Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

She doesn’t like potatoes but Country Grandma is the queen of stirring up delicious gravy, and pretty much any other down-home Midwest comfort food served at a farmer’s table. When it came time to make gravy this Christmas, I had an abundant amount of reserved ham cooking juices but I didn’t have a recipe or a plan for making the gravy. Should I use flour or cornstarch? Broth or milk? My sister Heidi suggested I ask Country Grandma, the queen of gravy, to show me how she makes hers.

ham gravy v

Thankfully she obliged by stepping into the kitchen and showing us how to make ham gravy with milk and cornstarch. She eyeballed it so I’m hoping the mental notes I’m posting will be enough for me to remember how to make it next time.

ham gravy

Also known as Ma T, Country Grandma (Judy Thomssen) is grandma to my nephews—the T Boys. Before Grandpa Ron died, they farmed near Lake Benton and raised a son, Will, who is married to my sister Heidi. (Yes, that makes Judy Heidi’s mother-in-law and we love her company!) When the T Boys were little, Ron and Judy lived in the country and my mom lived in town so they nicknamed Judy Country Grandma. Can you imagine a farmer’s wife not liking potatoes? But my sister was right—Country Grandma is the queen of gravy and she is welcome in my kitchen anytime. I want her to come back and show me how to make her beloved meatballs, and the hamballs I just heard about.

The T Boys in 1998 (Trav, Garritt, Cody)

The T Boys in 1998 (Trav, Garritt, Cody)

Country Grandma’s ham gravy recipe – the eyeball method

Grab what you need:

equal parts whole milk and water

cornstarch (liquified to a paste with ice water so you don’t get cornstarch floaters in your gravy)

ham cooking juice to taste


Make the gravy:

In a large pot over medium-high heat, whisk milk and water to boiling. Pour in cornstarch and stir constantly until thickened. Add ham cooking juice to taste, starting with a smaller amount and adding from there. (It’s easy to add more but you can’t take it out if you add too much.)

Serve over mashed potatoes. Store leftovers in refrigerator and serve hot over fried leftover mashed potatoes or toast.

Salty swine wishes,



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Decorating the tree and tucking presents snuggly under the branches brings joy to those of us who celebrate Christmas. I know I’m excited to open the box that was delivered from Tiffany & Co. this week. But as I’m prancing around the kitchen this morning, I’m thinking about what gifts I really want to give and receive.

Santa and baby Jesus

1. If I could give my children and loved ones the gift of seeing themselves as others do, I’d never buy wrapping paper again.

ornament from 1973

2. True inner peace and happiness for my children and family members. The kind of peace that comes from having faith in God.

kids in 2004

3. That my loved ones are here this same time next year.

in memory of Maui ornament

4. Hope for the future. Each year I put my hope ornament at the top of our tree – a reminder of the year I bought it with some of the last dollars in my pocket.

hope ornament

What are some Christmas gifts that you want now that you are older?

Sweet Christmas wishes,


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We all know our grandparents don’t want anything from us for Christmas except to be together for the holidays and maybe a couple school pictures of the kiddos. Yet it’s in our nature to be giving and thoughtful.

chicken and berries

Fuzzy iPhone photo because I’m too lazy to get out my camera

This year for Christmas, I’m giving my 87-year-old grandma locally grown strawberries that I stuck away this summer and a few nicely portioned freezer bags of fully cooked rotisserie chicken. I think she’ll use the juicy strawberries to dot her tiny bowls of vanilla ice cream. And after a conversation we had this fall about rotisserie chicken, I know she’ll enjoy a few lunch sandwiches and think of me.

At least this year she won’t unwrap a box full of single-serve soups, only to find out a few weeks later that grandma doesn’t like soup but was too nice to tell me.

What are some thoughtful gifts you’ve given to your elderly grandparents or parents?

Sweet holiday wishes,

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we’ve all planned our menus. Groceries are lining the counters and over-stuffing the refrigerator. Some of you are already performing culinary magic in the kitchen. It’s not like you need a stuffing recipe in order to prepare for this year’s turkey day. But I only make this savory sausage dish for holiday meals and I want to share it now so you can add it to your Christmas, or other religious holiday, celebration.

