Thanksgiving Traditions & Recipes

November 10th, 2008 by admin

We’d like to start off the conversation on our blog by sharing our Thanksgiving family traditions & recipes with each other. Here’s one of Janet’s Thanksgiving traditions:

I started my family’s Thanksgiving Journal in 1991, when we were selling blank journals and fabric markers. My then 7-year-old daughter decorated the cover with little turkeys and she entitled it, “Our Thanksgiving Album.” Over the years I chronicled who shared this special day with us, what recipes we feasted on, what we were particularly thankful for that year, and any special anecdotes, like the year someone accidentally used the kitty litter scoop as a serving spoon in the turkey dressing.

Share one of your Thanksgiving traditions, recipes or stories, then check back to read what other families had to say.

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22 Responses to “Thanksgiving Traditions & Recipes”

  1. Ali at Chinaberry Says:

    Wow! Thanks for all the great stories, ideas & recipes!

    Anna - thanks for the recipes and I love the story of you biking home from the market with a 14-lb turkey. Funny visual.

    realmomma - I like your ideas about getting the kids involved in the cooking. My girls & I recently made pumpkin pie. It was a lot of fun and to top it off, the pie actually tasted really yummy.

    Beth - Have you had your baby yet? How exciting. I guess you & your family have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! I say, relax & let your extended-family take care of Thanksgiving this year.

    Julie - What a great tradition! (BTW… my girls & I like to listen to our Christmas CDs once in a while throughout the year. They’re so great for “sing-a-longs.”)

    Joni - You painted a beautiful picture of Thanksgiving on the farm from you poetic words. Thanks for the recipe too.

    Steph - Sounds delicious!

    Karen - That’s one definite advantage of technology — being able to be close w/family & friends via email, phone, instant messaging, etc., etc.

    blizzard baby - 25 apple pies! Can I have one?

    Esther - Connecting with nature sounds so nice right now. Enjoy.

    Cindy - I can relate to your forgetfulness — I call it Mommy Brain. Enjoy that new kitchen!

    MotherShip - I’ve participated in some Thanksgiving potlucks. I like the sharing and it’s less stress for the hosts.

    Renee - 63 people for Thanksgiving! Wow! Do you have room for 1 more? ;-)

    Donna - What a fun way to celebrate “Thanksgiving Eve.” The Chinese food reminds me of the movie “A Christmas Story.” The family’s meal gets ruined so they end up going to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner. Hilarious!

    Barbara - Thanks for commenting, fellow vegetarian. When I lived in Sonoma County (CA), I saw wild turkeys running around. They loved to get up on the roof of the house — I thought it was an earthquake or something.

    Nana’s Cottage - You certainly do have a lot to be thankful for. I’m glad your sons made it back safely.

    Thanks again to everyone who shared a story or recipe. After Thanksgiving, we’ll put up some posts about Christmas & Hanukkah traditions. Be sure to check back. And, Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Ali at Chinaberry Says:

    A Thanksgiving Must from Eat, Drink & Be Chinaberry

    8 servings

    To me, this is almost better than chocolate! A definite Thanksgiving must! —Janet Kelly; El Cajon, California

    2 quarts brussels sprouts, trimmed
    Boiling salted water
    1/4 cup each packed brown sugar and butter
    1/2 cup pecan halves

    Cut a cross in stem end of each sprout for more even cooking.

    Cook in boiling water to cover 5 to 10 minues or until crisp-tender. Drain well. In deep skillet over low heat, stir sugar and butter until sugar dissolves. Add brussels sprouts and pecans; toss until well glazed. Serve hot.

  3. Nana's Cottage Says:

    Joni, from Nov.12th: thanks for the recipe. I’m going to try it. My mother-in-law has a take on that herself that is so yummy. It uses the leftovers from the Thanksgiving meal, but a couple of years we were at the cabin which had no oven, and we had the casserole FOR our Thanksgiving meal!

    Donna, from Nov. 17th: Do y’all have a Thanksgiving meal the next day too?! Sounds fun.

    Barbara, from Nov. 18th: I wouldn’t be able to eat turkey either if they were walking around in my back yard.

