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.


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.


Collard Greens with Lima Beans & Turkey

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. Some of you are out shopping today or trying to catch up on your NaNoWriMo. I’m not taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, since I’m hosting out of town company.
Here is one of my family’s favorite dishes. It’s another old-fashioned tummy-warming meal just in time to use up some of your leftover turkey (you can substitute smoked turkey or turkey polish sausage slices). The crushed red pepper is a southern necessity, but if you can’t stomach spicy dishes, you can leave it out. Serve with hot buttered corn bread. 
1 bag frozen baby lima beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups vertically sliced red onion
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup diced turkey or smoked turkey breast
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 bay leaf
8 cups sliced collard greens
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Heat oil in a dutch oven or large pan over medium-low heat. Add onion; saute 10 minutes. Add beans, broth, and the next 5 ingredients (turkey through bay leaf). Bring to a boil and let simmer for about an hour*, Stir in collards, vinegar, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer an additional hour. Stir in salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. 
*At this point, you can choose to bake it in the oven at 375º. After an hour, add the other ingredients and return to the oven for an additional hour. 
This recipe is easily adaptable to a Crockpot. Place sauteed onions in your Crockpot, top with beans, broth and the next five ingredients. Then add the chopped collards and pour the vinegar and tomatoes on top. Cover and cook all day. Stir before serving.
Based on a recipe from Cooking Light, March 2000 and reprinted on

Don’t forget this month’s contest. Submit a story using one of our prompts or submit a favorite holiday recipe. You can copy and paste as a comment or use our contact page to enter. 

Mamaw Avon’s Pink Stuff

photo by Anna

Southerners love their “get-togethers,” especially if the holidays and food are involved. My husband Danny’s family is no exception. Though his mother, Mamaw Avon, now lives in her heavenly residence, her bright smile and recipes live on. Thanksgiving meant turkey, Christmas meant ham, and for both holidays, she made cherry fluff, or as we called it, pink stuff.

On Thanksgiving Day, we’d wake early to the smell of the turkey which had baked all night. “Dressing,” which is a southern-type of cornbread stuffing, was tasted and re-tasted to get the spices just right. Vegetables were cooked and the house filled quickly with family and friends bearing casseroles and cake plates brimming with delectable dishes. The pink stuff was mixed together and chilled before the start of our late afternoon celebration.

The large crowd would be quieted before we’d give thanks to God for His abundant goodness, then to the feasting. Most of us ate our pink stuff with the meal, but a few would save a bowlful for desert later. The left-overs brought us all together for several days thereafter and the fun would begin all over again.

Do your holidays have enjoyable food traditions or memories?


Pink Stuff

1 can cherry pie filling

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained

12 oz. Cool Whip

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup miniature marshmallows

½ cup pecans, finely chopped


Mix all ingredients in large bowl; mix well. Pour in decorative bowl and refrigerate for one hour.


Today’s writing prompt: Sandra emptied the pecans she’d chopped into the faded hand-painted bowl as a tear slipped down her cheek. Her mother’s bowl…

November Gift Card Give Away

It’s time for our monthly give away! I can hear the groans now. Not another short story contest? I can’t. I’m writing for NaNoWrMo and am 12,385 words behind! And Thanksgiving is a week away. Haven’t you looked at the calendar?

Well, I’m with you! I’m a little behind with NaNo and haven’t shopped for groceries either. So this month’s $10 Amazon gift card contest will be different. Yes, you can still enter a 500 word or less story using a November prompt if you’d like. We love to read your stories!

However, keeping with the theme of food and recipes, we are giving you the opportunity to comment with a favorite holiday dish. That’s right. Copy and paste your favorite recipe right on the comment part of the blog or use the contact page and you are automatically entered in this month’s contest.

Make sure you’ve entered by midnight on November 25th and we’ll announce the winner on December 1st. A story or a recipe. It’s your choice!

Fall Holidays – Thanksgiving and Perseverance

Thanksgiving Day is the most obvious choice among the Fall Holidays, but I intend to take a slightly different track. Since Thanksgiving is high on my list of favorite holidays, I would like to give homage to Sarah Josepha Hale, who ardently campaigned for its creation. She would not back down, but pursued her dream for seventeen years. Hey, that’s perseverance! Of course she was a writer. Writers understand rejection and perseverance. 

Hale wrote letters to five American presidents, asking that they declare Thanksgiving Day a national holiday. Up to this time, it was only celebrated in New England and those states chose their own day to celebrate. Abraham Lincoln was persuaded by her letter to support legislation for the holiday in 1863. Thanksgiving became the third national holiday, joining George Washington’s birthday and Independence Day. 

For more information on this fascinating individual, you can click the link (her name above) or under research, below. I would encourage you to read about her life and perhaps you can include her, or references to her, in your historical writing.

My son’s first turkey
Of course I can’t leave the discussion of Thanksgiving without also giving homage to the humble turkey. If Benjamin Franklin had had his way, the turkey would have been declared our national bird, instead of the eagle. 

Franklin wrote, “For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.”

Ha! So as you slice into your golden-brown turkey on Thanksgiving Day, be sure to thank him (the turkey) for his ongoing contribution to your celebration.


List of Fall Holidays:
Autumnal Equinox – Sept 22 @ 10:49 a.m. Northern Hemisphere
Native American Day 28
Sukkot (begins at sundown) 30
Yom Kippur 30
Columbus Day 8
Thanksgiving Day 8 (C)
Boss’s Day 16
Sweetest Day 20
United Nations Day 24
Halloween 31
All Saint’s Day 1
All Soul’s Day 2
Veteran’s Day 11
Sadie Hawkins Day 13
Thanksgiving Day 22
Pearl Harbor Day 7
Chanukah 8 (lasts 8 days) 
Poinsettia Day 12

This week’s prompt: 
When Ardmore grabbed the knife to begin carving the Thanksgiving turkey, Charlotte’s face paled. . .