Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life... a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year — and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God.
— Ray Stannard Baker (David Grayson)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Custard Bars

“I’ve met people that don’t like pumpkin pie but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like this dessert,” said Barb Simon-Johnson. “I think it’s the cream cheese in the frosting and the pecans in the custard that make it especially delicious  — it’s a wonderful alternative to pumpkin pie.”

Barb’s sister, Paula Simon Lee, introduced her to the recipe about six years ago at a Thanksgiving gathering and Barb has been baking it every year since then for her family and extended family. Even though she does occasionally make it at other times of the year she tries to save it for holidays so it remains a special treat. CJK

Pumpkin Custard Bars
(Barb Simon-Johnson)

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1 box yellow cake mix
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 sticks butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Mix pumpkin, milk, sugar, cinnamon and eggs. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle cake mix over the top and then sprinkle the chopped pecans. Drizzle melted butter over mixture.

Bake one hour. Cool completely, then flip onto a platter. Mix frosting ingredients and spread over cooled bars.

Yield: 24 to 30 servings

A note from Barb: If the custard breaks a little bit you can easily repair it with a knife. Once it’s frosted no one will know that anything happened.
A note from Carol: Barb and her husband Christopher Johnson are members of the Holdingford Five Parish Faith Community. They are the parents of two children and brand-new grandparents of Arabella Faith. Barb is the graphic designer/web designer for the St. Cloud Diocese. She has worked for the diocese for over 13 years.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pomegranate and Poppy Seed Salad

There’s a reason that pomegranates have been called “royalty amongst fruit.” Once their intriguing red leathery skin is removed, an opulent bounty of nature’s gorgeous jewels is revealed — ruby red arils (or seeds) that are sweet, juicy and bursting with flavor. Symbolic of prosperity and abundance, this fruit has been highly prized around the globe for centuries.

I learned from the Pomegranate Council website that many scholars believe that the forbidden, yet irresistible fruit that Eve indulged in from the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate (and not an apple.)

The beautiful arils are tempting! These crimson treasures turn this super-easy salad into an enticing, elegant dish! CJK

 Pomegranate and Poppy Seed Salad
(Betty Crocker Seasonal Salads and Sides)

Poppy Seed Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tbsp. poppy seeds

1 bunch romaine, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 medium red onion, sliced

Beat dressing ingredients together with a wire whisk.

Place the romaine, pomegranate and onion into bowl. Immediately before serving, toss with dressing.

Yield: 6 servings

A note from Betty Crocker: When pomegranates are not available, use one cup dried cranberries or two medium oranges, peeled, sectioned and sections cut in half, and two kiwifruit, peeled, sliced and slices cut in half.

A note from Carol: I found the recipe for this attractive, tasty salad several years ago in a little Betty Crocker cookbook called “Seasonal Salads and Sides.” My husband, Ole, and I made it to take to an extended family Thanksgiving dinner. We were definitely “pomegranate novices” at the time. I prepared the salad dressing and tore up the romaine. Ole followed instructions we had found to cut the fruit in half and use a spoon to remove the seeds. To this day, I remember the multitude of red juice stains that had landed on our white curtains that hung above the kitchen sink. (We had to throw them in the washer before leaving the house.)

Over the years we’ve graduated to another pomegranate skill level and remove the arils under water, which alleviates the mess of bright red juice squirting anywhere and everywhere. Here’s a link to the Pomegranate Council’s FAQ page where you can click to see their “Three Steps No Mess Process.”

P.S. Another great salad recipe to serve during the holiday season is the Winter Fruit Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing, which I posted last year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tomato Pie

Alice Coudron plans to bring Tomato Pie to the Thanksgiving potluck at the Pastoral Center this Wednesday and also prepare it for her family’s holiday gathering the next day.

A year or two ago her niece brought one to an Easter dinner and Alice was totally surprised to see her daughter Kim, who normally doesn’t like tomatoes, sample it. Then, after a week or so, Kim surprised her even more by wanting to make it. It’s been on the menu at their home frequently since then.

