Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Our Christmas Dinner

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Friday, 27 December 2019

This year, I decided to make a nice Christmas dinner, just for Thing 2 and me.

Last month, for Thanksgiving, we were invited to my friend Patti’s house. I thought about taking my delicious Cranberry-Orange Relish, but when I discovered at least four of her family members have nut allergies, I decided against it. I brought a Swedish Apple Pie, instead.

We had a wonderful time. There were a ton of people there, because Patti has a lot of kids, and all three of her siblings and their families were there. The turkey was moist and the mashed potatoes were garlicky. One of her daughters is an excellent gravy maker and also made a delicious sweet potato puree. Another daughter made a cauliflower casserole I really enjoyed.

Thing 2 is friends with yet a different one of her daughters, so he had kids to hang out with. Everything was so comfortable and we enjoyed being there.

But since I hadn’t cooked for Thanksgiving, I wanted to make an extra nice meal for Christmas Day. I decided to roast a whole chicken. A turkey is just too big for the two of us, and a turkey breast is missing the drumsticks, which are Thing 2’s favorite. So a five-pound chicken was perfect, seasoned with lemon pepper, paprika, and Real Salt. (Santa brought some spices in my Christmas stocking!)

I decided to make all the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes, too. I didn’t feel quite up to making mashed potatoes from scratch, so I used Idahoan instant potatoes, which I like quite well. And I’ve never been one to make stuffing from scratch, so I used Bell’s stuffing mix.

Instead of sweet potatoes, I decided to bake a butternut squash. It’s the same color and general idea as a sweet potato, and tastes delicious slathered with butter and sprinkled with brown sugar. And of course, I made the Cranberry-Orange Relish! Both of these side dishes brighten up the plate so much.

I set the table carefully with my Homer Laughlin Eggshell Georgian Cashmere plates which I’d purchased from Goodwill in 2018 with some gift money.

And then came the best part of all. I now have a complete set of Oneida Evening Star silver plate, so I was able to set the table with it for the very first time!

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy eating with good silverware. My Evening Star is perfectly weighted, glows softly under candlelight, and feels as smooth as silk. Truly a delight to eat with!

I poured some Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider and Thing 2 and I toasted to family and good food. I was so thankful to be sitting across a lovely table from my gorgeous child, eating delicious food, using sparkling silverware and softly gleaming china.

It was the perfect end to our Christmas Day…

 

Swedish Apple Pie

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Friday, 22 November 2019

I came across an interesting recipe recently, shared by a lady in one of my online groups. Of course, the word “Swedish” caught my eye, seeing as how I have a Swedish grandmother!

“What in the world is a Swedish Apple Pie?” I thought. Turns out it has regular apple pie filling, but instead of a traditional crust, it has a topping which makes it kind of cobbler-like.

I very rarely make pies. I think the last time I made one was Thanksgiving 2017, and if I remember right, I cheated and used canned apple pie filling. Shhh, don’t tell!

I was feeling especially fall-like when I came across the recipe for Swedish Apple Pie, so I decided to give it a whirl. I was thrilled with how it turned out. It looked pretty, the filling and topping were both super tasty, and I didn’t miss a traditional crust at all.

And so easy. Give it a try!

SWEDISH APPLE PIE
For the filling:
5-6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the topping:
12 Tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the apple slices in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and toss to coat. Place apples in your pie plate.

In a saucepan, melt butter, then remove from heat. Mix in white and brown sugars, flour, and then the egg. Stir well.

Pour topping over filling and spread to edges.

Bake 50-60 minutes, until apples are soft and crust is golden brown.



Helpful Hints

Most recipes say to peel your apples for pies. I decided to roughly peel my apples, leaving some stripes of peel intact. It added a little extra color and nutrition to the filling, and I didn’t mind the taste of an occasional bite of apple peel. It’s up to you, what you want to do.

The original recipe calls for the sugar and cinnamon to just be sprinkled over the apples in the pie plate. I wanted to make sure the apples were evenly coated, though, so in my mixing bowl I placed half the apples, sprinkled half the sugar and half the cinnamon, then stirred. After that, I repeated with the other half of the filling ingredients.

