funeral was just a few day before Thanksgiving when I know people are busy, but so many of my sisters came to the funeral and came back home to spend some time with me after the service.

My home was filled with so much love, as well as good food that many friends and neighbors brought to us. It was a hard day, but I know how much my Momma would have loved seeing everyone and that made it easier.

My little sister in the sorority, Amanda, flew all the way from San Antonio, Texas to be with me after Momma’s funeral and she stayed with me for Thanksgiving as well. She told me she didn’t want me to go to the trouble of cooking, but it actually helped to have something to keep me busy. Her being there that first Thanksgiving without Momma was such a precious gift.

This year my husband and I cooked Thanksgiving at Dad’s house and we were joined by my great Uncle Ken and our good friend David. My Uncle Clip and neighbor Zehra also stopped in to visit with us. Everyone enjoyed the food and couldn’t pick a favorite thing. They said it was all good. As usual, we had enough food to feed a small army. We enjoyed turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, which I burned the first time around and had to redo, Waldorf salad, green pea salad, macaroni and cheese, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake.

David said the cranberry sauce was the best he had ever eaten. It is, of course, my Momma’s recipe. Years ago when Momma worked at Jostens they put together a cookbook. Our good friend Patty’s sweet potato casserole recipe and my Momma’s cranberry sauce recipe are in this book and I use it every year to make these two Thanksgiving specialties.

I know Thanksgiving has come and gone, but cranberry sauce is a dish to serve throughout the holiday season so I’ll share Mamma’s recipe with you in case you’d like to try it.

Mamma’s Cranberry Sauce
• 20 oz can crushed pineapple
• 1 large package strawberry jello
• 2 16 oz cans whole cranberry sauce
• 2 cups finely minced celery
• 1 cup crushed pecans
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• pinch of salt
Heat pineapple just to boiling and add jello packet. Stir until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Refrigerate until set. I typically make this night before I plan to serve it. Also, I use one of those electric choppers to do the celery so I can get it really finely chopped. Note: the original recipe called for a 15 1/2 oz can of crushed pineapple and 1/4 cup of water. I can only find 20 oz cans now so I eliminate the water so it will set better. If you find 15 oz cans, add 1/4 cup water to mixture.

Cooking, Holidays

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Truth be told, I like all holidays. Seeing as I love to eat, however, and that’s the primary activity associated with Thanksgiving, it is on the top of the list. I also love watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

As far as the food, I love all the traditional favorites, of course, the star of the show, the turkey, the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce and more. I often make green pea salad as well even though I’m really the only one who eats it and macaroni and cheese, too. And then there’s the pumpkin pie!

While I’m not usually a big fan of leftovers, Thanksgiving is one of the exceptions. I will eat the Thanksgiving leftovers until they are all gone and then I cry for more.

I typically just reheat and eat the leftovers exactly like they were served the first time around, but

many people find creative ways to recycle the Thanksgiving leftovers.
Turkey salad, turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pie are common revamps for the leftover turkey meat. Last year I also used the bones to make some homemade turkey stock.

My friend LeDon makes a special sandwich she calls The Ultimate Leftover Gobbler Sandwich.
LeDon says use slices of turkey topped with bacon, swiss or provolone, lettuce and tomato on a whole grain bread with cranberry mayo (3 tbsp. mayonnaise,1 tbsp. cranberry sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper) and it will make the post Thanksgiving blues disappear.

My sorority sister Bee told me about a very unique way to use the Thanksgiving leftovers that her husband created.

“Brian makes Thanksgiving pancakes — he takes all the leftovers and smushes them together and fries them up like pancakes. Then we invite all our friends over to eat them. It’s an annual weekend tradition!” Bee said.

At first I couldn’t quite imagine what that would be like, but the more I thought about it, it sounds pretty amazing. Potato cakes made from leftover mashed potatoes is a favorite dish of mine, so why not make extraordinary potato cakes using some turkey and stuffing mixed up in the potato mixture and then fried. Bee said to use the left over gravy and cranberry sauce as the “syrup” for these Thanksgiving pancakes.

If you are really wanting to spice things and try adding a different flavor to your turkey day remains, my sister Amanda, who hails from New Mexico, recommends Green Chili Turkey Enchiladas. In New Mexico green and red chilies are common ingredients in cooking. I’m not sure that here in North Carolina we can get our hands on the same type of green chilies, but using the canned green chilies might work. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Green Chili Turkey Enchilada Casserole (recipe adapted from
• 1 lb shredded cooked boneless turkey meat
• 1 can diced green chilies
• 1 can cream of mushroom soup
• 1 can cream of chicken soup
• 2 soup cans of milk (or water)
• salt
• garlic
• 2 dozen corn tortillas
• 2 cups shredded cheese (colby, munster, jack or mixture)

Combined all ingredients except turkey, tortillas and cheese in a large sauce pan over medium heat.
After sauce mixture has simmered for about 5 minutes, begin assembling in a large casserole dish. Add a layer of sauce, a layer of tortillas, a layer of turkey meat, a layer of cheese and repeat. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooling down, it is ready to be served.


Trial Turkey Day – Part 2

Be sure to read part one of my pre-turkey day party. And here are some more recipes from our yummy Pre-Thanksgiving party.

In my menu from my last post I called my sweet potato casserole “crunchy yummy yams” because we already had two other casseroles on the menu. Whatever you call it, it’s yummy! Go make some right now!

