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Identity & Community

Wait, What Happened To The Ham? WESA, WYEP Memories From Our Family To Yours

Illustration by Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA




*Not Josh Raulerson

How To Pilfer A Semi-Abandoned, Iowa Tree Farm

Josh Raulerson,* 90.5 WESA Morning Edition Host

In my family, we would typically have Thanksgiving dinner in the early afternoon, then crawl into my dad’s truck and head to a nearby farm. It was a dairy farm, but the farmer had set aside part of his pasture to plant Christmas trees. We’d hike about a half-mile through the snow  — in northeast Iowa, there’s almost always snow on the ground by November — and pick ours out. Each of us would take a turn with the saw and yell "TIMBER!" when the tree went down, then take it back home.

When I was a kid, all of the neighbors would get their trees from this farm, but at some point the guy retired and stopped replanting. For some reason, we kept going there, even though after a few seasons, the selection was terrible. For years, you’d hand him $10 and he’d hand you a bow saw, and off you’d go to harvest your tree. Eventually the fellow was too old to come outside and hang out, but he made an arrangement with my dad whereby he’d leave the bow saw hanging on a fence post, and dad would leave the money in his mailbox. Somehow, we kept it up for 20 years.



Credit Trina Vannicelli
The chefs and their turkeys.

Crowning Top Turkey Takes Top Priority

Liz Reid, 90.5 WESA Weekend Edition Host/General Assignment Reporter

One of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions is our annual turkey and stuffing competition. With 35-40 guests each year, we typically have between five and seven turkeys on the table, so it’s only natural that we would celebrate our bounty by pitting family members against one another.

As is required by Italian tradition, everyone talks over each other and my mom struggles to be heard as she lays out the rules for scoring. The prize for best turkey bounces around from year to year, but according to Reid family matriarch and perennial Thanksgiving host Patti, best stuffing almost always goes to my Uncle Vince. The secret? Stove Top.

*Also not Deanna Garcia

Garcia Gets Grounded

Deanna Garcia,* 90.5 WESA Assistant News Director

The Thanksgiving that sticks out most in my mind is one that I spent grounded. I was 5 or 6 years old and watching television early one morning before my mom, dad and sister woke up. At the time, there was a public service announcement airing about calling 911 in an emergency, which is just what I did. I called and let loose with a string of expletives I had overheard and continued watching cartoons.

A short while later, the phone rang and my sister said, “The police are on the phone …” I, of course, panicked, picked up another phone and yelled, “It wasn’t me, I didn’t do it!” An officer answered, “Yes, that’s the voice we heard.” Though they didn’t need that confirmation, as they had a lovely recording of me to play for my proud parents.

Credit Alisha Rinefierd / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA

#Recipe! Spicy Slow Cooker Applesauce

Alisha Rinefierd, 91.3 WYEP & 90.5 WESA Traffic Assistant

Slow cooker recipes are some of my absolute favorite! It is a staple in my mom’s kitchen and each of us children now have one in our own homes. With the abundance of apples this time of year, we use the slow cooker for applesauce, but this is not your average applesauce. Serve this with your Thanksgiving spread and guests will be talking about “that red applesauce” just as much as the turkey.

Applesauce Surprise (makes 8-10 servings)

From the “Fix-It and Forget-It” cookbook

  • 8 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks or slices (6 cups) --I used a mix I got at a farmers’ market, like golden delicious, braeburn, honey crisp, pink lady
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup water
  • ½-1 cup cinnamon red hot candies

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, cook on low 8-10 hours, or on high 3-4 hours. I used an immersion blender afterwards to achieve my desired consistency.



Credit Laurie Harris / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA

Gather Round Ye Olde Thankful Tree 

Laurie Harris, 91.3 WYEP Development Assistant & Volunteer Coordinator

A tradition started years ago in place of prayer before dinner. We take turns reading a message on a leaf from the “Thankful Tree.” The tree is created by “planting” a dead branch in a can spray-painted a pretty color (to disguise the fact that it’s a dead branch in a can). Leaves of various fall colors are cut out from construction paper, and each member of my family writes what they are most thankful for on a leaf.

