Giving Back

It has become our tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday, while many others are out hitting the stores in a turkey and cranberry sauce fueled shopping frenzy. You couldn’t pay me to go shopping on Black Friday! The last few years we have started our Thanksgiving day by volunteering at a local organization that prepares and delivers meals to those who might not otherwise have one. This year they delivered a little more than 3500 ready-to-reheat meals, which included turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, applesauce and a pumpkin muffin.

Yesterday we were part of the assembly line that dished up the food into the foil containers. Other workers then package up the meals and hand them out to the volunteer drivers who deliver them. On Monday we went and helped cook. That day we made green beans and dressing. Cooking on this scale requires super-sized recipes: the dressing recipe for instance calls for 50 cups of bread cubes and 12 eggs. Over 1000 volunteers work for almost a week getting everything ready. It is a fun time for us, and we all are blessed by the spirit of caring and sharing. My wife and I look forward to this tradition of Giving Back every year.

But last night we just wanted to fix something light, quick and easy that didn’t involve turkey or dressing, so I made Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi and served it over whole wheat spaghetti. For a side dish I cooked some of 2009’s bumper harvest of Marengo pole beans from the freezer. Marengo is a light yellow flat Italian pole bean that has become one of our favorites. So today we are preparing our Thanksgiving meal. I’m going to roast a turkey later, and we will have sides of sweet potatoes and broccoli from the garden. My wife will bake her pumpkin pie, which is a wonderful custard-like creation with a bit of bourbon added.  I’ve made a batch of Cranberry Orange Salad, using a lightened version of my aunt Anna Belle Lee’s recipe.

My mom and aunt used to make this salad every Thanksgiving, and I’ve carried on the tradition by making it myself for as long as I can remember. If you don’t like cranberry sauce from a can then you might like this salad, which calls for fresh fruit and nuts with gelatin to hold it all together.


Everyone has their own holiday traditions. For my wife, the pumpkin pie is one she used to make for her dad. It’s a recipe she adapted from her grandmother’s pumpkin pie, so it has strong family ties for her. For me the cranberry salad evokes vivid memories of some of my beloved family members who live on in spirit. By making it I celebrate their lives and ours. Perhaps by sharing the salad recipe I can keep the circle going. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Cranberry Orange Salad

Cranberry Orange Salad

Cranberry Orange Salad  Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
A Happy Acres Original

12 oz fresh cranberries
2 oranges (1 peeled, 1 with peel)
1 cup celery
2 apples, cored
8 oz crushed pineapple, drained, reserve juice
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup sugar
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), chopped
2 pkgs unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water

1. Grind first 4 ingredients in food grinder (drain excess juice from celery).
2. Add pineapple, lemon juice, sugar and nuts. Mix well.
3. Dissolve gelatin in cold water.
4. Bring reserved pineapple juice to a boil; add to dissolved gelatin. Mix well. Add gelatin mixture to cranberry mixture. Blend well.
5. Pour into large container or into jars and refrigerate until set. Keep refrigerated. Salad will keep for several weeks in refrigerator, and can be frozen for longer storage.

Servings: 16 (about 1/2 cup each)

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 139 calories, 42 calories from fat, 5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 8.5mg sodium, 152.6mg potassium, 23.9g carbohydrates, 2.5g fiber, 20.5g sugar, 1.8g protein, 22.9mg calcium, <1g saturated fat.

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4 Responses to Giving Back

  1. Yan says:

    Wow, kudos to you Villager and the other volunteers for the 3500 meals. Hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving, that salad looks delicious.

  2. Janie says:

    This is a lovely post. I admire your unselfishness in helping those less fortunate. Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Villager, you are a gardener after my own heart! What a wonderful way to demonstrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving. And thanks for the cranberry salad recipe. It looks like my Aunt Ozelle’s famous salad, which we all hunger for during the holidays. She is about 90 years old, but she guards her recipe like a pitt bull. So I will try this one and see if it compares.

  4. Villager says:

    Thank you all for your kind words. Deborah, my aunt Anna Belle was a fine southern cook from Kentucky and I learned many a thing about cooking from her. She put a lot more sugar in her cranberry salad than I do, but it’s sweet enough for me with just one cup of sugar.

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