Thanksgiving recipes

In graduate school I read something that has stuck with me over the years. It’s that modern people, with all of the mental concentration required to perform our everyday tasks, tend to seek out leisure activities which force us to work with our hands. I know this is true in my case. There is nothing I enjoy more than the relaxation that comes from gardening, drawing, or cooking. Focusing on such interests is, at least for me, a great stress reliever. Of course, preparing for big holiday celebrations can add a whole new level of pressure to an already busy life. To alleviate some of the strain, I start by preparing the food early. (In fact, one of my friends contends that I serve “leftovers” to my family…which is not exactly the case!) Before Thanksgiving each year, I begin on Sunday by baking the cornbread for my southern-style dressing; then Monday, I usually get the sweet potatoes ready; on Tuesday, it’s the cranberry sauce. Anyway, whatever the schedule of events, I think you get the picture.

In the time that we have been married, we’ve collected a stash of recipes that we use for the holidays, particularly for Thanksgiving. I would like to share two of them with you today. The oldest of these, from a secretary at Clark College in Atlanta, is still written on the same red index card from decades ago. This delectable dish, called “Sweet Potato Soufflé,” is not a true, puffy, hard-to-create soufflé, but a richly satisfying side dish, perfect for the excess of the holiday table. Over the years we have tinkered with the recipe slightly and have now passed it on to the next generation.

3 cups of cooked, mashed sweet potatoes, ¼ cup melted butter
¾ c. sugar, 1/3 cup flour
¼ cup milk, 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 eggs, 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the topping:
1 cup chopped pecans, ¼ cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour

Combine the sweet potatoes, sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, melted butter, flour, orange peel, and orange juice; mix well. Pour into a 2 quart baking or soufflé dish. Combine the topping ingredients and scatter over the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until bubbly. Serves 8.

Another all-time favorite of our family is “Cranberry Applesauce.” This one came from a sister-in-law and again dates from our time in Georgia. This easy to make dish tastes so much better, in my mind at least, than canned cranberry sauce. As I look at this card, I realize that it really needs to be rewritten…but I’ve made it so often that I could practically do it without any reminders!

2 ounces butter, ½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 lb. fresh cranberries, 1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Golden Delicious apples, 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar,

Melt the butter in a pot and add the cranberries. Cook until they are popping and mushy. Peel the apples and cut into pieces. Add to the cranberries and mix well. Turn off the heat and add the brown sugar, spices, and nuts. Grease a 2-quart baking dish, add mixture, and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. If prepared in advance, cook 10 minutes, covered with aluminum foil, then refrigerate. Warm for 15 to 20 minutes before eating. (Note: this dish is supposed to be served covered with marshmallows, but I think that is too much of a good thing.)

There you have two of our choices for the Thanksgiving table. Let me know if you try them and what you think. Enjoy this best of the American holidays!

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