Happy Thanksgiving 2008



One of the Littles made this fancy menu card for our Thanksgiving table.  The fold-over card opens to reveal our Thanksgiving Day menu. Our day will start with all the Littles snuggled up close to watch The Macy’s Day Parade.  We’ll head over to Mia and Popa’s for the actual feast and later in the afternoon Husband & I will sneak out (hoping someone notices we’ve left all the children) and end our Thanksgiving Day cheering on the Horns at the UT vs. A&M game. 

Texas Traditional Thanksgiving

Spicy Pecans

Rosemary Cashews

Butter Basted Turkey

Texas Cornbread Dressing

Cranberry-Jalapeno Salsa

Gene Stallings’ Twice Baked Potatoes

Sweet Potato Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Corn Souffle

Monkey Bread

Pecan Pie, Chess Pie, Teo Gelato Pie


Happy Thanksgiving! 



Texas Cornbread Dressing…a legend of sorts

Ever since I was little, my favorite Thanksgiving side has been cornbread dressing.  I have fond memories of my grandfather, Poppy, cooking up the annual feast in their tiny, yellow kitchen.  Poppy loved to cook at the holidays and is the source of many of my cherished family recipes.  Growing up I loved Poppy’s dressing, but I never gave it much thought until we had to figure out how to make it without him.

Our biggest challenge was huge – we had no recipe.  Over the years, Mia tried to recreate the cornbread dressing, but each year we decided there was ‘just a little something missing’.  Then a few years ago my uncle jotted down some instructions for us.  As you can see, these notes hardly constitute a recipe.   But once we decoded the handwriting and regained our composure from laughing at all his editorial comments, we realized we had the information needed to attempt THE dressing.  Years of watching his father prepare Thanksgiving dinners paid off and my uncle was the missing link to our beloved dressing.  



Flash forward a decade or so to my first Thanksgiving with Husband’s family.  You can’t begin to imagine my elation when I realized my mother-in-law’s dressing tasted exactly like my beloved cornbread dressing.  The exact.same.dressing. I wept with joy.  I was already in love with then-to-be-Husband, but his mother’s cornbread dressing sealed the deal. It was fate.  

It took me a while to work up the courage to ask my mother-in-law for her version of the recipe. I guess I was waiting to make sure things were going to work out between Husband and me. Soon after our fourth baby was born, I figured it was as good as time as any to ask for her recipe.  And you know what? She didn’t have one.  I remember the phone conversation as clear as if it was yesterday.  She told me she had watched her mother make the dressing so many times she just had it committed to memory.  A week later, her hand written instructions arrived in our mailbox.  And just as I suspected her dressing and my grandfather’s dressing were almost identical.  


I’m not sure where this dressing originated but it must have been widely known in Texas during the early part of the 20th century.  My guess is that Pepperidge Farm published it and both my grandfather and mother-in-law’s mother had access to the recipe.  Here is our family’s version of Texas Cornbread Dressing passed down through generations of both my family and Husband’s.  

Texas Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread  one pan, crumbled

1 large bag of Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing Mix 

2 cups onion

2 cups celery

2 Tbs butter

turkey drippings (optional)

1 – 2 (32 oz) Swanson Organic Chicken Broth *

3-4 raw eggs, slightly beaten

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

2-3 Tbs dried sage

salt & pepper to taste

Crumble cornbread and and stuffing mix in a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Saute the onions and celery in butter until soft.  Pour in bowl over bread mixture.  Add turkey drippings, if using, and chicken broth.  You will need to eyeball exactly how much broth to use.  The mixture should be very moist, but not runny.  Add raw, beaten eggs and continue to stir until combined.  Add sage, salt and pepper. Gently fold in chopped hard boiled eggs.

Put mixture in a large, greased baking dish.  At this point the dressing can be covered and refrigerated over night.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until dressing feels firm and begins to brown.

From my uncle: Add paprika and chopped parsley on top of dressing for decoration.

* Both original recipes call for about 3 – 4 cans of Swanson’s chicken broth.  I always, always use Swanson’s organic broth, so I’ve taken the liberty of updating the original recipe.

Cranberry Oat Crumble Bars


I can’t believe I’m going to do this.  I’m going to share my coveted Cranberry Oat Crumble Bar recipe.  Which is a double whammy because not only is it not my recipe (there I said it), but it comes from a source I’m a tad embarrassed to admit The Cake Mix Doctor.

Stop snubbing your noses.  I know you are all foodies but let’s just hold off judgement until you’ve made these bars.  Then we’ll see who’s laughing at cake mix.

I admit I cringe when I read the ingredients on the box label.  And, I realize that this recipe comes on the heels of my pecan pie which uses two evil, bad, naughty ingredients (corn syrup and shortening).  But it’s Thanksgiving and well, I’m done justifying.  Just don’t eat too much. Ok?

Cranberry Oat Crumble Bars

1 package (12 oz; 3 cups) whole cranberries (I use fresh)

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup water (I use orange or pomegranate juice)

1 package (18.25 oz) plain yellow cake mix

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (I add 1/2 cup more)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Set aside an ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.


2. Pick over the cranberries, and discard any that are shriveled or discolored.  Place the remaining cranberries, granulated sugar and orange juice in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thickened and all the cranberries pop, 10- 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, pour the cranberry filling into a shallow freezer-proof glass dish, and place it in the freezer to cool.


