With Thanksgiving less than a week away we should all take a moment and reflect on the blessings we have to be thankful for this year. As tough as the past year has been for many Americans we can all find something to be thankful for. And with all that we have, to share a gesture of kindness with a neighbor or friend.
My Thanksgiving came early this year, and when I least expected it, in the most unlikely place.
I pulled my cart into the checkout lane at the far end of the row in Shop Rite. Only one person was in front of me and it didn’t look like she had too much in her cart. A few essentials and a huge bag of wild bird seed that took up most of her shopping cart. The little old lady was all of 4 feet tall, about 80 years old and very thin and frail, and wore a baseball cap with a picture of a bird printed on the side. Not a team bird or anything like that, might have been a logo from some club or organization that catered to birds.
I couldn’t put any of my items on the conveyor because the little old lady was taking one item out at a time and handing it to the checker. So I waited. I had plenty of time. She told the checker that she could not lift the bag of wild bird seed out of the cart and the checker said not to worry that he would take care of it. I started to put my items on the conveyor. The lady’s total came out to $29.81, once all the coupons were deducted from the balance. She handed the checker a couple of bills and then started to count out some change. I wasn’t paying that much attention but it sounded like she had quite a bit of change she was paying with.
The checker gave the little old lady her receipt and she wished him a happy holiday and left. I didn’t have that much in my cart, I was spending Thanksgiving at my sister’s house in Staten Island. She was making most of the dinner with my niece, so I was going to make Lasagna as a proper first course to our Thanksgiving dinner. I bought all the ingredients I needed for the Lasagna and a few thing to take me through the week. I paid for the food and started to roll my cart to my car.
Parked right next to my car was the little old lady that was in front of me at the check out line. She got all of her groceries into her car except for the large bag of wild bird seed. She had the check out person put the bag of seed on top of the seat near the handle of the cart so she would not have to lift it up so high to get it out of the basket. But the old lady was having trouble lifting the bag even at that height. She was never going to get that bag of bird seed out of her shopping cart. I turned and asked her If she needed some help with that bag. “Please, can you just lift it out of my cart”, she said, “then I can put it in my car”.
I lifted the bag of seed out of her cart, it had to be 20 pounds. She was ready to take it from me but I told her, “that’s OK, where do you want it in your car?” She ask me to place it on the back seat, which I did.
I know how grateful to me this lady was for helping her. She took my hand and thanked me and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I wondered how thankful the birds would be this winter when they would feast on the abundance of wild bird seed this kind old lady would place outside for them. If they would have any idea the trouble this charitable woman went through to make sure they had food this winter. Probably not. But then again, it really didn’t matter. She wasn’t looking for anything in return for her kindness. Seeing her birds well fed and safe for the winter was restitution enough.
As I walked back toward my car the little old lady turned to me again with a smile and said, “Now, don’t eat all the turkey all at once”. How did she know I could do that?????
Stuffed Mushrooms were just one of the many side dishes we had on our Thankdgiving table. Usually it was one of my aunts or cousins that brought this delicious side dish. You can stuff your mushrooms with just about anything. Sometimes I add a few strips of applewood smoked bacon chopped up to this recipe to add another layer of flavor. It’s up to you. Italins love to stuff everything, including themselves. Hope you enjoy this.
- 12 white mushrooms large enough for stuffing
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 Italian Sweet Sausage links, casing removed
- 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
- 6 tablespoons of Romano cheese, grated
- 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
I don’t care what anyone says, I wash my mushrooms. I can’t stand the fact that there might be dirt on the shrooms. You don’t have to soak them in water but give them a good rinse to make sure they are clean. The amount of water they might absorb is negligible.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms (set the caps aside), and finely chop them.
In a large frying pan over medium high heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the sausage meat.
Add to the pan the onions, chopped mushroom stems, red pepper and garlic. Just sweat the vegetables for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, add the bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons of the grated cheese, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, and half the salt. Add to the bowl the sausage meat and vegetables. Mix well. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, to moisten all of the crumbs and make a fairly tight stuffing. Add more breadcrumbs if needed. Taste for salt.
Combine the white wine and ¹⁄₂cup hot water in a small bowl, and season with the remaining salt.
Spread the butter all around the bottom of a 9- by- 13- inch Pyrex baking dish. Fill the mushroom caps with the stuffing, and fit them in the baking dish. Don’t be afraid to pile on the stuffing, you have plenty, to cover the entire top of the mushroom and pile it high. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the mushrooms, and drizzle on the remaining olive oil. Pour the wine and water around the mushrooms in the baking dish.
Bake until the mushrooms are crisp on top but tender and the juices are bubbling underneath, about 30 minutes.
Serve the mushrooms with the pan sauce.