Merry Christmas to you and yours. May you find this holiday enjoyable and filled with tasty and traditional family recipes. Here are a few to add to your table on this family and friends holiday. Serving a bottle of light and fruity wine is a nice complement.

Cranberries are a main ingredient in many recipes. The scarlet, tart cranberries are grown in the northern U.S. and northern Europe in sandy bogs and are available from October through December. The berries freeze well and can be enjoyed all year long. So make sure to freeze a few packages by measuring a cupful into freezable containers, this way they’ll be easily ready for your recipes for snacks and baking. The berries can be frozen up to a year.

Cranberries work well in breads, muffins, cakes, sauces, jellies and congealed salads. They can be dried, roasted, boiled, frozen, or microwaved. They are great sliced, juiced, mashed or left whole. They add a bit of a zippy taste to sauces and other recipes. The berries also are great sources of Vitamin C, and researchers claim that the berries may protect the brain from age-related memory and coordination loss.

Make a Cosmopolitan martini for a cocktail with 2 parts vodka or gin, ½ (one half) part dry vermouth, and ½ (one half) part cranberry juice. Stir over ice cubes and pour into festive martini glasses. Serve with a fresh sugared cranberry in the glass.


Basic Dinner Christmas Menu: 

* appetizers – cheese, crackers and slices of Granny Smith apples

* turkey and gravy

* sausage stuffing

* cranberry orange relish, also pickles and olives

* potatoes – mashed and sweet potatoes

* several vegetable sides

* breads

* desserts, pies and beverages


Garlic and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes 

2 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes

1 quart chicken broth

6 cloves of fresh garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 bay leaves

½ cup sour cream

1/2 cup half-and-half, more if needed for consistency

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

¼ teaspoon seasoned salt

Pinch of pepper

Fresh chopped parsley 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss unpeeled garlic cloves with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake in oven for about 10 – 15 minutes until softened. Set aside and let cool.

Peel and cut potatoes in 2-inch pieces and place in a large pot with chicken broth and water (enough to cover potatoes) along with bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer; cook about 15-20 minutes until soft.

Drain potatoes, reserving liquid for later use for gravy or soup, and leave potatoes in pot, mash with a potato masher. Add butter and sour cream and mash in thoroughly. Take the garlic cloves and push the garlic out of the skin into the mashed potatoes. Stir, mashing garlic into potatoes, add seasoned salt and pepper. Whisk potatoes until smooth. Serve hot garnished with chopped parsley sprigs.


Sage and Garlic Roasted Turkey 

1 12-16 pound turkey, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels

2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried sage

3 cloves, peeled garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon onion powder

6 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons sea salt

5-6 cups of your favorite stuffing 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse turkey inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Use giblets to make turkey soup with onion, garlic, thyme and celery. In a small bowl combine sage, onion powder, garlic, sea salt and softened butter to make a soft paste. Loosen the skin of the turkey at the body, cavity opening, gently using a table knife to loosen the skin going as far back as possible without tearing the skin. Divide butter/herb mixture in half. Using the knife spread the herb mixture evenly under the skin on both sides of the turkey. Then lift the neck skin on both sides and spread butter mixture under the skin onto the breast sides. Rub the remaining herb mixture around the outside of the turkey, making sure to cover wings and drumsticks with it.

Place turkey on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan. Gently and loosely stuff turkey with your favorite stuffing. Cover with 2 pieces of foil, overlap top edges to form a tight seam, tenting to keep away from skin of turkey.

Tie drumsticks together. Roast for at 425 degrees for ½ hour. Lower heat to 350 degrees roast for another 1 ½ hours, remove foil, but wrap wings and drumsticks with small pieces of foil to prevent drying out. Roast for another 1 1/2 hours. If turkey looks like it may be drying out, brush skin with some melted butter with a little garlic powder added. Continue roasting until meat thermometer registers 175 degrees when inserted into thickest part of the thigh. Remove foil from wings and drumsticks 45-60 minutes before end of roasting time. Let turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving. Make gravy from the pan drippings and reserved potato water from recipe above. 

Helpful Hint: If you like an Italian flavor for the turkey use 4 tablespoons ready-made pesto mixed with butter or olive oil under the turkey skin.


Pumpkin and Mincemeat Pie

Makes 2 pies. 

1 jar prepared mincemeat

1 9-inch unbaked piecrust

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice or ½ (one half) teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt 

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place piecrust into a deep 9-inch pie pan (2 pans) and flute edges. Thoroughly mix together pumpkin, eggs, spices, and sweetened condensed milk in a bowl until smooth. Pour ½ (one half) the jar of mincemeat over the bottom of the prepared piecrust. Place pie pan onto oven rack and gently pour ½ (one half) pumpkin mixture over mincemeat into each pie pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 30-40 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and refrigerate if not serving within 2 hours. Serve with whipped topping.


Glazed Carrots and Toasted Pecans with Raisins 

1 pound whole full-sized carrots, peeled

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup pecans, toasted

½ cup dark raisins

3 tablespoons butter 

Peel whole (uncut) carrots and trim off tops. Leaving the carrots whole, cooking them whole preserves 25 % more of the antioxidants and other nutrients like beta carotene. Place whole carrots into a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Cover and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes until tender, not mushy. Drain carrots reserving liquid for gravy and soups or as a refreshing drink. Slice carrots on an angle in 1-inch slices. In a stove to table dish sauté the carrots in the butter and brown sugar, turning carrot slices to coat. Toast pecans in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool and and mix toasted pecans with raisins into carrots and sauté for a few minutes until glazed. Serve hot.


Creamed Pearl Onions 

1 pound white pearl onions

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon onion powder

salt and pepper

1 ½ cups half-and-half or milk

1 teaspoon onion powder 

How to easy peel onions: Precook unpeeled pearl onions in a pot of water, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Drain. Trim off ends and push skins off onions. Place into a pot of salted boiling water and simmer for 12-15 minutes until tender. Drain, reserving liquid for soups or gravies.

In another saucepan melt butter over low heat. Blend in flour, salt, pepper, and onion powder, blend completely until it becomes like a paste. Gradually add half- and- half, stirring continuously. Bring to almost a boil, pour in drained onions, cook for 3-5 minutes and serve hot.


Herb Roasted Vegetables 

3 ears yellow corn, shucked and silk removed, cut into quarters

2 large zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large sweet onion cut into 1-inch chunks

1 red onion, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 green pepper, cut into ½ (one half) inch slices (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon ground dried rosemary leaves (optional)

½ teaspoon garlic powder 

Parboil the quartered corn pieces in slightly salted water for 10 minutes, drain and set aside. In a bowl mix together garlic, olive oil and rosemary. Toss all vegetables in the olive oil mixture and pour into a shallow oven to table baking dish. In a 375 degree oven roast vegetables for 30-40 minutes until cooked and slightly crisp around the edges.


Cranberry Sauce with Grand Marnier 

2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup water

1 navel orange, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

¼ cup Grand Marnier

In a medium-sized saucepan cook cranberries, orange, orange zest, sugar, water, and orange juice, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 10-12 minutes until cranberries are tender and bursting. Turn off burner and add Grand Marnier and orange zest. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a serving bowl and let cool at room temperature then refrigerate and serve chilled. Makes 2 cups and will keep up to two weeks.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival — winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012; placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing and winning second place for her Sweet Blueberry Pepper Jelly in 2015; and winning first in 2016 for her spoon blueberry muffins with apricot sauce and second for her blueberry crisp squares — and has won various other contest awards — including three blue ribbons at the 2016 Cape Fear County Fair — for her blueberry cheesecake, muffins, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.