Must-have foods and memories that take you back on a trip down memory lane of Thanksgivings past.

Everyone has their favorite family dishes, for me it’s tastes that aren’t necessarily complicated or gourmet, but just good enough that the memory itself is almost as good as the sensation. I mean, how great that a side dish, a relish, a desert can bring back all of those feelings and take you to a different place in time. So here are my Thanksgiving must-haves that are a combination of foods my Mom and Dad would serve for this holiday, along with some traditions I developed with my husband and even picked up from other friends along the way! Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Green Bean Casserole with Fresh Veggies and Homemade Onion Rings

Whole or Frozen green beans (I like French cut) – Cook in a small amount of boiling water 3 minutes
Mushrooms & Red Sweet Pepper – In a casserole dish (large) combine beans with fresh mushrooms sliced and red sweet peppers with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to coat – Roast 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
Onion and Bread Crumbs – Slice one large onion and sauté’ in olive oil and brown sugar till tender. Toss with dry bread crumbs to coat for classic onion ring crispiness

Mushroom soup

– One can with a little milk – toss together. Save some extra onion rings to top the casserole.

Bake 400 degrees for 10 minutes till heated through


– can add cheese instead of the mushroom soup. It’s also good – blend softened cream cheese with goat cheese and toss with veggies. Then add the onion rings on top and cook as listed above.

Rum Spiced Yams

3 lbs. yams – bake, scrub and put on foil lined pan 425 degrees for an hour until tender. Cut into halves and scoop into mixer bowl when cool – discarding peels. (Note I have made this with canned yams and just as tasty)

  • ½ Cup sugar
  • 3 T butter melted
  • ½ teas cinnamon
  • ¼ teas nutmeg
  • ¼ teas cloves
  • ¼ teas salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • ¼ cup brandy

Mash yams and stir with electric hand held blender to get lumps out.

Put into a casserole dish and top with:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ c finely chopped walnuts

Bake 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Serves 8.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Port Wine


  • 1 bag (12oz) fresh cranberries (3 cups) – pick them over
  • 1 Granny Smith apple – peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup Port win
  • ¾ cup sugar (I use splenda or stevia)
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

In a 3 quart saucepan, heat all ingredients to boiling on high, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered 7-8 minutes, until most of the cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. Mixture will thicken more as it chills. Spoon into a non-metallic bowl and refrigerate until well chilled – 3 hours or up to 4 days. This puts canned cranberry sauce to shame!

Do-Ahead White Wine and Sage Gravy

This is yummy gravy you can make ahead and later add turkey juices.


  • 3 turkey wings
  • 1 small red onion cut into wedges
  • 2 stalks of celery cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 carrots cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 carton (32 oz.) chicken broth
  • 4 ½ cup water
  • 3 large fresh sage leaves
  • 2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch

Meat juices roast turkey or additional chicken broth

Preheat oven to 425 degrees in 15 ½ by 10 ½ jelly-roll pan or large roasting pan and place turkey wings, onion, celery and carrots. Roast for an hour to hour and a half until turkey wings turn a deep golden brown. Transfer along with cooked vegetables from roasting pan to 6 quart saucepot. Add chicken broth, 4 cups water, sage leaves and set aside.

Place roasting pan on 2 burners on top of range. Add wine to roasting pan and cook on high, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan about 10 minutes or until wine is reduced to ½ cup. Transfer wine minsture to saucepot with turkey wings Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for one hour.

Strain broth into an 8 cup liquid measuring cup. Discard wings and vegetables. Skim fat from broth and discard. If broth is less than 4 cups add enough water to bring volume up to 4 cups. Return broth to saucepot heat to boiling on high.

In small bowl stir corn starch with remaining ½ cup water until blended with wire whisk blend corn starch into boiling broth and cook 1 minute. Cool and transfer to plastic container and refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.

Complete gravy after roasting turkey. Add strained and skimmed pan juices from roast turkey to prepared gravy or thin with chicken broth, heat to serve.

Carrot Curry Soup



  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 1 ½ lbs. carrot chopped
  • Mix in:
  • 3 tsp. curry powder (more if you love spice like me)
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • Pinch or dash of cayenne
  • Add in and bring to a boil – simmer covered until carrots are tender. :
  • 3 ½ cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup V8 or tomato juice

Process in a blender or food processor until smooth
Add ½ cup white rice and cook until tender
Then ½ cu cream and serve
Serves 8

Pumpkin Custard Flan



If you are watching carbs and fat like I always do, this is a yummy leaner alternative to pumpkin pie.

  • 1 ½ cups sugar ( Splenda/ stevia work fine)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cans (12 ounces each) evaporated milk – (note, don’t confuse or use sweetened condensed too sweet)
  • 3- 4 cup canned solid-packed pumpkin (1 ½ large can)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Fill a roasting pan (13 x 9 baking pan) half full with hot tap water.
Place on oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat ½ cup real sugar in a heavy 1 quart saucepan over medium heat and watch closely swirling occasionally for 5 minutes till the sugar melts, and turns golden brown. It can burn easily so careful.
Immediately pour into 9×5 by 3 inch loaf pan so the caramel covers the bottom, Caramel will harden but will liquefy when baked.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl until well blended. Whisk in remaining sugar/ or stevia etc., evaporated milk, pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and salt until blended. Pour into loaf pan. You will hear the caramel crack and that is okay.

Carefully set loaf pan in the middle of the baking pan with water in the oven. Bake an hour and 20 minutes until a knife inserted near center comes out clean and is firm.
Remove loaf pan to wire rack and cool completely

Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

To serve run a thin knife around the edge of custard. Place inverted serving plate over pan and holding plate and pan together carefully invert. Wait a minute before lifting pan so caramel syrup can run onto the plate.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.