You could just dump the filling into the pie plate. I’m kind of a perfectionist, though, so I hand-placed the apples in a swirl pattern, thinking they would be more evenly distributed this way.

For the topping, the original recipe calls for one cup of white sugar. I changed it to 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

I used a wooden spoon to help pour the topping out of the saucepan. Then I used a butter knife to spread the topping over the filling, making sure all the apples were covered and the topping was spread to the edges. The topping comes out of the saucepan quite thick, and I don’t think spreading it with a spoon would have done the job as effectively.

Check the pie partway through baking, and if the topping is already browned, place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top. Over-browned pie crust or topping has a strange taste and doesn’t look as pretty as one that’s delicately browned.

About that Pie Plate
Wondering what kind of pie plate that is? It’s a Pyrex Flavor Saver (229), considered a deep dish 10″ plate, and this design has been around since about 1942, although I can tell from the markings mine isn’t nearly that old.

I’ve been learning a lot recently about Pyrex, and awhile before making this pie, I decided I wanted to get two really nice quality pie plates, since I had none. And they had to match, of course.

I haunted Goodwill and looked at many clear Pyrex pie plates before deciding on this style. It also has an identical twin! On the day I found them, the color sticker they were priced with was on sale for 40 percent off, so I got them both for just over $5.

I brought them home, bleached them, scrubbed them down with Bar Keepers Friend, and then washed them well with Dawn dish liquid. I’m really pleased with how well they shined up.

And I’m so happy with how my new recipe turned out in my shiny pie plate!



[MORE INFORMATION]

To see some fun old advertisements for the Pyrex Flavor Saver pie plate, follow the links below:

https://pyrex.cmog.org/content/something-brides

https://pyrex.cmog.org/content/new-pyrex-flavor-saver-pie-plate?fbclid=IwAR3FKLHV3suSXWHQ6_xhuENJUXkE6E-fGTkDZmpp7WbYh9DszmADGz_T09Y

 

We Tried a Thanksgiving Buffet!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York I Thursday, 29 November 2018

This year, Thing 2 and I had a different kind of Thanksgiving. We went to a buffet at a restaurant.

It was about a month before Thanksgiving and we hadn’t gotten an invitation to anyone’s house, and I hadn’t invited anyone over. I was headed to a meeting and drove past a restaurant I don’t normally go by, when I noticed an advertisement on their outside sign, for a Thanksgiving buffet. It was actually a reasonable price, and so I thought, “Hmmm, maybe we’ll try that this year.”

The closer Thanksgiving got, the more it seemed like an attractive idea. I wasn’t sure about preparing an entire feast for just two people, so a few days before Thanksgiving, I called and made reservations for the two of us.

On the appointed day, I put on my fall scarf, the one with the abstract pattern of green and gold and orange leaves. Thing 2 and I bundled into our jackets and braved the bitter cold temperature of outside. We arrived at the restaurant promptly, at 3 pm. It was packed, but they had a table for us, over in the corner, covered with a white tablecloth.

We helped ourselves to the buffet. Thing 2, who is notoriously picky, ate a giant turkey drumstick and a wing, and declared he was full. I took my time, and tried a little bit of a lot of things. I even went back for a small plate of seconds. The ham was the best part of all.

By the time I was ready for dessert, Thing 2 was hungry for some cookies. I tried a tiny bit of a few different pies and some of the bar cookies.

Overall, it was a nice time. There was no listmaking, no shopping, no cooking, and the best part of all, no cleanup.

I did miss sitting around a full table though, with lots of people. I missed Thing 1 terribly, to the point of tears. I missed my favorite Cranberry-Orange Relish. I also missed not having a few leftovers in the fridge for the next day.

And I missed eating with nice silverware…

But how grateful I was for a new experience, a full plate of good food, to be inside where it was warm, and to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my beloved Thing 2.

Mmm, Mmm, Mashed Motatoes!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I  Monday, 20 November 2017

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, coming up this Thursday! Let’s begin the countdown to America’s favorite holiday.

