Celebrate Thanksgiving weekend being thankful for miracles, family

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Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

With a cool nip in the air, Thanksgiving morning at our house starts early. The turkey is unwrapped and placed in a large roasting pan, as the oven preheats. After a coating of butter and seasonings, the bird is placed in the hot oven. A parade of casseroles, breads and desserts are then unloaded from the freezer with some going in the refrigerator, while others thaw on the counter to be placed on the sideboard.

A second cup of coffee is poured, as table arrangements are checked for a last time before guests arrive. Centerpieces and tables are set days ahead. Fall leaves, fresh fruit and nuts are casually combined at each table.

As the aroma of the roasting turkey begins to fill the house, it brings back memories of other Thanksgivings when my parents were living and other family members were at the table. I am thankful and feel blessed for my family and being able to live in my hometown. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss the sweetest, kindest folks I ever knew.

I remember how much my parents always appreciated my cooking and being in my home that was filled at holidays with our growing family. Along with our children, my brother and sister’s children grew up, graduated from college, got married and began bringing little ones. Once again, the children’s table was lively with laugher between bites of macaroni and cheese and turkey.

After my father passed away, holidays became more difficult, but there was gratitude of having him in our lives for as long as we did. We recall his jokes and the stories he would tell of growing up in the country outside Opelika.

During WWII, he signed up on the buddy plan with Robert Brown, the brother of James Brown, who later owned a grocery store in Opelika. Dad was turned down because of a hearing loss from an accident, so he was not with his friend when he died on the shores of Normandy. My siblings and I always thought if Dad had been accepted, he too would have died that day with his friend, and we would never have been born.

When I had surgery at UAB and doctors discovered a very rare stage four cancer, I was thankful in a way that my father was in heaven because I knew the pain and worry it would have caused him. By this time, Mom had developed dementia. I decided I had rather see her smiling face instead of stress if she knew.

A couple of weeks before she passed away, I was checking out a nursing home when I received a call from the hospital that my mother was frantic, saying she had to see me right away. She told them there was something wrong with me, adding that she “felt it.”

As I rushed to the hospital, I knew no one would have told her about the cancer. When I walked in the room, she was sitting up in bed smiling. Maybe she had a visit from my angel father, but by the time I arrived, she had forgotten.

Thanksgiving dinner is filled with memories of my mother. Most of the recipes are hers. The dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, carrot cake and red velvet cake are some of the dishes she made for years. The grandchildren are now baking her cake recipes.

While we savor the dishes from Mom’s passed down recipes, we remember so much more than good food. Mom and Dad’s love of God and living a Christian life are ever present. When the church doors opened, they were there with their Bible that was becoming worn from reading it daily.

Their hearts were golden, with kindness and love for others. I remember one time when I was at the doctor’s office with them. My Dad turned to the nurse and said, “Thank you for being so good to us.” A moment of being thankful was never missed.

They were humble and kind. When my father’s sister was ill, my mother cooked extra every day to take to her. She did the same when her brother was sick and also for others.

If they heard I was not well, I knew fried chicken, potato salad and a peach cobbler would soon be on its way.

My parents taught me to appreciate every day, no matter what was happening, and to cherish family. Although I have made numerous trips to M.D. Anderson in Houston, I am blessed to have more time with family and live longer with a miracle. I have escaped a devastating chemo treatment.

Cancer is awful and has taken so many of my friends. A while back, I had lunch with a friend who had cancer and was also going to M.D. Anderson. We were excited to know we would both be in Houston the following month at the same time and planned on meeting to pray for each other. I went to Houston for my appointment and missed her funeral.

Over the years, I have learned what it means to be truly thankful to see the sun rise on another day and grateful that God provides strength for whatever we face.

Before the turkey is carved and the potatoes are mashed, there will be prayers of Thanksgiving for miracles, caring family and friends and a heritage of living a Christian life.

Following are an assortment of recipes to prepare Thanksgiving weekend. Many are good to serve for watching football games with family and friends.

Southern Hospitality is copyrighted by Ann Cipperly. She can be reached at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Mousse Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from my mother’s classic red velvet cake recipe. Makes a special dessert during the holiday season.
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1½ cups cooking oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. white vinegar
½ bottle red food color
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two cake pans. Beat eggs; add sugar. Combine oil, buttermilk, vinegar, and food color. In another bowl combine dry ingredients. Add dry and wet ingredients alternately to batter, beginning and ending with flour. Pour mixture into pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until tests done.
When cool, place one layer on cake plate; top with White Chocolate Mousse and then the second layer. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting on top of cake. Top with dipped cherries. Chill until ready to serve.
White Chocolate Mousse
1½ tsp. unflavored gelatin
12 oz. white chocolate chips or squares, chopped
3 cups heavy cream, whipped
Line cake pan with foil and plastic wrap; set aside.
Soften gelatin in ¼ cup cold water; set aside for 5 minutes.
Place 1/3 cup cream in saucepan. When hot, stir in gelatin to dissolve.
Melt chocolate in microwave. Gently fold in gelatin mixture; stir until smooth. Chill for about 10 minutes until just cool.
Fold in whipped cream. Place in prepared pan; cover with plastic wrap. Chill until firm. To place on cake layer, pull out of pan with foil and place upside down on cake. Carefully peel away foil and plastic wrap.
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
Cream together cream cheese and butter; add sugar and mix until smooth.
White Chocolate Covered Cherries
1 jar cherries with stems
White chocolate or almond bark
Place cherries on paper towel to dry. Dip in melted chocolate. Place around edge of frosted cake.

