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Three Tantalizing Twists on the Thanksgiving Tradition

      I come from a family of Thanksgiving traditionalists.   Dare I try and make any modification to the big dinner; I’d likely get ridiculed.  My mom liked her turkey dinner the way she had always known it to be: Turkey, dressing (the proper term for stuffing, people), cranberry sauce, carrots, peas (yes, peas), rolls, squash casserole and rice and Giblet gravy.  Oh yeah, did I mention us Southern folks prefer the white grain to the white root?  No Mashed potatoes for us unless a guest insisted on bringing the unnecessary savory fluff.  Giblet Gravy, a Southern Turkey day tradition too.  If you’ve never had it, you my friend, are a deprived human being. Giblet gravy is one of God’s greatest gifts to this glutinous November day.

      Now and again, I could convince my sweet but stubborn Southern mom (God bless her resting soul) to allow me to try my hands at a unique addition to the big dinner.  If I pleaded enough, I could usually twist her little arm into agreement. In the last few years, I came across a few recipes I deemed worthy of fancy china and lace tablecloths.    One savory and a tad bit sweet- an Italian/American Thanksgiving fusion if you will. Another-a seafood spruced up stuffing, ahem, I mean dressing...for the brave. The last- a simply earth defying, luscious and artery bursting twist on the classic Pumpkin Pie.

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto

There are recipes for this glorious Italian sweet squash treat everywhere. Yet, I was the very first to create it.  Just kidding.  I have, however, perfected the easiest and the tastiest adaptation of them all.  One extra carbohydrate never hurt anyone, especially when it is this delicious.  Although time consuming, preparing risotto takes very little brainpower.  I find that a couple of glasses of wine to my left hand really assist with the strenuous movement of my right hand.  Just a tip. 



  • 1 ½ quarts chicken broth

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 bulb shallots, chopped fine

  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped

  • 2 cups Arborio rice

  • 1 cup dry light white wine (I prefer Sauvignon Blanc with this recipe)

  • 1 (10-ounce) box cooked frozen butternut squash

  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh Nutmeg

  • ½ teaspoon All-spice

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 10 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade cut (for a how-to, click here)

  • 1 cup grated Parmesan  

  • Salt and pepper to season


1) Bring chicken broth and water to a simmer in a pot then reduce heat to low.

2) Heat a new medium sized pot to medium heat with olive oil.

3) Add the shallot and garlic and soften for 2 to 3 minutes.

4) Add rice and toast 2 to 3 minutes more.

5) Add your wine and cook it out completely (letting the rice absorb it), stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes.

6) With a ladle, add broth in intervals, 2 or 3 of ladles at a time. Each time, stir consistently, allowing all of the liquid to evaporate before adding more liquid. Risottowill cook in about 22 minutes.  It should have a creamy looking consistency and be firm to the bite.  

7) Defrost the butternut squash in your microwave in a dish to collect any liquids and stir in squash the last 3 minutes of cook time.

8) Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.

9) Before serving, stir in butter, sage and Parmesan. 

10) Garnish with any extra sage leaves.  

Oyster Dressing

There has been an oyster dressing recipe circulating my extended family's kitchens for years. Like 60+ years to be exact.  A recipe that my brother was particularly fond of but my mother could have easily done without.  Uniquely intense, you either love it or you hate it.  For those oyster buffs out there, you'll probably be heads over heels infatuated with this scrumptious concoction of  sea critters, veggies and loads of bread.  If ever prepared in our kitchen, we down scaled the recipe by half and served it in addition to the usual, less intimidating fan favorite.  This recipe is a "kicked up a few notches" variation on my family's original.  Spiked with a Cajun touch, it is one of a kind.



  • 1 cup white onion

  • 1 cup celery

  • 1 cup green bell pepper

  • 1 stick butter

  • 2 medium sized loaves day old French Bread

  • 1 tablespoon Cajun Seasoning

  • 1/2 tablespoon Old Bay

  • 3-4 cans oysters (1.5 pints)

  • Black pepper


1) Tear apart French bread in bigger than bite-sized pieces and add to a 9x13 casserole dish.

2) Remove oysters from cans but DO NOT discard the juices. Carefully sort through oysters removing all shells.  Roughly chop oysters.

3) Saute the trinity (onion, celery, peppers) in  butter with Cajun seasoning and Old Bay until softened.

4) Pour hot veggies in butter over the bread pieces. 

5) Add all chopped oysters and 1/2 cup of their juices to the dressing. Add pepper and  mix all ingredients together.

6) Bake at 350 degrees until brown and crusty.  

Pumpkin Squares

The BETTER THAN PUMPKIN PIE Thanksgiving dessert for those with a serious sweet tooth problem.  I was given this recipe from a friend who served these decadent goodies at a Christmas party a couple of years back.  I am no baker.  In fact, I hate to bake.  However, Pumpkin squares are truly the one thing on this earth that will convince me to flour up my hands and follow annoyingly precise step-by-step directions.  Literally melt in your mouth, this richer than cake dessert topped with homemade cream cheese icing is a heart attack made in heaven.  They are why for the last two years, I have managed to gain three pounds in a week.  Sinning at its best.  

For the "Cake:"

·1 cup canola oil

·2 cups Pumpkin

·2 cups sugar

·2 cups flour

·3 large eggs (I goofed and used extra large this year which I think made them even more delectably moist)

·1 tsp. Baking soda

·½ teaspoon salt

·2 tsp. baking powder

·2 tsp. cinnamon

For the Cream Cheese Icing:

·      8 oz. Cream cheese (softened)

·      1 tsp. Vanilla

·      1 stick unsalted butter (softened)

·      2 ½ cups powdered sugar


1)   Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2)   Grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan (glass or metal)

3)   With a large mixing bowl and a large spoon, mix ALL of the above ingredients together until free of lumps (that’s right-no mixing bowl required).

4)   Pour into baking pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

5)   Let cool for 30 minutes.

6)   Mix all icing ingredients together with a hand-held mixer until smooth.

7)   Lather on the icing and then cut into individual squares and serve.  (Please don’t try to turn this recipe into a cupcake version-they will lose their heavenly moistness, I assure you).

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