Taste of Giving

Every year, after Thanksgiving, my family sits down together, looks at brochures, talks for a while, and then each of the four children decides on a holiday donation. It is always intriguing and gratifying to me to discover what is important to my offspring, what they feel in their hearts  and how they see the world. It has become a treasured family tradition. The following is a sampling of some of the nonprofit organizations that represent the spirit of charity all year long, including the sharing of favorite recipes.

Adoption Rocks

750 Downtowner Loop West, Suite C. 639-4148. 

Donna Ames says that as soon as she became an adoptive parent she knew she had found her calling, both as a mother and as an attorney. She began focusing her practice on adoption law and then branched out to help found Adoption Rocks in the spring of 2007. “We have come a long way from the first gathering in my home, ” says Ames, president of the organization’s board.

“We formed to promote adoption due to the alarming statistic that 50 percent of the babies born in Mobile County have single mothers, many of whom are so unstable that they cannot adequately care for a child, ” Ames says. “At the same time, only approximately 1 percent of these children are being placed for adoption.”

- Sponsors -

 PaPa’s Holiday Cookies

Adoption Rocks board member and adoptive parent Amanda Williams says her family has been making these cookies every Christmas season since she was a small child. Now she enjoys the ritual with her sons.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 3/4 cups finely chopped walnuts, divided
1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry preserves 

1. Cream butter gradually. Add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and lemon rind. Beat well.
2. Combine dry ingredients and 1 cup of walnuts. Stir into creamed mixture.
3. Cover dough and chill for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls.
6. Beat egg whites lightly.
7. Dip balls into egg white, roll into remaining walnuts and place on greased cookie sheets.
8. Make an indention in center of each cookie (the Williamses use their thumbs) and fill up crater with fruit preserves.
9. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Family Promise of Coastal Alabama &
Sybil H. Smith Family Village

Family Promise • 441-1991. 
Sybil H. Smith Family Village • Dumas Wesley Community Center,  111 Mobile St. 473-5526. 

Family Promise is the only organization in our area that provides temporary homeless shelter, meals and support services for entire families. “One of our first families was a mother named Mary, a father named Joseph and, yes, they had a baby, but they also had other children, too, ” says Teressa Ramsey, executive director of Family Promise. Diane McCaskey, the program director for the Sybil H. Smith Family Village, says it serves single women and women with children. “Since we both nurture families and provide services that address the factors that contribute to homelessness and not just a ‘place to crash, ’ we make great partners, ” McCaskey says.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Every autumn, to raise awareness about homelessness in our community,   Family Promise and the Sybil H. Smith Family Village sponsor Cardboard City, where participants sleep overnight in cardboard box shelters that they design themselves and eat in a soup line. Here is their recipe for a classic favorite, ­ chicken noodle soup.

Bowl courtesy of The Gilded Nest

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into small rounds or rounds cut in half
2 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 quarts chicken stock
1 bay leaf
8 ounces dried wide egg noodles
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Pour oil into a large soup pot and heat over medium heat.
2. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery and thyme.
3. Cook stirring for about 5 – 6 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not brown.
4. Pour in the chicken stock, add bay leaf and bring to a boil.
5. Add the noodles and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until tender.
6. Add in chicken and simmer until completely heated, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 2 quarts.

Child Advocacy Center

1351 Springhill Ave. 432-1101. 

For more than 24 years, the Child Advocacy Center has offered support and services for local children who have been sexually or severely physically abused. Director Pat Guyton says that nearly 30 professionals from eight different agencies all work together as a team “under one roof” at CAC to help young victims get the help and healing that they need. “It is a special place for children’s justice and healing, ” Guyton says.

Cranberry Festive Bread

This classic holiday treat comes from the cookbook that benefits the Child Advocacy Center, “Serve It Up with Love – On and Off the Court, ” named for one of their big fundraisers held each April.

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
2 cups fresh or frozen  (thawed) cranberries
1 cup dates, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl.
3. Combine buttermilk, oil, eggs and orange rind. Stir well. Add to dry ingredients. Beat until smooth.
4. Fold in cranberries, dates and walnuts. (Batter will be thick.) Pour batter into a greased 10-inch tube pan or Bundt pan.
5. Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes.
6. Remove from pan. Let cool to the touch. Pierce bread at 1-inch intervals, using a wooden pick.
7. Combine sugar and orange juice. Spoon half over bread and let absorb. Repeat piercing and glazing procedure. Serves approximately 8.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Alabama YMCA

101 N. Water St. 344-0536.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Alabama has been pairing children with mentors for more than 15 years in Mobile and Baldwin counties. “For many of the children in our program, the first time they ever see a ballet, hear a symphony or go to a collegiate football game is when they become matched with one of our mentors, ” says Lynette Marshall, mentoring coordinator. Spending time together helps both “Bigs” and “Littles, ” build rich, meaningful relationships, and it really broadens the horizons for the children. Marshall says that by the end of this year they will have provided more than 400 children with caring adult role models.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Robin Elliott has been a Big Sister to Little Sister Leighann Harris, 12, for five years. They shared this favorite chocolate peanut butter cookie recipe, perfect for holiday baking and parties.