The Coudrons raise lots of tomatoes and herbs in their garden. Alice especially likes to make this tomato pie in the summer, with her own fresh garden produce. CJK

Tomato Pie
(Alice Coudron)

1 pie shell, prepared
2 lbs. tomatoes*
Olive oil
Sea salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
2-3 tbsp. fresh basil, torn**
1 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pie shell as directed.

Place foil on a jelly roll pan. Slice tomatoes into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place them on the pan and sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt. Roast tomatoes for one and a half hours at 350°F.

Mix mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and oregano together. Spread one-half cup of this mixture on the baked pie shell, top with half of the roasted tomatoes, half of the basil and one-half cup of the shredded cheddar cheese. Layer with remaining mayonnaise mixture, tomatoes, basil and cheese. Bake dish for 25-35 minutes at 350°F.

Yield: 8 servings

A note from Alice: *It’s best to use larger, beefy tomatoes for this recipe. Their flavor is really concentrated during the roasting.

**Using fresh basil really makes a big difference in this dish, but, in a pinch, I have substituted about one teaspoon of dried basil for fresh.

I really like the white cheddar cheese in this recipe, because of that little “tang” it adds.

A note from Carol: Alice is the consultant for The Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of St. Cloud, with responsibility for planned giving and major gifts. She and her husband Wally are members of St. Henry Parish in Monticello.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Southwestern Corn Stuffing

Dianne Towalski shares one of her family’s best-loved holiday recipes — Southwestern Corn Stuffing. She got the recipe from her mother, Vicky Willams, who has been making it since Dianne was a teenager.

It’s definitely at the top of her husband Joe’s favorites this time of year. “It’s the one extra thing I look forward to every Thanksgiving — outside of the turkey — because we don’t make it at any other time,” he said. “I love stuffing and I love spicy food. This version has a little kick but it’s not ‘mouth-on-fire’ hot. The corn part of it is unique, too. The combination is really delicious.” CJK

Southwestern Corn Stuffing
(Dianne Towalski)

6 cups prepared cornbread, crumbled
1 can (14.75 oz.) cream style corn
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chilies, drained
3/4 cup shredded Cojack cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
1 tbsp. cilantro, snipped
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch baking pan with no-stick spray.

Place crumbled cornbread in baking pan and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until toasted. Stir every 10 minutes while toasting. Remove from oven and cool.

Reset oven temperature to 325°F.

In large bowl combine corn, drained chilies, cheese, onion, red pepper, cilantro and egg. Mix well. Add the toasted cornbread; toss to mix.

Place the mixture in ungreased 2-quart casserole and bake, covered, at 325°F for 45 to 60 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings

A note from Dianne: The cornbread can be baked a day or two ahead of time. My mom always makes it from scratch but I buy a cornbread mix.

The mixture could be used to stuff an 8-10 pound turkey instead of baking it in a casserole. However, there are a number of vegetarians in our family so we prefer to keep it separate from the turkey. The traditional-style of dressing is always on the Thanksgiving menu, as well, and that is sometimes baked inside the turkey for those who prefer it prepared that way.

A note from Carol: Dianne, The Visitor’s graphic designer, is no stranger to FFF — you might remember her family’s recipe for delectable chocolate covered cherries posted last February. Joe is the editor of The Visitor and The Catholic Spirit, official newspapers for the Diocese of St. Cloud and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It’s truly a joy for me to work with both of them — they are wonderful people! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hamburger Bread Dressing

In this year’s holiday recipe collection I’m offering two very different ways to prepare stuffing. The first is Hamburger Bread Dressing from Angie Loecken whose family would like her to make it all the time. But she holds the line to holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and sometimes Easter.

Angie has made this Hamburger Bread Dressing for about 40 years; adapting the recipe to the tastes and textures her family likes best. She said using hamburger as an ingredient in dressing (rather than breakfast sausage or pork sausage) surprises people. CJK

Hamburger Bread Dressing
(Angie Loecken)

1 (1 1/2 pounds) loaf cracked wheat bread, dried
4 cups unseasoned chicken broth
1 stick butter (do not substitute margarine)
1 raw egg
1 cup celery, diced and boiled in water until tender
1 can cream of celery soup
2 tsp. poultry seasoning, or to taste
1 1/2 lb. hamburger
1 med. onion diced
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch pan.

