There’s no doubt this holiday season is going to be different as people are separated from family and loved ones due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Andy Beshear has published guidance advising Kentuckians to celebrate the holiday with only the people already in their households, following the same guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even if we can’t be with our families, there is one thing we can do to make the holidays feel semi-normal. We can pull out our tattered recipes boxes and thumb through the cards that have become a staple in our family’s holiday lineup. We can cook and conjure up a small taste of home that will make it feel like we’re with our families — even if we’re alone — celebrating however we’d normally celebrate this time of year.
A few weeks ago, we put out a call to readers asking for their family stories and recipes that make the holidays complete. We heard stories about baking marathons and meticulously prepared stuffing and found countless recipes for cookies, desserts, potatoes and more. After combing through dozens of submissions, here are a handful that stood out, whether for the nostalgia the recipe stirs, the ease of recreation or in the case of a wild Jell-O-inspired salad called “The Green Stuff,” the laughter it induced.
Maybe this year,as we adjust to a holiday season unlike any before, you can try something cherished in another family. And maybe you’ll even adoptit as part of your own tradition oncewe’re all able to gather again safely.
Happy holidays, Louisville.
Riva Jane’s meatloaf and roasted potatoes
For Honi Goldman, every Friday night meant dinner was at Aunt Riva’s house. And every Friday night, she made her famous meatloaf and roasted potatoes. It’s a straightforward, comfort foodrecipe that brings Goldman back to the days her family would have dinner at a different relative’s house each weekend. For her, the recipe is like a baby blanket wrapped around her shoulders — warm and familiar.
Goldman has her aunt’s recipe now, andshe’s tried to recreate it for the holidays over the years, with moderate success. It feels like there’s an ingredient missing, she said. Maybe it was a certain kind of ground beef or a certain kind of breadcrumbs or mushrooms?
But maybe the ingredient missing is the woman who originated the recipe.
“The ingredient missing is me sitting down at her table and having her serve it,” she said. “But it’s kind of nice to recreate the recipes. It’s a way of remembering them.”
Bourbon sweet potatoes
Teresa Perkins always has bourbon sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving. The dish was inspired by one served at Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown and has been served in herfamily for 40 years.
“Traditions were very important in my family,” Perkins said. “We always had certain things at certain times. I found as I got older and members of my family began to pass away, those traditions really became more important. It was like keeping them around and reminding me of the times we had when we were all together.”
Pretty much everyone in the family loved it, Perkins said. When it was cooking time, her dad would swing by the kitchen and say, “pass me a shot of those sweet potatoes,” referencing Kentucky’s favorite spirit.
Whenever Perkins makes the recipe, she thinks of him.
“I know my ex-husband’s grandmother, a tiny little thing, didn’t like alcohol at all,” Perkins said. “I always had to remind her it had bourbon in it. She never ate it, but everyone else did.”
‘The green stuff’
To this day, Denise Fitzpatrick isn’t sure what led her mother, a generally wonderful cook, to become fascinated with Jell-O. The gelatin salads she made over the years contained seemingly random ingredients, but “the green stuff” in the 1970swas the masterpiece.
“This dish has a special place in our family lore,” Fitzpatrick said. “Mom adored it. I liked it. My brother Chris found it nausea-inducing. I can still see his horrified expression when Mom put it on the table.”
The dish, made with lime Jell-O, cucumbers, mayonnaise, cottage cheese and pecans, was so strange looking “no one in the family ever photographed it,” she said.
“When I told my brother I had gotten the recipe from Mom for this cookbook I’m doing, he said ‘thank you so much, I’ve been looking for that recipe for decades,'” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not because he wants to make it. It’s because he wanted to print it out, hold it over the sink, light it on fire and wash the ashes slowly fall into the sink.”
Dad’s Thanksgiving oyster dressing
In November 1963, Christy Hartman Haas’ father, O.P. Hartman, was featured in the Louisville Times for his oyster dressing recipe. It’s remained a fond family memory, passed down from his grandmother to the rest of them.
Hartman used to say most people who make dressing “should serve a glass of water with it,” because he hated dry dressing that much. His recipe includes multiple steps to make sure the final result comes out moist and tasty.
“I think the secret to Daddy’s recipes was using fresh ingredients and real butter and cream,” Haas said. “He was a legend with our friends and family. When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of his dressing.”
Goblin’s Delight pumpkin cake
Iris Hinds said her father, an accomplished home cook, would bake this Goblin’s Delight pumpkin cake every year for Thanksgiving. It’s been in the family for more than 70 years, and she’s not even sure where it came from.
“When I asked him for the recipe, he jotted it down from memory,” she said. “It was his thing. His cake. Plus it’s fairly easy to make and tasty. He actually was in the service —he worked in the kitchens in the army between World War II and Korea. He knew his way around a kitchen.”
He used to carry a small spiral notebook with him, Hinds said. The recipe she uses to recreate the cake all these years later is written in his handwriting.
“My dad passed very young, and he was desperately missed,” Hinds said. “I make this every Thanksgiving, and so does my sister in North Carolina. It’s how we remember him.”
