An Alabama-Inspired Thanksgiving

img_20141012_173651690By Jennifer Hallmark

Thanksgiving Day will soon arrive. I’ll wake early, eat a bowl of Cheerios and savor my morning cup of tea. As I hold the steaming mug, I’ll find comfort in its warmth and the sweetness of the honey-laced liquid inside. But only for a moment. Soon, thirty to forty people will crowd inside our home and there’s still much to do.

I’ll prepare part of the food on Wednesday. It releases some of the stress and flurry from this day and gives me more time to relax, be thankful, and maybe watch part of the early football game. But this morning, we’ll finish cooking. The savory smell of baked turkey permeates the air. It will soon be joined by cornbread dressing, pinto beans, sweet potato casserole, and yeast rolls. My husband, Danny, always makes the dressing, a recipe passed down from his mother. I scurry and pour the sweet tea in our three-gallon beverage dispenser. I’ll make a gallon of unsweetened tea but hardly anyone will drink it with the well-sugared kind around. We work as a team, making sure everything is just right.

thanksgiving-231781_960_720Around noon, we usually finish the last-second tasks and sit for a moment to eat a turkey sandwich. Around two o’clock in the afternoon, my husband and I will open our home to a hodgepodge of family, friends, and a few others who have nowhere to go. Everyone is welcome at our annual Thanksgiving feast.

By one o’clock, a few of the family has already arrived. Danny’s sister will open the front door and shout, “knock-knock” and I know the fun has begun. Each person arrives with different delectable dishes of food and we arrange them the best we can on the kitchen counters and stove top.

Football is still on the television but no one’s really watching as people drift from room to room. Handshakes and hugs abound as many catch up on old times. The garage doors have been shut and the space has been transformed into a dining room/fellowship hall. Large tables are set up for the adults. A special kids table, complete with coloring books and crayons sits by its side.

Mamaw Avon’s Pink StuffAt the appointed time, we all squeeze into the kitchen where my son or daughter will welcome everyone. One of the grandchildren will say “grace” before the long line forms to tackle the cafeteria-style selection of meats, vegetables, and casseroles that take up every inch of available space on the counters. Everyone loads their Chinet plates to the brim, grabs the plastic flatware and napkins and hunts a place to sit.

In the garage, large tables of sweet delights line one wall and hold twenty or more desserts, many new recipes that someone wanted to test on the crowd. Last year, I tried two pie recipes but neither turned out. I was teased over my pie “soup”. This year, I’ll stick with a cake and maybe some cookies. 🙂


Not my pie…

Before the afternoon is over, everyone will have eaten more than enough and recipes will have been swapped. Some will be scouring the day’s newspaper, planning to brave the crowds and start their Christmas shopping later in the evening. As a few linger behind to help me and Danny clean up, my heart swells with gratitude. I wouldn’t trade our Thanksgiving for anything.

For the next few days, we’ll munch on leftovers and when we warm our plate in the microwave, the fragrance of Thanksgiving will return. I’ll sit in the recliner and sip another cup of tea, content.

And thankful.

Someone usually makes a macaroni casserole at Thanksgiving. Here’s the recipe for you to try…

Macaroni Casserole

8 oz. package elbow noodles
1 jar chopped pimentos, drained and dried
1 jar sliced mushrooms, drained and dried
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 lb. Kraft American Cheese, grated (set one cup aside)
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped onion

Cook noodles; drain and place in large bowl. Grate cheese and set aside 1 cup. Stir together noodles, pimentos, mushrooms, soup, cheese (minus the cup), mayonnaise and onion. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove and sprinkle remaining cup of cheese over top. Bake 10 more minutes.

Writing Prompt: I pulled the spice cake from the oven. The aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon flowed through the house and set my stomach to rumbling. As I started to carry the heavenly confection across the kitchen…


Jennifer Hallmark writes southern fiction and fantasy. Jennifer’s website and blog she co-founded focus on her books, love of the South, and helping writers.


Thankful on so Many Levels

By Holly Michael

This Thanksgiving, I didn’t have roast turkey. No stuffing, either. No ham. No mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, or pumpkin pie, either. When we booked flights to India for a follow-up mission trip, the cheapest way to travel back to the US was to leave the day after Thanksgiving.

