For us, Thanksgiving is a special time when we reflect on past traditions, family, friends and how our lives may have changed throughout the year. We are thankful for our health, wonderful husbands, all of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends & followers.
Our family Thanksgiving menu hasn’t changed much from years past served by our Mother and Grandmother. Penne Alla Vodka replaced our traditional lasagna or baked ziti to start things off followed by the roasted turkey with sausage stuffing. My family loves the stuffing with chopped apples but Teresa’s family prefers it without…what do they know?🤣
Being of Italian heritage, Thanksgiving wasn’t just about the turkey; the meal also had to have a pasta dish! I always made baked ziti on Thanksgiving and one year Gary picked up the ricotta & mozzarella for me the day before. I didn’t look at the brands because he knew which to buy so when I took out the ingredients to start making the ziti I was shocked as both main ingredients were the right brands but were fat-free instead of whole milk! There was nothing I could do so I went about making the baked ziti with the fat-free ingredients. When we all sat down for dinner, my nephew Joseph said, “Aunt Barb, this isn’t your baked ziti!” The rest of the family agreed with him. To this day everyone remembers how disappointed they were when the texture they loved was noticeably different. They’re a tough crowd! It was a disaster except for Gary…he ate it with no complaints.
Our family holidays were filled with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, and FOOD! We hope you will try some of our favorites to add to your holiday menu and create wonderful memories with your families & friends.
Let me start off by saying we love pumpkin! Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin creamer, pumpkin pie, etc. You get the idea. We always have a pumpkin dessert on Thanksgiving and this pumpkin cheesecake is tied with Teresa's Pumpkin Roll for all-time favorite. After having his first piece a good friend of mine said 'OMG! I'm in pumpkin heaven'. If you love pumpkin & cheesecake you're in for a real treat. 😋 😋
9-inch springform pan
1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick melted salted butter
Filling: All ingredients should be at room temperature, including the eggs, to properly act as an emulsifier.
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, cubed and at room temperature
1 (15-oz) can pureed pumpkin (do not use pumpkin pie mix)
1/3 cup sour cream
3 eggs plus 1 yolk
1½ cups sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
Grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter.
Wrap the springform pan in 2 layers of heavy-duty foil to prevent any water from seeping through to the cheesecake. Set aside.
Crust: In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon.
Add the melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
Filling: Beat the cream cheese until smooth.
Add the pumpkin, sour cream, sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and spices.
Add the flour and vanilla. Beat together until just combined. Don’t overbeat as it can cause the top to crack in baking.
Pour into graham cracker crust. Spread out evenly.
Before baking run the point of a sharp knife between the cheesecake mixture and the side of the pan about 1/2 to 1-inch down. This will help prevent cracks.
Place the springform pan into a larger pan that contains enough water to go up the sides of the springform about 1-inch.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and run the point of a sharp knife completely down the sides and around edges. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Notes: For a gluten-free version, substitute all-purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Flour and use gluten-free graham cracker crumbs.
You can make this 1 or 2 days before and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
This is the perfect dessert with a cup of coffee after a tasty Thanksgiving dinner. It also makes a great dessert for a Halloween party, just add some black ribbon bats on black wire. No need to wait for a holiday. You can enjoy this delicious dessert all year round.
When it comes to side dishes everyone in our family loves creamy mashed potatoes. They are a true comfort food that enhances chicken cutlets, flank steak, meatloaf & so much more. On occasion, we make Roasted Garlic Mashed potatoes that are also delicious if you want to step it up a notch. Either way, these mashed potatoes are so creamy and buttery our mouths are watering just writing about them! Enjoy them plain, garnished with some fresh chopped chives or gravy. 😋 😋
2lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled then cut in half and cut in quarters
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt for water
3/4 – 1 cup heavy cream
1 stick salted butter
salt & pepper to taste
Place potatoes in a large saucepan filled with water to generously cover the potatoes. Add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt.