Michael Dinga’s parents lived in the same house for more than 50 years. Every year when he and his brother would return to his parents’ house with their own families, his mom Lucy Dinga (they called her Mimi) would greet them with a dish of homemade food upon arrival.
The recipes would vary — sometimes it was Mimi’s homemade beef soup or a handed-down recipe for homemade meatballs and spaghetti sauce. But a family favorite was the pumpkin bars, particularly because there’s not so much frosting that it overwhelms the pumpkin flavor.
Jellied or whole?:Thank this lucky soil for whatever Thanksgiving cranberry sauce you eat
Mimi passed away in 2013. A few years later, Dinga had a copy of the popular pumpkin bars recipe in Mimi’s handwriting carved into a cutting board as a gift to his brother.
“My brother and his wife were completely surprised and thrilled to receive the cutting board,” Dinga said. “We actually visited them in Virginia last month (socially distanced, of course), and I noticed that they still have it propped up on their kitchen counter, for all to see.”
Aunt Riva’s meatloaf and roasted red potatoes
Courtesy of Honi Goldman. Serves 8
For the meatloaf:
- ¼ cup margarine
- 1 pound mushrooms, sliced. Set seven slices aside.
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 4 cups soft bread crumbs
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ cup minced parsley
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 pounds ground chuck
- ¼ cup tomato juice
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- ⅓ cup ketchup
- 1 ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- Salt to taste
For the potatoes:
- 10 small red potatoes (about 3 pounds)
- Olive oil and paprika to taste
Prepare the meatloaf: Preheat oven to 400 F.In a large pan, add margarine, mushrooms, lemon juice and onion and sauté for three minutes. Set aside. Toss bread crumbs, pepper, thyme and parsley in a large bowl. Lightly mix in two beaten eggs, ground chuck, pepper, tomato juice, ketchup, dry mustard and salt.
Pack half the beef mixture into a 10-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Layer in mushroom mixture, then top with the rest of the beef. Top with seven sliced mushrooms. Cook for 70 minutes.
For the potatoes: Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut potatoes into halves or quarters. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with paprika. Roast on baking sheet until done, about 30 minutes. Turn a few times throughout to brown evenly.
Bourbon sweet potatoes
Courtesy of Teresa Perkins. Serves 6-8
- Two 24-ounce cans of sweet potatoes
- 1 stick of salted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup bourbon or whiskey
- Pecans or marshmallows for topping (optional)
Drain potatoes and warm on stove. Leave them a little lumpy; mash in a stick of butter. Add brown sugar and bourbon. Stir well.
Bake for 45 minutes at 350 F. You can add pecans or marshmallows to the top in the last five minutes if you want. And don’t forget a shot of one of those ingredients.
Mom’s green cottage cheese salad
Courtesy of Denise Fitzpatrick. Serves 8-10
- 2 packages lime Jell-O
- 2 large cucumbers, seeded and grated
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ½ normal amount of water for Jell-O
- Small carton cottage cheese
- Whole pecans
Mix all ingredients together and transfer to a serving dish or traditional Jello-O mold. Chill for at least three hours. Serve.
Dad’s oyster dressing
Courtesy of Christy Hartman Haas. Serves 8-10
- 1 loaf dry bread
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 finely chopped green pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon sage
- Turkey giblets
- 1 pint fresh oysters
- Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chop vegetables and tear bread into pieces. Mix vegetables, bread, beaten eggs and seasoning together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Boil turkey giblets in water until tender. Chop up giblets, using the water to moisten the bread mixture.
Squish bread mixture with hands into casserole dish until spongy. Add additional turkey giblet cooking water if needed. Mix in giblets and pint of fresh oysters with juice.
Bake in 350 F oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Then, spoon some turkey drippings over the top. Do not mix; you want a crust to form. Put back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Goblins Delight Pumpkin Cake
Courtesy of Iris Hinds. Serves 10-12
For the cake
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (1 small can) unsweetened pumpkin puree
For the cream cheese frosting
- 1 stick real butter
- 3 ounces cubed cream cheese
- 1 pound box confectioners sugar
- I teaspoon vanilla
The cake: Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare tube or bundt pan with baking spray or coat with oil and flour. Mix eggs, oil and sugar in a large bowl, blend to combine. Stir dry ingredients together and add to egg mixture, blend well. Add pumpkin and mix until thoroughly blended.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out wet but clean. Do not over bake.
Turn out cake onto a serving plate and cool completely before frosting.
Cream cheese frosting: Bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature. Put all ingredients in a large bowl; mix on slow until blended and smooth. Spread on cooled cake.
Courtesy of Michael Dinga. Makes 24 to 30 bars
For the bars:
- 4 eggs
- 1 ⅔ cups sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 16-ounce canned pumpkin
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
For the icing:
- 3-4 ounces softened cream cheese
- ½ cup softened butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Pumpkin bars: Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin and vegetable oil together until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Pour into ungreased 15-by-10-by-1-inch cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Icing: Cream together 3-4 ounces softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup softened butter. Stir in vanilla. Add 2 cups sifted powdered sugar a little at a time until the icing mixture is smooth. Spread over cooled cake.