Bless Your Spoon: Thanksgiving at High Point University

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 30, 2023

By Stephanie Williams Dean

One of the most inspiring events I attended over Thanksgiving opened with an outstanding welcome — the sound of horns. From the stage, the N.C. Brass Band gloriously resounded in guests’ ears as we filled our luncheon plates from the seriously delicious and generous buffets.

Held in the conference center at High Point University, President Nido Qubein opened the 34th annual Thanksgiving luncheon, hosted by Rotary, with an attitude of gratitude — a thank you to all those who value service before self.

The gobbler was the best I’ve tasted. The ol’ bird was a wise guy and stuffed plum full of sage wisdom. And to downplay the turkey leg, Qubein went straight for the giblet — it’s all about the heart. Our hearts. “We must remember all that is received without forgetting.”

The buffet was well executed and there must have been six or more lines set up to feed well over 200 guests who attended. The main entrée was a savory baked bird with the delightful addition of freshly cooked, sweet apples. Served alongside were mixed salad greens topped with chopped marinated and roasted beets, oven-tossed, herbed potatoes and fresh Brussels sprouts in a savory sauce. Talk about a perfectly curated meal — and all was followed by slices of sweet pie already in place on our table. The event couldn’t have been any nicer, nor could the abundance and generosity be overlooked.

While gobbling down the savory morsels, guests enjoyed songs from Jane Herlong, an award-winning professional singer/songwriter. Then an inspirational talk was shared by burn victim, Allison Massari, after which, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Profound words.

But before a single bite of food touched our lips, we bowed our heads in reverence to God, to show respect and express our thanks. Grace was bestowed upon us by lead pastor, Rev. Lara “Willis” Greene, from First United Methodist Church located in downtown High Point.

“Gracious God, thank you for embracing us as your children and loving us with an everlasting love. We come this day with grateful hearts. We give you thanks. For your stunning creation and the beauty of the world. For the gifts of intellect and speech, science and medicine. We give you thanks. For joys that lift our spirits and challenges that make us grow and for surprises that keep life intriguing. We give you thanks for family, traditions, and special memories. O Lord, we gather at these tables giving thanks for all that we have and all that we are. Bless the food before us, the hands that prepared and harvested it, and the earth that nurtured it. May this time together fill our hearts, strengthen our ties, and give us peace. And God, you’ve given us so much. Mercifully grant us one thing more…

Grant us — a grateful heart.”

Friends, if you have the desire to give back to those in need, enjoy making a difference in the lives of others, and have extra time on your hands, please consider joining a local service organization.

Chicken with Apples And Sauce

• 2 Tbsp. Wesson vegetable oil, divided

• 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

• 4 Tbsp. spicy seasoning mix

• 2 tsp. minced fresh cloves garlic

• 2 quartered onions

• 2 cups sliced cooking apples

Cider Sauce

• 3 Tbsp. chicken drippings/broth

• 2 sliced onions

• 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 2 Tbsp. apple jelly

• Bird giblets (optional)

• 1 tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 2 cups apple cider

• 1 cup whipping cream

• ¼ cup apple brandy (optional)

Drizzle 1 Tbsp. oil on bottom of casserole dish. Sprinkle seasoning mix all over each breast. Place chicken breasts and onions in casserole dish and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. oil and minced garlic. Place apple slices on top of chicken. Cover tightly and cook for 45 minutes until chicken is fully cooked in a preheated 350-degree oven. Serve each breast with apples smothered in Cider Sauce. For Cider Sauce, in a pan, heat fat/broth. Add onions and cook until browned. Stir in flour and cook while constantly stirring for 5 minutes or until browned. Add apple jelly, giblets, salt, pepper and apple cider. Bring to a boil. Reduced heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain sauce into another saucepan and discard giblets and onion. Stir in whipping cream. Cook and stir until bubbly. Blend in apple brandy, if desired.  Heat and serve over chicken with the sliced, cooked apples.

Gingered Chicken

• ¼ cup vermouth/cooking sherry

• ¼ cup soy sauce

• 1 Tbsp. sugar

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 2 Tbsp. minced, fresh ginger

• 2 minced cloves garlic

• 8 favorite boneless chicken pieces

• Flour

• Wesson vegetable oil

In a bowl, combine vermouth/wine, soy sauce, sugar, pepper, salt, ginger and garlic. Marinate chicken while turning occasionally for at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to prepare, drain chicken. Flour lightly. Fry in oil until brown and tender. Serve with steamed rice.

