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A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

This year, as I think about gratitude, many things come to mind. Most of all, I am thankful for my family. I have a beautiful daughter and a wonderful husband whom I can't imagine my life without. And I am grateful for my mother, father, sister and nephews. They're always just a phone call away, to give me a laugh or reassurance whenever I need it. I'm also very lucky to have married into a terrific family. Their love and support is invaluable, and they have accepted me as one of their own.

As I've said before, I'm extremely grateful for my circle of friends. Although they live in different cities and states, they truly enrich my life. Not a week goes by that I don't get a phone call, e-mail or visit from one of them. They always seem to know when I need a heart-to-heart talk with a girlfriend or when I have a story I can't wait to tell. We share secrets, advice and pep talks, and I love each of them dearly. This year, I had the good fortune of adding my friend Nikki to the group of women I hope will always be a part of my life.

The events of this year have made me realize how thankful I am for my home. I've never really considered how fortunate I am to have a comfortable house, where I am surrounded by things that make me happy. I am safe, I have more than enough clothes to wear, and I never have to worry about going hungry.

My heart goes out to the people affected by the hurricanes. Seeing their pain and suffering made me even more thankful this year for what I have. I have been humbly reminded of basic needs I might not have thought about before, such as having a roof over my head, food to eat, and clothing and shoes to wear. I have learned that I should take nothing for granted, and I should be thankful every day.

I hope that you can take a moment to reflect on what you're most thankful for this year. Have a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Kate Marchbanks

Together With God

What makes Thanksgiving the memorable occasion that it is? It might be the time the turkey burned, or the year the twins were born, the first time that Grandpa wouldn't be there, or the year that you cooked your first turkey dinner from scratch.

For the victims of the recent hurricanes, Thanksgiving this year will hold thankful prayers of their survival. We are so fortunate when so many are rebuilding their lives from scratch.

Father, thank You for another Thanksgiving holiday, complete with all of the blessings of family, friends and good food. Bless those caught in the storms to find hope and happiness. May this season give us memories of the celebration of life and a better tomorrow. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz

Kind uncle saved her from embarrassment

The Thanksgiving I will always remember is the year I was a newlywed and I invited all of my relatives over for Thanksgiving dinner.

When the turkey was done, my uncle, who was a gourmet cook, carved the turkey. To my horror, the bag containing the giblets was still in it.

My uncle was so kind. He said, 'Shhh, we won't tell anybody,' and he kept on carving.

Everyone raved on and on about the turkey. They said it was the best they'd ever had. It was so moist, and it tasted wonderful.

It could have been a very embarrassing moment for me, had it not been for my uncle.

Milford, Ill.

Ate greatest meal in an unlikely place

The greatest Thanksgiving meal I ever had was in an unlikely place. About 50 years ago, I was expecting my first baby, who was due two weeks after Thanksgiving.

That year, my mother and my mother-in-law were combining their efforts to provide a scrumptious meal of turkey and ham with salads, pies and tasty desserts. I looked forward to having Thanksgiving dinner with my parents and my husband's family.

But the baby had other plans. He initiated a quick trip to the hospital, and he arrived at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. After I slept through the day, I was served turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Although I had to skip most of the gravy and the pumpkin pie, it was one of the best Thanksgiving meals I ever ate.  

Salina, Kan.

Brother's visit surprised family

Thanksgiving 1958 was to be a sad day for our family, especially my mother, because my brother would be absent. Joe was a soldier stationed at Camp Breckenridge, Ky.

The day was cold and snowy as Mom and I prepared Thanksgiving dinner. Dad, Mom and we four children had always been home together for the holiday, so Mom was pretty quiet.

We happened to look out the kitchen window at about the same time to see, in the distance, a lone figure walking up the road through the falling snow. We looked at each other, and Mom cried out, 'It's Joey!'

He had hitchhiked more than 300 miles to get home. He was so cold, and we were so happy to see him. Soon after we ate, my parents left to take Joe back to Kentucky.

The sight of my brother walking up the road in the snow is forever imprinted in my mind.

Puxico, Mo.

Enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner in cramped quarters

For me, Thanksgiving 1969 is the holiday that has always been memorable.