We went to India again because…

…Ten years ago, on Christmas Day evening, my husband (a pastor) and I relaxed after a long day at church.

Then the phone rang.

A call from South India. My brother-in-law DeCruze urged us to turn on the news. A tsunami had hit the shores of the Indian Ocean and many were feared dead. Thankfully, all family members lived inland and were okay, but my husband had worked and lived in the affected coastal region for years. Friends and children he’d cared for would have been swept out to sea in the early hours of December 26th (our 25th evening).

Just days later, after a major fundraising event, I stood on the shore of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by rows of tiny coconut trees. My husband approached and touched my arm. “Honey, you’re standing in a graveyard.”

I had no idea that the trees marked the graves of the children who died at sea. Tears fell from my eyes. We’d spent a week fundraising before flying to India. In the rush of it all, I’d handled everything well, even arriving in Nagatttinam to find smoldering piles of bodies still burning–more than five thousand died in this region. I took a deep breath. I’d come to help,  take pictures, and write a story for a Guideposts magazine assignment. I walked with my husband toward the men weeping in a smashed up fishing boat. In Tamil, my husband counseled them on the loss of their wives and children, the ones whose bodies were planted under those saplings.


Situations like that make me very thankful on so many levels.

Thanksgiving 2014, flying back from India, we visited those same villages and spoke with the people we helped, young children and teens, many now married. I’ve gathered stories of thanksgiving; hearts thankful to Americans for their help a decade ago and hopeful hearts through the struggles they still face living in a third world country. On the day after Christmas, I’ll be releasing a book: Tsunami 2004: Still Wading Through Waves of Hope.


The children from the Nagapattinam region have grown and are ready to begin new lives with money and interest from a CD deposited in accounts for them ten years ago. Hope is alive, but some stories were surprising and a common theme prevailed among the girls, now women, struggling with being female in villages steeped in old traditions. Wounds, never fully healed reopened and fresh tears flowed. Rupees won’t bring back the lost, but these young adults featured in my book have hope. They want to move forward with their lives.

Those in the remote fishing villages of Nagapattanim, South India expressed deep gratitude to America–to the school kids from Illinois who emptied their piggybanks and to adults from all over (especially in Northwest Arkansas) who generously opened their wallets on the heels of a major giving holiday.

Today, with the internet and news plastered with troubles in other parts of the world, we’ve become a global world, caring about those in distant troubled lands, praying for them, helping when we can. We also become thankful people, grateful to God for His protection and care.

On Thanksgiving, this year, as we thank God for our lives, our families, and our freedom, let’s look beyond our borders to those less fortunate and say a prayer for them.

And as we look forward to the Christmas and the topic of Christmas Traditions, let’s consider where our family traditions came from. Do you have ancestors from another country? What traditions can you trace to other parts of the world? Here’s my recipe for Turkey Curry, India style.


Ingredients Chicken/Turkey – 1 lb (cut into pieces) Onion – 1 (sliced) Kuskus – 2 tbsp Cashews – 4 Corriander seeds – 1 tbsp Green chilly – 5-7 Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp Coconut – 1/2 cup (grated) Yogurt (Curd) – 1/2 cup Ginger-Garlic paste- 2 tsp Cardimon – 3 Fennel seeds – ¼ tsp  Bay leaf – 1 Cloves – 2  Cinnamon sticks – 1 Oil – 2 tbsp Salt – to taste Cilantro – for garnish

Method 1. Soak kuskus in 1 cup warm water for 10 minutes and then grind it with green chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cashews, cardamom and coconut. Keep it aside. 2. Heat oil in a deep pan. Splutter fennel seeds.Add the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon. 3. Add sliced onions and fry them till they are translucent. Next add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell vanishes.  3. Add the chicken/turkey pieces and saute for 2 minutes. Next add 1 cup water, yogurt and salt to it. Cover and cook till the chicken is almost done. 4. At this stage add the ground paste and add the water required. Check for salt and let the kurma simmer for 5 minutes. 5. Garnish with cilantro. This goes very well with barottaaapam and idiyappam.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankfulness and a Sweet Potato Casserole


By Jennifer Hallmark

The holiday season has begun for many people around the United States. Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. I’ve had my house decorated in pumpkins, autumn flowers, and harvest items for a while now and soon I’ll be switching them out for Christmas. Today, however, I have much to be thankful for.

