This weeks Thing Write Thursday has us all thinking about our favorite Thanksgiving recipe.
Now, for me the Thanksgiving meal at my Nana’s house was the Christmas meal as well as the Easter meal. I loved it as a child, that continuity and comfort of those deliciously familiar foods lovingly made from scratch by my Nana. The one exception were the pies (yes plural – pumpkin, apple, and lemon meringue) that my Aunt Arlene made…she is quite simply the best pie maker I have ever known.
From the ham and turkey (yes, both!) to the insanely good mashed potatoes, to the stuffing, to the gravy – it was a feast fit for kings! And it was always at my Nana’s house – where there were two eating areas. The eat-in kitchen where the grand-kids and the aunts all sat and the living room where the uncles all watched football on TV. (Please note, my Nana never sat down to eat, until her daughters would make her! It became a great game – a battle of wills, as it were. However, my Nana explained to me that tasting all day did not leave much room for eating!)
There was much laughter, so much good cheer, and so much love. They are the fondest memories I have of my childhood.
And then you grow up, get married and holidays become more of a challenge. You have new families to be part of with new family traditions. It can feel not very holiday-like when you are missing all those familiar things.
There is one dish my Nana made that I carried with me – sweet potato casserole. The taste of those oven roasted sweet potatoes mashed with lots of butter, some brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg – baked until bubbly perfection and then topped with a billion marshmallows to brown quickly under the broiler. It was the most incredibly concoction ever and just filled me with my Nana’s love and care.
As a child, I loved the sweetness all by itself – it was the epitome of the perfect child’s dish, and as I grew into adulthood; I appreciated the sweet – savory combination of stuffing and sweet potatoes or sweet potatoes and gravy. However, anyway you have it is is simply delicious!
This dish is the one dish that ties me to my childhood and the memories I have of this dish are perhaps some of the oldest memories I have.
Not the best photo, but oddly the only one I could find!
Nana’s Sweet Potato Casserole:
6-7 large sweet potatoes – washed and scrubbed
2-3 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup to 1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg (I use freshly grated)
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ to ¾ cup whipping cream
1 bag of miniature marshmallows (or 1 bag of large marshmallows – your choice)
Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
Place the sweet potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet and put in the oven. Bake until soft – about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the size of your potatoes. You want them very soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing the skins.
Place skinned potatoes in a mixing bowl and begin adding butter. Mix on a medium-low speed, incorporating more butter. The goal here is a very buttery mixture – you might need 2 sticks – you might need 2 and a half sticks – you might need all three sticks, it really depends on the size of your potatoes.
Add in the brown sugar and spices and mix well.
Add in the egg and mix well until it is all incorporated into the potatoes.
Add in the cream in ¼ cup intervals – again, the larger your potatoes, the more cream you will need. I generally add a half a cup, but if all my potatoes were giant – I would add more cream in. Mix well to combine.
Spoon mixture into a baking dish. (Now is the best part – you can make this the day before. Just cover it and put it in the refrigerator. Be sure to bring it to room temperature before you bake it in the oven, otherwise the cooking time will be much longer)
Bake in the oven until the mixture is bubbly – and you can bake it at whatever temperature you are baking everything else at on Thanksgiving.
When it is done, remove from oven – cover top with marshmallows – and I mean cover. Really, be generous! More is always better!
Place under the broiler to toast them. Please note, you can do this while your turkey is resting and you are making gravy. You just want them under the broiler long enough to brown and melt into the top!
My family and I hope that this recipe brings you as much joy as it has for us over the years.
Think Write Thursday this week is all about teachers – especially a favorite teacher that most influenced you and how.
Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges. Joyce Meyer
And thus, began the great internal debate – which teacher to use…
I suppose I am fortunate that I had so many great teachers over the years. However, there are two teachers and one very special aide who had tremendous impact on my life as a student and their influence stayed with me far beyond the classroom to my daily life.
To start out – I moved midway through first grade and that meant a new school – Lakewood Elementary on the “north side” of Holland, Michigan. Not much fun at all when you are a child of any age, but it was especially difficult because it was obvious that I was woefully behind my classmates in so many things. The worst of which was reading. I was not reading at all, yet my classmates were. Luckily, I spent time every single day with Mrs. Hayward and it was with her help that I began to read. She opened new doors for me and with her help I became a voracious reader. She helped me get caught up to my classmates and I then just blew past them. It might have been a slow start, but once I got going there was no stopping me! Thank you so much Mrs. Hayward!
The first teacher I want to share with you was my second-grade teacher, Miss Vanden Belt. Until I began to work on this post, I never realized that my second-grade year was her first year of teaching! Miss Vanden Belt was extra-special! She was the first teacher that truly made me excited about learning. I thought she was magical – she dressed just so perfectly, her enthusiasm was catching, and simply put – I just wanted to make her happy so I eagerly did whatever she asked! Now, I went to pre-historic grade school and there was never any homework. But, she kept the fire burning in me for reading and I devoured books – in class, from the school library, and even those great wonders – Scholastic Books! But, perhaps the best thing about Miss Vanden Belt was that she never forgot her students.