Mashed potatoes. Let’s talk about creamy, buttery, fluffy, warm mashed potatoes. (“Mmm, mmm, mashed motatoes!” is a direct quote from Thing 1 when he was a little guy.)

I’ve noticed that mashed potatoes take FORever to warm back up. So, how do you keep them warm for your Thanksgiving Day feast, right up until serving time?

I learned this nifty trick from Martha Stewart Living magazine many years ago…

Use this method to create your own double boiler and you can keep the potatoes warm for hours, as long as you periodically check the water level in the bottom of the boiler.

First, get the potatoes all cooked, mashed, and stirred up with milk or sour cream or whatever is the secret spice or ingredient of your choice . My old boss, Trevor, he swears by his mother’s addition of cream cheese and eagerly looks forward to her special mashed potatoes each Thanksgiving.

Second, spoon the mashed potatoes loosely into a heatproof bowl. You could use a Pyrex, Anchor Hocking, or Fire King bowl, but I prefer to use stainless steel, to be extra safe and guard against breakage.

Third, choose a sauce pan which your heatproof bowl will nest on, along with a pan lid that fits snugly on top of the heatproof bowl.

Get some water rapidly boiling in the sauce pan and then turn it down to low and simmer, so it doesn’t evaporate too fast. Make sure the water level is low enough so that it never touches the bottom of the bowl.

To clarify, from burner up, the order goes:

1) 4-quart sauce pan with simmering, NOT boiling, water
2) medium-sized stainless steel bowl with mashed potatoes
(make a well in the center for more thorough and even heating)
3) pan lid from a 10″ frying pan or stock pot.

When it’s finally glorious meal time, you could put the stainless steel bowl right on the table, after carefully wiping off the water’s condensation.

Make sure to place a dishtowel or hot pad such that it’s touching the bowl, to indicate the bowl is hot and to prevent someone from accidentally getting burned.

Also, if you choose this method, it’s the best idea to get everyone’s attention at at once and tell them the bowl is hot and not to touch it, just like they do at restaurants, when your server brings an especially hot entree.

Place the hot bowl on a trivet or dishtowel at the center of the table, where everyone can reach it (for small tables, 4-6 people), or designate one person to serve the potatoes onto your guests’ plates (for larger tables of over six people), so the hot bowl doesn’t have to be touched or passed around.

You could also spoon some of the potatoes into a smaller, cooler, more decorative serving bowl, and then replenish after everyone has taken their first helping of mash.

This method works much better than trying to keep mashed potatoes warm in a Crock-Pot (the top can get kinda caramelized and icky from being in a Crock-Pot too long) or in a regular pan on the stove top.

At the last minute before guests arrive, I want to be relaxing and putting on my lipstick, then attending to the tiny details, like lighting candles on the tables and in the guest bathroom, starting my playlist, giving the salad a final toss, or tweaking the place settings to perfection.

I DO NOT want to be frantically sweating over the stove, draining and mashing the potatoes.

Try this method, you’ll love it, I promise! And it’ll give you one less last-minute task to attend to, which is always a good thing.

And BTW, this year I’m using Yukon Gold potatoes. I’ve discovered they have an inherently buttery flavor and a yellower color than mashed potatoes made with regular Russets.

Now, the only question is, skins on or skins off?

Which do YOU prefer?

 

Thank God for Dirty Dishes

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I
Tuesday, 14 November 2017


What a mess! But I think it actually looks kind of cool with the partial color filter on Black Beauty, my camera.

 

Yesterday I was faced with a mountain of dishes. I’ve never had so many dirty dishes piled up at Valoftten, my little upstairs place with the red kitchen and the views out to all four directions.

Why, you ask? Well, pretty sure it has something to do with the fact my church bag weighs 17 pounds: manuals, notebooks, scriptures, Chromebook, it all adds up!

Last Saturday, at my place, I had a leaf-raking work party for the church group and then a Christmas craft activity. In the afternoon, there was more sitting by the campfire, cider and donuts, and then leaf blowing and weed whacking.

A really nice lady named Diana offered to help with the dishes, but I said no thanks, because I wanted to get some more yard work done before it got dark. That day was bitterly cold, too. Our fingers were numb, even in gloves.

