Gobble Gobble

Our Thanksgiving this year will be one unlike any other my daughter has experienced in her short life.

I’m cooking.

Now, for most of my adult life, I’ve cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner for our family. There were a few years pre-kids and after the boys were born that we had dinner at this or that grandparent’s home but those mostly ended after we moved to Florida 12-plus years ago.

I love making big dinners, even if it’s just for the four (now five) of us. During our law school years, we’d invite other students who wouldn’t be traveling for the holiday. It was so much fun and we have a lot of great memories from those occasions.

That all changed when Miss L arrived on the scene a month before Thanksgiving 2004. Honey knew I’d have my hands full with caring for a newborn and he didn’t want me to overdo it just weeks after having my third C-section. He insisted we eat Thanksgiving dinner out. At a restaurant.

And it was wonderful. A full buffet of goodies, no dishes to clean, no hot pans to juggle, no leftovers to tempt me into overeating for days after. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we decided it would be a new family tradition — which would be continuing this year had the restaurant we’d agreed was perfect not turned into a special events facility. sigh

Not that it would have mattered this year, since we made plans to spend Thanksgiving with my folks at their home in South Carolina. Only … their plans changed because of my stepmom’s health and we found ourselves struggling to find a replacement dinner spot. It took a little work, but I convinced Honey that it would be no big deal for me to cook dinner this year. I had to promise that I wouldn’t go overboard, so no appetizers and only two desserts (and one of those is — gasp! — Sara Lee). Oh, and I have to make his favorite green bean casserole (I won’t tell you what I call it but it includes the word ‘slimy’).

Best of all, I have an excuse to make Aunt Marlene’s famous Sweet Potato Casserole. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my family cookbook opens to that page. It’s as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and dressing (and I make it every year around this time, along with a pan of Granny’s dressing because it’s just not November without them both). Try it; you’ll be just as addicted as the five of us.

Aunt Marlene’s Sweet Potato Casserole
1/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup margarine
2 eggs, beaten
Mix all ingredients and pour into a 9″x12″ baking dish. Then mix ingredients for topping and put on top of casserole. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
Topping
1 cup brown sugar, packed (I like dark brown sugar but that’s my personal preference)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 stick butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup flour
Mix flour and sugar. Spread over potato mixture. Sprinkle pecans over flour and sugar mixture. Pour melted butter or margarine over all.

Thankful: My seam ripper. Grrrr.

Meatball Memories

It’s amazing how the most random comments can evoke memories. Some online friends were talking about meatballs yesterday and I had a sudden craving for my Mom’s meatballs.

My mom made the best meatballs ever. I remember watching her fry them up on the stove, putting each batch on a plate layered with paper towels so they could drain before getting dunked into the sauce. We’d all sneak into the kitchen to snatch a still-warm meatball off the plate, usually getting caught. Oh, but it was worth it.

The Christmas before my mom got sick, she gave me a cookbook she’d found, a reprint of the one she’d learned to cook from. It’s definitely not health food! It was originally published in 1950 and is filled with tips for entertaining as well as pictures of how to do basic cooking skills like frying an egg.

I dug out the cookbook today and quickly jotted down the ingredients before running to the grocery store. Tonight we’ll have meatball subs (we had baked spaghetti on Monday; I think the family will mutiny if we have pasta again this week) and maybe a little reminiscing, too.

Meat Balls (excerpted from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, ca. 1950)

Mix and form into 1-1/2″ balls …

3/4 lb. ground beef
1/4 lb. ground pork
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup grate Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
2 small garlic cloves, cut fine
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Pan-fry until browned in 4 Tbsp. hot fat…

1 cup minced onion
the meat balls