    Here’s what I’m thankful for this year: I have twin boys who were both deployed at this time last year, and have made it home again safely! Please remember our troops. I am thankful to be an American.

    I have a 4th grandbaby due any time!

    My daughter-in-law is graduating from college.

    My husband’s and my parents are with us and doing well in spite of some medical difficulties.

    God has richly blessed our family.

  4. Barbara Says:

    As a long time (40 year) vegetarian, my Thanksgiving meals are always a bit different than most. My favorite thanksgivings were those spent in the backwoods of Applegate, Oregon. I had the privilege of many wildlife species roaming through my property. One of the species were Wild Turkeys. It was always a thrill to be able to observe the turkeys making their daily trek back and forth to the trees where they slept.

    Thanksgiving would always reinforce my reasons for becoming an ethical vegetarian and warm my heart. Sitting at the table in front of a large picture window with family and friends there was nothing as satisfying as observing these creatures on Thanksgiving instead of eating them.

    A typical Thanksgiving meal would start with Ginger Pumpkin Tomato Soup, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Veggie Loaf, Yams and stuffed Sweet Potatoes, Fresh Cranberries, biscuits, roasted veggies, Mashed Potatoes with Portabello Mushroom Gravy, salads, and of course a few desserts such as Pumpkin Pie and Cranberry Tarts. Sounds good doesn’t it?

  5. Donna Says:

    We start the long holiday season the night before Thanksgiving with a big party that requires almost no work. We invite a core group of the same friends, but add anyone we think might be alone or in need of a friend. On the way home from work on Wednesday, we call the local Chinese carry out restaurant and order a ton of food. Then we settle 12-20 people around our huge harvest table, light some candles and dig in. We pass around the food in the containers, and when everyone is fully sated, we open the fotune cookies. The laughter and conversation is at a high pitch with the mix of old friends and new ones, young and old, single and married and newly unmarried. Everyone reads her or his fortune out loud, and everyone else adds at the end of each one the words “in bed,” which gets even more great laughs.

    Then we head to the kitchen and make our first holiday flaming drinks of the season, rum flambes, 4 t0 6 at a time. This is the only work of the evening, but when everyone has a hot party drink, we turn on “That’s Amore” sung by Dean Martin, toast, and continue into the evening. Then we can play Christmas music . The only work was making the flaming drinks and loading plates and glasses into the dishwasher at the end of the evening. Piece of cake. Everyone who’s been invited always comes back unless they’ve moved. It’s our best party of the year and gets the season started with what is best about our lives- our friends and families, their stories, laughter, and a great holiday tradition.

  6. Ali at Chinaberry Says:

    Another yummy recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Chinaberry:

    Our favorite appetizer for winter holiday parties
    — Barbara White; New Haven, Connecticut

    1/3 cup crushed cranberry sauce
    2 T packed brown sugar
    1/4 tsp rum extract or orange extract
    1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
    1 round (8 oz) brie cheese
    2 T chopped pecans

    Combine first four ingredients. Peel off top rind of 1 round brie cheese, leaving 1/4 inch rim. Top brie with cranberry mixture and sprinkle with 2 T chopped pecans. Bake in 500° oven 4-5 minutes. Serve with assorted crackers.

  7. Ali at Chinaberry Says:

    My girls & I are vegetarians, but there’s always enough non-turkey food to enjoy at the Thanksgiving table. When it’s just the three of us, though, I usually cook a Tofurky roast. Although I know of some vegetarians who don’t care for it, I really love it. I’ve found that you need to cut the slices fairly thin. The gravy is to die for. Give it a try sometime. You can purchase a “roast” at most Whole Foods stores during the holidays.

    You can find the cooking instructions at:


  8. Renee Says:

    We spend the Thanksgiving in the desert (Glamis, Ca - “the sand toy capital of the world!”) with friends and sometimes up to three generations of extended family. We deep fry 4 - 6 turkeys and everyone brings the fixings for a potluck style dinner. Our children have grown up over the years and we’re now at that age when the young ones are starting to marry and have their own families. Last year we had 63 people for Thanksgiving. Tradition has us circling up around a line of tables put end to end (with camp lanterns in between for light), counting off and saying grace. It’s a wonderful event that my girls love. We’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and the group sometimes gets larger and sometimes gets smaller but the heart and love of it is always the same.

