Thanksgiving is a day that warms my heart. It begins as a gentle reminder of long ago when singing “Over the River and Through the Woods” to reach Grandmother’s house in a horse-drawn sleigh sounded like so much more fun than arriving at my Grandma Kovacs’ house on Moulton Court in a two-tone Chevrolet.

Yet once we arrived, greetings with hugs and kisses continued in the same celebratory fashion until I could reach the lemon drops hidden in a small covered ceramic dish on the top of the dining room buffet. Also within reach were polished apples in a bowl on an end table in the front room, and a wooden bowl filled with walnuts in shells to open with nut-cracking tools. One time I found a quarter on the floor that someone had lost. Grandpa smiled and told me how lucky I was to find it. Years later I’d learn that he put it there just for me to find.

Mirroring other homes on the short hilly block off Winnebago Street that has since disappeared, it seemed that stuffed turkeys were being roasted in every kitchen in the neighborhood because the air was fragrant with traditional Thanksgiving dinners for families like ours to enjoy after prayers were said.

And time passes on with other blessings. Back in 1974, as President of the Wisconsin National Guard Officers Wives Club, my adventure in writing cookbooks began by compiling a collection of recipes titled “Favorites from our Cozy Kitchens.” Accented with my own food related sketches were wonderful recipes shared by Air and Army wives that also blessed me with longtime friendships, Mona Fuszard being one. As the wife of the late 37-year Army Col. Richard G. Fuszard, our paths cross often and recently there was a mention of her family’s favorite pumpkin pancake recipe. Because tradition remains vital at times, here it is, just in time for Thanksgiving and beyond.

Mona’s favorite pumpkin walnut pancakes

1 cup white whole wheat flour (or your choice)

½ cup rolled oats

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1 cup almond milk (or your choice of milk)

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg and 1 egg white

2 tablespoons melted butter, coconut oil or canola (your preference)

1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)

Orange zest (optional)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

2/3 cup blueberries

1/3 cup fresh cranberries

Mix together dry ingredients of flour, oats, baking powder, spices to taste. Combine your favorite fruit and chopped nuts in a separate bowl and mix with 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Add orange zest if you wish. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin, vanilla, eggs, and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just blended; fold in the fruit and nut combination.

Heat a skillet over medium heat or 350 degrees in an electric skillet. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, it is ready for your batter. Lightly oil the cooking surface with oil or cooking spray. Scoop batter onto the warm skillet and cook for 3 minutes on one side before turning over to cook on the opposite side for 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Serve pancakes immediately. While you probably won’t have to worry about having any leftovers, they freeze very well.

Success of the first cookbook prompted writing a second one in 1976 to celebrate the country’s Bicentennial, once again paying tribute to Madison’s Air and Army Officers and the history involved. Once again, their wives submitted additional family favorite recipes that were highlighted in the beginning of the book with a turkey casserole graciously submitted by Betty Ford, wife of Gerald Ford, our 38th President of the United States as being a perfect way to use leftover turkey from their own family’s Thanksgiving feast.

Baked turkey casserole

4 tablespoons butter

2 medium green peppers, cut in julienne strips

6 tablespoons flour

3 cups hot chicken stock

1 pound cooked turkey, cut in julienne strips

¼ pound smoked Virginia ham, cut in julienne strips

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt to taste

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

1 cup milk

10 ounces thin noodles

2 tablespoons grated cheese

6 Saltine crackers, crushed

Melt butter in 3 quart saucepan. Add green pepper and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Add flour and stir well. Add chicken stock and bring sauce to a boil. Cook sauce for 5 minutes or until smooth. Add turkey, ham, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and white pepper. Bring to a second boil and add milk gradually while gently stirring. Simmer 5 minutes. Cook noodles 7 minutes and drain. Place in a greased shallow casserole. Top with turkey mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and cracker crumbs. Bake in 375-degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

A few more responses have arrived for favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Reader Jody Singh’s father, Richard Whelan, loved making recipes with five ingredients or less. He first served this at a Thanksgiving dinner when she couldn’t tolerate spinach. After that, she changed her mind.

Spinach

4 10-ounces frozen spinach packages

1 cup sour cream

1 envelope Lipton dry onion soup mix

Thaw and thoroughly drain spinach. Mix all ingredients together. Bake in an uncovered, greased casserole dish at 350 degrees, approximately 45 minutes.

And one of my own favorites is a recipe from the October 1964 Better Homes and Gardens magazine that has appeared here before, now once again for newcomers to the column. The recipe was submitted by Olga M. Paul, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Pumpkin date torte

½ cup chopped dates

½ cup chopped California walnuts

2 tablespoons flour

¼ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup canned pumpkin

2 eggs

½ cup sifted all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Mix dates, nuts, and 2 tablespoons flour; set aside. Melt butter over low heat; blend in brown sugar. Remove from heat; stir in pumpkin and vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift together dry ingredients; add to pumpkin mixture, mixing thoroughly. Stir in floured dates and nuts; turn into greased 9x1 ½-inch round baking pan. Bake in 350 degree oven 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream. Makes 8 servings.

I make this in an 8-inch round cake pan.

From the Food Network October 2013 magazine comes an interesting pumpkin bread pudding that I will make again.

Pumpkin bread pudding

15-ounce can pumpkin

2 cups milk

3 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

½ cup chopped pecans

1 pound cubed cinnamon-raisin bread

2 chopped apples

Whisk pumpkin, milk, egg yolks, sugar and pecans in a very large bowl. Fold in cubed bread and chopped apples. Spread in a buttered 9x13-inch baking dish, refrigerate 2 hours, then bake at 375 degrees until set, about 45 minutes. Nice served with or without a warm sauce.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.

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