Encore Thanksgiving Recipes: ‘Tis the Season to be Flexible

Doni’s note: The recipes in this post were derived from a 2015 Thanksgiving encore column that featured some of my favorite recipes.

I may have mentioned a time or 200 that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s not to love about enjoying a fine meal with friends and family?

The flip side is that few things can make me feel more depressed than the prospect of an uncelebrated Thanksgiving. I’m well aware of the bookended emotional dangers of wallowing in wistful, sometimes revisionist memories of past holidays and longing wishes for ideal future holidays. The older I get, the more I remind myself, for my own sake, to adopt the Serenity Prayer’s suggestion to accept the things I cannot change, especially when it comes from being apart from loved ones and letting go of cherished traditions, either because of geographical or political divides, or even painful estrangements.

All those who can relate, raise your drumsticks.

As I perused A News Cafe holiday archives, I read stories and reminisced about past Thanksgivings that I celebrated everywhere from inside a rented tent with dozens of family and friends to small gathering inside a dining room of a Czech Republic village where the star of the show was a spatchcocked goose, since turkeys are a foreign food there. I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, and I’ve experienced large Thanksgivings and small Thanksgivings. I urge myself to be easy on myself, be flexible, and to spend less brain energy mourning losses and dashed expectations, and to expend more energy in staying in the moment, and being supremely grateful for what I have, and who I’m with, and to appreciate those who want to celebrate with me; people I care about who accept me just the way I am.

This year I’m the lucky hostess at my 1938 home, joined by sister Shelly and a few of our friends who also find themselves facing a similar 2021 non-traditional non-familial Thanksgiving for various reasons, and yes, some of those reasons revolve around the Great Vaccine Debate.

Shelly will come early and help set the table, something she does beautifully, using colorful leaves and my adorable ceramic squirrel name-card holders.

I’m preparing a brined turkey, gravy, and my friend Judy Smith’s yeast rolls. Shelly will prepare the mashed potatoes and my cranberry relish with Grand Marnier. Our friends will round out the feast with traditional dressing/stuffing with sausage and apples, a green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert.

We’re still debating whether to add another dessert. It’s not too late. In fact, it’s never too late to add another dessert.

We’ll have wine, of course, and after the meal is over we’ll play cards and enjoy more adult beverages and coffee. My electric fireplace will be glowing, and we’ll have some nice background music.

In the last few weeks I’ve encountered people who’ve talked about their Thanksgivings, and how they’re changing things up this year, too. One young shopkeeper shared that because she, her husband and their little kids were not invited by family this year (didn’t ask why), she’s excited to host dinner at her house, and has invited other Thanksgiving “orphans” to join them. She turned something that began as a sad time of potentially painful exclusion into a joyous potluck event where she gets to roast her first-ever Thanksgiving turkey.

Likewise, yesterday I spoke with a woman who owns a coffee shop who said that she and her husband are mixing things up this year and have been invited by their rural neighbors “who’ve become like family” for Thanksgiving, and they’ll ride their quads to and from the dinner. It’s not what they usually do, but she’s looking forward to it.

And I have one friend whose kids never cottoned to turkey and all the sides, and all they want is homemade macaroni and cheese, so that’s exactly what they’ll do. That’s their tradition.

Finally, there are some people who don’t care one way or another about Thanksgiving, and if that’s their jam, then lucky them.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing this year, and ways in which you’re following old traditions, dumping traditions, or starting new ones.

Either way, perhaps you’re looking for some delicious recipes to round out your meal, whether you’re a guest asked to bring something, or whether you’re like me, and you’re hosting, or maybe you like your own solo company just fine, and want to create something you’ll enjoy by yourself, with guaranteeed leftovers.

Yes,  you could just search here on A News Cafe.com for my favorite holiday recipes that have appeared on this site since 2007, but I also know that time is especially tight this Thanksgiving Eve.

All the following recipes have been published on a News Cafe.com in previous years for previous holiday meals. And if you’ve been with us a while, you probably recognize a few. Some, like the Pumpkin Frangelico Cheesecake, I’ve made for more than 30 years. Other recipes, like friend Judy Smith’s rolls, and Andrea Charroin’s pie crust dough, are relatively new to me, but they’re lifelong keepers.

