Our family is thankful for how quickly my dad has been on the mend after his total knee replacement surgery last week.
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, marks one week since my dad returned home to the farm to begin his rehab with his physical therapist Cole Casbon, while also still under the watchful eye and care of nurse Collene Miller, both with the Porter County Visiting Nurse Association. Miller, who hails from Kouts and was a 10-year 4-H club member, also happens to be the 1997 Porter County Fair Queen, who I interviewed for a front page story while covering her crowning ceremony.
For this year's Thanksgiving Day dinner, I'm joining my parents just down the road at my oldest brother Tom's home, nestled in the woods. He'll be helping his wife Linda with preparing the family feast.
For the first time, we are forgoing the traditional oven roasting method for our turkey in favor of trying out the deep-frying cooking method, which has gotten so much attention in recent years.
We likely would not have ever tackled this splattering fast technique had we not recently welcomed one of the new indoor electric deep fryers created by Butterball Turkey. Amazing as it sounds, our 18-pound bird will be fully cooked and ready to serve in just under one hour, promising what offers have extolled as "the most juicy and delicious turkey you've ever tasted."
One of the most recent folks we've encountered who hails deep-frying turkey as "the only preparation way that matters anymore" is Beau Winchip, 43, of Valparaiso, a former police office now turned hospital RN, who cared for my dad last week during his four-day stay at Porter Health Care System hospital in Valparaiso. Beau and his wife of 10 years Jessica, who is also an RN across the county line at Saint Anthony's Hospital in Michigan City, have three children, Nathan, 8, Madilyn, 6 and Conner, who is 15 months. He said his family even opted to MOVE their Thanksgiving dinner celebration to Friday, just so dad will be around after working the holiday to be in charge during "turkey deep frying duty." He said this year ranks as his family's sixth year deep frying their Thanksgiving turkey.
Today's recipe also comes from "across the county line" in LaPorte and is perfect as a delicious, award-winning surprise for a dessert choice for guests at Thanksgiving dinner.
My department secretary at Purdue North Central in Westville, where I teach as a part-time adjunct instructor, is Ms. Jean-Ann Morton for the College of Liberal Arts and Departments of Communication and English & Modern Languages. And for the past three years, she has been the first place winner with her pumpkin confections at the Westville Pumpkin Patch Festival. (And her daughter Jaime is just as talented in the kitchen).
Ever since I joined the faculty and the department back in 1999, Jean-Ann has always been a helpful hand, as well as a great cook. She plans to retire in 2014, but I'm not ready to let her leave her desk. The only bright-spot of her retirement is she'll have more kitchen time for her beloved recipe craft.
I know readers will enjoy her 2013 winning moist, decadent and delicious pumpkin cake.
A Blessed, Safe and Relaxing Thanksgiving to Times Readers and their Families!
The Pumpkin Harvest Cake
1 1/4 cups butter
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup water
2 cups unsifted flour
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (divided use)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk) (divided use)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (Jean-Ann says Mexican Vanilla is the best!)
1-2 cups confectioners' sugar
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small saucepan, melt 1 cup butter; stir in 1 cup pumpkin puree then water. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. In large mixer bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Add pumpkin wet mixture; beat well. Stir in 1/3 cup canned sweetened milk, eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour into greased 15-inch by 10-inch or 17-inch by 11-inch jellyroll pan. Bake 15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. In small saucepan, melt remaining 1/4 cup butter; stir in remaining 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and the remaining canned sweetened milk. Stir in confectioners' sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (this mixture should NOT be too thick to pour). Spread on warm cake. Decorate as desired with colored sugar and buttercream frosting pumpkins. NOTE: This cake can also be made in layers as well. But since it is a dense, moist cake, spread topping on both layers. Makes 14 servings.
• 1st Place in Cake category, 2013 Pumpkin Festival, Westville, Ind.