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Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart

If there is ever a song that warms my heart this time of year, it is one that many of us have been singing for the last 40-plus years — and it has a very special meaning to many of us in the High Country. 

I grew up in the little Avery County town of Crossnore, and like many who lived in the area, depended on our local hospital and its doctors to care for our families. 

One of those physicians, Dr. E. H. Smith and his lovely wife, Virginia, had four children; the elder son, Henry, in 1978, wrote the song, “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart.” Henry was legally blind.

The story behind the song is quite remarkable, but especially at Thanksgiving, it stirs my heart in a huge way. Perhaps you’ve heard it and had no idea that it originated right here close to home. Hopefully, if you hear it or sing it in the coming days, it will give you a new perspective on life, in general. Let’s all give thanks for what we have — and always with a grateful heart. 

Happy Thanksgiving from my home to yours.

Mandarin Orange Salad 

1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding mix (use dry) I would use sugar free

1 lg. can crushed pineapple (undrained)

2 med. cans mandarin oranges (drained)

1 container whipped topping 

Mix together whipped topping and dry pudding mix; add undrained pineapple and both cans of drained oranges.  Mix gently. 

Save a few mandarin oranges to decorate the top. Refrigerate until it thickens and you are ready to serve it.

Use as a side dish with a meal or serve with ice cream as a dessert.

(You can make this healthier by choosing low/no sugar instant pudding mix and cool whip, and fresh mandarins.)

Quick Potato Cheese Bake

4 cups mashed potatoes

½ cup Parmesan cheese

2 eggs, slightly beaten

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Combine potatoes, Parmesan cheese and eggs. Season to taste. Place in casserole. Top with cheddar cheese and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Holiday Pecan Cake

2 cups  all-purpose flour

¾  cup pecans, finely chopped 

1 tsp. baking soda

¼  tsp. salt

½ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup oil

1 ½ cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

In one bowl, combine the flour, chopped pecans, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream butter with oil, brown sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. At low speed, add dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Pour batter into baking dish. Bake for about 40 minutes or until lightly brown.

Top with your favorite caramel icing. Or make a glaze with additional butter and brown sugar.

Serve warm or cold and top with whipped cream if desired.

Apple Butterscotch Crunch

1 (12 oz.) pkg. Butterscotch morsels

1/3 cup margarine

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup chopped pecans

6 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups cooked granny smith apples

1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using a glass dish). In a 3-qt. saucepan, melt butterscotch morsels and margarine. Stir in graham crackers crumbs and pecans. Press half of the mixture firmly into a greased pan. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, milk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in apples and sugar and mix well. Pour over prepared crust and top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers. This dish is better the second day. 

Easy Seasonal Cookies

1 (12-oz.) bag white chocolate chips

1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening

Ritz crackers

Creamy or crunchy peanut butter

Orange candy sprinkles or those for any holiday theme.

In small, heavy saucepan, melt chocolate and shortening together over low heat, stirring until smooth.

Make sandwich cookies out of the Ritz crackers, using peanut butter for filling.

Dip each cookie into the melted chocolate mixture and place on waxed paper. Sprinkle with the candy. Allow to dry at room temperature.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Simple Hot Apple Cider  

1 qt. prepared cider

½ cup brown sugar

½ Tbsp. whole cloves

1 small cinnamon stick

1/8 tsp. salt 

Mix together and simmer 20-30 minutes. Sip slowly for just the right effect.