Bring to a full boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook potatoes until fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat & drain well. Place potatoes back into saucepan & return to low heat. Stir potatoes constantly for about 1-2 minutes to dehydrate the potatoes.
Remove potatoes from the heat. Add the butter. Using a handheld masher, mash the butter into the potatoes. Add enough cream & continue mashing until the desired texture is achieved.
Teresa has been making this pumpkin roll every Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember. She adapted it to be gluten-free so Jack could enjoy it on Thanksgiving but honestly, you can't tell the difference! We just love everything pumpkin... 🎃 🎃 including the pumpkin mugs I made in a ceramics class back in 1974. That year I brought them to my parent's house on Thanksgiving Day and was insulted when my Dad said he couldn't drink out of them because his nose 👃🏻 was in the way. Once a year I take them out for Thanksgiving dinner and my Dad is still not allowed to drink from them!
powdered sugar to spread on a clean dish towel
¾ cups gluten-free flour (King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour or Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder (gluten-free)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Tiny pinch of a smidgen of ground nutmeg (see photo for actual amount)
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
2/3 cup canned pumpkin (do not use pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
6 Tablespoons butter softened
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
Pre-heat oven to 375ºF.
Grease a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan; line with parchment paper.
Grease and flour paper; set aside. Arrange clean thin, cotton kitchen towel on counter; sprinkle with powdered sugar making sure the towel is well covered in powdered sugar.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.
In a large bowl, combine eggs and sugar; beat until thickened. Add pumpkin; beat until well mixed. Stir in flour mixture.
Spread batter evenly int prepared pan. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts if using.
Bake 13-15 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched. Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; quickly invert onto prepared towel. Remove pan; carefully peel off paper.
Roll up cake in towel while hot, starting with the 10-inch side. Cool completely on wire rack.
Beat the cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth.
To us, Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be complete without candied yams. There are as many different ways to prepare them as there are feathers on a turkey! We always loved our Mom's version; however, we slightly tweaked it through the years to accommodate our family's taste buds. These are sweet, buttery, and melt in your mouth delicious. In our family, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them!😋 😋
4-5 medium sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter (8 Tablespoons)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Pre-heat oven to 375ºF.
In a small saucepan melt the butter. Once melted add the white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and maple syrup. Stir & heat until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and add the vanilla & orange zest. Mix well.
In a 9 x 13 baking dish add the yams & sprinkle with kosher salt.
Pour the syrup over the yams.
Cover with foil then bake in 375ºF oven for 30 minutes.
Remove pan from the oven. Spoon the syrup from the pan over the potatoes.
Return pan to the oven UNCOVERED and bake an additional 30 minutes.
Notes: Our Mom always used canned cut yams but believe us when we say it’s worth the extra time to peel and slice fresh sweet potatoes or yams. We can’t always get yams so we use medium-sized sweet potatoes.
Move over Chicken Marsala...we're here to introduce you to our juicy Chicken Maderia that will elevate your dinner to a whole new level that's sure to please! Tender chicken breasts combined with mushrooms and asparagus in a wonderful creamy Madeira sauce topped with melted gooey mozzarella (or as our old family from Brooklyn would say, Mootzadell, dropping the last vowel of a word was very common because they were always in a hurry! In carrying on that tradition, we think we'll start to call it Mootz) 😂😂 Whichever way you pronounce it, this dish is delicious. Our family loves this chicken dish and we hope it will become a new favorite of yours. We're sure your family and friends will be asking for more just like ours do so you might want to make a double batch! 😋 😋
12 -15 thinly sliced chicken breasts, season with salt & pepper
2 bundles of asparagus, blanched
6 Tablespoons butter, divided
4 Tablespoons EVOO, divided
32 oz small button mushrooms, washed and dried thoroughly
4 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped plus extra for garnish
3 cups Madeira wine
3 cups beef stock or broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
salt & pepper to taste
Trim asparagus by snapping the ends off. Wash well and set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil, enough to cover asparagus and boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove to a large bowl filled with ice water to stop color turning. Drain well then set aside.