This is my mom’s best friend’s recipe and it has always been one of our holiday favorites. Thanks to Patty for sharing her recipe.

3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked (We cheat and use canned yams, I promise it’s still delicious!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1/2 stick butter


1/2 stick butter (I usually find the that half a stick is not quite enough, but a whole stick is a bit too much. I’d recommend using 3/4 a stick)
1 cup brown sugar
1 t. flour
1 cup pecans (chopped)

Mash up the sweet potatoes. Add sugar, butter and milk. Beat egg and add to mixture. Add vanilla. Pour in greased baking dish.

For the topping, melt butter. Add flour, brown sugar and nuts.

Pour topping over sweet potato mixture and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Eat it all up!

Aside from just wanting to celebrate Thanksgiving twice, my other reason for this party was to try new recipes. The new recipe I tried was my dressing. I saw this recipe for cornbread and country ham dressing in Southern Living and thought it looked divine. I made several adjustments to it, however. The main thing I wanted to jazz up this recipe with was collard greens. What goes better with country ham than collard greens? And I ditched the chestnut idea. In the end, I basically ended up making my Mamma’s dressing only I used the bacon and country ham and collard greens.

I cooked out the six slices of bacon (I got the good Applewood Smoked kind from Fresh Market! And I may have used eight slices instead of six) and the country ham. Then I added in the chopped celery, onions and collard greens. (I left out the carrot too.) When  this mixture was done, I thought it looked so good I almost just ate it right out of the pan.

I also cheated and used store bought corn bread dressing mix, but I did add in some bread crumbs as well. And, when it comes to the chicken broth I really don’t measure. I just keep adding till the dressing is the consistency we like. We don’t like dry dressing. I put the dressing mixture in a greased baking dish and topped it with a few pats of butter and baked it on 350 for about 40 minutes.

Overall, I was pleased with the outcome of this new recipe, but I would definitely make a few changes when I make it again. I should have chopped the ham up into much smaller pieces. I also would not add the additional salt the recipe calls for as the ham and bacon make this dish salty enough. I think I might add a bit more collard greens too. I think this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Stay tuned for more Thanksgiving recipes coming soon.


Trial Turkey Day – Part 1

I love Thanksgiving! It is one of my favorite holidays and so this year I decided to celebrate it twice. My family is very traditional in what they want on the table for Turkey day. They want turkey, dressing, ‘taters, gravy, green beans, cranberry relish and rolls. I like all those items too, but sometimes it’s nice to be adventurous and try some new recipes. Trying them on Thanksgiving day might be too much of a gamble though. I decided that it would be a great idea to have a trial run where we could try out some new recipes and get a chance to celebrate two Turkey days.

I invited some of my nearest and dearest friends who like to eat and asked them to bring a new or favorite Thanksgiving recipe. We ended up with a most delightful menu that was a combination of classic Thanksgiving fare and menu items with a new twist.

Trial Turkey Day Menu
Herbs de Provence Brined Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Country Ham & Collard Green Dressing
Company Carrots
Broccoli Casserole
Green Bean Casserole
Crunchy Yummy Yams
Cranberry Apple Relish
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Pear Pie
I’ll start with the Turkey, since it is clearly the star of any Thanksgiving celebration. A number of years ago we tried brining our turkey in a salt brine overnight and we really couldn’t tell the different in flavor so we gave it up. When I discovered a brine mix at Fresh Market I thought I would try again. I have now used this brine mix for the last three of four turkeys I have prepared and I love it. It gives the meat a great flavor and the turkey is always tender and juicy. I typically use the classic brine mix, but since we were trying new things for our pre-turkey day party, I  opted for the herbs de provence mix.
After doing the icky part where you have to pull the neck and stuff out of the bird, the rest is fairly simple. (Note: Last  year I got a pair of cute sassy rubber gloves and now I don’t mind that part so bad.)
You can use a brining bag or just put the turkey in a giant pot. I didn’t use a bag this year just dumped Mr. Turkey in a big ole pot and dumped those wonderful herbs on top.
After putting the brine mix into the bag or pot with the turkey, you add two cups of boiling water then immediately follow that with three cups of ice. Then you fill the rest of the pot up with water to cover the bird.

The turkey should stay in the brine mixture at least 12 hours. The directions also so to turn the bird at least once. I didn’t do that. So sue me!

After 12 hours, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse thoroughly. The turkey should then sit in the refrigerator two to four hours before preparing it for the oven. I’m not exactly sure what that does, but I did it. (Yah, me!)

Now is the time to stuff the bird.  We keep it pretty simple with salt, pepper, chopped celery and onions inside the turkey.  My wonderful godmother had some beautiful fresh herbs in her garden so I made a little bouquet of rosemary, sage and thyme to stuff in the turkey as well.

After stuffing your aromatics inside the cavity of the turkey, it’s time to get real personal with the bird again. This part also kind of icks me out, but I do love turkey so I deal. Rubbing the turkey all over with butter and also rubbing some under the skin really helps give it that nice golden brown color. I then also coat the bird down with some kosher salt and pepper.

And don’t forget to tuck his little wings under him and tie his legs together. That just makes it look purdy!

Cooking time for turkey is based on how big your turkey is so go look that up on your own, ok. You should use a meat thermometer to determine if the turkey is done. The temp should be 180 degrees when the bird is done. And it will hopefully be beautiful and golden brown like this. . .


I’ll let you marinate on this a bit, but stay tuned for the rest of our great Thanksgiving recipes coming soon. . .