Real Cooking

Have you ever taken a bag of fresh cranberries and simmered them together with a cup of sugar and a cup of apple cider? Ruby red heaven served next to a fat pork chop or a juicy slice of turkey. Yum.

Thanksgiving is a week away, and I know that many of you are busy making plans for your holiday feast. Pumpkin pie, creamy mashed potatoes and savory dressing may already be in your thoughts as you formulate your Thanksgiving dinner menu. But perhaps you might want to add one or two new dishes to your family’s traditional fare. I thought that for this week’s column, I might give you a few suggestions.

Who said pumpkin could only be used for a Thanksgiving dessert? While you wait for the bird to roast to a golden brown, set out a platter of pumpkin dip and chips to whet the appetite of your guests for the upcoming feast.

Layered Monterey Pumpkin Dip

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin

1 (8 oz.) packaged cream cheese, softened

3 tbs. jalapenos juice (taken from can)

1 (8 oz.) container sour cream

1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies

2 tbs. finely chopped jalapenos

1/4 tsp. garlic salt

1 medium tomato, chopped

2 green onions, sliced

1 (2.25 oz) can sliced black olives

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

Tortilla chips

Combine pumpkin, cream cheese and jalapeno juice in a bowl. Spread into 8-inch baking dish or other serving platter. Combine sour cream chilies, jalapenos and garlic salt. Carefully spread over pumpkin mixture. Top with tomato, olives, green onions and red onion. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Serve with chips.

* * *

Turkey at its finest is never over-cooked. Please, please, please use a meat thermometer.

Homestyle Turkey

12 pound whole turkey

4 cups warm water

3 tbs. chicken broth soup base

6 tbs. butter

2 tbs. seasoning salt

2 tbs. dried parsley

2 tbs. dried minced onion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and wash turkey. Discard the giblets, or you can add these to pan if they are anyone’s favorite. Place turkey in a roasting pan. Separate the skin over the breast to make little pockets. Put 3 tbs. of the butter on both sides between the skin and breast meat. This makes for very juicy breast meat.

Combine the water with the chicken base and sprinkle in the parsley flakes and minced onion. Pour over the top of the turkey. Sprinkle with seasoning salt. Cover with foil and bake for 4-5 hours. For the last 45 minutes or so, uncover the bird so it becomes nicely browned.

* * *

This crunchy, colorful salad is a great accompaniment to any poultry. Add some dried cranberries to make it even more vibrant.

Apple Walnut Salad

with Cranberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup red onion, chopped

1 tbs. white sugar

1 tbs. Dijon mustard

1 cup vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

10 cups mixed salad greens, rinsed and dried

2 red apples, cored and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 8 minutes or until lightly toasted. Watch carefully. In a food processor, combine the cranberries, vinegar, onion, sugar and mustard. Puree until smooth; gradually add oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. In a salad bowl, toss together the greens, apples and enough of the cranberry mixture to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts and serve immediately.

* * *

This carrot casserole is a favorite of mine. It really isn’t a true soufflé, but it goes so well with ham or turkey. You may want to cut down on the sugar, as it is rather sweet; perhaps use only 3/4 cup.

Carrot Soufflé

2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup white sugar

3 tbs. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. vanilla

3 eggs beaten

1 tsp. confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash. To the carrots add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

* * *

It seems like something as simple as stuffed celery shouldn’t even be mentioned, but I think it’s a relish that often goes overlooked. An old tried-and-true favorite, the kids love this pick-up-and -eat vegetable.

Stuffed Celery

1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

2 tbs. sour cream

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

20 green olives with pimento, chopped

1 bunch of celery cut into bite sized pieces

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese and sour cream. Stir in walnuts and olives. Spread filling into celery pieces

* * *

Ok, now you really have to splurge for dessert and what could be better than pecan pie? The dates in this southern recipe add more body to the filling. Don’t use packaged chopped dates that are rolled in sugar, instead use moist and sticky whole dates.

Pecan and Date Pie


1 cup flour

3 tbs. ice water

1 tsp. lemon juice

2 tbs. powdered sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup vegetable shortening


1/2 cup whole pitted dates, chopped

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 tbs. flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. salt

4 large eggs

To prepare crust combine dry ingredients together and cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add wet ingredients and lightly toss until mixture is moist. Gently press mixture into a circle and roll out to fit 9-inch pie plate.

To prepare filling: sprinkle dates and pecans over bottom of crust. Combine other ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a mixer until well blended. Pour in prepared crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.

* * *

Whatever our holiday menu, be it a nine course dinner-or a turkey pot pie-may we truly be thankful.

God bless.

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