White Chicken or Turkey Chili
This is a hearty dish for using leftover turkey.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small cans diced green chilies
3 cans white northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. cumin or to taste, optional
2 to 3 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey
Salt to taste
Assorted topping: sour cream, grated cheddar or pepper jack cheese, chopped avocado
Sauté onion in olive oil; add garlic. Add beans, green chilies, cumin, broth and chicken. Cook on low for an hour or place in crock-pot on low. Mash some of the beans for a thick mixture. Serve with toppings of choice. Recipe is easy to double.

Bacon Spread with Smoked Almonds
8 slices bacon, cooked and chopped 
8 oz. cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup good mayonnaise 
2 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard 
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese 
3 green onions, chopped 
1/2 cup or more smoked almonds, coarsely chopped
Fresh vegetables, crackers or sliced baguette 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown bacon in nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Drain crisp bacon bits on paper towels.
In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Dijon, Swiss and green onions with cooked bacon. Pour into a shallow baking dish and bake until golden and bubbly at edges, 15 to 18 minutes.
Top with chopped smoked almonds. Serve with fresh vegetables, crackers and/or sliced baguette.

Spinach and Artichoke Spread
10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
Salt to taste
1 cup quality mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
¼ cup diced tomatoes for garnish, optional
Pita chips and crudités
Salt drained spinach. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese and garlic; blend well. Fold in artichoke hearts that have been chopped. Can serve chilled, at room temperature or baked until warm. Garnish with diced tomatoes.
Serve with pita chips and crudités, if desired. Can be prepared ahead.

Turkey and Rice Soup
Turkey bones
2 to 3 onions, halved
1 bunch celery, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup or more white or brown rice
Sliced mushrooms, optional
Place turkey bones in Dutch oven; cover with water; add onions, celery and salt. Bring to a boil; lower heat to simmer for about three four hours. Remove bones, saving some pieces of turkey, and strain broth.
Bring broth to boil. Add pieces of turkey, rice and mushrooms, if desired. Simmer until rice is cooked, about 40 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake
Good way to use leftover sweet potatoes.
½ cup shortening
½ cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup cooked pureed sweet potatoes
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ cup chopped toasted pecans, optional
¼ cup flaked coconut, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening and butter; add sugar, beating well. Beat in eggs one at a time. Combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in sweet potatoes and vanilla.
Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan; sprinkle with chopped nuts and coconut (optional topping). Pour batter into pan. Bake about one hour and 10 minutes, testing for doneness.

Apple Cider in Crock-pot
1 gallon apple cider
1 cup brown sugar (more or less to taste)
1 tsp. whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, sliced
Pour apple cider in a crock-pot. Add sugar and stir. Put whole cloves and cinnamon in a tea ball or cheesecloth and place in pot. Add orange slices. Simmer covered on high until hot, stirring occasionally. Once hot, lower heat to low to keep warm.

Candied Pecans
Makes a crunchy, sweet snack for the dessert table or to give as a hostess gift.
2 egg whites
1 cup sugar
4 cups pecans, whole or chopped
½ cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat egg whites until foamy; gradually add sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in pecans. Pour butter into a rimmed cookie sheet. Spread pecan mixture over butter. Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Turkey Sliders
Make ahead and pour sauce on before baking.
Sliced turkey
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese slices
2 pkg. Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls
1/2 cup pesto (in jar or homemade)
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/3 cup brown sugar
Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in medium pan. Sauté onion in butter for about 5 minutes, or until clear and cooked.
Leaving the (24) rolls attached, horizontally slice the top off; set aside. Place the bottom (attached 24 pieces) rolls in a 9×13 foil-lined baking pan. (You may need to squeeze them into the pan, or remove a row if you choose.)
Spread pesto evenly over the bottom bread.
Next layer on top of the pesto turkey, sautéed onions, and cheese slices.
Place the top section of rolls back on top of sandwiches.
In a medium saucepan bring 1/2 cup butter to a soft boil. Add mustard, Worcestershire, poppy seeds and brown sugar.
Pour sauce over the sandwiches. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.

Toasted Turkey, Roasted Red Peppers and Fontina Sandwiches
1/4 cup prepared basil pesto
8 slices Italian bread, sliced
4 slices roast turkey
1 roasted red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
4 slices fontina or Swiss cheese
Soft butter or olive oil or combination of both
Divide pesto evenly on 1 side of each bread slices.
Divide turkey, roasted pepper and cheese on 4 bread slices. Top with the remaining slices of bread, pesto sides down, to form 4 sandwiches.
Spread butter on sandwiches. Toast in a skillet on both sides until golden brown.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Toffee Topping
Crust
1½ cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. sugar
Cheesecake
Three 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
Whipped cream
Toffee bits
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap outside of spring form pan with foil. Mix gingersnap crumbs, butter and sugar; press into the bottom of greased spring form pan. Bake crust about five minutes; set aside.
Combine cream cheese and sugar in bowl of electric mixer; blend until smooth. Add pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and spices; beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl. Pour over crust.
Bake cheesecake for one hour and five minutes until the center is set and the edges begin to crack. Cool in pan. Chill. Can be prepared two days ahead.
Top with sweetened whipped cream and toffee bits. Makes 12 servings.

Hot Mocha White Chocolate
12 oz. white chocolate
1½ cups half & half or milk
6 cups hot coffee
Whipped Cream
Combine white chocolate and half and half in saucepan; heat while stirring until melted or heat in microwave until chocolate is melted. Pour mixture into hot coffee. Top with whipped cream. Serves six to eight.

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