Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Three Amazing Things -- Thanksgiving!

The Family Traditions Edition

We have a lot of holiday traditions -- some that I expect we take for granted, such as the simple fact that our house this time of year is just plain ole' packed with people: loved ones, loved ones, everywhere loved ones.  No doubt we're spoiled!  But it truly is the flip-side of having such a large family; we're never lonely at the holidays -- or ever, for that matter.  This year, though,  we're feeling deprived  because our move over the slopes has kept us from spending Turkey Day with my parents and most of my siblings, and Paul and Nicole couldn't make it home from Virginia (especially since Nicole is nine months pregnant and ready to pop!).  Alas!  But we still have nine of the children home, plus Aunt Nina and our good friend, Cathy G. who got to come home from school with Michelle for the holiday, so the numbers, though fewer are not paltry.  We are blessed and thankful.

 Other than the high base number for plate count, though, I think our Thanksgiving is fairly run-of-the-mill.  We serve all the traditional fare: turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce, creamed corn and green beans, mashed potatoes (a vat), and rolls... And pies.  Oh, boy do we have pies at Thanksgiving, thanks to a couple of children who think it's their duty every year to surpass the number of pies from the year before. 

Through the years, we've also tried to incorporate various crafts and activities to help "bring home" to the children the many graces and blessings we have to thank God for.  We've done "Thankful Trees" and decorated with an ever-changing assortment of turkeys, pilgrims, and Indians.  And each year invariably brings a new board game obsession. ( Last year it was Apples to Apples. We had such a blast with that game, I'm curious to see if anything can top it!)   But, in the flux and change as the children grow and my energy and initiative waver from year to year, there remain always  certain traditions that are tried and true, things we do that never change, and that must be observed for Thanksgiving to proceed.  Here are three:
Amazing Traditions We Love

1.  I don't actually remember when we first brought him home, but I think I found our little stuffed squirrel at a  yard sale and he's been part of our fall tradition for many years -- going back to when our big boys weren't very big.   Every autumn, starting around All Hallow's Eve, and continuing through Thanksgiving day, our little squirrel scampers through the house, looking for a hiding place.  And every morning, the little ones get up and hunt him down.  It's tradition, a rite of passage from fall to winter that we can't imagine not having part of our days.  This past summer, I found a little friend for our squirrel that I just brought out this week, and he's been flying around the house looking for places to hide at night, too. 

 Meet Tom Turkey, our newest tradition!

2.  Isn't it funny how food -- especialy sweets -- take up such a large portion of our holiday memories?  My last two Amazing Things have to do with food.  No surprise, huh?  Isn't it funny how food -- especially sweets -- take up such a large portion of our holiday memories?  Not that it's a bad thing, mind you!  It's wonderful when we can appeal to all the senses to make happy memories for our families!  For many years now (again, I have no idea how long we've been doing it!), we've taken out the Candy Squirrel every autumn.  He stays out in a prominent place through Thanksgiving, and is only put away when the Christmas decorations come out.  Traditionally, he stores coffee flavored Werther's candys, but sometimes that changes out with caramels or candy corns.  Getting to snitch a piece of candy from the squirrel is a treat, reserved for well-behaved children, and has been employed for some time as an effective bribery technique of the season.  Viva la tradition!

3. The other food-related Amazing Thing we have in our repertoire for Thanksgiving is the traditional Thanksgiving Day Apple Ring dessert.  My mother invented this treat when I was a child, and I can only give an approximation of how it's made, because I don't honestly know if it's ever been put down in print before, but I highly recommend trying it if you can lay your hands on some spiced apple rings.  They're easy, festive, and delicious!

Apple Rings Dessert

A jar or two (or three or four) of spiced apple rings
a package (or two or three) of creamed cheese
walnuts or pecans if desired, chopped
powdered sugar
vanilla or almond extract
maraschino cherries
a bed of frilly lettuce for garnish

Remove the apple rings from the jar and let drain thoroughly in a collander so they're not too drippy.  Beat softened cream cheese with approximately a half cup of powdered sugar per package of cream cheese (or to taste) and about a half teaspoon of extract. You want the mixture to "hold" when spooned out, to be firm, not runny, but not too "globby" either, if you know what I mean.   Stir in chopped nuts if your gang likes nuts. 

Then, take your apple rings ( I do this on a couple layers of paper towels to absorb any extra drippiness at this stage) and layer them with spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture: apple ring -- cream cheese -- apple ring -- cream cheese.  Then top with a maraschino cherry.  Arrange on a platter on a bed of lettuce.  The red, green and white look so pretty together and usher in the coming Christmas season!  Easy!  And yummy!

Sidenote:  I looked through all my files for a picture of these from last year, but couldn't  find one!  Durn!  I'll be sure and take a photo when we make them this year.  They're pretty easy to envision, though, I hope, for anyone who might have time and inclination to give this recipe a try...

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!


The Jaracz Family said...

The apple rings dessert sounds like a great new tradition to start in our house! Thanks for the recipe.

Here's my list this week, short and sweet:

Sarah Oldham said...

You are so much fun, I love it!

Karrie said...

Hi! I was searching for spiced apple rings and came accross your blog. Your recipe for the apple rings dessert sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing, and Happy Thanksgiving 2011!