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What's Cooking in Bryan County: Classic Thanksgiving dishes
Libby Hires
Libby Hires

By Libby Hires, Contributor

This being the week of Thanksgiving, it should be an actual no brainer on what to write about, right? I mean every columnist, blogger, and social media dweller is going to be spilling out their thoughts about being thankful and counting blessings. 

Come to think of it, many students are no doubt getting a similar assignment, maybe with the exciting task of illustrating their favorites. So, what’s my problem? So little space, so much to be thankful for in my life. Yep. There is going to be a sequel to this week’s column somehow.

I’ve reached the age where I can look back at a whole lot of memories…. where going down Memory Lane takes me a lot longer than it used to do before…and it brings me some smiles, a few sad moments, and definitely some laughs. It reminds me of the quote from the movie, “Hope Floats”, where Berdie Pruitt quotes her momma about life, “She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.” I think there are always some beginnings, middles, and endings happening all during our life. We just have to look up, have some faith, and have the courage to keep on going while counting our blessings.

Thanksgiving meals can be one of the most fantastic spreads that we create of the year. While making it, you can hear the laughter, the singing, the joyful noise. OK that’s probably not going on in the kitchen, but you can probably hear it going on somewhere. In reality, if someone’s ease dropping, they may hear a few new words like “confound it”, “dagnabbit”, “blast-it-all”, and “Lawd have mercy”. Those are from the God-fearing kitchens. Wear your ear plugs in the others. Let me tell you, butter is NOT for a burn (use cold water immediately), the right look CAN cut, and if someone’s temper is a bit on the short side, you might want to back out of the kitchen…slowly. You won’t find those on Betty Crocker’s helpful hints, but Betty Sue’s Southern Sass if there ever is such a thing, yep, she’d tell you.

So, why do we DO that? Why do we get so all worked up over one meal to overfeed and have so many leftovers we send everyone home with at least one plate or maybe even a few casserole dishes full? Essentially, it’s because we do love making all of that food for the ones we love, the ones that gather around to fellowship and dine with us on this very special day. It’s our time to remind ourselves that, oh my goodness, I DO have so much to be thankful for after all. As we gaze around the room at relatives, friends, (and who is that again?!), we get that warm feeling in our heart that, deep down, we love these people around us. We think…. WAIT! Who’s doing dishes?!

Seriously, though, may you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and be blessed more today and this week as you reflect not on the food, but the wonderful blessings in your life. Speaking of food, here are some recipes to help you celebrate the upcoming holidays.

Cranberry Relish

(One of my all-time favorites! This was handed down by my Momma…kinda like her…the right mix of sweet and tart. Since I love Christmas, I won’t mention the part about nuts. Ha-ha!)

1 3 oz. pkg. cherry Jell-O ½ cup granulated sugar 1 cup boiling water 9 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained, reserving syrup 1 TBSP lemon juice 1 small orange, peeled, and chopped 1 cup cranberries, chopped 1 cup chopped celery 1 cup chopped pecans Directions: Dissolve Jell-O and sugar in water in a small casserole dish. Pour syrup in measuring cup & add enough cold water to measure 1 cup. Stir into Jell-O. When partially set, stir in remaining ingredients. Chill for at least 1 hour. Keep chilled until ready to serve and chill any leftovers.

Old Fashioned Mac and Cheese

(This is my great-grandmother’s recipe! It’s still amazing after all these generations… at least 5 generations approved!)

1½ cup elbow macaroni 2 cups evaporated milk 2-3 eggs, beaten ¼ tsp. ground mustard (“dry”) ¼ tsp. paprika or smoked paprika (optional) salt/pepper (about 2 dashes each) 1-pound grated American cheese (deli section) margarine Directions: Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Grease a deep casserole dish or metal baking pan (about 9 x 13) with margarine. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together egg, milk, and seasonings. Beat until well mixed. Place ½ of cooked macaroni in prepared dish/pan. Top with 1/3 of cheese mixture. Pour ½ of milk/egg mixture on top of mac and cheese. Repeat with the second layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 of cheese. Dot with margarine. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, or until lightly browned and cheese is bubbly. Allow it to set and cool slightly before serving.

Side notes: I have cheated and used grated/shredded casserole cheese, or the Mexican cheese and it has tasted just as good (I know…the sacrilege). Plus, I have mixed a little bit of my cheese by accident with my egg mixture, and it has turned out good. Just save some cheese for the top! I do love my cheese, so I tend to add extra. If you are in a big hurry mix it all together in a bowl, reserving extra cheese for top, and after you blend it well, pour into pan. It isn’t as good as the step-by-step, but it’s quicker and still has a great taste. My great-grandmomma is probably rolling her eyes at me in Heaven on this…and I’ll probably hear about it one day…Lord willing that I make it there.

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