Monday, October 7, 2013

New Friends, Kindred Spirits

I get to interact with a lot of interesting people in different ways.  I read your posts on Facebook and I like your statuses.  And I really enjoy all of the different perspectives I get.  I get out of my bubble and get to know new people.  One such person is Ann Nicole.  I met Ann Nicole when I posted a contest on Facebook in honor of my 1,000,000 page views.  She submitted the winning idea with Turkey & Dressing Enchiladas with a Cranberry Sour Cream Sauce.  And she also sent me her story, which I want to share with you.  I'm sharing some photos of hers as well.  I didn't edit the photos because I like the memories of the past feeling when you look at them.  Here's the email she sent me, and I loved the way she told her story.

"Thanksgiving is, and has always been my favorite holiday. Each year it is in my artistic and curious nature to create something funky and unique as with a lot of dishes I make throughout the year.

I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner the year after my mother passed away almost 14 years ago. I spent countless hours on the phone with my uncle Nick who patiently tried to walk me through how to make giblet gravy like Mom, the chicken stock for the dressing, how to caramelize onions. The list goes on. Trying to explain to me what the consistency of the dressing was supposed to be like over the phone was nearly impossible if you could only imagine, but it did create a few laughs after several stages of delirium. In the past I was only responsible for peeling and chopping potatoes, the green bean casserole, taking everybody’s drink orders and naming the turkey.

Every year since then, my phone line was dedicated to my uncle until at least 3 a.m. We would prep everything together all over the phone. After all those years I still cannot master my Mother’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner. A few years ago I started to take matters into “mostly” my hands but was still running ideas by my Uncle Nick to see what he thought. One of the last ideas I ran across him before he passed was Turkey and Dressing Enchiladas with a Cranberry Sour Cream Sauce. He was all for it!
Though the flavors were pretty spot on that dreaded over the phone consistency wasn’t quite right and my sauce turned out a little too Pepto Bismol pink to please the eye on a table full of autumn colors. That is why I chose this recipe for you to recreate.

My mother was my inspiration to start cooking and my uncle taught me and turned me into the open-minded cook I am today.  I want to dedicate this recipe to my Uncle Nick and my mother, Thelma. I know both of them would be incredibly proud of how far I’ve come along with my love for cooking. *Cheers in Heaven*"

I chatted with Ann Nicole and learned some things about her.  She grew up in the Mississippi Delta, then moved to the City of Memphis Blues, and eventually settled down in the Ozarks of Arkansas.  She is a free spirit and loves cooking, antiques, and photography.  She is very close with her sister, Melanie Michelle, and brother, Kurt, Jr.  Her brother was only 14 when their mother passed away.  Here is something he wrote about their mother and a link to a beautiful slideshow of Vincent Van Gogh photos set to Don McLean's "Vincent" (Starry Starry Night).  

Impact of a mothers Love. *thank you April <3*

July 23, 2010 at 12:54am

Thanks to a friend I was able to retrieve this to post and have. Not to be a sad occasion... but one... well... I just don't know, and for those that didn't know. My mother is mother earth.... treat her kindly. Water her, talk to her, and give her kisses.

Tragedy struck when least expected on Martin Luther King Day, January 17, 2000. Just when you think the day is going great God’s wrath takes place in a harsh breath-taking way. Inexperienced I was left alone with a life threatening matter, which was out of my hands to handle. My mom with early in life heart problems faced a day with eternal peace. Time fell short when her attack arose, when she was announced dead, and when all things to do with Mom went away.

My dad having a hard time leaving for work loving on my mom, and I having laughter and joy with her that morning were signs of a perfect day. As Mom walked in the den while I pondered on an early morning television show, she asked me what aerobic video should she accomplish. I replied with a simple smile, “how bout that one.” As she enthusiastically agreed and started her video, I left to have a work out of my own off in my room. During my lifting I heard a noise coming from Mom’s bedroom. She explicitly yelled for help, but I did not think much of it. Frustrated I left my doings and joined to her needs not knowing it would be the last time I would lay eyes on her. This incident had happened several times before, but a simple pill would heal the problem. Not this time, I instantly knew after giving her medicine that this time was different. While Mom was turning a slight blue in the face, I dashed to the phone to call for help, but help did not arrive in time. As I stood by her side in denial that she would leave me, she softly spoke words to me that I will never forget. She gently cried to me that this is the day, and I love u, bye! Those were the last words I heard from her. I shook them off and implied positive words, but that was not good enough.

When the ambulance arrived I was numb with horror, and shock sitting alone in another room staring at a wall not knowing what else to do. I decided I could not just sit there and let my mom slip away from me. I went back to the room not knowing what to expect. As I turned the corner I peeped into the open doorway breathless of what I might see. I could not see my mom, only several professionals assisting her, but the sight of five or six paramedics working on her with electric paddles and everything they had ripped a whole in my heart.

I suggested they called my dad, which was at work. When the paramedics called he rushed immediately with no hesitation to the hospital of my mom’s destination. When I arrived to the hospital my sister and her husband had rushed to the hospital as soon as they heard the news. We knew not what to say to one another, as we knew nothing we said would help. Waiting hopelessly for any type of news of my mom, my dad rips open the emergency doors screaming words of terror. He plunged to the room where she was held. Knowing that it was impossible to stop a married man who was about to lose his wife, the staff did not attempt to stop him. What my dad saw was not what he expected. He did not realize how bout the situation was. He stayed by her side holding her hand telling her everything was going to be all right.