Not only was I a newlywed, but I was also a long way from home. I was married to a soldier, and we were stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

We were fortunate to find a small house to live in. One room was the living room and kitchen, one was a small bedroom, and there was a small bathroom with a door that didn't lock. The house leaned a bit, so when we sat at the kitchen table, we had to hold our plates or they would slide to the other side.

We had made several good friends, and many were single. My husband didn't want them to be alone in the barracks on Thanksgiving. He invited three friends to our house, which was not a problem, but the fact that he forgot to tell me was.

At the same time the three soldiers were planning on coming for dinner, my parents and sister were planning on surprising us by driving from Nebraska to Texas to join us. My brother-in-law in Kansas also decided to surprise us.

Our families arrived a few days before Thanksgiving, and by then I knew of the invitations my husband had made so I was able to go to the store and get all the trimmings for a traditional dinner. I was glad to have my dad there because he was always the chief cook for holiday dinners.

We have many memories of the three soldiers, Mom, Dad, my sister, his brother, my husband and I celebrating Thanksgiving in that tiny, slanted house.

We did a lot of improvising. My sister made an Occupied/Not Occupied sign for the bathroom door. We got out the ironing board to use for a makeshift table, and we managed dinner on the three-burner stove. Bedtime was another challenge. We had people on the bed, on the floors, on the couch, and even under the kitchen table.  

We were cramped, the house slanted and we had a challenge cooking, but we felt blessed. The togetherness was special, everyone made new friends, and we were able to give thanks that we could celebrate together.

Thanksgiving 1969 was definitely a memorable holiday, and we have the pictures to prove it.

Cozad, Neb.


There have been 43 presidents of the United States, and most people would agree it's a difficult job. What does it take to be a good president?

Which president have you admired most? Has one of them made a personal impact on you or your loved ones? Who would you consider a presidential hero and why?

Send your letters to Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

Rich, sweet desserts are a perfect ending
to fall meals

From the moment the air turns crisp in the fall through winter's blankets of snow, groups want to gather - to give thanks, to celebrate yuletide and to toast the new year. With each occasion, whether it's dinner with all the trimmings or a casual get-together, the perfect way to stir up new memories is to seal the meal with sweet treats.

Sweetened condensed milk and mincemeat are reliable dessert helpers and key staples in any pantry. At a moment's notice, you can be ready to greet guests with the sweet aromas of the holidays.

This decadent treat features a crunchy topping and sweet almond flavor.

Almond Praline Cheesecake

- Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk and None Such Mincemeat
DECADENT TREAT: You'll love the creamy taste of Almond Praline Cheesecake.

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and
finely chopped
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter OR margarine, melted
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese,
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed
3 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
Almond Praline Topping (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 300°F.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, almonds, sugar and butter; press firmly on bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add eggs and almond extract; mix well.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until center is set. Cool. Top with Almond Praline Topping. Chill. Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator. Yields one 9-inch cheesecake.

Almond Praline Topping:

1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar and whipping cream. Cook and stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in almonds. Spoon evenly over cheesecake.

This double-layer pie combines a taste of two holiday classics.

Apple Mince Pie

- Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk and None Such Mincemeat
CLASSIC COMBINATION: Apple Mince Pie combines the flavors of two holiday classics.

Pastry for 2-crust pie
3 medium all-purpose apples, cored,
pared and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter OR margarine,
1 jar (27 oz.) ready-to-use mincemeat
1 egg yolk plus 2 tablespoons water, 

Place rack in lower half of oven; heat oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, toss apples with flour and butter; turn into prepared crust. Spoon mincemeat evenly over apple mixture. Cover with top crust; cut slits near center. Seal and flute. Brush egg mixture over crust, if desired.

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F; bake 25 minutes longer, or until golden. Cool. Garnish as desired. Yields one 9-inch pie.

Rich and creamy, this fudge is incredibly easy to make.

Friendship Fudge

3 cups (18 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
Dash of salt
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt. Remove from heat; stir in nuts and vanilla.

Spread evenly into a wax paper-lined 8- or 9-inch-square pan. Chill for 2 hours, or until firm. Turn fudge onto a cutting board; peel off paper and cut into squares. Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator. Yields about 2 pounds.

No holiday dinner is complete without this favorite dessert.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin (2 cups)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

Heat oven to 425°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.; continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator. Yields one 9-inch pie.

Mincemeat adds an unusual taste to these cookies.