But first, after the other ladies left, Diana and I went to the little local ACE Hardware store I love in Chatham, where they have a resident cat, three dogs, and four turtles. We bought mix and gasoline for her equipment, and then that dear soul, a part-time landscaper, she went to town with her heavy equipment. Shades of Rosie the Riveter!

Later on, after she went home and it was just Thing 2 and me, I was worn out after playing hostess all day, so the dishes, although rinsed and stacked, they sat. And sat.

The next day, Sunday, was chock full of church stuff: three hours of services, I taught the lesson in the ladies’ meeting, then visited the nearby rest home to see two church members.

Later that afternoon, I had a choice. Nap or dishes?

Well, you can guess which won out. THE NAP, of course. (I made the right choice.) But by then it was dark, and my kitchen has less than stellar lighting. It has a main overhead light, but no task lights over the sink and stove. I’ve purchased some little red goose neck lamps to use for task lighting. (Hey, they were red metal and only $6 and match my kitchen, so for now I make do.)

Have I mentioned the kitchen at Valoftten, true to the 50s, has no dishwasher? And that’s okay with me, I actually prefer to wash dishes by hand, since I think they get cleaner that way.

Plus, I’d rather have the extra cupboard space than a dishwasher.

In Salt Lake City, my two-butt kitchen, the original home of My Copper Kitchen, it did have a dishwasher. But I didn’t use it. I stored my big collection of pots and pans in there!

As I started in on attacking the mess on Monday morning, I did so cheerfully, remembering a poem I read as a very young teenager, curled up in the recliner in front of the unicorn wood stove.

It goes like this:

Thank God for dirty dishes,
they have a tale to tell,
while other folks go hungry, we’re eating very well.
With home and health and happiness
we shouldn’t want to fuss
For by this stack of evidence, God’s very good to us.
-Dear Abby column

 


We’ve reached critical mass on the dirty dishes here!

 

We’ve managed to scorch three pans in the process of cooking…

Continue reading

EMMA CHRISTINA: The Things I Carried

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Thursday, 19 October 2017

The oval, cut-glass bowl on the top left came from Goodwill in Greenport, NY. The gorgeous cut-glass dish on the top right belonged to my father’s mother, my Grandma Emma Christina. She gave it to my mother, Carol, and now, finally, it’s been passed down to me!

The two pretty dishes on the bottom came from Deseret Industries, a thrift store in Utah. The rectangle tray, on the left, is pressed glass. The oval fanlight or sunburst on the right is cut glass.

When you’re traveling cross country by airplane, like I did earlier this month, you have to decide what to put in your carry-on luggage, and what to check.

Because, as we all know, sometimes the airlines lose your checked luggage. Sometimes it turns up hours or days later. But sometimes, it’s never found again. In December of 1995, my garment bag, containing all my favorite dresses, it disappeared into thin air and was never seen again. Thank goodness I learned this lesson early in life, and only with clothes!

So, when I was flying on this trip, I carried with me my white Herschel backpack, the one I got on a fantastic sale at Urban Outfitters, which used to be by my work in downtown Salt Lake City. I paid $20 for a bag which was $75 normally.

Can we talk about pockets? “Because you know how a bear feels about pockets!”

One of the things I loved about my new backpack was all the pockets, right down to a fleece-lined pouch in the very top, perfect for sunglasses and reading glasses, a fleece-lined laptop slot, and all kinds of other little zippered and tabbed pockets, plus a key clip. It’s lined with red-and-white stripes, a signature of the Herschel brand.

Anyhoo, on this trip, in my backpack, I carried:
-some old family photos
-my mother’s little dark-blue suede high school diploma
-two pieces of her wedding silverware. (The dinner knife was confiscated by TSA and I had to mail it to myself from the airport.)
-Black Beauty, my treasured Fujifilm X30 camera
-a bunch of camera cards
-a composition book (I use them to plan events.)
-my keys
-my wallet
-my journal
-an assortment of pencils, pens, and Sharpies
-some snacks
-October issues of Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living. I love me some fall magazines, I do!
-my Chromebook, which fell out of my carry-on tote and into an overhead bin, getting left behind. It had to be retrieved by a ramp attendant, panic!

