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Old-fashioned sides make Thanksgiving special

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a celebration special. I’m always pouring over cookbooks for that little extra that will come as a surprise to guests. That’s why this year, because the guest list is shorter and I have more time to be creative, I thought I’d go back to my childhood and use some of grandma’s timeless recipes.

When was the last time you had a jiggly gelatin mold? Though much maligned, I enjoy them. I like making them, I like that they make the table look festive and I like to eat them, too (like jello on steroids.)

To incorporate some fresh fruit into the menu, since my guys don’t like it in their stuffing, an old-fashioned Waldorf Salad comes to mind. Loaded with apples, raisins, grapes, celery and nuts, this salad packs a lot of crunch. However, if you prefer your apples warm, soft, and a little spicy Aunt June’s Fried Cinnamon Apples might be what you are looking for.

Holiday Cranberry Molds

2 (6-ounce) packages raspberry-flavored gelatin

2 cups boiling water

1 (14-ounce) can whole-berry cranberry sauce

1 cup finely chopped celery

2 cups pineapple juice

1 T. fresh lemon juice

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Lettuce for plates, if desired

Directions: In large bowl dissolve gelatin in boiling water, stirring till completely dissolved. Stir in cranberry sauce, celery, pineapple juice, lemon juice and crushed pineapple. Cover and chill mixture 3 hours or till slightly set. The mixture should be the consistency of uncooked egg whites.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and mayonnaise till smooth in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed. Stir in chopped pecans.

Spoon cream cheese mixture evenly into 8 lightly greased 1-cup molds or ramekins. Top with gelatin mixture. Cover and chill 8 hours.

To serve, gently run a sharp knife around edges of molds to loosen. Place a lettuce leaf face down on small salad plates. Place plates over molds and invert. Garnish with a few chopped pecans. If they won’t unmold, hold a hot dish towel over them for a minute. They should pop right out. To avoid unmolding the salads altogether prepare the mixture in wine glasses or clear compotes. Serves 8.

Waldorf Salad

(This easy recipe has been a holiday favorite for over 100 years.)

2 large Gala apples, diced

1 large Granny Smith apple, diced

1 1/2 cups halved seedless green grapes

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 cup diced celery

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup mayonnaise

Directions: Stir together all ingredients. Cover and chill till ready to serve. To bring the recipe into the 21st century try toasting the pecans in a 350-degree F. oven 6 to 8 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

Aunt June’s Fried Cinnamon Apples

6 large apples (about 6 cups, sliced)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 T. lemon juice

1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions: Peel and core apples. Cut into thick slices. In medium skillet, over medium heat, cook apples with butter and water, stirring often to prevent sticking. Cook till barely tender.

In small bowl combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over apples along with the lemon juice. Toss gently. Remove from heat and cover skillet. Let stand 10 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.

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