By DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

Holiday activities often seem to center around the table and food. It is the time of year when we are expected to bring a dish or supply a tray of cookies or other treats for meetings and gatherings. The microwave oven has made things easier for those braille-reading fingers, and there are a lot of new kitchen devices that are safer and simpler to use.

Growing up in a Native American family, our holiday traditional foods differ from those from English or German traditions. Christmas Eve foods were taken from my Apache father’s heritage and had a distinctly Tex-Mex flavor. The family gathered to make tamales in an assembly-line fashion during the weeks preceding Christmas. These took a place of honor surrounded by familiar sides, and the meal was finished off with cinnamon spiced hot chocolate and a puffy pastry, fried and then dusted with sugar. Christmas day featured a buffalo roast, wild rice fry bread, and berry pudding from our Chippewa mother’s heritage.

The recipe I am sharing is an easy variant of the Chili Relleno. This dish is usually made in a skillet and fried. My version is oven baked saving the worry of spattered grease and gauging readiness by appearance. Another short cut is using packaged grated cheese. However, I like using a grater with exchangeable grating surfaces. It features a crank to turn the grating wheel and a pusher that holds the food being grated against the spinning grating surface. The whole thing stands on four legs over a shallow bowl to catch the grated cheese. No more scraped fingers when grating cheese, carrots, potatoes, or other food that can be grated. It easily disassembles for washing in the dish washer.

Chili Rellenos Recipe


  • 3 small cans chilies split and laid flat
  • 3/4 pound Monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 3/4 pound longhorn cheese, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 small can of evaporated milk
  • 6 ounce can of taco sauce

In a 9- by 12-inch casserole dish, alternate layers of chilies and grated cheeses. In a blender, mix 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons flour, and a small can of evaporated milk. Pour mixture over layered chilies and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Top with a six ounce can of taco sauce and bake an additional 30 minutes. When you have Anaheim or banana peppers fresh from the garden, they can be used instead of the canned variety for a crunchier texture. This makes a great side dish for tamales or can stand alone for the vegetarian at the feast.

Thanksgiving Recipes

One of the things my family insists on for Thanksgiving is really easy, although isn’t particularly healthy!

Smyrph Salad


  • 1 package multicolored miniature marshmallows
  • 2 cans fruit cocktail
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Small jar maraschino cherries
  • Pint of sour cream or plain yogurt

Drain all of the canned fruit. Reserve the cherries to decorate the top. Mix all except the cherries in a large bowl the day before needed. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Just before serving, decorate with the cherries. This is popular with those who have a sweet tooth.

No Excuse Bread


  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup softened butter or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup powdered milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 7 cups unsifted, unbleached flour

Have all ingredients at room temperature or warmer. Place the first eight ingredients plus 3 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove beaters and stir in 2 cups of flour by hand, there is no need to make it smooth. Sprinkle 1 cup flour in a 10-inch diameter circle. Turn the dough out on the flour. Oil your hands and begin kneading in the flour using your fingertips until the dough isn’t sticky. Knead 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add the last cup of flour to achieve this.

Cover with plastic wrap and a folded towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Punch dough down by kneading a few strokes. Divide the dough in two parts. On an oiled surface, using an oiled rolling pin, roll each portion into an 8- by 12-inch rectangle. Roll up the dough from the narrow side toward you, pressing down as you go to seal. Place the rolled up dough in a well-greased loaf pan seam side down; brush top with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two to 24 hours before baking.

About 10 minutes before baking, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and remove loaves from the refrigerator. Remove plastic wrap and check for bubbles. Prick any bubbles with an oiled toothpick. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The bread should give off a hollow sound if tapped lightly. I make the loaves up the night before and bake it on the morning of the day I intend to use it. There is nothing as wonderful as the smell of home-baked bread, and this bread is not only delicious but healthy enough to make up for the Smyrph Salad! The trick is to keep people from eating it warm from the oven and not having any left to go with the turkey.

Other Recipes from VisionAware Peer Advisors

The VisionAware peer advisors have also shared other family recipes on the Visually Impaired: Now What? blog, including recipes for ratones, buffalo chicken dip, Vietnamese rice paper rolls, meatball casserole, brisket, and more. Learn how you can make these holiday dishes by reading:

Cooking Tips for Individuals with Vision Loss

If you are new to vision loss, here are some resources to help you master your kitchen and use safe cooking techniques for your holiday dishes.