Mom needed more advanced treatment. Unprepared the staff did not have a helicopter for transportation; therefore she had to ride a thirty-minute ambulance trip to her final destination. I zoomed off with my sister while my dad went in the ambulance. Hatred bubbled inside me as I wondered what did she do to deserve this. She was a mere 45 years of age, and I selfishly felt gypped of a short life to live with a mom. Time was running out and there was nothing left for us to do, but sit in a room and wait for news. Impatiently we waited for a couple of hours that seemed like years. After hours of talking confidently we were faced with the most powerful words ever to come across ones life. She was announced dead at 3:00 that afternoon. Breathing, mind control, and care for living ended for a period of time. We all knew things were never going to be the same as they use to be.

After visiting Mom’s worn dead body after a long struggling baffle she put up, we had nothing else to do. We went home and made some important phone calls to those that were close to her. I cringed to the thought of never being able to talk to her again, and the pain my dad and my family went through hurt the worst. All of my relatives and friends came down for the funeral that was scheduled two days after her death. The truth that I had lost my mom had not really hit me. I was still doing mom related things such as picking out flowers for her coffin, or planning a burial spot for her to rest for eternity.

One long day had past, and it was time for the funeral. My mom didn’t want a priest speaking for her, that didn’t know her as good as her family, therefore my dad spoke. Family members, friends, and schoolmates gathered around to praise the life that my mom had once lived. The funeral slowly went along, as my life quickly twisted backwards. Squinting at the coffin unable to fully open my moist puffy eyes, I realized how important it is to take full advantage of the time you have with your parents, because unlike friends you will never have another parent.

When the funeral was over, the people went back to their homes, and the word of my mom’s death slowly faded away. The truth started to hit hard. The house empty, the thrill of communicating with my mom, and having her look after me had all left. To this very day I love her and miss her very much.

Here is the link to the Moody Blues song they played at her funeral.  Ann Nicole and her mother sat in the driveway and listened to this entire Moody Blues cassette tape.

Ann Nicole also told me that her mother would get a kick out of her "teenage misfit daughter" that loved Aaron Neville.  She actually got to see Aaron Neville last night with her uncle's daughter, Alexann.  It was a surprise, and they haven't seen each other in a few years since Alexann lives in Mississippi. Here's their picture from the concert.

Ann Nicole had a dream after her mother passed where she carried a boombox into her mother's garage and played this version of "Amazing Grace" by Aaron Neville (click for the link). And here is one more link Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen.  Ann Nicole, her brother, sister, and mother all sat on their mother's bed and listened to this on cassette tape too.

Ann Nicole also shared with me that she is obsessed with monkeys.  Her mother actually made a sock monkey to resemble each of her children.  Here's the one of Ann Nicole.  

Here's the last monkey Ann Nicole's mother gave her.  This is her traveling monkey and goes everywhere she does, on airplanes and in suitcases.

And here are some more beautiful pictures of Ann Nicole and her family. Her mother and uncle were both artists.  The hand-sketched drawings and painting were done by her mother.

As Ann Nicole and I chatted, we have a lot of similarities and coincidences, which I imagine, if you take the time to get to know new people, you would find some similarities and coincidences of your own. I'm very grateful to have a new friend and a kindred spirit.

So now I give you my version of Tex-Mex Turkey & Dressing Enchiladas. I couldn't get the cranberry sauce to not be Pepto-Bismol pink either, so I used the cranberry sauce by itself and topped it with sour cream.  This all sounds a little crazy, but it really turned out great!  You can use leftover turkey and dressing if you like, or you can make this version.  I hope I did Ann Nicole's idea justice.  Enjoy.

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix (plus ingredients needed that are listed on the box)
3 eggs
2-3 T chopped jalapeno slices
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 C chicken stock
2 C cooked, shredded turkey
1 T poultry seasoning
1 T cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 stick butter, sliced
Corn tortillas
Shredded pepper jack cheese
One can of whole cranberry sauce
Sour cream

1/4 C shortening or lard
1/4 C flour
2 C chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 T chili powder

Make the cornbread according to the package directions.  Let it cool. Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl.  Add in the turkey, poultry seasoning, eggs, jalapenos, cumin, onion, celery, garlic and chicken stock. Combine well.  Place in a greased casserole pan, and put the slices of butter all around the top.  Bake covered at 350 degrees for about an hour.  
To make the enchilada sauce, melt the shortening or lard in a skillet. Whisk in the flour.  Add in the chicken stock and remaining ingredients and whisk.  Cook until it's thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat.

Soften the tortillas in a damp towel in the microwave.  When the dressing is cool enough to handle, spread some cheese down the center of a tortilla. Add in about 2 tablespoons of the dressing.  Roll them up and place them seam side down in a casserole pan.  Top with the chili gravy and additional cheese.  Bake at 350 for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Warm the cranberry sauce in a small pot or in the microwave.  Serve the enchiladas with the cranberry sauce and dollops of sour cream.


  1. Ann Nicole is one of my partner admins at Soul of a Chef - it was through that page that we 'met' - I have to say she has become a dear friend through our correspondence via messages, etc., on Facebook. She is a dear girl who absolutely deserves to experience some of the wonders of life. Thank you, so much, for honoring her in this way! :) - Karen

    1. Thank you, Karen. I was absolutely honored to write this post about Ann Nicole. Her story touched me, and I'm sure it will touch others, too.

  2. We lost our mother years ago, but my sisters and I still share her recipes and reminisce about our food centered childhoods. It's our way of remembering and honoring a wonderful, loving woman. Kudos and hugs to Ann Nicole.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Linda. We should all honor and remember our mothers, and what better way than through food.