But in a separate black Barnes & Noble book quote tote bag, I carried some other pieces I treasure too much to leave behind, and far too much to put in checked baggage. Three dishes: one of them pressed glass, two of them cut glass. I have a large collection of pretty, clear-glass dishes, picked up at thrift stores for 50 cents here, $1 there. (It’s all Cami’s fault! Her mother got me started on this hobby. But that’s an entirely separate blog.)

But these three are my absolute favorites, and I simply must have them on my table at Thanksgiving this year. My pickles and olives demand the best!

Last October, as I was moving to New York, I was determined to take two of these favorite, fancy-glass dishes, and placed them on the table for last-minute packing in a carry-on bag. But, after a rough all-nighter of closing out my apartment into storage and suitcases, then turning the place over to Thing 1 and his best friend, I was just too tired, too rushed, and too stressed to pack them.

They got left behind on the table, and I’ve missed them so.

This past trip west, earlier this month, I went to Thing 1’s apartment in Salt Lake City to drop off a bag of BLT fixins from our favorite sandwich shop in New York. (That’s a story for another day. Or another blog, as well. Or whatever.) I ransacked his cupboards until I found the two dishes.

They were coming with me this time.

Up at my parents’ house in northern Utah, two of The Rockets helped me pack at the end of my stay, before driving me, my father, and Thing 2 to my friend Tina’s house, to spend the night before flying back to New York. What good friends I have, truly. Anita took the task of wrapping the three dishes carefully in newspaper and plastic grocery bags.

Pretty sure she wanted the chance to admire them up close, since she likes antiques as much as I do!

I can’t wait to see them on the table this Thanksgiving, holding Cranberry-Orange Relish, dill pickles, sweet pickles, and black olives…

Welcome to Emma Christina @ My Copper Kitchen! New features will be available on an intermittent basis, whenever I inherit a cool dish owned by my paternal grandmother, Emma Christina. I will also feature newly acquired dishes from her era which I think she would have liked.

She, a lovely Swedish lady who died before I was born, she loved cooking and gathering her many children around her Craftsman table, with its four leaves.

I’m told that sometimes, when Emma Christina felt bad and life was wearing her down, she would head to the Implement and put a nickel down on a dish. Kinda like me, her youngest granddaughter, heading to a thrift store and picking up something inexpensive to buoy my spirits, something special and beautiful, all for 50 cents…

[REFERENCES]
“You know how a bear feels about pockets” is a line taken from the wonderful children’s book, A Pocket for Corduroy, written and illustrated by Don Freeman. I highly recommend it, and its predecessor, Corduroy, for all the children in your life.

The first book, Corduroy, was groundbreaking in that the main character, a little girl named Lisa, she and her mother are obviously not white, probably African American or Hispanic. They live in an apartment in the city, several flights up.

Considering the white-picket-fence, blond-haired, blue-eyed Dick and Jane books (used to teach children to read in the 1930s through 1970s), Corduroy is welcomingly inclusive of ethnic children who live in large cities.

Plus, Don Freeman’s artwork, scratchy black-and-white outlines, filled in with color, is truly delightful.

[VALERIE RECOMMENDS]
I love Herschel backpacks!
https://herschel.com/shop/backpacks/pop-quiz-backpack?v=10011-00001-OS

[RELATED MCK POSTS]
Read Finding 50: The Things I Carried, at:
https://mycopperkitchencom.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/finding-50-the-things-i-carried/

Read more about Grandma Emma Christina at:
A Word About Windows
https://mycopperkitchencom.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/anatevka-girl-on-architecture-and-design-a-word-about-windows/

Learn how to make Cranberry-Orange Relish for Thanksgiving at:
https://mycopperkitchencom.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/my-favorite-thanksgiving-side-dish/

[AUTHOR’S NOTE]
The subtitle of this blog is a derivation of the book title, a modern-day classic, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/things-they-carried-tim-obrien/1100228685?ean=9780618706419