When I was a child, my family moved 2,000 miles away from our extended family, and it became difficult to get together during the holidays. So, we started a Thanksgiving tradition of getting together with two other families who were new to town (one from New Zealand, the other from England). I loved the variety of dishes that became our holiday staples – Beryl’s mincemeat pies, Marjorie’s sourdough stuffing, Mom’s pink stuff. That tradition carried on for over two decades and remains one of my fondest holiday memories.

That’s what I love about this selection of Thanksgiving recipes. They all celebrate tradition. Like Michael A. McSwain’s Fig Preserves Cake. When he was a child, his mother would harvest figs from the trees in their yard and make fig preserves, then use them during the holidays to make this cake. She’s 90 and no longer makes the preserves. But Michael promises to carry on the tradition.

In Danielle Reddish’s family, nothing says Thanksgiving like the Pumpkin Roll. This recipe was handed down through the family by her cousin and is served every year at their huge get-togethers. Paula Jackson has to make her banana split-like Buried Treasure each year, or her grown kids pout. “We don’t want any pouting during the holidays,” she says with a laugh.

Thanksgiving meals also bring old friends together, if not in person, then in spirit. Coy Watkins’ Corn and Green Bean Casserole “always makes me think of my friend when I cook it.” And Sondra Martin couldn’t dream of a special meal without Hominy Heaven.

Some Thanksgiving favorites are created out of caring, like Pecan Pie Muffins, a recipe Kathy Peyton modified for her husband, who has a sweet tooth but is also diabetic. (Try it for breakfast Thanksgiving morning before the big meal!)

And then there are recipes that start new traditions, like Michelle A. Woodall’s Apple Spice Smoked Turkey. “I love cooking for my family, and making this makes me so happy!” she says.


Apple Spice Smoked Turkey
Michelle A. Woodall

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups apple juice
  • 1 ½ cups kosher salt or 1 cup table salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon candied ginger
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 sprigs each rosemary, sage and thyme

After the brine is cooked

  • 6 cups ice cubes
  • 4 cups apple juice
  • 1 large apple, quartered
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered

In a large stock pot, combine the water, 4 cups apple juice, salt, spices and herbs. Bring to a boil. Remove the brine from the heat, and stir in the remaining cold apple juice and the ice cubes.

Place turkey in a container that can keep the turkey fully submerged in the brine. Once the brine is fully chilled, pour over the uncooked turkey. Nestle the sliced apple and onion in the brine around the turkey.

Brine the turkey below 40 degrees F during the entire brining process – approximately 1 hour per pound of turkey.

When ready to cook, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse gently, both on the inside and the exterior of the bird. Pat completely dry and drizzle with a little cooking oil or melted butter for a crispier skin. You don’t need to add any additional salt or seasoning to the exterior of the turkey before grilling or smoking. If you like, you can stuff the turkey cavity with the apple and onion slices from the brine.

Smoke turkey at 225, for about 30 minutes per pound. (Michelle uses apple or cherry wood chips to smoke, which is not as harsh of a flavor as mesquite or hickory.)


Pecan Pie Muffins
Kathy Peyton

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup Splenda brown sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups pecans, chopped
  • ⅔ cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 12 whole pecans for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside. Mix sugar, flour and chopped pecans together. In a separate bowl, beat butter and eggs until creamy, stir in dry ingredients until just combined. Spoon batter into muffin tin, and bake for 15-18 minutes.


Corn and Green Bean Casserole
Coy Watkins

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 ounces French-cut green beans
  • 1 can shoepeg corn
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 stack Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup slivered almonds

Mix first six ingredients in casserole dish. Put crackers, butter and almonds in skillet, and stir until butter is melted. Don’t fry. Spread on top of casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.


Corn Casserole
Sondra Martin

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 8.5-ounce package dry corn bread mix
  • 1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 14.75-ounce can creamed corn
  • 1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 9X9-inch baking dish. Combine butter, eggs, corn bread mix, sour cream, and both cans of corn. Pour into prepared dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.


Hominy Heaven
Sondra Martin

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 15-ounce cans of golden hominy
  • 1 8-ounce container sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 2-quart casserole dish with non-stick spray. Mix hominy, sour cream, cheddar cheese and chilies. Bake for 25 minutes until heated through.

You can spice this dish up more by adding a little cayenne pepper or hot sauce to the mixing bowl before baking.


Fig Preserves Cake
Michael A. McSwain

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 cup fig preserves drained, chopped, mashed or ground to your liking

Combine liquids. Sift dry ingredients together, and add to liquid ingredients. Mix well, then add nuts and figs. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. After cake cools, remove from pan, and place top side up. Add sauce.

Note: Fresh apples, cooked down, may be used in place of figs…

SAUCE

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 tablespoon white Karo syrup
  • ¼ cup buttermilk

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook to a slow boil for 3 minutes, and remove from heat. Continue whisking mixture until slightly cooled. Pour over cake.


Pumpkin Roll
Danielle Reddish

INGREDIENTS

Cake:

  • 3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup canned pumpkin

Filling:

  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a sheet pan; line with parchment paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin kitchen towel with the 3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Beat eggs and sugar in large mixing bowl until thick and pale yellow. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into sheet pan.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top of cake bounces back when poked. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel gently together, starting with narrow end. I like to let mine cool on a wire rack. (The towel helps give the shape.)

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla in small mix bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake, and remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Re-roll cake.

Refrigerate at least one hour. (If your wrap it in plastic wrap, it usually helps.)

Garnish with powdered sugar.


Buried Treasure
Paula Jackson

INGREDIENTS
1 large package Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
1 container Cool Whip
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
4-5 bananas
1 large can strawberry pie filling
1 pack of coconut macaroon cookies

Make the pudding according to package directions. Fold in the Cool Whip and the sweetened condensed milk.

In a trifle bowl, layer the pudding mix, a layer of sliced bananas, a large spoon of strawberry pie filling in the middle of the ingredients and a layer of coconut macaroons.

Continue layering, ending with a layer of the pudding mix and chill for at least an hour.