In a large oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat melt half the butter & half the EVOO until hot. Add the whole mushrooms and cook 5 minutes until golden brown. Add the onion and cook 3-4 minutes then add the garlic & parsley. Cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove the mushroom mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet on medium-high heat, add the remaining butter and EVOO. Once hot, place seasoned chicken breasts in a single layer and sear quickly about 2 minutes on each side, just to get golden brown. Do not overcook as the chicken will finish cooking when everything is combined. Remove chicken and drain in layers on paper towels. Set aside.
In the same skillet on high, add the Maderia wine and boil until reduced by half, approximately 6-8 minutes. Add the beef broth and boil for about 10 -12 minutes until reduced to half.
Reduce heat to medium. Stir in heavy cream and simmer until sauce thickens. Season with salt & pepper to taste. (Sauce will not be real thick; however, you may add a small amount of flour to thicken)
Add chicken back to skillet coating both sides with sauce. Add the mushroom mixture and asparagus on top then sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella.
Broil on top rack in the oven just until cheese is melted. Remove from oven, garnish with parsley and serve.
Notes: For a large crowd, simply triple the recipe. This recipe is Gluten-Free & Keto-Friendly as long as you don’t add flour. Chicken Madeira is a delicious meal on its own but if you’re looking to stretch it, serve with pasta or rice to soak up the amazing Madeira sauce.
Casseroles are a great way to combine your family's favorite vegetables into a one-dish meal that is sure to please. Our family loves eggplant, zucchini, ricotta cheese & mozzarella (among many other foods) so we combined all those ingredients into a delicious casserole? They loved this dish so much that they requested it 3 nights in a row! You can make this casserole with or without sausage because it's just as hardy without it plus you get the added bonus of it being Gluten-Free and Keto friendly if you follow a keto diet. You and your family will love it! 😋😋
2 medium eggplants, firm to touch
2 medium zucchini or summer squash (or 1 of each, personal preference )
1 lb bulk Italian Sweet or Hot Sausage, optional (bulk country sausage can be substituted)
2 pints cherry tomatoes
8-10 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
enough EVOO to lightly coat all the sliced eggplant & zucchini before roasting, plus extra for lightly coating the baking sheet
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to season eggplant & zucchini before roasting
1 cup ricotta (we used whole milk but you can use skim or fat-free if desired)
1/2 beaten egg
2 shakes crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated plus extra for between layers
8 oz. mozzarella, grated & divided in half
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped & divided plus a few whole leaves for garnish
Cut the end stems from each end of the eggplant, zucchini or summer squash.
Slice into 1/2-inch thick round pieces.
With a small pastry brush, lightly brush EVOO over both sides of the eggplant and zucchini.
Position your oven racks to upper and lower thirds of your oven.
Preheat oven to 500ºF. Once it reaches 500ºF lower to 425ºF.
On a small rimmed baking sheet (no parchment paper) place tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves.
Drizzle 1 Tablespoon EVOO over the tomatoes & unpeeled garlic. Toss with your hands to coat, roast on the top oven rack for 15-20 minutes until tomatoes blister & garlic is soft & caramelized. Remove from oven when done and set aside to cool.
Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and drizzle a very small amount of EVOO in each pan.
Arrange the eggplant slices in a singer layer in one of the pans then arrange the zucchini in the second pan.
Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder over the tops of eggplant & zucchini only.
Using a pastry brush, use 2 Tablespoons or more of EVOO to lightly brush over the eggplant and zucchini slices in both pans (both sides).
Place pan with eggplant on top oven rack and zucchini on middle rack and roast at 425ºF for 15-25 minutes until nicely browned but not burnt. Zucchini might brown before the eggplant so check often as individual oven temperatures vary.
Once browned, use a spatula to flip eggplant & zucchini over. Continue roasting the eggplant & zucchini until brown, about 10 minutes, checking often.