Break dried bread into small pieces and put in large bowl. Heat the chicken broth and butter and pour over the bread. Add egg, celery, soup and poultry seasoning and stir. Fry hamburger and diced onion together. Combine hamburger and bread mixtures. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place in prepared pan — don’t fill to the top — leave room for expansion. Bake for about an hour — until crunchy on top. Serve hot with turkey gravy.

Yield: 12 servings

A note from Angie: I always use Country Hearth Cracked Wheat Bread — when I put in other kinds, my family notices. I’m generous with the bread when I make this recipe. We like our dressing more on the crunchy-side so I keep the layer in the pan rather thin — filling it only halfway. If I have too much, I put some of it into a smaller baking dish and freeze it to bake and serve with chicken at a later time.

Some people like their dressing moist and some like it dry. This dressing is moist, but not overly so. It rises during baking — I think it’s the egg.

A note from Carol: Angie and Chuck are members of St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph. They have three children and two grandchildren. She is the administrative assistant to the director of the Office of Marriage and Family. Angie has worked for the Diocese of St. Cloud for 42 years. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Turkey, Cranberry Sauce and Pecan Pie

A few weeks ago The Visitor staff enjoyed lunch with the diocesan Catholic Charities communications staff, some of whom we’d been working with for a while but had not had an opportunity to meet before. I discovered that Trina Dietz, their communications specialist, started a blog — Trina’s Recipes  — a couple of years ago as a way to record and share her family recipes.

Trina’s blog is a lot of fun — it showcases her sparkling personality as well as the recipes she and her family treasure. Instead of including the recipes as I usually do, I decided to simply share a few links to her blog in this posting. CJK

Trina has been brining her turkey for several years, an idea she learned from Alton Brown — of whom she is a devoted fan. She and her husband, Eric, now the turkey preparers of their families, like the results of “marinating” the bird in a mixture of salt, brown sugar, orange juice and water for six to eight hours before roasting it by starting with a hot oven and turning the temperature down after half an hour.

Trina didn’t grow up eating cranberries. But since she started making them with this super-simple recipe, she became a cranberry convert and so did her kids and her brothers, whom she describes as really finicky.

Trina always loved her Aunt Mary’s pecan pie. When she asked her aunt for the recipe she found out it came from the side of a Karo syrup bottle. (I remember that recipe from my childhood, too. It’s a good one!)

A note from Carol: If you decide to prepare your turkey “the traditional way,” and find you have questions, consult the Butterball website. It’s an excellent resource for all cooks, whether new or experienced. The site has lots of recipes and ideas, tips and how-tos. And Butterball has short videos on choosing, thawing, stuffing, roasting and carving a turkey as well as using the leftovers.

On turkey roasting day, consult the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-288-8372). It can be an extremely helpful hotline for those last minute questions.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving — a celebration of gratitude

Yesterday Thankster, the first online thank you store, announced that their company is promoting the week of Thanksgiving as National Gratitude Week. They are encouraging people to “take back Thanksgiving and interpret the name of the holiday very literally, as it was originally intended.”

I like that. The “main course” on Thanksgiving should be gratitude. And, as I begin to count my blessings — large and small, widespread or close-to-home — I realize they are abundant.


Often at this time, we’re especially grateful for traditional recipes — foods that we may eat only once a year. It’s hard to step away from tradition — we want the holiday feast prepared just like mother did.

But I wonder, if she’d had access to all the great recipes around today, might she have made her stuffing, or sides, or dessert differently each year, just to try something new?

This year, I asked a number of colleagues about unique tastes that make their Thanksgiving meals special. They responded with delicious, creative preparations for this holiday feast.

In the next few days, I’ll be posting recipes for: 
• Turkey with cranberry sauce and pecan pie
• Hamburger dressing
• Cornbread stuffing 
• Tomato pie
• Pomegranate salad
• With a grand finale of pumpkin dessert. CJK

May your stuffing be tasty

May your turkey plump,

May your potatoes and gravy

Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious

And your pies take the prize,

And may your Thanksgiving dinner

Stay off your thighs!

~Author Unknown