A family and friends who loves me and accepts me for who I am.

A God who delights in me and does everything for my good with a plan and purpose in mind.

The basic necessities of life and far beyond.

A church home where I feel safe.

Work that keeps my mind and body healthy.

A home in Heaven awaiting me one day.

What do you have to be thankful for? My list could go on and on, but I wanted to take a moment and post a recipe I cook every year at Thanksgiving. I guess you could call it a Thanksgiving tradition. Enjoy!

Writing Prompt: While you are at a holiday dinner this year, soak in the sights, smells, and tastes of the event and later record it. This could be a great scene in an upcoming bestseller!

 Sweet Potato Casserole

3 large cans sweet potatoes ( I prefer mashed)

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 stick butter or margarine (softened)

 Drain and mash potatoes if not already mashed.  Add 1 cup sugar, 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and 1 stick butter (softened); mix well.  Spread into pan.


2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cup flour

2 cups chopped pecans

2/3 c. butter or margarine, melted

Mix brown sugar, flour, pecans, and melted butter; crumble on top of casserole.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.


A Grateful Heart


By Tammy Trail

I recently had to go back to work full time, and to be honest, its been a real challenge. While I am grateful that I have a job, some days it sure would be nice to go back in time when I didn’t have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get to work before 6:00 a.m. I’m on my feet all day. I have to wash pots and pans, and I get the pleasure of working with a couple of crabby people. You know the kind I’m talking about. They just like to cause trouble. They other day I even had visions of quitting and going back to an old employer and begging for my old job back.

BUT….How could I do it? I had prayed to God for this job. It was full time hours, kind of rare these days. And I have health insurance, even more rare in today’s economy. I am getting used to getting up so early, I even enjoy driving to work when no one else is on the road. And those people who make life interesting…..well, they are really everywhere. I have to learn to give it to God and he will take care of it. Because doing anything else, in my humble opinion is being downright ungrateful. I don’t want God telling all the Saints in Heaven, “There goes an ungrateful child.” Okay, I don’t really believe God does that, but it did stir my heart to think that I was wallowing in that pit.

Thankfulness is an attitude that we need to think about daily. In the Bible, the story of Job always amazes me. If anyone had a reason to throw an almighty hissy fit, it was Job. God took everything that mattered to Job away, and the man still sung praises to our God. I’m not sure I would have done the same without complaining a whole lot first. Isn’t it in our human nature not to be content with our circumstances? Job was certainly human, but he did not let circumstances rule him. He trusted God to work it out. And we find that God honored Job’s trustworthiness with blessing Job with a more joyous future.

If you have yet to read Ann Voskamp’s, “One Thousand Gifts,” I urge you to do so. Finding grace moments with God in extraordinary circumstances in life, and embracing a lifestyle of gratitude is a worthy challenge. I have yet to make my list of a thousand gifts.

I would add these gifts to it:

My own Salvation and walk with Jesus Christ.

For my Family, especially my three wonderful grandsons.

For my hard working husband.

For the opportunity to work everyday.

I’m looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with a grateful heart. How about you?

My children beg for this every holiday!mxor02.

Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding

2 (3.4oz.) Packages instant Vanilla Pudding mix

1 cup Milk

1 (8 oz.) container sour cream

1 (14 oz.) can  sweetened condensed milk

1 (8 oz.) container  frozen whipped topping, thawed.

6 bananas, sliced

1/2 package of Vanilla Wafers (12 oz.)

In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix and milk, stirring until mix is dissolved. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, until partially set.

Stir in condensed milk into pudding mixture until smooth. Fold in whipped topping and sour cream. Fold in sliced bananas.

Make a single layer of vanilla wafers in the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish. Spread pudding evenly over wafers. Crush wafers and crumble on top.


Happy Thanksgiving!!