Thanks and Giving… Words and Actions That Are For More Than Just Once a Year !

Nov 20


Thanks and Giving ! These  words and actions are what we all want to have in our lives daily…not just once a year . We can thank President Abraham Lincoln for declaring Thanksgiving Day an official holiday in 1863 . I’ll bet there isn’t one of us ,  that lives in the US , that doesn’t have a favorite Thanksgiving Day to recall- most fondly . (Canada has their Thanksgiving Day day too – the 2 nd Monday in October )

My favorite one happened in 1977 . Belinda and I had opened Belinda’s Restaurant at 8324 SE 17 TH Ave. in Sellwood , in a store front space that was formerly Mickey’s Ice Cream . We labored for for more than three months doing all the work ourselves with help from our employees  . The restaurant opened for business on August 3 rd . The first months were a struggle , getting a wine and beer license was very difficult in those days. They thought we were opening  just another tavern , not a fine dining/white tablecloth restaurant . The neighborhood was not the trendy place to live it is today…a bit shabby and run down .  Open almost three months ,we were down to our last $175.00 in the bank . Wonderful people like Arlene and Harold Schnitzer , John Gray , Homer Williams , and Mrs Zidell all  loved our food and ambiance- and said they planned to return . But business could  not continue without wine , instead we just had ginger ale to offer for a beverage.

Miracles do happen ! Matt Kramer was writing comprehensive and precise food reviews for WILLAMETTE WEEK , it was early in his career .His review that week was about how much he thought Belinda’s was a excellent choice for dinner , they just needed some wine . Surprisingly the prior week , at the suggestion of a business friend , we had contacted out state representative about our  difficulty in securing a simple wine and beer license . It was granted that same week – Thanksgiving Week ! I called my wine salesman at Lemma Wine Co. and said, “”Send me $175.00 worth of wine on Friday after the holiday ! “

Our head waiter , Larry Becker , had invited us to an “Orphans Thanksgiving ” . One that was done yearly by workers in the local food biz that did not have family close to home . It was  pot luck and I decided to offer up my famous PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE . We all met in a grand old 80 year old , two story mansion ( a bit worn around the edges , but she had character), where we all had a festive time and a memorable meal . I distinctly recall ( Belinda reminded me of the event recently ) that the fellow to my right took one bite of the PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE and leaned over , and said “Will you marry me ” ! That got a hearty chuckle , first from his girl friend , and then  everyone at the table  had a good laugh . “Sorry , I’m already married ” , I shot back …”but I’ll make you a cheesecake any time you want !”

That is my favorite Thanksgiving Day , that special one from 1977 . When all the world seemed ready to crumble around us on a Monday , then all of these wonderful people said what they said and and did what they did –  it changed our lives…not to mention the lives of our employees. I hope you have as glorious a memory as we have. Included are a couple of my successful recipes….  Who knows, you may get a marriage proposal when you prepare them….just like I did !

Thanksgiving Day and all the other days are when we want to count our blessings ; and be thankful for the love of family and friends .I want to thank all the people who helped us realize a dream that day in 1977…perhaps a bit belated , but still heartfelt  and sincere .

My heartfelt thanks to : Belinda Nissen , J. Frederick and Lois , Bernard Epstein , James Yanskey , The Eugene Hotel management , and especially that old time Sellwood carpenter , Pete . AND  ADD A SPECIAL NOTE : I also want to thank Julia Kudla for the use of her wonderful kitchen , her photo expertise , camaraderie , and the all the amazing work she does on many of the featured recipes that are presented . Yeah Julia! (and ABBY too )


I hope you enjoy these recipes from THANKSGIVING DAYS past .


Preheat oven 350 d.

 Select   4 med. carrots , 4 med. parsnips , 1 med. rutabaga ( size of an orange ), and 4 med. turnips  – trimmed, washed and peeled-cut into 1″ cubes . Take 6 med. Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled , cut into 1 ” cubes (hold in cold water until use ) . Cut 1 1/2 large yellow onions into med. dice . Heat a 12″ -14″ cast iron pot or brazier w/ lid over med heat , add 1/4 c. canola oil for 2 min., add onions and cook until opaque . Add 3/4 lb. unsalted butter until melted , add carrots , parsnips , rutabagas , turnips and stir well ; cooking for 8-10 minutes . Add potatoes , 4 bay leaves , 2 tsp/ whole dried thyme , 1/ 4 c. whole dried marjoram , 3 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic , stir well until all is coated . Add 1/4 c. brown sugar , stir until coated  and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes or until vegetables start to get a nice brown color  and a wonderful earthy aroma fills the air . ( add a bit more butter at any time if needed )

Cover pot and place in a preheated 350 d. oven ; check after 15 min. and stir well. The vegetables should be done after an additional 15-20 minutes; they will be nicely colored and a fork will easily penetrate . Remove and add sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste . Add 1/2 c. chopped Italian flat leaf parsley when you place the medley in a serving dish or platter . NOTE: The next day , you can reheat with some rich chicken or vegetable stock ; puree and you will have a wonder fall hearty soup !  Just needs some crusty bread and a glass of wine .                                                                                        

  PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE  Makes 2-10 ” cakes



                Preheat oven to 400 d. 

FILLING : 4 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese  softened , 2 c. sugar , 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla , 1/2 c. sour cream ,1/2 whipping cream , 4 1/2 tsp. gr. cinnamon , 2 tsp. gr. ginger , 2 tsp. gr. nutmeg , 2 tsp. gr. cloves , 2 tsp. gr. black pepper ,2 tsp. gr. allspice , 1/4 c. all purpose flour , 8 eggs beaten , 1 29 oz. can pumpkin ( not pumpkin pie filling ! ) CRUST :  2 c. graham cracker crumbs , 3/4 c. ground toasted hazelnuts , 1/2 c. powdered sugar , 1/2 c. melted unsalted butter   MAKE CRUST : Spray bottom and sides of 2 spring form pans w/ nonstick cooking spray . Mix crumbs , hazelnuts , sugar , and butter in a small bowl well. Divide into the 2 pans . Press 1/2 “up the sides and over bottoms until completely covered and firm . MAKE FILLING : In an electric mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer , combine cream cheese , sugar , and vanilla . Scrape as you  mix ; add sour cream and whipping cream . Keep beating and add spices , and flour . When mixed well , add eggs one at a time…beating well after each one  ; add pumpkin until batter is smooth . Divide evenly into each pan . BAKE: 20 min. , then lower oven temp to 300 d. and continue baking for one hour or until cake feels firm to the touch . TURN OVEN OFF and leave door open – let cakes cool in the oven for one more hour . ( Cakes should not crack ; however , if a crack appears , spread mixture of sour cream , powdered sugar and vanilla over completely cooled cakes just before serving . ) Cool cakes , cover and refrigerate . At this point they can be frozen , if you choose to serve later . Just be sure to completely defrost before serving .

PLEASE NOTE: I have found that one can not tell the difference between fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin in this recipe ( also in pies , for that matter ) . Not sure why , but please use fresh squash if you prefer to do so .



  1. About that sour cream topping. Even if your cheesecake doesn’t crack, put it on! It makes the dessert in my opinion. Use about 3/4 cup of sour cream, whisk in powdered sugar just until it starts to taste a little sweet, then add vanilla to taste. Share it with whomever you want to impress or show your love to!

  2. Golly,yes,the memories!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

Leave a Reply