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McClellan: What to serve for Thanksgiving dinner

By Barbara McClellan
Nov. 15, 2017 at 4 a.m.

It's beginning to look a lot like autumn. Look around, the trees are finally turning colors. Not as much as in other years, but there is still enough fall color for Jeanie Folzenlogen and me to relish in.

I am sure your family, as ours, has favorite traditions. As we get older and as our families begin to spread out, sometimes these things have to be replaced by other customs.

Also, it's hard not to moan and groan about the holidays being different, but, hey, sometimes we have to "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again."

If you are able to prepare food, find someone or ones who will be celebrating alone, or celebrating for the first time with the loss of a dear one since the last Thanksgiving. Wait a minute, I am beginning to preach, so I'd better just get on with the recipes and food suggestions.

I do not want to start a major argument about what to serve for a Thanksgiving dinner, just because it was also served at the first American Thanksgiving dinner. Since there is no real proof, but just speculation (and study, I'm sure by historians), on what the Pilgrims and Native Americans ate at the dinner in November 1621, we are sort of "home-free" to put whatever we like on the table.

According to two surviving documents that reference the meal, wildfowl, venison and corn in grain form for bread or porridge are absolutes. There is not a mention of pumpkin pie with Cool Whip, green bean casserole with mushroom soup, or red Jell-O salad. However, we know that squash and cranberries were grown in the area of the Plymouth Colony.

I grew up in a family that loved to cook, so this was a time for us to go full-speed ahead with our family favorite foods. Unfortunately, we were a family of bakers, too, so there was always a tableful of desserts. So, since we knew mother would be cooking the turkey and dressing, my sister, brother and I did our favorite desserts, sides and bread.

The first recipe is a dessert. I don't remember where I got the recipe, but I have made it several times for Thanksgiving dinner. Growing up, we never had pumpkin pie, because my mother (and the rest of us, I guess) did not like it. We always had sweet potato pie instead.

Pumpkin Pie Cake

  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten

  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) pumpkin

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves

  • 3 cups half and half cream or evaporated milk

  • 1 yellow cake mix, dry

  • 1 stick melted butter

  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Beat eggs, add pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, and milk. Pour into a greased or sprayed 9-inch x 13-inch pan. Sprinkle dry mix over mixture. Drizzle with butter, and sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350 degrees, for 50-55 minutes until cake is firm to touch. Makes 16-20 servings.

One of my favorite cooks, from Jefferson, is Alysha Cottington. She shared several really good, easy recipes with me recently.

Onion Parmesan Roasted Red Potatoes

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch slices

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a large plastic bag, seal and shake until well coated.

Empty into a 9-inch-by-13-inch dish. Cover, bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer, or until potatoes are tender. Serves 4-6.

— Barbara Richardson McClellan is a longtime food columnist and has written three self-published cook books. Her column appears in the News-Journal's Taste section each Wednesday. Write her at or in the care of the Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.



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