Once done, remove from oven & let cool.
In a medium skillet brown the bulk sausage meat until fully cooked. Drain & set aside in a bowl until ready to begin layering process.
In a medium bowl combine 1 cup ricotta, red pepper flakes, 1/2 beaten egg, 2 Tablespoons chopped basil, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and 6 oz mozzarella. Drizzle a tsp of EVOO and mix with a fork to combine. Add salt to taste.
Remove the cooked garlic cloves from the cooled tomato pan & move to a cutting board. Using a fork, press on the skins to remove the soft, caramelized garlic. The skins can be discarded. Mash the cloves into a paste then add to the ricotta mixture and combine well.
In a shallow 2-qt baking dish drizzle some EVOO on the bottom. Arrange 1/3 of the eggplant & zucchini in a single layer. Add 1/3 the blistered tomatoes and scatter them around. Add a dollop of ricotta evenly over each vegetable section (do not spread, leave dollop as is). Add half the drained cooked sausage and sprinkle on top of ricotta dollops. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
Tear some of the basil leaves and generously scatter around the first layer.
Repeat step 18 & 19 for the second layer.
Add remaining ricotta mixture on top of the second layer, top with remaining slices of eggplant & zucchini then add the remaining tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Roman cheese and top with remaining shredded mozzarella.
Bake approximately 20 – 25 minutes at 425 ºF or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbling.
Remove from oven. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.
Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting & serving
Slice the eggplant & zucchini into 1/2″ thick rounds
Place Combination of Eggplant & Zucchini on bottom of 2-qt casserole dish
Add 1/3 of the roasted tomatoes
Add 1/3 ricotta in dollops then sprinkle with chopped basil & top with cooked sausage
Add the second layer
top with remaining ricotta mixture & top with Mozzarella
Notes: 2 large and 1 small rimmed baking sheets are needed for this recipe. We used Neese’s Country Sausage (bulk) in this recipe; however, the meat is optional. Add some sauteed mushrooms if you’re a mushroom lover like Teresa is. Can be served as a main dish (4-5 servings) or a side dish (6-8 servings).
Italian Sausage & Peppers has been a favorite in our family for as long as we can remember. Typically our parents and grandparents used only green bell peppers but we always liked to use a mix of red, orange and yellow bells for taste and pop of color. For an easy weeknight dinner-this Classic Italian meal is delicious and if there are any leftovers you can combine with scrambled eggs for breakfast or sandwiches for lunch the next day! It’s so easy and quick to cook you’ll surely want to make this a regular item on your menu. Whether you serve it casually as a sandwich or over your favorite pasta you’re family or guests will love it. 😋😋
12 Italian Sausage links (mix sweet and hot together for a little heat)
2 Red Bell peppers, sliced lengthwise into 1-inch pieces
1 Yellow Bell peppers, sliced lengthwise into 1-inch pieces
1 Orange Bell Peppers, sliced lengthwise into 1-inch pieces
1 Green Bell pepper (Optional), sliced lengthwise into 1-inch pieces
2 large onions, sliced thick
3-4 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 Tablespoon of dried oregano
2 Tablespoons EVOO
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large skillet (we use a 16-inch electric skillet with lid) heat 2 Tablespoons of EVOO on medium.
Place all sausages in a covered skillet and brown on all sides. (Cook sausages in 2 batches if using a smaller skillet).
Once browned add oregano, peppers, and onions and cook covered 7-10 minutes until vegetables are softened and slightly charred/browned. Stir regularly.
Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute.
At this point, you can serve hot as is or add some Basic Tomato Sauce and serve over pasta or rice.
Notes: It’s important to cook the sausage & peppers in a covered skillet to keep in the juices and get the sausages tender. This recipe can be doubled or tripled for a large party gathering. It’s always a big hit and chances are there won’t be any leftovers!
