As a child, I remember Thanksgiving meals at my grandparents’ house. My brothers, sister, cousins, and I would play outside all morning and eat peanuts we roasted over the old wood burning stove. My grandfather grew peanuts so there was always plenty to keep us going until lunch.
Red cheeked and hungry, we would run into a house full of mouth watering aromas. After washing up, we would all gather around for the meal – we small ones at the kids’ table on the back porch and the adults in the dining room. Before dining in we would stand in a circle holding hands around the “big” table and my grandfather would say the blessing. All the wonderful dishes made it hard to sit through the prayer, but as I grew older I learned to listen to what he was saying and now, as an adult, I hear his words echoed around my own Thanksgiving table. That’s what this celebration is all about, being thankful for the blessings of the year and rejoicing in the bounty of the harvest.
Many members of my family are gone now, but their memories are very much alive and with us on Thanksgiving. Every year I dig out my grandmother’s recipe for corn bread dressing and my sister always makes mother’s cranberry relish. My young nieces and nephews have taken the place of my brothers, sister and cousins around the kids’ table and we’re passing on to them this very American tradition that each family has made into their own.
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1 (6 to 7 pound) roasting chicken
8 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 celery rind, including leaves, chapped
1 medium onion, chopped
5 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
12 slices day-old white bread, crumbled
1 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 level tablespoon rubbed sage
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
First, prepare the cornbread batter: Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg and buttermilk, stirring well to combine.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Add bacon drippings to a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place in the oven for 4 minutes, or until it is hot.
Remove the hot skillet from the oven, and spoon the batter into the sizzling bacon drippings. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cornbread is lightly browned. Remove the skillet from the oven and turn the cornbread out onto a wire rack to cool.
Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken (reserve them if you’ll be making gravy). Thoroughly rinse the chicken inside and out. Place it in a stockpot, and cover it with cold water by about 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken and set aside while preparing the dressing. Reserve the broth.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, and set it aside.
Crumble the cooled cornbread into a large bowl. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery, onions, and green onions, and cook until they are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Then add the mixture to the bowl containing the cornbread. Also add the crumbled white bread, 2 ½ to 3 cups of the reserved chicken broth, the half-and-half, beaten eggs, salt, sage, and black pepper. Mix everything well to combine. Taste for seasoning. Spoon the dressing mixture into the baking dish. Place the chicken on top of the dressing – either whole or cut in pieces. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is brown on top and the dressing bubbly around the edges. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
These suspended Jack-o-lanterns are a whimsical spin on an old Halloween favorite. I’m making them again this year for the annual Halloween fete at the Garden Home Retreat. I like to hang them from the arbors attached to the art studio and summer kitchen. Glowing in the darkness they appear to be hovering above the guests.
Making a floating Jack-o-lantern is easy. Here is a photo journal of the steps. Click here for complete instructions.
I had the pleasure of meeting Helen Yoest at the blogger conference held at the Garden Home Retreat last spring. Helen is a garden writer and speaker through her business Gardening with Confidence ™ and also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum.
You can follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her Facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence ™ Facebook Like Page and catch up with Helen via her blog at www.gardeningwithconfidence.com
In this guest blog post she shares the beauty of her North Carolina garden in fall and inspires us to take a look at what’s going on in our own autumn landscapes.
It seems everyone is a gardener in the spring, many of us continue into the summer, but only a few add flowers for the fall. Yet the fall is the perfect time to be in the garden
With the dog days of summer behind us, October opens with cooler air and less humidity creating a fresh scent and a sense of excitement. The source of this excitement may be for no reason other than it being bearable enough to be outside once again.
Indeed, October, and throughout the fall, is an ideal time to plan and plant new garden beds to ready oneself for the next year. The fall is also an ideal time to enjoy what the months have to offer.
The fall is also more than just flowers. There is color from foliage, there is scent, textures, and fruit and berries. With our area’s late frost date, we often find our gardens providing interest and intrigue well into November.
Flowers, Foliage, Fruit
Summer color can be extended into the fall with Asters, Anemones, Eupatoriums, Helianthus, Salvias, and Sedums. There’s also beautyberry, fothergilla, and golden rod.
Gingers are releasing scent to waft the thinner air, with flirty flowers causing reason to stare. Roses are regaling, hardy Begonia beguiling, Amsonia amazing. The ripened figs become a destination for one of nature’s most delicious delicacies.
Color, Scent, Texture
Reds dominate. Yellows generate. Purples empower. Grasses sway, with flags as flowers. Crepe Myrtle’s bark shed creating unique texture and mottling. The Maples mission is fulfilled as the last red leaf falls to the ground and yellow Gingko leaves make mass merriment.
The seed heads of Black-eyed Susans add texture and interest to the garden long after the birds finished them off.
The butterflies and hummingbirds are also busy in the fall garden as they ready themselves for a long journey south. The flowers of perennial Chrysanthemums such as ‘Sheffield Pink’ make the most perfect landing pad for a butterfly.
Hummingbirds pause mid-air to sip nectar from a Canna. Monarchs are grateful to find nectar still rich. Finches steady themselves as they feed on seeds. The box turtle moseys around the tomatoes eating what the birds or deer knocked to the ground.
Autumn was made for sitting on the patio to watch in wonder. Fall gardening does not need to be all about what needs to be done for the future. It can also be about what is available now. In the wise words of garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”
Enjoy your garden this fall and all the falls to come. As you plan and plant, include fall peaking selections in your choices.
The changing leaf color is one way to tell its autumn, but my signals tend to be a little more quantifiable. On my fall check list are a cord of firewood, a peck of apples and a whole mess of greens.
Even though it might still be too hot for a fire, the arrival of a cord of wood means to me that cooler temperatures are soon to follow. Even more than smoke from a fireplace, the smell of split oak still green from the cutting puts me in an autumn state of mind.
Next on my list of signs of fall? Picking up a peck of apples from a roadside farm stand. Just in case you don’t know four pecks make up a bushel.
If you’re at the farm and I’m serving greens, you can bet it’s fall. Greens such as kale, collards and turnips are usually better when they mature in cool weather. A light frost will make them sweeter. Definitions of a “mess” vary with the cook, but to me it means just enough to feed everyone at the table.
All this to say that autumn has arrived at the farm. I’ve got a cord of firewood stacked up by the house, a peck of apples in the kitchen, and just this past weekend I cooked up a whole mess of greens.
What’s your favorite sign of fall?