Brussels Sprouts

• 4 diced bacon strips

• 16 trimmed, halved Brussels sprouts

• 1 chopped onion

• 2 Tbsp. chopped chives

• 12 tsp. dried/fresh basil

• 1/3 cup chicken broth or white wine

• 1 tsp. olive oil

• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• Salt

In a skillet, fry bacon, drain and reserve 2 tbsp. drippings. To the drippings, add bacon, Brussels sprouts, onion, chives, basil, chicken broth, olive oil, pepper and salt to taste.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat for 15 minutes until sprouts are crisp tender.

Butter Roasted New Potatoes

• 30 similar sized new potatoes

• 1 ½ sticks salted butter

• 4 pressed cloves garlic

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Paprika

• Garlic powder

In a pot, cover potatoes in lightly salted water and cook until barely tender. Drain. In a baking dish large enough for potatoes to be in a single layer, melt the butter. Stir in the garlic. Add potatoes and sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast in a preheated 425-degree oven for 20-30 minutes and frequently turn them over in the garlic butter as they cook. They should get slightly crusty on the outside. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and paprika as they cook. When transferring to serving plate, carefully lift out. Garnish with chopped parsley. Sprinkle with a little more paprika and garlic powder.

Mandarin Orange Salad with Toppings

• 4 cups baby greens, arugula, Bibb or romaine

• 3 thinly sliced stalks celery

• 4 sliced green onions

• 11 ounces drained, mandarin orange sections

Vinaigrette Dressing

• ¼ cup Wesson oil

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• 1 Tbsp. white vinegar

• ½ tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 5 drops Texas Pete hot sauce

Caramelized Almonds

• ¼ cup slivered almonds

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

For the salad, combine greens, celery, green onions and oranges. Chill salad up to 3 hours. Before serving, toss with vinaigrette and sprinkle with caramelized almonds and chopped beets. For the Vinaigrette Dressing, in a jar, combine all ingredients and shake until mixed. Chill. Shake again before serving. For the caramelized almonds, in a heavy pan, add almonds and sugar. In a preheated 450-degree oven, stir off and on for a few minutes until golden. Turn out on waxed paper. Cool and break into pieces. Store in airtight container.

Savory Beets for Salad Greens

• ½ cup water

• ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

• 16 ounces canned/cooked sliced beets

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 1 tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper.

In a saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch. Mix until blended. Bring to a boil while constantly stirring and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sliced beets. Cover and allow to stand 30 minutes. Before serving on salad, bring beet mixture to a boil and stir in butter, salt and pepper. You can prepare several hours ahead and leave covered on the stove. Dice the beets and serve on top of salad greens. You can also serve these delicious beets as a side dish.

Favorite Recipe for Rolls

• 1 cup Crisco shortening

• 1 cup boiling water

• 1 Tbsp. salt

• ¾ cup sugar

• 2 beaten eggs

• 3 package dry yeast

• 1 cup warm water

• 6 cups all-purpose flour

• Melted butter

In a bowl, pour boiling water over shortening and stir until melted. Allow to cool. Add salt, sugar, eggs and yeast that is dissolved in warm water. Add flour a cup at a time. Mix thoroughly and form into a ball. Cover and refrigerate. Grease a muffin pan and fill halfway with dough. Pinch dough for rolls. Allow to stand covered at room temperature 2 hours to allow to rise before baking. Bake in a preheated 415-degree oven for 15 minutes or until desired brown. Brush tops with melted butter. Dough may also be rolled out and cut with a cutter.

Southern Sweet Potato Pie

• 3 beaten eggs

• ¾ cup sugar

• 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

• ¼ cup softened, salted butter

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. cinnamon

• 1 tsp. nutmeg

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• ¼ tsp. lemon extract

• ¼ tsp. almond extract

• ½ cup whole milk

• Pastry shell

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, sweet potatoes, soft butter, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and extracts. Beat at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add milk until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Pour into a pastry shell. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375-degrees, and bake another 65 minutes. Tent with foil if necessary to prevent pastry burn.

Special Spice Iced Tea

• 10 cups hot water

• 2 family-sized Luzianne tea bags

• 2 Celestial seasons cinn-apple tea bags

• 1 cup sugar

• 2 scoops Country Time instant lemonade

• ¼ cup Welch’s white grape juice

Pour 10 cups boiling water over the tea bags and allow to steep at least 20 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add sugar, instant lemonade and Welch’s white grape juice, and mix well. Taste and add water, if necessary, as desired. Refrigerate. Serve over ice.