3. Place the cake mix, melted butter, oatmeal, brown sugar, eggs, and ginger in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  The mixture will be thick.  Reserve 1 1/2 cups for topping.  Transfer the remaining crust mixture to the pan.  Using your fingertips, press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan so that it reaches all sides.


4. Remove the chilled cranberry filling from the freezer and pour it over the crust, spreading it out with the rubber spatula.  Pinch off pieces of the reserved crust mixture and scatter them over the filling.  Place the pan in the oven.


5. Bake the cake until it is light brown and bubbling, 35 – 40 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.

6. Cut the cake into 24 bars.  Serve.


These bars will store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  But I betcha don’t have them that long!

*** Gluten Free Update: I’m working on gluten-free substitutes for Thanksgiving ’10. Wanna help?

Pecan Pie


Husband grew up with an enormous pecan tree in his front yard.  It yields massive amounts of pecans each year and we are the grateful recipients of any amount my mother-in-law choses to give us.  Some years we come home from visiting with buckets of unshelled pecans.  Other years we get baggies full of perfect pecan halves.  This year we left with a huge plastic bag filled with ready to use pecans.  Oh the joy!

Husband loves pecan pie. He loves it so much that life is actually better when there is pecan pie in the house.  I confess I use this to my advantage.  But, I would never, ever do anything so obvious as make him a pecan pie on the same day that an unusually large credit card bill arrived.  Nope, wouldn’t do that.

Today, I’m making pecan pie because its almost Thanksgiving and I need think we need to have a little taste test.  You know, just to make sure it tastes ok.  Wink. Wink.

Pecan Pie

3 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup sugar

dash of salt

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup pecan halves ( I toast mine!)

1 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs.  Add sugar and salt.  Stir in corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and mix well.  Put toasted pecans in the bottom of an unbaked pie crust and pour mixture on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  I usually tent my pies with foil after 30 – 35 minutes of baking so the edges of the crust don’t get too dark.

Cornbread for Thanksgiving Dressing

I thought I’d get a jump start on making cornbread for Thanksgiving.  I intended to freeze a few batches of this delicious treat, but the thing about cornbread is it smells so darned good.  And then people know you’ve made a big batch of it.  And then those people, even if they are little, eat it.  Which means I’ll be making cornbread for Thanksgiving again soon.

I have lots of variations for cornbread, but for Thanksgiving dressing I use the same one my mother-in-law and grandfather used.  It’s very simple, but requires a cast iron skillet.  If you do not have one of these add it to your Wish List.

Poppy & Laverne’s Cornbread (recipe for Thanksgiving Dressing)

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup milk

1/4 cup oil (or melted shortening)

1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Oil your iron skillet and let heat in oven until very, very hot.  Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Pour batter into hot skillet.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. These are the instructions my mother-in-law wrote for me when she gave me her recipe.

Do you use cornbread for your Thanksgiving dressing?  Do you make dressing or stuffing?  I need to know.

Turkey Pate Recipe. Happy Thanksgiving 2007!

By Friday, you’ll be as stuffed as the bird you ate Thursday and in a quandary about what to do with all the meat.  Turkey sandwiches are only mediocre after such a feast.  I’m sure you all have left-over traditions.  Please share!

Our day after tradition always, always includes Turkey Pate.  We make as much as we can with the left over turkey — dark meat works best.  And if you happen to have ham mix the two…it’s really better!  Leave this turkey surprise out during the football marathon and you’ll see it disappear right before your very eyes.

Turkey Pate

1 cup turkey

3 T mayonnaise

8 oz cream cheese

1/2 c pecans, chopped (I toast mine)

2 T parsley

In a food-processor, mix turkey, mayo, and cream cheese.  Top with pecans and parsley.  Serve with toast points or crackers.

I’m going to take a few days off from The Schell Cafe to be with my family.  I am beyond thankful for my husband and four precious children.

May you have a blessed and thankful Thanksgiving with your family!

See you back here next week when the Christmas countdown begins!

Gene Stallings Twice Baked Potatoes

One of best recipes I’ve collected from my mother-in-law is for Gene Stallings Twice Baked Potatoes.  I remember the first Thanksgiving I had these at the Schell’s home.  Unbelievable.  My mother in law got the recipe out of the newspaper years ago and they have become a tradition at the holidays.  I spread the love to my family several years ago and now my mother makes them too.

For those of you not residing in Texas (or for those who do but because of some gene mutation do not follow football), Gene Stallings is a Sports Hall of Fame coach.  A legend in these parts.  He was head coach of the Aggies for years and in 1972 joined the staff of the Dallas Cowboys under Coach Tom Landry.

Two weeks ago, Husband was traveling home from NYC and he had the privilege of talking with none other than Gene Stallings at the airport.  They chatted for a while and Husband learned that the famous potato recipe bearing Stalling’s name indeed came from his wife.  Mr. Stallings was kind to sign a business card inscribed to my mother-in-law that reads:

Keep making those potatoes!

Gene Stallings

I’m in charge of making the potatoes this year.  And as a surprise we plan on giving my mother-in-law the autographed card.  This special keepsake will do the impossible of making these potatoes even tastier.

Gene Stallings Twice Baked Potatoes

10 large new potatoes

3/4 c butter

5 chopped green onions

s&p to taste

1 1/2 c grated cheese

Bacon Bits (I use real bacon 4 strips crumbled)

1 pint sour cream

Mash cooked potatoes, add all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts.