TBT Lesson #78

In the ’90s, we started a tradition of the whole family, my brother’s family, my sister’s family, our parents and John’s mom and husband all loading up and driving from Florida to north Georgia to celebrate Thanksgiving. We’d rent two or three houses in Helen, Georgia and spend the weekend cooking, eating, hiking, playing and bonding. While we no longer celebrate out of state, Thanksgiving is still cousin catch up time.


TBT Lesson #78: Be thankful for the time you spend with cousins.

A Dessert for Every Person

On Rachel Ray’s two day Thanksgiving show, she provided tips on everything relating to preparing the feast. Can you believe that one of the tips was to prepare just enough dessert for one piece per person? And to fix only one, maybe two desserts. The suggestion…two pies…one pumpkin and one apple.


That doesn’t work in our family! If we were to make a dessert preparation guide, I think it would be make one dessert per person. Not one piece per person, one whole dessert per person!

Pumpkin pie

IMG_4410.JPGCherry pie

IMG_4412.JPGLemon meringue pie


Cheese cake

IMG_4414.JPGOrange cranberry pound cake

IMG_4390.JPGPraline pound cake

IMG_4388.JPG Brownies, cookies, candied pecans, and Rice Krispie treats

And an apology from my mom that she didn’t bring and fudge or sweet treatsthis year. I don’t think we needed them!


TBT Lesson #28

For years the Turkey Trot’s been a Thanksgiving Day tradition. I can hardly remember a year when at least one member of the family didn’t participate in the annual 5K run through the neighborhoods of Ocala.

On more than one occasion our Thanksgiving table’s been decorated by a trophy awarded after the race, but on Thanksgiving Day in 2000 the girls brought home two first-place trophies and a third-place turkey.

IMG_5281.JPGThrowback Thursday Lesson #28: Run a 5K before eating Thanksgiving Dinner so you can eat an extra piece of pie.

Thanksgiving’s Going to the Dogs

After we abandoned the family last year for a getaway to New York, we assured all that we would be home this year and that everyone should plan on spending Thanksgiving at our house. With the exception of one daughter and one nephew our invitation has been accepted.

We’ll spend the day making final preparations for a family gathering of 26…parents, siblings, daughters and their husbands, nieces, nephews, their significant others and one grand nephew. It’ll be a full house.

A homesick Willis on day 1.

But in addition to the crowd of people, we have three dogs that have accepted the invite as well. Sarah and Daniel won’t be joining us as they travel to D.C. to spend the holiday with Daniel’s brother, but they sent their dog Willis so they’ll be represented at the table. In fact, Willis will be staying for eight days and has been a house guest since last Sunday.

He’s a little skittish around John preferring to sit on my feet or hang by my side. Funny…I’m not the dog person in the family. Of course, a little cheese goes a long way to building a relationship with a dog.

Later today Willis’ buddy Luna arrives so they can play and compete for attention.

luna These two know how to spend a holiday!

And this year they’ll meet the newest member of their canine family, Matt’s dog, Willie.


Thanksgiving has definitely gone to the dogs!

November Pound Cake of the Month: Orange Cranberry

Lemon, blueberry, coconut, chocolate, pecans, the ingredients used to spice up the first ten pound cakes baked in 2014. What better than cranberries for November? I’m sure some would say pumpkin, but pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and even pumpkin pie aren’t family favorites, so cranberry it is, and when combined with orange, well that made it irresistible.


You’d think after baking ten pound cakes this year, this would be a “piece of cake”, but I’m still baking challenged and it takes me forever to whip up one of these desserts. The recipe indicates a 15 minute prep time, but I’m sure I invested at least 30 minutes in gathering and measuring ingredients and cake preparation. Fortunately, it was worth it!


I located the recipe used this month on That’s My Home, a website devoted to cooking and baking, and made only a couple of modifications, using turbinado sugar instead of white granulated sugar and adding butter to the icing which I thought was needed for a little more flavor.

Ingredients for cake:


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest of one orange – about 1 tablespoon
  • juice of an orange
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


Ingredients for glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (softened)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle the 2 Tablespoons of sugar on the bottom of the pan.
  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cranberries on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  • Cream together butter and sugar at medium speed on mixer.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated.
  • Add orange juice and zest.
  • Add sour cream until incorporated.
  • Then add the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  • Finally, stir in the remaining 1 1/4 cups cranberries.
  • Bake for 50 – 55 minutes until a tester comes out clean.
  • Let pan set for 5 minutes after you take the cake out of the oven.
  • Turn over cake unto a wire rack to cool.


Prepare glaze and drizzle on top and sides of cake.

I baked the Orange Cranberry Pound Cake in the smaller 6-cup pan and three smaller 1-cup cakes because I wanted to serve this cake for Thanksgiving next week. Of course, we ate the smaller cakes since we needed to do a little taste test, but I stored the larger cake in an inverted mixing  with a clip on lid and placed it in the freezer.

Thanksgiving baking has begun!





Top Ten Reasons Thaksgiving is My Favorite Holiday

10. No pressures of decorating or gift giving.

9. Watching football games – even when I cheer for more losers than winners.

8. Dessert – pumpkin pie, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookie brownies, Rice Krispy treats, apple pie, cherry pie, lemon meringue pie.

7. Staying in town and avoiding traffic or airport congestion.

6. Playing games and winning (for a change) and playing some new games as well.

5. Traditional Thanksgiving Friday dinner – ham, potato casserole, field peas, stewed apples.

4. Traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner – turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, dumplings, green beans, cranberries, fruit salad.