Either way, what these recipes all have in common is they are tried-and-true people-pleasers that will win you rave reviews at your holiday meal, whether it’s Thanksgiving or any other special event.

Feel free to share your favorite recipes with us in the comments section. After all, there’s no such thing as too many holiday recipes.

Either way, I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’m grateful you’re here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to check out some dessert recipes.

pumpkin patch

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Frangelico

10 servings

Gingersnap crust

24 gingersnaps
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

 Pumpkin filling

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 16-ounce can unsweetened solid pack pumpkin
5 eggs
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

 Sour Cream Topping

16 ounces sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 Frangelico
10 whole hazelnuts

For crust: Grind gingersnaps and sugar in food processor to fine crumbs. With the machine running, add butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 8-inch spring-form pan. Freeze for 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead.)

For filling: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Blend all ingredients in processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl.

Pour the filling into crust-lined pan. Bake until edges of cake begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and cake begins to brown., about 45 minutes. Center will not be firm.

For topping: Whisk together  sour cream, sugar and Frangelico.

Without removing cake from the oven, pour the topping evenly over the hot cake, starting at the edges. Spread evenly. Continue baking cake until the edges begin to bubble, about 10 minutes. Cool on rack. Refrigerate at least 12 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead.) L:ghtly press hazelnuts into the top edge of cake. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Source: November 1985 “Bon Appetit” magazine

p.s. Sometimes I top the cheesecake – because really, it’s not rich enough already – with salted caramel sauce, but that’s optional. 


Spiced Orange Cranberry Relish

1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries (about 3 cups), rinsed
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup orange liqueur (or more orange juice)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds (optional) 

Combine cranberries, sugar, orange juice, orange liqueur and spices (including cinnamon stick) in a medium, non-reactive saucepan.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the cranberries pop and the mixture begins to thickened. (This takes about 10 minutes.)

Remove the cranberries from the stove and let cool slightly. Stir in the orange rind (and nuts, if desired). Spoon the mixture into bowl, mold or container with a tight-fitting lid.

Cover and refrigerate until serving time, up to several days. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes about 2 cups.

yeast rolls

Judy Smiths’ Refrigerator Yeast Rolls

6 c. flour
 ½ c. sugar
 1 ½ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
 1 ½ t. salt
 ½ c. butter
 ½ c. warm water
 1 t. sugar
 1 pkg yeast (or 1 T.)
 1 ¾ c. buttermilk

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture (by hand or in food processor).

In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the 1 tsp. of sugar. Let rest and rise about 10 minutes.

Mix all ingredients together, including the buttermilk, the only ingredient left, until smooth and elastic.

Store in large covered container in fridge. (If you want to make the whole recipe immediately, let rise, form and let rise again as below.)

To use, take out of fridge as much as you want. (1/2 recipe makes 9 large rolls or 12 medium.) Place in covered container and let rise in warm spot until double in bulk. Form, put in greased pan with the rolls barely touching, let rise until double in bulk again.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or so—until hollow sound when tapped. I usually brush the tops with butter as they come out of the oven.

Makes 2 dozen medium rolls.

Recipe courtesy of Judy Smith of Redding


Rob Roger’s Mother’s Mustard Sauce for Ham

2 beaten egg yolks
1 T. sugar
3 T. prepared mustard
2 T. vinegar
1 T. water
3/4 t. salt
1 T. butter
1/2 cup whipping cream

Whip cream. Set aside.

Mix well the yolks, sugar, mustard, vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan.

Cook over low heat until mixture thickens (about 3 to 5 minutes).
Remove from heat. Stir in the butter. Refrigerate until cool. Fold in the whipped cream.

Can be made 2 to 3 days ahead.

pie crust

Andrea Charroin’s Easy Pie Crust

2.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks ( 1/2 lb.) unsalted, cold butter
1/4 cup ice water

In a medium size mixing bowl:

Cut butter into small bits. Let’s say dime size.
Toss into the flour and salt mixture

Using the best kitchen tool ever…YOUR HANDS work the butter into the flour until the flour/butter mixture looks like rocky sand.

SLOWLY add the ice water, there are times when you won’t need all of the water, and times you might need a little more. Work the water into the flour until JUST combined. Take a small handful of the dough, squeeze. If the dough holds a shape, you are done.

Form into 2 rounds. Wrap or place in your favorite container. Let rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Make your favorite pie!

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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