I could run into her in Meijer’s and she would be as excited to see you as she was when you walked into class each morning. And, when you saw her again, she remembered your last conversation and asked how things were. And, you knew she sincerely wanted to know. I have not seen Miss Vanden Belt in years, but I think of her often.
The last teacher that had a tremendous impact on my life was Mr. Berghorst – he was my high school English teacher. I really loved him and took as many classes with his as I could. He was a very popular teacher with the students. Honestly, I can confidently say that he was everyone’s favorite teacher. As you can see, he was such a snappy dresser and was so different from every other teacher I ever had. He was a bit theatrical and his room was not your typical class room in very conservative Holland, Michigan. Encircling the room were hundreds of New Yorker magazine covers. I had never heard of the New Yorker magazine before Mr. Berghorst and that was just one of many things that he opened my eyes to during the classes I had with him. He taught the importance of critical thinking. His class room was a place that fostered lively discussion and how crucial listening is. He shared that there was a big huge world outside of West Michigan and he encouraged us to discover it with open minds. In his class I learned to overcome my fear of speaking in public, I learned how to write a paper that someone would want to read, and I learned that an open mind is the best thing you could possibly possess.
These very special people all had a wonderful influence on what and who I am today. I am so very grateful for all they imparted to my life.
If you would like to join Carole and I on our Thursday writing journey, you can sign up here.
I can pass an abandoned building anywhere and Haunted Houses by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow plays in my mind.
Is it haunted?
All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
Who had lived here? What did they do? Where did they go? Did anyone care about them? Miss them? Think about them?
We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.
Was it their presence I felt on the breeze that caused gooseflesh to raise on my arms? Did they see me peering in the windows?
There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.
Are there silent celebrations happening that I can neither see or hear?
The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.
What would it have been like when people lived here? Did they feel the presence of those who owned it before them?
We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.
Why does this house stand empty? Does no one see the potential?
The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.
Or does the presence of something hang on the air?
Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.
Are the forces inside out of balance? Omnipresent? Wanting to be elsewhere? Disturbed by my interruptions?
These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.
Does my presence make them uneasy? Can they sense my increased heartbeat?
And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—
Do they long for moonlit skies, filled with twinkling stars? Do they delight in the shadows they create?
So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.
I don’t recall how old I was the first time I read this poem, but I think I might have been in 7th or 8th grade. This poem caused me to think about things that went bump in the night. Walking to the bus stop in the morning in the dark and hearing a strange whistling in the wind was suddenly more than a little scary and being alone in a house after dark made me hyper alert to all the house sounds that suddenly were no longer normal.
Curious how a poem, a vivid imagination, and the mystery of an abandoned building can make Halloween come to life!
As always, Carole and I would love to have you join us on our Thursday writing journey! You can sign up here – and we promise it won’t be scary!
This week Carole and I are eager for you to Tell Us About the Best Breakfast You Ever Had:
If you asked me, I would absolutely say I am not a “breakfast eater” my usual for a major portion of my adult life has just been coffee.
That being said, I have had some stellar breakfasts in my life.
While my mother could not be classified as a cook at all. I simply loved those mornings when she made CoCo Wheats. What child would not like chocolate for breakfast, right? If she asked what I wanted, it was always my first choice!
As an adult I remember going out for breakfast on a weekend morning and having the best omelets at the Elbow Room (sadly, no longer there) in Saugatuck. They were so good, just packed full of such good things, each and every one of them!
I also have fond memories of incredibly different breakfasts in other countries – my favorites were in Scotland where I learned that I simply love steel-cut oats. This is a hearty, stick-with-you breakfast that I have long tried to replicate. I think I come close with my oven roasted version, but replicating the ambiance that is Scotland…Yeah, that is not so easy to do!
However, I think my absolute favorite breakfast is this; My Great-Aunt Marian’s Baked Pancake. The first time I had this I was about 6 or 7 years old when we went to Lansing, Illinois to visit Aunt Marion and her husband, Uncle Fred. She made Baked Pancake for breakfast and it was so elegant and beautiful – topped with powdered sugar and freshly sliced strawberries. This was unlike anything I had ever had before. It was so puffy and custard-y and buttery. It seemed to just melt in my mouth. In my child’s mind, my Aunt Marion seemed to be magical, creating such an incredible breakfast.
After that, my most requested breakfast was Aunt Marian’s Baked Pancake – but none were ever the same as hers.
I have made Baked Pancake a number of times in my life and each time I fondly remembered that very first time in my Aunt Marion’s simple home. For me, food is an incredible tie to the roots of my family and sadly I have not made Baked Pancake nor thought about Aunt Marian in a very long time.
Perhaps it is time to dust off my recipe and make Baked Pancake again soon – in fond and loving memory of Aunt Marian.