Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 5, 2014

On being thankful

Kay's Cooking Corner

Kay Bona

I’m hoping all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We did. I’m always thankful that our families can still get together and visit for extended times. Work, school, and the stress of the day-to-day stuff goes away for a while, and we just enjoy each other. That’s something to be thankful for!

Then there’s the food. The turkeys and hams. The sweet potatoes, green beans, deviled eggs, and cranberry sauce! The list is endless! And you get stuffed – much like the turkey, yet over and over again, because there are leftovers. But the food is half the fun of Thanksgiving.

As Americans, we have a lot for which to be thankful. We have a tradition at our family dinner where after the prayer, each person tells of something for which they are thankful. This usually brings a wide-range of responses, but always good ones. I imagine everyone reading this column has something for which to give thanks.

This year was more difficult on some of the family who had lost loved ones, but they still managed to be thankful for something. There were thanks for family, thanks for all of the people in attendance, thanks for friends, thanks for support for each other, thanks for food, thanks for freedoms, and thanks for Jesus. Actually speaking aloud something you are thankful for always leaves you with such a good feeling, and also starts the dinner with smiles and an extra dose of love.

Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year, but it sure would be nice if every day we could get up out of bed and still feel just as thankful - thankful that we have another day on Earth in which to spread some smiles and happiness, and thankful that we have food on our table, even though it might not be stuffed turkey with all the trimmings. So many people in America don’t have any idea when they get up in the morning where their next meal might come from or what it might be.

I have a story that I feel is worth sharing, so bear with me.

When I was younger and living in Memphis, I did volunteer work for the Tennessee Department of Human Services. My job was to visit the homes of young mothers with children on welfare to make sure the children were getting the proper care and nutrition. Needless to say, this was a very depressing job. Had it not been for the children, I would have quit it in a heartbeat, but I did love those kids.

One particular lady in her early twenties had five children, the youngest being just one year old. Two of the others were toddlers and the other two were school age. To me, their living arrangements were heartbreaking, but the children were happy. If they knew there were other ways to live, they didn’t let on.

Sadly, I had to report the mother because she was giving her SSI check to her boyfriend every week instead of buying food for the children. In the refrigerator was a half-eaten cake they had won at a cakewalk at church. That was their breakfast and dinner. For the week.

I did quit that job not long after because it was too depressing for me. I had young kids at the time, and I just couldn’t stand seeing toddlers eating cake for their meals. I pray that those children grew up and are all doing well now.

So I’m thankful - thankful beyond what my mind can write for my family, my job, my house, and my food. And I think of those children from time to time when I’m busy preparing a large meal. We should all be thankful. And we should all give to the food banks, etc., when we get a chance.

So, back to the cooking. Today, I cooked a wonderful Bona Family specialty they fondly call Mr. Charlie, but it’s also known as Mostaccioli. It’s an Italian favorite, and there are hundreds of recipes for it, but this is “Nona Bonas” recipe, and one the family is quite proud of.

I purchased a flame-colored, nine-quart Le Creuset French Oven from my local Williams-Sonoma store, and I couldn’t wait to try it out, so this is what I’ve been doing today.

This French Oven is so large and cleans up so easily – I love it. And with it being enameled cast iron, it will last a lifetime.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for Mr. Charlie. Enjoy it – and be thankful.

Mr. Charlie

3-4 lb. pork roast

1 chopped onion

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1 cup black olives, halved

3 14 oz. cans stewed tomatoes

1 teaspoon each of dried basil, rosemary, oregano and parsley

2 bay leafs

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

1 large pkg. mostaccioli 

Shredded Parmesan cheese

Pour enough olive oil into a large, heavy skillet to cover the bottom. Add pork roast and brown well. Remove roast and add onion; sauté until tender. Combine every ingredient, except pasta, into a Dutch oven. Add roast and onion with drippings. Cover and bake in 350° oven for two to three hours. Remove from oven and spoon off excess grease. Cook pasta according to directions. To serve, pull roast apart. Combine with cooked pasta and sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.