3. Eating on the deck enjoying perfect fall weather in Florida.

2. Spending time with my brother’s family, sister’s family and parents.

1.  Three days with my husband and all three daughters and the men they care about (and this year two dogs as well).


French Toast Recipe

French Toast Grandma’s namesake recipe requires a few changes to the more traditional recipe that appears below. First, she prepared her egg mixture with more milk, closer to 1 cup – no vanilla or cinnamon. She also cooked it at a higher temperature. She never placed the dipped bread in the skillet until it was hot. Another big difference…Crisco. Grandma melted the Crisco in a cast iron skillet and cooked the French toast quickly. Usually she cut the bread in half so she may have made the original French toast sticks. The final difference, instead of using pancake syrup, she made her own concoction. She melted ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup white sugar, and ½ cup water in a saucepan and then poured the warm syrup over the toast.

French Toast Recipe


4 eggs

½ cup milk (may increase to 1 cup)

¼ teaspoon vanilla (optional)

¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

8 slices of bread

Crack eggs in pie plate or shallow dish. Add milk and beat with a fork. Add vanilla and/or cinnamon if desired.

Heat the skillet or griddle to medium heat.

Place bread, one slice at a time, in the eggs mixture letting it soak up the egg for a couple of seconds and then turning to coat the other side.

Add the dipped bread to a hot skillet or griddle with melted butter or vegetable oil.

Cook until the bottom is lightly browned and then turn and brown the other side.

Serve with butter and syrup.

Of course, Granddaddy would not have eaten his French toast with syrup. Instead he treated it more like eggs…pepper instead of syrup.


French Toast Grandma

One of my favorite Thanksgivings took place in Helen, GA.  During the 1990s, we loaded up the family, food, decorations and met with grandparents and cousins “over the river and through the woods” to celebrate the holiday. This particular year stands out because my grandmother joined us from Indiana…quite a feat! We wrestled her away from the remainder of the family so she could spend the holiday with her Florida grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This hadn’t happened since we moved to Florida in 1968.

Of course, Grandma couldn’t just be a guest. Everyone wanted to partake in her cooking and she enjoyed preparing her award winning recipes for us. As strange as it may seem, the meal we all remember the most was not Thanksgiving dinner or her mouth-watering desserts, but breakfast, and especially her French toast and homemade syrup (just brown sugar and water, but a new treat). Every morning we gathered at the main cabin for Grandma’s special French toast.

Some of the younger cousins expressed confusion because we called two women Grandma. In fact, Danny, who was three at the time, walked in the room and pointed to his Grandma and Great-Grandma and proclaimed, “two Grandmas”! However, by the end of the weekend, he solved the problem dubbing his new Grandma, French Toast Grandma.

The name stuck! Great-Grandma loved her new name, and in fact, she signed all cards and letters to her Florida great-grandchildren French Toast Grandma for her remaining years.

Let’s eat French toast tomorrow morning!

Black Thursday

A couple of weeks ago I received a petition from Change.org asking me to help employees at Target. Since Target decided to push ahead their traditional Black Friday shopping, the stores plan to open at 8:00pm on Thanksgiving Day. The employee who started the petition asked for public support so she and other Target employees could spend the holiday with family.

Of course, if the store opens at 8:00, employees will report at least an hour earlier so if Thanksgiving dinner isn’t eaten by 3:00 or 4:00 an employee couldn’t possibly celebrate with family and going out of town will not be realistic. Wal-Mart made a similar announcement a week or so earlier and their employees threaten to walk out. Apparently Toys-R-Us and Sears have joined in the nonsense. Both advertise Thursday hours and door buster sales. Just what we need!

Certainly some people must work on Thanksgiving. Hospitals and nursing homes can’t close for the holiday. Police officers, firefighters, and others charged with public safety need to be available. However, do grocery stores, malls, or other retail stores need to open on Thanksgiving? Isn’t 6:00am or 4:00am on Friday early enough for consumers to begin Christmas shopping?

Black Friday may be replaced by Black Thursday, but the word Black has a new meaning. Originally, Black referred the day retailers began to turn a profit and therefore get “in the black”. The new meaning signifies the death of Thanksgiving. My suggestion to those required to work in retail on Thanksgiving is to wear black to work that day or accessorize their uniform with black.

As for me, signing the petition is just the start. I’m committed to not making any holiday purchases at stores opened on Thanksgiving. No Wal-Mart, no Target, no Toys-R-Us, and no Sears from November 22nd until January 1st. And who knows, maybe I can break the habit of shopping in these stores permanently!

Let’s talk turkey!

During Thanksgiving week, we’ve been known to answer the phone “Butterball hotline”, as a fun way to poke fun at the turkey talk line provided by the Butterball Company.  Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey creates a lot of stress for cooks all across the country and the people at Butterball provide assistance and encouragement to ease that stress.

I’m here to tell you that you can cook a turkey. It’s not that difficult. Don’t let the pressure of Thanksgiving shake your confidence. The directions are on the wrapper. You can follow directions.

The trickiest part? Plan ahead. You need plenty of time to thaw the bird (a couple of days in the refrigerator). Cooking takes between three to four hours. You can’t rush.

Don’t hesitate to consult the Butterball website at www.butterball.com for tips. Your question can probably be answered by checking the FAQs, but they even have a link for new cooks to assist with every detail of hosting a Thanksgiving feast.

I just hope you don’t call and ask a question so absurd that it makes the list of most ridiculous questions asked. I thought you might like to read some of these bizarre questions. Hope they bring a smile to your face!

Is it okay to thaw my turkey in the bathtub while bathing my kids?

Can I brine my turkey in the washing machine?

Can I use my oven’s self-cleaning cycle to speed up the cooking process?

If I cut my turkey with a chainsaw will the oil affect the taste?

Can I take my frozen turkey into my sauna to thaw it faster?

Of course, another good way to avoid the stress of preparing the Thanksgiving turkey…go home for the holiday. Let your parents cook!