Our Thanksgiving started on Wednesday when Ohio Egg and Poultry Farmers, Cooper Farms, and Bowman & Landes presented us with a turkey. Since we already had the turkey our son raised, we gave this one to the Moms2Be program in Columbus — a group I really support as it helps moms learn how to be better moms. Not only did they donate that one turkey, but they also gave hundreds of roasted turkey breasts to all the new moms and everyone in the neighborhood. What a blessing it was for these families.
We had a great Thanksgiving with all our family, including my mother, and brothers’ and sisters’ families — 53 in all. Everyone brought great food, but the best part of it may have been the leftovers. I started simmering the turkey leg quarters and wings in water as soon as dinner was over. By about 5 p.m. it was delicious broth. I cooked the noodles (that I had made earlier and frozen) in the broth, and everyone gobbled them up along with leftover desserts before they went home.
On Friday we decided to decorate the Christmas tree that we had picked out from Young’s Christmas tree farm. First, with the help of four of my young grandkids (ages 2, 4, 6 and 8), we made gingerbread boys and girls. It was fun decorating them with raisins, candy, chocolate chips and a little icing. Then we strung cranberries and popcorn to put on the tree. The kids had trouble stringing the popcorn so we switched to mini marshmallows. We found that if you let the marshsmallows dry for a couple of days, they are easier to string. You can use regular thread, but carpet and button thread is heavy and slick and works very well. We added some handmade felt cardinals my friend made years ago, plus some tiny books to represent our Dolly Parton Imagination Library project.
We also set up the Christmas crèche that my father made for me several years before he died. He made it from some scrap wood, then he hand-whittled pieces of walnut that his father had given him 50 years before for the trim and the cross. The crèche has not only my Hummel nativity set, but other animals that I have collected from my travels. These animals are in the barnyard surrounding the crèche. All God’s creatures — including elephants, giraffes, bears, a warthog, a rino, turtles, a baboon, a hipo, the Loch Ness monster, a Haitian pig, a Uruguay cow, Jerusalem lambs and cows, and more. My grandkids move these animals around every time they come over. We love it so much that I keep it out all year long at my house in Cedarville. Every Christmas, there are always some new animals that come to visit.
After all that decorating, we made one more meal out of the turkey broth — turkey and biscuits. Everyone agreed it couldn’t be better.
Monday morning we finished decorating the residence. The women at the Marysville Reformatory made a Redemption Tree and decorated it with beautiful handmade paper ornaments. The theme was “Ohio, find it here!” so it features Johnny Appleseed, Neil Armstrong, Longaberger baskets, an Amish family, and all sorts of creative things that represent Ohio. Under the tree are lots of hats and mittens, scarves and blankets that the women made to give children in need.
On Tuesday I stopped by Franklin County’s extension office to see some 4-H students working on some science demonstrations. They were learning about the science of food — all about a2 milk, how to make Dippin’ Dots-like ice cream with liquid nitrogen, how to extract DNA, and why drones are so useful in farming. You can check it out, too: ohio4h.org/10-minute-science.
With the house all decorated we had a fun tea on Thursday to honor all of our volunteer gardeners. We have gardeners who come every week in the summer to tend our gardens, and gardeners from the Inniswood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve who come for one day in the fall just to put the gardens to bed for the winter. Our No. 1 gardener is still Hope Taft.
Now that our Christmas tours and parties have begun, it’s time for me to spend a day in the kitchen making some of my favorite food. I’ve been making lots of brownies and carrot cakes for the freezer. Now I’m adding one of my favorite Christmas treats — salted nut squares, a slightly salty and toffee-like cookie covered with mixed nuts. Mike asked me to make more gingerbread cookies — not for decorating, but for eating. This recipe appeared in my 5th Family Favorites cookbook which I made in 1988. I called it Alice’s Gingerbread Kids for our daughter Alice, who was only 6 at the time. She loved to decorate them, as her children do now.
Alice’s Gingerbread Kids
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses
¼ cup water
Add and mix well:
2 ½ cups flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon soda
¾ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough ¼ inch thick. Cut and decorate with candy and raisins. Poke a hole in the cookies before you bake it if you plan to string them on your tree. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.