  9. Anna Says:

    Cindy- funny! Last year I made Thanksgiving dinner for my sister’s family, and I decided to make it all green, so I biked to the meat market here in town, 1 1/2 miles away, and biked back with a 14-pounder. I earned that dinner, let’s just say. I put prosciutto inside the skin with sage and butter. I really loved it. Event cooking is so stressful, because it’s a 1-shot kind of situation, but everyone is so forgiving and happy! We had some extra guests that were surprises, which I love, because it’s really all that Thanksgiving is about, sharing the bounty. Great thread, and I’m enjoying the responses.

  10. MotherShip Says:

    My family has been doing a pot luck for years now—my brother in law comes over to my mom’s to tend the turkey while the rest of us go to a Thanksgiving breakfast at church (also the kickoff for the church campaign for Heifer International and other international giving) and then we come back to eat the meal to which all of us have contributed. On Friday, we all head down to my brother’s cottage on the Pamlico river for more family time. Thanksgiving is definitely by far my favorite holiday, I guess because I’m lucky enough to belong to a good-sized family whose members all enjoy each other’s company! Our two oldest will be missing this year (one in Mexico, one at the beach with friends), but we’ll keep them in our hearts all the same.

  11. Cindy Says:

    Great idea to have a parent/family blog! What an opportune time to start it. Everyone has some kind of Thanksgiving tradition or story. My contribution is this: I have the same problem every year; when defrosting the turkey, I think I’ve gotten all the parts out, but inevitably leave in the bag of giblets and find them inside still in the bag! So this year a friend told me I could pre-order a fresh, not frozen, turkey from the supermarket…and that’s what I’m going to do! Another trick is to insert orange slices and spices like rosemary or tarragon under the skin of the turkey; it’s decorative and adds flavor. I’m really looking forward to the holiday this year because I will be able to use my newly remodeled kitchen!

  12. Joni Says:

    What wonderful comments by everyone, I enjoy reading and thinking about each one! This is a recipe for left over turkey that my wonderful sister Julie sent me. She makes it for church and Boy Scout potluck suppers. It’s called Turkey and Stuffing Hot Dish. You need 1-8oz pkg stuffing mix, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/2 cup melted margarine or butter, 2 1/2 cups cooked, cut up turkey, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup salad dressing/mayo (tip, we like it much better NOT including the salad dressing) 2 eggs lightly beaten, 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 can cream mushroom soup, 2 cups shredded cheese. Combine stuffing mix, margarine, add chicken broth. Place half in a 9 x 13 pan. Combine turkey, onion, celery, salad dressing (if you include it) and salt. Spread over stuffing mix. Cover with remaining stuffing mix. Combine eggs and milk and pour over stuffing mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least 6 hours. Spread with soup and bake at 325 degrees for an hour. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 10 more minutes. Yummy!

  13. Esther Says:

    I grew up - as many of us did - with the white linen tablecloth, polished silver, and a house bursting with food. As I bring my son up, by myself, I am starting new traditions - new ideas of how to Celebrate Life and being Thankful for all we have. This year we will be camping and traveling throughout the Southwest - enjoying each other’s company (grateful for the warm sleeping bag at night) and Celebrating our connection to God and this Wonderful Earth.

  14. blizzard baby Says:

    Four generations in my family gather the day before Thanksgiving for our “Pie Day.” We peel 80 pounds of apples and bake upwards of 25 apple, pumpkin and mince pies using my grandmother’s pie crust recipe. Now my 27-year-old son living 3,000 miles away makes two apple pies with his great-grandmother’s recipe for the Thanksgiving meal he shares with friends. We, too, have a Thanksgiving album filled with each family member’s list of what they’re thankful for each year. It’s a treasure!

  15. Karen Says:

    I moved to Alabama from CT about two months ago. This will be my first Thanksgiving alone. Still, I look forward to a time to reflect on past holidays and the joy of wonderful memories. I am grateful, as well, for the love of my family and friends. There is always something to be thankful for on any given day. I plan on spending Thanksgiving Day on the phone or via email with all my loved ones. Even though we can’t be together, they are always in my heart!