Prize Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (9 oz.) condensed mincemeat, crumbled
Quick Frosting (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, beat shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs; beat well.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to shortening mixture; mix well. Stir in mincemeat.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool. Frost with Quick Frosting. Yields about 6 1/2 dozen cookies.

Quick Frosting:

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter OR margarine, softened
3 tablespoons water

In a small bowl, beat all ingredients until well-blended.

Nontraditional dishes go beyond usual Thanksgiving fare

Much has changed since 1981, but one thing remains the same - turkey tips and holiday help are only a phone call away. This holiday season, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-BUTTERBALL) turns 25. Since its founding, yearly calls have multiplied from 11,000 to more than 100,000, and the staff has grown from six home economists to more than 50. This season, the Talk-Line will be back in action on November 1.

When the Talk-Line experts are finished talking turkey and head home to enjoy their holiday meals, their second favorite part of dinner (after the centerpiece turkey) is dessert - and they don't stop with the traditional treats! Here are some creative ideas that go beyond the usual Thanksgiving dinner choices and are sure to please your family and friends.

Traditional roasted turkey and fruity, crunchy stuffing will be the highlight of your feast.

Turkey with Apricot-Chestnut Stuffing

- Butterball, Pam and Reddi-wip
HIGHLIGHT: Turkey with Apricot-Chestnut Stuffing will be the star of your holiday meal.

Nonstick cooking spray
1 loaf (16 oz.) sourdough bread, cut into
1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup butter OR margarine
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 medium onions, chopped (about 1 1/2
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped chestnuts
1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried currants OR raisins
2 cups chicken broth
1 turkey (16 lbs.), thawed if frozen

Heat oven to 350°F.

Spray a large, shallow baking pan with cooking spray; spread bread cubes onto bottom of pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly toasted, stirring once. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add almonds; cook and stir for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove with slotted spoon; set aside. Add onion and celery to remaining butter; cook and stir for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in poultry seasoning and salt.

Place bread cubes, vegetables, chestnuts, apricots, currants and almonds in a large bowl; mix lightly. Add broth; mix well.

Reduce oven to 325°F. Remove neck and giblets from body and neck cavities of turkey; refrigerate for another use or discard.

Drain juices from turkey; dry turkey with paper towels. Fill neck cavity with stuffing. Turn wings back to hold neck skin against back of turkey. Fill body cavity with remaining stuffing.

Spray a flat roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Place turkey, breast up, on roasting rack. Spray turkey with cooking spray. Place small pieces of aluminum foil over skin of neck cavity and over stuffing at body cavity opening to prevent overbrowning during roasting.

Note: If any extra stuffing remains, place it in a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray; stir in an additional 1/4 cup broth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake, covered, at 325°F. for 30 minutes, or until hot.

Roast turkey for 4 1/2 hours, or until meat thermometer reaches 160°F. when inserted in center of stuffing and reaches 180°F. when inserted deep in thigh. Cover breast and top of drumsticks with aluminum foil after 3 hours to prevent overcooking breast. Let turkey stand for 15 minutes before removing stuffing and carving. Yields 16 servings.

Here's a delicious, different way to serve sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato, Cheddar and Cider Gratin

1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded smoked cheddar cheese, divided
Salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste
1 1/2 cups apple cider

Heat oven to 375°F.

Brush 1 tablespoon oil over the bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until quite soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

To make gratin, alternate layers of onion, sweet potatoes and cheese in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle each layer lightly with salt, pepper and nutmeg, reserving 2/3 cup cheese. Pour cider over all.

Cover tightly; bake for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until potatoes are almost tender. Remove cover and bake for 15 additional minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over all; bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Yields 10 servings.

This cake is a healthier alternative to pumpkin pie.

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Cake

- Butterball, Pam and Reddi-wip
HEALTHY DESSERT: This year, try Quick and Easy Pumpkin Cake as an alternative to pumpkin pie.
Nonstick cooking spray
1 package (18.5 oz.) yellow cake mix
with pudding
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup (6 oz.) egg substitute
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup nonfat sour cream
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Light whipped cream

Heat oven to 350°F.

Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Combine cake mix, pumpkin, egg substitute, water, sour cream, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed just until moistened. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool. Cut into 12 pieces. Top each piece with whipped topping just before serving and sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired. Yields 12 servings.