1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate mini chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.
3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Stir with a whisk.
4. Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, stirring until just combined. Stir in mini chips.
5. Drop dough by the spoonful, 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
6. Bake 12 minutes or until golden. Cool on rack. Makes 24.

Camp Rap-A-Hope

2701 Airport Blvd. 476-9880. 

Camp Rap-A-Hope gives children and teens with cancer the gift of fun, providing a week-long, traditional camping experience. Melissa McNichols, executive director, says that their organization offers children a chance to be typical kids and not just kids with cancer. “They need to remember how to play, and the families need to see that there is hope.” The organization also provides opportunities throughout the year for campers and their families to spend time with others who are going through the same challenges associated with childhood cancer.

Best Fish Fry

This dish is served every year at Camp Rap-A-Hope’s Fall Family Fun Day.Organizers  usually prepare about 125 pounds. “The fish in this recipe is incomparable because it’s caught by campers on a fishing trip donated by generous folks from Orange Beach, ” McNichols says. “The hands that prepare the fish include the father of a former camper and members of the Camp Rap-A-Hope family.”

4 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard
5 pounds red snapper,  cleaned, fileted and cut into bite-sized pieces
seasoned cornmeal (They use Zatarain’s Seasoned Fish-Fri.)
canola oil

1. Combine milk and mustard. Marinate fish in milk mixture for 12 hours. 2. Dredge snapper pieces in seasoned cornmeal. Then fry in canola oil until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Serves approximately 10.

Prodisee Pantry

9315 Spanish Fort Blvd. 626-1720. 

Director Deann Servos says the word Prodisee has Latin roots that mean to be of benefit – and that’s exactly what Prodisee Pantry does – benefit approximately 1, 000 hungry Baldwin County families each month. It is the largest such food pantry along the central Gulf Coast. Servos says that when the pantry first opened in 2003, they assisted 25 families in need each week. Nine years later, she says the pantry feeds an average of 250 families (or 575 individuals) each week and provides emergency food and large-scale regional disaster relief. “We can take $20 and turn it into $100 worth of groceries for struggling families, ” says Servos. Impact 100 Baldwin County helped fund a freezer and cooler to warehouse donations of meat, fresh produce and eggs. Bread, staple boxed groceries and warm smiles are also available.

Pantry Holiday Dressing

This traditional dressing comes from Mary Lou McNair, an advisory council member of Prodisee Pantry.

1 package corn muffin mix
4 cups (more or less) chicken or turkey broth
water (enough to moisten)
1 package stuffing mix
3 – 4 eggs, well beaten
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pint shucked oysters, well drained (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare corn muffin mix as directed. Bake in a 9-by-11-inch pan for 25 – 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely. May bake a day ahead and store in fridge. 
3. Crumble corn muffins into large bowl, and soften with some of broth and water.
4. Add stuffing mix from package with no preparation. Let mixture sit and absorb the liquid. Add additional broth or water as needed.
5. Add beaten eggs and chopped celery and onion. The mixture should be moist but not soupy. If you have too much moisture, add a broken up slice of bread. Allow mixture to absorb most of the liquid. Add additional liquid as needed. 
6. Season with salt, pepper and favorite spices. Mixture should be about the consistency of a lumpy batter. (If making ahead, mix cornbread, stuffing and broth, and refrigerate. Add other ingredients the next day. You may need to add more broth.)
7. Bake in a greased pan for about an hour, or until the dressing begins to brown. Serves 10 – 12.

Mobile Baykeeper

450 Government St., Suite C. 433-4229. 

For 15 years, Mobile Baykeeper has been working to ensure that we have clean water, clean air and healthy people. “The vast majority of our economy, our favorite foods and recreation depend on the health of our environment, ” says Casi Callaway, executive director of the organization. Baykeeper plays a critical role in protecting our much-loved resources.

Dirty Shrimp & Grits

Callaway shares this delectable recipe, which she says should be served with plenty of good French bread.

4 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
2 pounds shrimp,  peeled and deveined
1/2 cup beer
Cheese Grits (see below)

1. Melt butter in a skillet.
2. Cook spices in butter for about 2 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic brown.
3. Add shrimp to the pan and cook, stirring constantly until the shrimp are no longer pink.
4. Add beer and simmer for 1 more minute. Serve shrimp over warm grits.

Cheese Grits

2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup grits
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

1. Put the milk, water, butter and salt into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
2. Once the milk mixture comes to a boil, gradually add the grits while continually whisking.
3. Once all of the grits have been incorporated, add cheese. Decrease the heat to low and cover. Remove lid and whisk frequently, every 3 – 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps. Cook thoroughly according to directions on package or until mixture is creamy. Serves 4.

text and styling by Sallye Irvine

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