November is a very special month for me — it’s not only the time to celebrate Thanksgiving, but also my late mother’s birthday, as well as mine.

Growing up, I couldn’t have asked for a better mother. She was the most kind-hearted person I knew and most generally let me have my way with everything. Yes, I can admit it now that I am grown that I was probably a spoiled brat in my earlier years.

My mom passed away in 2004 and there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thinking of her. I often find myself wanting to call her and ask her how to make a certain dish for a special meal, but that’s impossible, so I reach for one of the many cookbooks she gave me throughout the years to see if I can find any of her favorite recipes.

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, and as with all holidays, I think about the many meals my mom made for the family. I don’t remember having turkey for Thanksgiving but I do remember mom making ham slathered in her brown sugar and mustard sauce. That was the best-tasting ham anyone could ever imagine.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, our traditional Thanksgiving meal was ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, Waldorf salad, homemade rolls, homemade noodles, home-canned green beans, home-canned corn and a ton of pies — mostly pumpkin and apple. On occasion we would also have mom’s fried chicken.

Once I graduated and married, my Thanksgiving meal became my own creation — complete with turkey and all the magnificent side dishes minus the Waldorf salad — never cared for it and still don’t to this day. However, there is one thing I noticed as well as everyone else in the family is that I cannot make my mom’s homemade noodles. I have tried many times — and many times I have failed. So each year, during family gatherings and holidays, I enlist my favorite Aunt Sis to make noodles — they are 100 percent in comparison with my mom’s.

During the holidays, I like to kick it up a notch when making the meals but one thing I discovered over the years that will not change is I brine my turkey. When brining, turkey is never dry — it’s so tender and succulent. I would suggest everyone brine their turkeys and will share the recipe I use.

Desserts also make up a big portion of our holiday meals, and although my lovely daughter-in-law Mindy loves lemon meringue pie, I am going to switch it up this year — I decided to make a recipe that came from an eighth grade student that won first place in the Relay for Chocolate — Chocolate Fluff. It’s very yummy!

However, I would like to share one special recipe my mom always shared with me.

The Happy Family recipe

Ingredients

1 husband

1 wife

Children (one Bible for each)

1 pkg. of play together

1 Tbs. of patience

A generous portion of prayers

3 cups of love (packed)

1 Tbs. of understanding

2 Tbs. of forgiveness

1 small paddle

1 cup of kisses

Mix thoroughly and sprinkle with awareness. Bake in a moderate oven for everyday life. Use as fuel for the grudges and past unpleasantries. Cool, turn onto a platter of cheerfulness. Garnish with tears and laughter and add in a large helping of serving God, country and community.

This is why my mom is so special to me. She never held grudges, and she always made me smile, no matter what the situation was. My mom taught me to make the most of what I have and to appreciate everything I have every day.

Mom’s birthday is Sunday, Nov. 18, and one family tradition my granddaughter Nikki and I started in memory and honor of my mom is to go to her gravesite, lie on the ground and release balloons one by one until they are out of sight.

Once a balloon is out of sight we laugh and say, “Grandma Venie caught the balloon!” And we release another balloon until they are all gone. This has become part of our family tradition as much as the holiday dinners and one that we look forward to each year. This year will mark our 11th year for this tradition and as in the past, Nikki makes sure to remind me of the tradition at least a week in advance.

Yes, holidays are special and it doesn’t matter whether you are 60 years old or 13 years old, making memories with family and friends is something that everyone will remember for years. From cooking a traditional holiday dinner to the smallest little event of releasing balloons to a loved one in Heaven, holiday traditions are important.

Here’s my recipe that will give you a new insight on the way to prepare your turkey. The apple cider brine is simple but flavorful. The turkey is very moist, and using apple cider gives a wonderful, mellow apple flavor to the turkey that is very pleasing. This recipe is light on spices and herbs to make it usable for a wide range of turkey recipes.

For added flavor, add additional herbs, spices, fruit or vegetables to the brine that you will be using in other dishes or when roasting the turkey. Some excellent additions are sage, rosemary, thyme, cloves, allspice, ginger, garlic, cranberries, fennel, oranges and lemons — although it’s probably not a good idea to use them all at the same time.

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Until next time, happy cooking everyone!

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