It’s that time of year again. The time of year when any diet you’ve been holding yourself to over the summer goes right out the window. The time of year where post-meal naps are not only encouraged, but expected.
It is now the third year [2019, 2020] we have shared our favorite Thanksgiving recipes. This year we wanted to summon some nostalgia with a “Recipes from your Childhood” theme. We collected recipes from team members that stirred up memories from their formative years and hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Carrot Cucumber Salad
Team Member: Drew Lytle
My grandmother emigrated from southern Germany in the early 1950s. She, my grandfather, and most of her 5 children and their families still live in northern VA. So, Thanksgiving for us every year is really a small, 25 person Oktoberfest.
We make some traditional staples like turkey, cranberry sauce, and some fantastic mashed potatoes made by yours truly (the secret ingredient is boursin cheese). However, one of my favorite German dishes that we add is carrot cucumber salad. Amongst the richer, savory foods on the table, it’s incredibly refreshing and a great, acidic palate cleanser. And it’s incredibly easy to make.
Ingredients (adjusted to serve 6-8 people)
- 4 cucumbers
- 2 large carrots
- 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp honey
- Salt to taste
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch of freshly chopped dill
- Using a mandoline or a sharp knife and patience, thinly slice the cucumbers into discs.
- With the large holed side of a box grater, grate the carrots.
- In a mason jar or a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the dressing and stir (or shake with the lid on in the case of a mason jar). Salt to taste.
- Combine the dressing, cucumbers, carrots, and dill in a large bowl.
- Salt again to taste and serve.
Grandma Eleanor’s Mashed Potatoes
Team Member: Brian Bassett
Growing up in a loving and boisterous Irish-American family from New Jersey instilled me with a heaping helping of exceptionalism and the most sublime mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted. The lead up to dinner consisted of long lines at toll plazas on the Parkway … scraped knees after diving for a football into a pile of spiky balls from the gum tree … fighting over the Jerrold converter style cable box with my brood of cousins to flip from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to MTV praying that Michael Jackson’s Thriller would be starting up for the 10th time that day.
Later, we’d be called to a crowded table for dinner. I’d squirm agonizingly until the mashed potatoes made it to my plate. I’d take a big scoop because I knew it would be a while until they made it back around. But I never had to stress because in the O’Donnell clan there were always more potatoes. Thanks Grandma El!
There’s a LOT of butter and cream in this recipe, which is fine because it means a small portion of them are quite rich. But hey it’s Thanksgiving so take another dollop!
- 4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and cut into large chunks)
- Kosher salt
- 6 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/2 pounds cold, cut to ½ inch cubes)
- ½ cup heavy cream (add more if needed)
- Vegetable peeler
- Chef’s knife
- Large saucepan
- Potato ricer
- Large wooden spoon
- Hand mixer (emergencies only)
- In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil
- Add 2 tablespoons of salt and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes
- Drain well and let stand in a colander for 3 minutes
- Pass the potatoes through a ricer into the large saucepan
- Cook over medium heat, stirring with a large wooden spoon, until the potatoes are hot and steam starts to rise, which takes roughly 2-5 minutes; they’ll start to stick to the bottom of the pan
- Add one-fourth of the butter cubes at a time, stirring constantly until incorporated
- If ricing them wasn’t successful it might be time to get out the hand mixer but watch out for the gluten build up!
- Stir in the heavy cream and season generously with salt
- Serve immediately
- Pinch cheeks of children, exclaim for all how moist the turkey is this year
Sweet Potato Casserole
Team Member: Al Tenhundfeld
As I get older, I turn towards sweet potato recipes that have simpler flavors and showcase their natural sweetness and complexity, like the roasted rounds I’ve shared before. But there’s something about this old school trio of sweet potato, pineapple, toasted marshmallows that instantly takes me back to childhood. It’s like dessert with the meal! A kid’s dream! This recipe is a little unusual, because it cooks the potatoes in the milk, concentrating the flavor and minimizing the number of dirty dishes.
- 8 or so sweet potatoes (~ 5 lb), peeled and cut into 1-2” chunks
- 6 tbsp butter
- 6 tbsp whole milk (or cream)
- 1 small can (~8 oz) crushed pineapple (do not drain)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg (fresh ground is worth the hassle here)
- ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 package mini marshmallows
- Place sweet potato chunks, milk, butter, pineapple, vanilla, salt, and spices in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and cook over a steady simmer, until potatoes begin to break down, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir often enough to prevent scorching.
- Remove cover and continue to cook over medium-low heat until liquid has been mostly absorbed and the potatoes are very tender, maybe another 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Using potato masher until sweet potatoes are smooth. Or use a potato ricer or hand blender if preferred. Just don’t mix super aggressively or you’ll get paste. Cook mashed potatoes over low, slowly stirring nonstop, until potatoes are thickened and any liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. If you haven’t tasted them yet, now is your last chance to adjust seasoning levels.
- Transfer mashed sweet potatoes to a 2-quart baking dish and top with as many marshmallows will fit in a single layer. Eat several marshmallows that “fall off the dish”. Bake until marshmallows are browned, about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye; they go from toasted to charred very fast.