  16. Steph Says:

    My family makes a great fresh “relish” that is sweet and tangy and great for cleansing the palate at Thanksgiving. Here’s the recipe:

    1 bag fresh cranberries
    2-3 apples, cored
    1 cup sugar (I like to sub Agave syrup to taste)
    1-2 oranges, skin on, seeds out

    Pulse in food processor until blended but still small chunky. Add sugar or more oranges to taste, depending on sweetness of the cranberries that year. Delish!

  17. Joni Says:

    Hello! Congratulations on this wonderful blog, I enjoyed reading the comments so far and look forward to reading more! I have many nostalgic memories of Thanksgiving back on the farm in MN, Grandma in her apron, dishes clattering, eating in her dining room with the claw foot oak table—and how I remember the woods, the pasture cured to the color of wheat beyond, the gray sky that went on forever behind the red barn, all the animals—it was all such a prayerful part of Thanksgiving as well as memories of my beloved family, many now long gone. Blessings to all!

  18. Julie Says:

    We have a tradition born out of my desire to keep the kids at the table longer. As soon as dinner is over we quickly clear the table, turn on the christmas music (I had to establish a long-standing rule that banned Christmas music until Thanksgiving dinner was over, or my husband would have us listening to it on Halloween) and everyone - children and adults alike - gets their own unfinished gingerbread house to decorate. When we’re done, we vote on whose creation is best (the only rule is that you can’t vote for your own). It is playful, relaxed and fun. It is the highlight of the night and a wonderful way to usher in the holiday season.

  19. Patti Says:

    Thanksgiving is an event–sometimes a great event, sometimes not so great. Like last year–great event but the main event (aka the turkey) was too small…we had 25 friends and family over for a local, organic Thanksgiving celebration (where the food was to die for, btw) but our turkey (that we grew just for this event) was a puny little feller that required a second recruitment turkey to feed the crowd. Luckily, my friend Jacqueline had also grown some turkeys (and hers were also puny). So we cooked two, one from each of our little farms. and had a great time. This year we are having the same event with a bigger turkey. He’s already huge and waiting for the big day. Live and learn! I do have to say though that those little birds were absolutely the most delicious turkeys we have ever had. Something about homegrown, home cooked foods!!!

  20. Beth Says:

    We have a couple of traditions that will be sorely tested this year because our new little one arrives the week before Thanksgiving.

    Normally, we get up on Thanksgiving morning and eat Julekaga (citron and cardamom bread that we only eat at Thanksgiving and Christmas), drink hot chocolate, and watch the Macy’s Parade with our son.

    We have certain dishes that we serve every year: sausage and fennel cornbread dressing, pumpking gooey butter cake, and pecan pie. We are still working side dishes that please everyone. This year, we’re trying an artichoke heart casserole that we found in a Martha publication.

    We usually do the majority of the cooking, but this year, we’re farming a lot of it out to my parents, my sister, and my in-laws. We’ll still have dinner at our house, but we’re not prepared to do all that cooking with a week old baby.

  21. realmomma Says:

    Food, itself, is the tradition of Thanksgiving in my family. And the tradition is made more meaningful by letting the kids pitch in with as much of the food prep and cooking as they can handle.

    My grandma always served appetizers through the late morning and early afternoon before the big meal. So, the kids help prep fruits, veggies, and crackers and mix dips and form cheese balls.

    I have fond memories of helping my mom make the stuffing. I loved tearing bread and tossing it with warm melted butter, chopped aromatics and seasonings.

    And let’s not forget the baking — my kids love lining up at the counter to help add ingredients to the bowl and take turns mixing (and tasting).

  22. Anna Says:

    I started making fresh-chestnut stuffing a few years ago, and it’s a favorite still. From Epicurious., BUT roast your own chestnuts, back-breaking, nail-bleeding work but well, well worth it.

    I love Thanksgiving- I come from a family of good cooks so it’s usually a chance to show our stuff and enjoy some great food. That’s a holiday I can easily rally around!

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