My love of cooking, and many of my favorite recipes come directly from the countless hours spent in the kitchen cooking and baking with my Auntie Vera.

Auntie Vera

I have such fond memories in Kansas City (my mom hails from there) with her as a little girl – visiting the giraffes in the zoo, or walking to the five and dime store together where she’d buy me all the candy my heart desired.

Cheeky little devil, Jewels

Sometimes we’d ride the bus (a very exciting mode of transportation) to a mall that had mechanical animals you could ride, or to see the lights on the Plaza, an outdoor shopping mall of Spanish-style buildings with every intricate detail lined in Christmas lights.

The Plaza lights

Vera spoilt me rotten, never told my parents when I was naughty, and would lull me to sleep at night with stories of her childhood growing up dirt poor on a farm in Kansas during the big depression.

Nick dancing with Auntie Vera at our wedding

Her mouth-watering fried chicken and buttermilk waffles were always the best, her chocolate cake legendary, and this cranberry Jell-o Mold has always been a holiday classic in our family for generations thanks to Vera Everly.

Dinner as a family in Clear Lake, Iowa

She may not have been a blood relative, but she was like a second mother to my mom, and an extra grandmother to me. As if to let me know how much she loved me, or to keep me from ever forgetting, she died on my birthday in 1998. I miss her dearly, but it never fails to make me smile when I think of her. She left an indelible mark on my heart, and gave me the seedlings of a career.

Auntie Vera’s Cranberry Jell-O Mold

This lovely pink cranberry mold has been a traditional holiday recipe in my family for generations. You can easily lighten up the calories (and I often do) by using sugarless Jell-O, and light sour cream. If you are taking it to someone else’s house, leave it already set-up, in the mold until you are ready to serve, and keep refrigerated as soon as you get there.

Servings: 12


  • 6 ounce package of raspberry Jell-O
  • 14 ounce can of jellied cranberry (plus I use an extra can for garnish)
  • 2 cups boiling hot water
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 cup sour cream


1). Dissolve raspberry Jell-O with the hot water in a large bowl. Add jellied cranberry. Using an electric beater, starting very slowly and building gradually (to keep from splattering the hot liquid everywhere), blend the cranberries into the Jell-O liquid until well blended.

2). Stir in ice water. Once ice has dissolved, blend in the sour cream with the electric blender.

3). Pour mixture into a cranberry mold, or I use a Bundt pan. Refrigerate until completely set, at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight, and can be made a day or two in advance if covered with plastic wrap and kept refrigerated until ready to serve.

Serving Suggestions: When ready to serve, fill a sink 1/4 full with hot water. Dip the bottom of the mold in the hot water for 30 seconds to loosen the cranberry mold, cover with serving platter, and invert onto platter. I like to garnish with extra jellied cranberry

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