Some write about love shared by their husbands or kids. Some write about their faithful pets or friends. Some are created to make us laugh, some to make us cry. But every message is hung on the tree. Right before dinner, everyone grabs a leaf and we go around the table reading each other’s thankful messages and try to guess who wrote what. We laugh, we cry, we hug, and then we EAT.


Wait, What Happened to the Ham? 

Amy Fascio-Burke, 91.3 WYEP Event Coordinator

For Thanksgiving a few years ago my family decided to have ham instead of turkey. The dinner was lovely, and everyone was busy digesting and watching football in the living room. I went out into the kitchen to get something when I saw that the ham, which had been left on the counter, was no long there. I looked down to find our dog had managed to wrestle the ham onto the floor and was having a feast of her own. 

I didn’t want my parents to get mad at the dog or for the incident to ruin the holiday, so I rinsed off the ham, cut off the obviously chewed-on parts and put it back on the counter (out of reach of the dog this time). I don’t think I've ever told anyone in my family about it.


Credit Velveeta

Dad Will Never Live This Down: The Goldstein Family's Less-Than-Favorite But Most Memorable Holiday #Recipe 

Abby Goldstein, 91.3 WYEP General Manager

The one special dish that takes me back to childhood is the pearl onions in cheese sauce that was a constant, unchanging feature of our holiday tables. But be warned. This one comes with lots of stories and an odious disclaimer.

My mother made this dish every Thanksgiving, and I myself have served it to many a holiday dinner guest. Small boiler or pearl onions are cleaned, peeled and boiled until they are soft but still hold their shape, then anointed with a simple cream Velveeta sauce. Ah, Velveeta, the magic time machine of food items, instantly whisking me back to my youth. This creamed onion dish does it every time. Soft blue cheeses like gorgonzola, saga and Roquefort work very well and add a pleasant sharpness to the dish. Good melters like jack and provolone are also very nice and can stand up to a little heat from cayenne pepper or a shot of Tabasco. Avoid the harder cheeses that might become grainy when melted.

To make: 

  • Two bags of boiler onions or pearl onions
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 small block of Velveeta, or the good melting cheese of your choice.
  • Seasoning to taste

Peel the onions and boil them in water until they are soft but retain their shape.
In a sauce pot, make a roux with the butter and flour and cook it briefly until it just loses its raw taste. It’ll begin to take on a slightly nutty aroma. Pour the cold milk in and stir with a whisk to break up the lumps of flour. Let this sauce come to a full boil and thicken, but stir it constantly. Then take it off the heat and add the cheese. Stir to make sure the cheese is all melted, and season with your favorites.


The Cheater's Guide To Chocolate Cream Pie

Sarah Kovash, 90.5 WESA Digital Editor & Producer

I am not a pumpkin lover, although I’ve come around to it more in recent years. Nor am I a pecan lover. That said, my Thanksgiving dessert options boil down to figuring out which pie I can douse in whipped cream to conceal the taste. Or, on a lucky year, I might find a surprise chocolate cream pie or decide to be helpful and make my own.

If you’re feeling fancy, this pie from Cup of Jo is delicious. If not, you can go the cheap-o Sarah Kovash route:

  • Buy frozen pie crust and bake
  • Make instant chocolate pudding and then pour into baked crust
  • Put in fridge and then top with canned whipped cream when ready to eat

**UPDATED: Nov. 24 4:53 p.m. Sarah's talented, kind, selfless sister Stephanie reminded her as soon as this published that she makes Sarah a chocolate pie every year. Sarah is very sorry about this. Please continue making Sarah's favorite pie. /mh

Credit Sunbeam

BONUS #Recipe: Brown and Serve Rolls

Deanna Garcia, 90.5 WESA Assistant News Director

I love Sunbeam Brown & Serve Rolls. In my absence back home, my family still prepares a ton of them and eats them “in my honor” – or at least that’s what they’ve told me.

*Follow the instructions on the package, but the trick is knowing JUST when to take them out. One second too late in the oven, and you’ll have hard little pieces of burnt coal.