It is Thanksgiving week. No doubt you and I are just like millions of other Americans scurrying around to prepare for the “perfect Thanksgiving.” Decorations, beautiful food, scrumptious sweet desserts, all wrapped up in a warm, cozy house, and a smile that will last for hours.
But today I am reminded of the sisters Mary and Martha. Also scurrying around the house to prepare a beautiful meal for the Lord, Jesus and his band of merry men. (Am I mixing my stories? I think not.)
Way too often I am Martha. Ten extra guests? No problem. Turkey not quite done? No problem. Dishes still left to do at midnight? Okay, problem.
Way too often I am the one complaining, “Lord! Make someone help me.”
Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
I am writing today to encourage each of you to feed your soul this Thanksgiving first and foremost before feeding your body.
Before serving up the turkey and dressing spend some precious time giving Thanks and praise to the one who provides.
Before you serve the sweet potatoes consider the sweet promises that are given to us in abundance.
While the mashed potatoes and gravy are being whipped up give praise to the one who reminds us to be joyous, pray, and give thanks!
As the cranberry sauce is jelling, take time to love on family and friends.
Before the vegetables are passed around the table, take time to remember where our spiritual strength comes from.
And then comes the pie, oh, the pie.
This week take time “to choose the right thing.” The Martha in you (and me) can wait. Let’s sit at the feet of Jesus, praising him with a grateful heart this Thanksgiving.
Chess pies are a Southern specialty that has a simple filling of eggs, sugar, butter, and a small amount of flour. Some recipes add cornmeal and others include vinegar. Flavorings, such as vanilla, lemon juice, or chocolate are also added to vary the basic recipe.
When I asked my southern-born husband if his Granny made Chess Pie he said “definitely not, never heard of it.” At that point this Yankee cook and her chief culinary expert were on the same level playing field. I’ve never heard of it or eaten it until … I came to Tennessee!
When my Floridian, Pennsylvania-born friend, Phyllis, came to visit she immediately exclaimed “where can I get some Chess Pie? It is my favorite!” I love coming to Tennessee so I can eat Chess Pie! For a week we ate in various restaurants, local cafes, and even at my house. No chess pie for Phyllis.
It was the day before she and my friend Kathy were leaving to continue their fall driving vacation. I woke up at 4 a.m. That isn’t unusual for me. And most generally it means I have something to do. On this particular morning I ran through my mental “to-do” list and was satisfied I did not have any pressing activity calling my name.
WRONG. Chess Pie. As I pulled the covers up tight and rolled over to sleep a few more hours I heard Phyllis saying, “where can I get some Chess Pie, it is my favorite!”
I really should have called this guess pie because guess what? I got up at 4:05 in the morning, fired up the computer, Googled a few recipes and found just the right one. How did I know it was the right one? Because Phyllis had told me that “true” chess pie included cornmeal and vinegar in the list of ingredients.
When the ladies came in from our little guest cabin for breakfast, this pie (and one more) was cooling on the counter. Phyllis squealed with delight! The second pie was delivered to my neighbor later that morning.
The origin of the name, Chess Pie, is uncertain, but there are plenty of guesses and a bit of folklore surrounding the name. My favorite is about the plantation cook who was asked what she was baking that smelled so great – “Jes’ pie” was her answer. 🙂
The recipe I used came from My Recipes.com and was featured in Southern Living March 2000. I made one change that we all think is a keeper. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. I happen to have Coconut flavored vinegar that came from a specialty olive oil and vinegar shop in Florida. I had never used it and now know that it was made for chess pie! It adds a fantastic light, rich, slightly coconut flavor. Oh my word, you have just got to try this.
This pie is not eggy. It is sweet, rich, custard with a crunchy crust (from the cornmeal.)
My family loves it and I have made another one since their visit. Soon I’ll be trying Lemon Chess Pie and Chocolate Chess Pie.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner — it’s pie time!
Happy Baking, ~Catherine
1 Chronicles 29:11-13
11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
Made with on-hand ingredients this classic pie is a southern favorite. Cornmeal and vinegar set this recipe apart from others and creates a crunchy, lovely crust across the top of the pie.
Serves: 6 slices
1 9" round pie crust
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter or margarine, melted
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar or coconut flavored vinegar*
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Fit piecrust into a 9-inch pieplate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp.
