Thanksgiving Calls for Favorite Recipes

Editor’s note: this is a best-of A News Cafe column that originally ran on November 23, 2010.

My pink house isn’t finished enough yet for me to host a meal, so it’s the sisters’ Thanksgiving event at twin Shelly’s house. Sister Bethany will bring an organic turkey from St. Helena, as well as items for the olive platter, and some wine from Napa Valley.

Shelly makes turkey cookies as I type. It’s a Rich Roll Cookie recipe I’ve had since i was in high school, given to me by Mrs. Rathbun, who was a teacher.

Luckily Shelly kept her recipe for these delicious butter cookies, decorated with Royal Icing, which is kind of like concrete, except harder.

Shelly’s starting her granddaughter May off on the cookie-decorating tradition, but instead of giving May bags of wet icing, she iced the cookies, let the icing harden then let May use the edible decorating pens to color in each turkey. Pretty cute. But really, they taste good, too. (I can’t vouch for the decorator pens, though.)


Let’s just say that if I had a choice between roasted turkey and those cookies, or cranberries and those cookies, or mashed potatoes and gravy versus those cookies, those cookies would win every time. Of course, I’ll share the recipe with you (thanks to Shelly).

But for most sensible people, Thanksgiving cannot exist on turkey cookies alone.

Thanksgiving is pushy when it comes to tradition, so it pretty much insists we cook the traditional dishes: turkey, gravy, potatoes, green beans, cranberry relish, etc.

On the one hand, some might consider this menu boring and predictable. On the other hand, sometimes, especially during hard times, it’s a comfort to know that even when life is falling apart, there’s still cranberry relish and mashed potatoes and rolled-out cookies, among other things.

Take these rich roll cookies. Please. They’re great as a dessert with coffee, or decorated and tied up in a pretty bow as s gift.

And for me, Thanksgiving isn’t the same without my cranberry relish. And make-ahead mashed potatoes with gravy. And, gosh, how rude of me. Golly, what’s YOUR favorite recipe? Come on! Share with the rest of the class. You can leave your recipes in the comment section, below.

While you dig up your favorite recipe to share with your friends and readers of anewscafe.com, here are some of my go-to holiday recipes.

I’m posting these now, as I prepare them in advance.

We’re trying to get as much done ahead of time, just in case son Joshua and daughter-in-law Kat’s baby Austin arrives a little sooner than his due date, which is the first week in December.

But if that baby does come in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, allow me to give my gracious exit to everyone. I’ll be heading to the hospital to see the newest member of our family. And maybe I’ll have a turkey cookie in one hand, and an extra for the doctor.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mrs. Rathbun’s Rich Roll Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream the butter with the sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Mix in the flour and salt and form dough into a disc (it will chill more evenly and more quickly that way).

Chill the dough for at least 4 hours. Knead the dough to soften. Roll out dough on a floured board, and use cookie cutters to make shapes. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.

Let cool. Meanwhile, make the royal frosting.

Royal frosting:

3 egg whites

1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Beat until frothy

Add 1 lb. powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Divide the frosting into sandwich sized ziptop bags, then squirt in a few drops of food coloring and gently knead the bag to mix the color. Snip a tiny hole in the bag and decorate the cookies as desired.



Spiced Orange Cranberry Relish

1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries (about 3 cups), rinsed1 cup sugar1/3 cup orange liqueur (or more orange juice)

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds (optional)

Combine cranberries, sugar, orange juice, orange liqueur and spices (including cinnamon stick) in a medium, non-reactive saucepan.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the cranberries pop and the mixture begins to thicken. (This takes about 10 minutes.)

Remove the cranberries from the stove and let cool slightly. Stir in the orange rind (and nuts, if desired). Spoon the mixture into bowl, mold or container with a tight-fitting lid.

Cover and refrigerate until serving time, up to several days. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes about 2 cups.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

7 pounds (approximately) potatoes

1 (8-oz.) package low-fat cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup low-fat sour cream, room temperature

2/3 cup milk, heated

4 T. softened butter

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper (white is nice)

4 T. minced, fresh chives (optional)

Boil peeled, cubed potatoes in a large pot of salted water until fork-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Drain and mash. (Avoid a mixer or you’ll have something akin to wallpaper paste.)

Dump the rest of the ingredients on top of the mashed potatoes. Mix to blend.

Put the potato mixture into a greased casserole dish. Refrigerate until a few hours before dinner. Put the room-temperature, covered casserole dish in a preheated 325-degree oven. Bake for about 1 hour, or until heated through.

Serves 12 to 16.

Rob’s Mother’s Mustard Sauce for Ham

2 beaten egg yolks

1 T. sugar

3 T. prepared mustard

2 T. vinegar

1 T. water

3/4 t. salt

1 T. butter

1/2 cup whipping cream

Whip cream. Set aside.

Mix well the yolks, sugar, mustard, vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan.

Cook over low heat until mixture thickens (about 3 to 5 minutes).

Remove from heat. Stir in the butter. Refrigerate until cool. Fold in the whipped cream.

Can be made 2 to 3 days ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving. Now, get grocery shopping and start cooking. I’ll get busy writing the Pink House Chronicles No. 3, to appear on Thanksgiving day.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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