Whenever we saw our Mom and Grandma Florence mixing a batch of asparagus patties it sparked our excitement for the upcoming holiday meal. The aroma of cooked asparagus, seasoned bread crumbs, garlic, and grated cheese filled the air and made our mouths water. As kids, we really didn't like a lot of vegetables but asparagus patties were always one vegetable we looked forward too. We would always sneak some from the covered aluminum tray where they piled them up until cooking was complete. To this day we are brought back to our childhood when we make them with loving memories. You don't have to wait for a holiday to make this wonderful side dish. It's a great side that goes well with most poultry, beef, and pork.
2 bundles fresh asparagus, cooked until soft then cut into 3/4-inch pieces
4 Tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs (add additional bread crumbs if the mixture is too loose)
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
5 tsp garlic powder
2 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Canola or Vegetable oil for frying
Cook the fresh asparagus spears in salted, boiling water until soft, approximately 6-8 minutes. Drain all water and pat dry with paper towels.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs then add the grated cheese, parsley, salt, pepper & garlic.
Mix together until everything is combined.
Add cut asparagus to the mixture then add the bread crumbs and mix well. The mixture should be on the thick side but not dry. If too loose add additional bread crumbs 1 tsp at a time. (Not too dry) If too dry, add another egg.
In a large skillet pour oil to 1/8-inch depth and heat on medium until hot then lower flame to medium-low. Using a regular tablespoon drop mixture into skillet to form patties. Don’t overcrowd the skillet.
Let cook until brown. Turn over and cook another minute or two until browned.
Remove each pattie with a spatula and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Make layers of patties using paper towels in-between to absorb the excess oil.
When all patties are cooked, pat excess oil off and place on a serving platter.
Serve warm or room temperature.
Notes: Try adding some crumbled bacon or diced pancetta to the mixture for a punch of savory.
In August of 2010 Teresa and I took an end of summer weekend trip to Montauk, Long Island with all of our girls. My youngest niece Lauren was also passing on the ‘clean-up’ torch to my granddaughter which she adamantly refused to accept! Our group of seven included me, my daughter Jennifer, granddaughter Stefani, Teresa, her daughters Tracy, Susan, Lauren and Kerri, her daughter-in-law. We were all crammed into a 2 bedroom rental for an end of summer weekend getaway with just us girls to relax & enjoy the sun and beach. Teresa bought matching whimsical nightgowns from Kohl's to commemorate the trip (as was her custom). Needless to say, it rained the whole time we were there! No sun, no beach, but plenty of food and laughs. We brought an abundance of groceries with us but forgot the couscous. When lunchtime came around we went to the only store close to our rental and purchased some. I originally came up with this dish for my son Jason's vegetarian friend when he was in college. It quickly became a favorite of mine as it was so quick and easy to prepare. The girls loved it and couldn't get enough of it so the recipe became known as Montauk Lentils & Couscous. When the rain finally stopped it was time to head back home. Although we were rained out for the entire weekend, we made our own sunshine & have the best memories of our girls trip.🌞🌞 The Rhode Island girls trip is another story...has anyone seen the Naval War College? Where's the token for the bridge, again? 😂 😂
2 cans lentils, do not drain (or 2 cups cooked brown lentils)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 handful fresh spinach, torn into small pieces
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste
2-3 Tablespoons EVOO
1 Tablespoon butter
1 ½ cups cooked Israeli couscous (aka Pearl couscous)
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/2 cup chicken broth if needed
In a large skillet heat EVOO & butter.
On medium-low heat, saute onion & garlic until they are translucent and start to carmelize.
Add salt & pepper along with the dried thyme & stir.
Add the torn spinach and continue to saute until spinach is wilted.
Add the lentils and stir well. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, garlic powder or thyme if needed.
Add the cooked couscous to the lentils and heat for a few minutes until hot.
Place in a bowl, sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and enjoy!
Saute onion & garlic in EVOO & Butter
Add torn spinach & continue to saute
Add lentils and couscous
Notes: If too thick, add 1/2 cup chicken broth. To make this dish gluten-free use GF Couscous or GF Orzo pasta.