Line pastry with aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake at 425° for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove weights and foil; bake 2 more minutes or until golden. Cool.
Stir together sugar and next 7 ingredients until blended. Add eggs, stirring well. Pour into piecrust.
Bake at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes, shielding edges with aluminum foil after 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve at room temperature, plain or with whipped cream
* White vinegar or a flavored vinegar such as coconut works wonderfully. Optional: Coconut Chess Pie: Prepare filling as directed above; stir in 1 cup toasted flaked coconut before pouring into piecrust. Bake as directed above.
Besides being the chief gardener, chief culinary consultant, and chief everything else my sweet husband is also the chief flour grinder. A few years ago we bought a 5 gallon bucket of winter wheat berries. (Yikes, that is a lot of berries!) And so we have ground our own whole wheat flour for some time now.
Recently, the chief ground a big ‘ol plastic container of flour. I got excited about the fresh whole wheat flour. The fragrance was divine and the flour slightly warm from the grinding. It didn’t take me long to have the ingredients in my Kitchen Aid mixer.
I decided to use a recipe that I found on the King Arthur Flour website. After all, they are a flour company, surely their bread recipe would be better than others. “Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread — who says whole wheat bread has to be dense, dry, and tasteless?” says the company website.
This recipe is a keeper! I still can’t believe there is no white flour in this bread. The crumb is beautiful. Slightly nutty and perfect for sandwiches. And toast. And butter and jam. And honey. And grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh yeah.
The crust is a darker brown than some others. That is because the recipe calls for honey, or molasses, or maple syrup for sweetness. Since I tripled the recipe and made 3 loaves, I used honey, and molasses, AND maple syrup for sweetness. I highly recommend this trio for a perfect trifecta!
Happy Baking! ~Catherine
Jesus said to them, “I am the breadoflife; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35
King Arthur knows best when it comes to 100% whole wheat bread! Give this a try, you'll love it!
Serves: 1 loaf
1 to 1⅛ cups lukewarm water*
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey, molasses, or maple syrup
3½ cups whole wheat flour
2½ teaspoons instant yeast or 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water in the recipe.
¼ cup nonfat dried milk
1¼ teaspoons salt
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. For easiest, most effective kneading, let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes in the bowl; this gives the flour a chance to absorb some of the liquid, and the bran to soften. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer or food processor, or in a bread machine programmed for "dough" or "manual.") Note: This dough should be soft, yet still firm enough to knead. Adjust its consistency with additional water or flour, if necessary.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, cover it, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8" log. Place the log in a lightly greased 8½" x 4½" loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 to 2 hours, or till the center has crowned about 1" above the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. The finished loaf will register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.
Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. If desired, rub the crust with a stick of butter; this will yield a soft, flavorful crust. Cool completely before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.
* Water - use the greater amount in winter or in a dry climate; the lesser amount in summer or a humid climate.
Check out King Arthur website for additional bread baking tips: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-100-whole-wheat-bread-recipe
One of Olive Garden’s most popular soups is also one of my sous-chef dish-washing mom’s favorite. Olive Garden’s recipe can be found all over the internet and includes ground beef. But the recipe I chose to use came from Our Best Bites and includes bacon but not beef.
As I was finishing up the soup it just didn’t seem to have enough flavor. So I made an adaption addition that sent this soup right up over the top on the tasty oh my gosh meter. I added 2 cups homemade marinara sauce. I dare to say any marinara sauce will work so don’t sweat the “homemade” part of my marinara.
I never cared for the soup from Olive Garden, but I am going to brag I mean blog this terrific recipe while wishing I had some to warm me up right now!
On a side note — The recipe calls for “small-shaped pasta”, such as Ditalini, orzo, or stellini. I used small elbow macaroni but afterwards found these darling little mini farfalle. My next pot of Pasta e Fagioli will feature these!
Blessings and Bon Appétit!
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into God’s presence with singing!
Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Fresh minced parsley* optional garnish for serving
Cook bacon in large dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Stir in onion, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, with their juice, beans (drained and rinsed), broth, water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Stir in the pasta and cook until slightly underdone. Add marinara sauce and return to heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve garnished with grated Parmesan and parsley.
Suggested pasta: Ditalini, orzo, mini bowtie, or stellini as well as small elbow. This soup can be prepared through step 1, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Reheat over low heat and then proceed to step 2.