Turkey and Dumpling Soup
Team Member: Robert Beatty
My family’s Thanksgiving tradition would be to make a trip from suburban Northern Virginia to a farm in North Carolina, where distant relatives from my Mom’s side of the family would all gather in a one-bedroom log cabin. We would have Thanksgiving lunch instead of dinner. That left the afternoon open for activities, such as fishing in the pond in front of the cabin, walking up the long gravel driveway to get cell service, and my uncle’s “deer hunting” excursion — coded language for taking his post-meal nap in the woods instead of around the screaming kids. Most years there would be a rendezvous back at the cabin where people started picking at the leftovers. My favorite way to use the leftovers was this soup — a great way to warm back up after being out in the blustery fall weather.
- 1 Turkey carcass, picking off whatever dark meat is left and setting aside
- 2 tbsp of Unsalted Butter
- 1 Yellow Onion, diced
- 2 Ribs of Celery, diced
- 4 Carrots, diced
- 3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme, stems removed
- 4 Cloves of Garlic, finely minced
- 2 Cups Bisquick Mix
- ⅔ Cup of Whole Milk
- After carving the turkey, place the bones in a large stock pot, cover with cold water, and set over medium-low heat until it comes to a simmer. Periodically skim off any impurities that come to the surface.
- About an hour and a half before you would like to serve the soup, melt the butter in a separate pot over medium heat and add in your carrots, onions, and celery. Season with salt and pepper.
- Saute the vegetables until they’re soft and the onions are translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the fresh thyme and garlic and saute for another two minutes.
- Strain the turkey stock into the pot with the vegetables, lining a colander with two layers of cheesecloth. Discard the bones.
- Begin preparing the dumplings by combining the Bisquick mix and milk. Stir until all of the mix is incorporated into the milk and no dry spots remain, being careful not to overmix.
- Add whatever dark meat from the turkey you are willing to part with into the soup.
- Using a large spoon, form dumplings from the dough and place on top of soup. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Team Member: Stacey Warthen
As a kid, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. My extended family would make a trip to the beach and we’d pack 7 adults and 10 kids in our 3 bedroom beach house “Janilcar” named after my mom and her two sisters. Some of my favorite memories are from this time every year – we’d stay up late doing who knows what with our cousins, take walks in the cold sand, make s’mores, and play family games of football. Some years I was lucky enough that Thanksgiving would fall on my birthday. For me this was the best of the best, and since I was never a huge fan of pumpkin pie, my mom made this chocolate pecan pie and this became my birthday cake. I looked forward to it every year.
- 3 squares unsweetened chocolate
- 3 tbsp butter or margarine
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell
- Melt chocolate and butter in saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly; set aside.
- Combine sugar and syrup in another saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and boil gently for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat; stir in chocolate mixture
- Pour slowly over eggs, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla and nuts.
- Pour into the pie shell.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until filling is completely puffed across the top.
Southern Chess Pie
Team Member: Al Tenhundfeld
Chess pie is one of those desserts that was present at every large family gathering growing up, but it’s inextricably associated with Thanksgiving in my memory. It’s sweet and rich yet surprisingly light. Imagine you just ate a king’s feast and can’t possibly stuff in another bite. You walk past the ultra nutty toasted pecan pie, eh, seems too intense. You look at creamy spiced pumpkin pie, oof, too much right now. But then you spy the humble chess pie sitting in the corner… maybe just a bite, right? A small slice? You wouldn’t want to be rude after all.
- 1 pie shell (store bought is fine)
- 5 large eggs
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
- Heavy pinch salt
- 2 tbsp cornmeal
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted (use the good butter here, you can taste it)
- Make the pie filling. Lightly beat eggs. Whisk in sugar, salt, cornmeal, vinegar, and vanilla. Whisk in butter until smooth.
- While the cornmeal absorbs liquid and softens, blind bake the crust in a 9” pie plate. It might depend on the crust you choose. Typically you’d dock the crust with a fork, line with foil and pie weights, and bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes or until the crust looks dry and set. Then remove foil and bake for another 3 minutes or until the crust starts to turn golden. Remove crust from oven and lower temp to 325 degrees.
- Whisk filling lightly if it has started separating. Pour filling into the crust and bake until the center is golden brown, and the center has a gentle wobble when shaken, about 35-45 minutes, depending on how quickly your oven cools down. You may need to cover the crust with foil to prevent over-browning. Cool completely, at least 2 hours. Garnish with powdered sugar if desired. Or not. The crinkly top is the best part.
Team Member: Austin Carr
As a kid my family would always pack in the car and drive up to the Shenandoah Valley to spend Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house. Her brother and sisters, plus their children, and grandchildren would all show up to pack into her house for an afternoon meal. There’d be so many people and so few seats that they’d split Thanksgiving into two shifts, with men and kids eating first and the women eating second (kind of sexist, but that’s the patriarchy baybee).
The star of the show was a turkey cooked in an oven overnight that was just as dry as it sounds. Extrapolate that kind of cooking to the rest of the meal, and you can see why my favorites were always the desserts. On the dessert table there were always homemade Rice Krispy Treats, Brownies (with a scoop of mayonaise in the batter), Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, a no-bake cheesecake dessert called “Cherry Delight”, and “Applesauce Cake.”
This recipe for Applesauce Cake is one of two recipes I have from Granny, but I’ve never actually made it! Here’s the sparse, verbatim, recipe she wrote for how to make a spiced applesauce cake filled with chewy raisin bites.
- 2 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce (warm)
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups flour
- ⅔ cup shortening
- 2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup raisins – dust in flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp allspice
- 4 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Cream sugar & shortening together
- Add eggs 1 at a time
- Mix all dry ingredients
- To creamed mix add applesauce & dry mix, alternately ending with applesauce then add raisins
- Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour in a greased and floured tube pan
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