I’ve refined this recipe to feed my family of 17 and still have leftovers — give or take a few kids who probably have never tried it. But then there’s the sizeable appetites of the T Boys, my football and baseball-playing nephews, who request this every year. (Check out their favorite hot dog casserole.)

The cool thing about this recipe is that it’s pretty easy to customize. Just use the amounts of bread, sausage, and butter as the recipe calls for so it doesn’t get greasy or dried out. You could substitute some of the celery with mushrooms or a different vegetable, and add garlic, cashews, or cranberries. I’ve used all kinds of breads so pick your favorites and go with it. You don’t have to dry out the bread first for this stuffing.

You may have a larger stove top than I do, or bigger pans, but this batch of stuffing is so large that I need to use two large frying/sauté pans to cook the butter, celery, and onion mixture. You’ll need large pans because once you add the bread, you need room to stir everything together. Or you could split it into batches. You’ll want a very large bowl or pan to bake this in. I’ve used my KitchenAid® roaster and an aluminum roaster. I’ve also put it in a crockpot.

Staci’s Sausage Stuffing

2 pounds bulk pork sausage, cooked, keeping a few tablespoons of the fat in the sausage

1 pound bulk Italian pork sausage, cooked, keeping a couple of tablespoons of the fat in the sausage

4-1/2 cups celery, washed and chopped

2-1/4 cups diced yellow onion

5-1/2 sticks butter

3 tablespoons bacon grease, optional

24 cups of bread cubes (2 to 3 loaves of bread), I use at least two different varieties like white and wheat, wheat and rye, I’ve used pumpernickel and today I used white, wheat, and a small pan of cornbread

5 teaspoons dried sage leaves, or 6 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage leaves

3-4 teaspoons dried thyme leaves, or 3 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves

4-1/2 teaspoons salt

1-1/2 teaspoons pepper

Preheat oven to 325°.

Over medium heat, cook the celery and onion in the butter (add bacon grease if using), stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft. Stir in about 1/2 to 3/4 of the bread cubes. Keep on low heat while tossing together, getting as much of the bread coated with butter.

Transfer to a very large bowl or roasting pan. Add remaining bread cubes, seasonings, and the cooked sausage with fat. Toss to combine.

Transfer to roasting pan, cover and bake at 325° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes.

To use to stuff the turkey, stuff turkey just before roasting.

This stuffing can be assembled and refrigerated a day ahead and baked the day you need it. I actually think it’s better that way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What kind of stuffing is a tradition at your family celebrations?

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Long gone are the days of dog-eared catalog pages marked with toys for good little girls and boys. For those of you who celebrate the Christmas holiday, exchange gifts with your family, and use Pinterest, here’s a fun and organized way to share your family’s Christmas lists.

Create a new Pinterest board titled Christmas List, pin items that you would like to receive as gifts, and send the link to your mom.

I say mom because in my family, our mother is the first to request Christmas lists. And I know for myself, when I’m asked on the spot what I want for Christmas, the only thing I can think of is, “well, we’re out of dishwasher soap and our towels are looking shabby but not chic.”

You can pin gift ideas for family members too, just be sure to include who it’s for. You can see my list at http://pinterest.com/staciperry/christmas-list/. (You have to scroll down a bit to see my fun kitchen/baker/foodie stuff.) I’ve included ideas for my two kids, and also shared it with my sisters. I’m hoping they will do the same for themselves and their families. *Hint. Hint.*

Even if a family member isn’t on Pinterest, they can see your board because it is public.

My mom loves the spirited quest for gifts but as the kids get older, they tend to take the easy road and ask for gift cards to their favorite stores. I guess that’s what happens when we don’t have bulging paper catalogs from Sears and JCPenney to help us craft our dream list to Santa. I hope this brings back a little Ho Ho Ho to gift giving.

What fun ways are you using Pinterest?

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