Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrating the alliance between Pilgrim settlers and Native Americans who were sharing their harvests from the fall of 1621. 90 Native Americans joined 53 Pilgrims for a night of feasting, and although the menu has changed quite a bit, the sentiment behind it has not. Gathering close friends and family together, we celebrate another year together with toasts of champagne, crispy seasoned turkeys, and creamy garlic mashed potatoes. We light candles and talk through the night recalling old memories, laughing until we cry. Even though this holiday is not celebrated around the world, cultural influences have ebbed into our Thanksgiving dishes. They have made them so individual and unique that nearly no two Thanksgiving tables across the US look the same.
My family is very close, and through the years we have passed down recipes that have become a tradition for our yearly gathering. Originally from the East Coast in Boston and the Mid West in Ohio, we now reside in Seattle, giving our meals flavors from all over. From sweet treats we enjoy the entire season, to sacred dishes that have to grace the table on Thanksgiving itself, here is a dive into a (somewhat) traditional Thanksgiving in America. So read on to find the recipes for 4 of my family’s Thanksgiving dishes. And leave us a comment explaining your own favorite family recipes!
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This is definitely one of the favorite recipes passed down from my grandmother. We used to make this together, and it has a special place in my heart… But also my stomach. My aunt now makes this Thanksgiving dish, and I help. However, the result is the same, and you can almost taste the family sentiment in each spoonful. It’s simple and flavorful!
- Put 2 bags of cranberries, zest and flesh of 1 orange, and 1 cup of sugar into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
- Refrigerate at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, so cranberries release their juice.
TAKEAWAY: Cranberries are harvested in Autumn from bogs all over North and South America. These are eaten all over America, Europe, and some parts of South and Central America. Initially gown on vines, the acidic planting soils are flooded with 18 inches of water the night before they are harvested. Some are collected dry by a huge mechanical picker. Wet picking is more common for juice, and dry for the berries itself.
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Now, you may be thinking this sounds like something you would buy at Starbucks. But I promise the method came from a close friend who swears by them for holiday parties. They are easy and delicious to make, and you will want to share these with everyone. A subtle twist gives an amazing flavor, try it out!
- In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups sugar, 1 cup oil, 4 eggs, 2 cups pumpkin, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon ground cloves.
- Mix together and pour into a greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes. Let cool out of the oven.
- For topping, mix 4 ounces cream cheese, 3/4 stick butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 3 cups powdered sugar. Beat these ingredients together and frost the bars for over two dozen goodies to share! Or, keep for yourself to enjoy.
Nantucket Cranberry Pie
My mother’s side of the family brings this delectable treat every year, and there is never enough to go around. The plate is practically licked clean, and sighs of relief are let out when the platter begins at certain ends of the table. Enjoy this with or without whipped cream, but it is a Thanksgiving must!
- Begin by generously greasing a cake pan with butter. Then, take two cups (with a little extra) of cranberries and spread them into one layer in the pan. Chop 1/2 cup of pecans and sprinkle over the cranberries, then cover all of this with 2/3 cups of sugar evenly.
- In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 melted stick of unsalted butter, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of almond extract, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until everything is combined.
- Pour over the cranberries and pecans to cover evenly and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. About 5 minutes before the pie is done, spread 1 tablespoon of sugar to give an extra crunch to your dessert!
Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows
At first glance, this Thanksgiving dish sounds strange. Sweet marshmallows on top of vegetables? But trust me, it will be an instant classic in your household that even the youngest family members will request year after year.
- Take 5 scrubbed sweet potatoes or garnet yams and cut into 2-inch slices. Add to a pot of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Drain and let cool until they can be handled, then peel.
- In a large bowl, add the potatoes, the zest of 1 large orange (or the amount for your taste), and enough orange juice to make the potatoes creamy.
- Pour the mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish and top with mini marshmallows. Lots of them, the more, the better! Make sure it is at least a substantial layer above the potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until heated through and marshmallows are browned. Finally, enjoy with your turkey and gravy. This dish is extra good on a piece of bread to clean your plate at the end of the night.
Thanksgiving is a time of celebrating the unadulterated joy of being together. Celebrated in the US the fourth Thursday of November, it is the beginning of the holiday season for many. It is, for sure, one of my favorite holidays as it is festive, fun, and light. If you would like to learn more about the origins of Thanksgiving, read this National Geographic article that explains it in depth. And now, enjoy the recipes for these 4 Thanksgiving dishes and try out your favorite!