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Thanksgiving food traditions from readers and writers of the 'Times'

A couple of weeks ago, we asked readers and staff of the Tampa Bay Times to share their Thanksgiving food traditions. But not just the normal ones, like turkey and mashed potatoes. We wanted to know if there was a particular main dish, side dish or dessert that is a bit out of the norm. The responses and other Thanksgiving stories are below.

Michelle Stark, Times food editor

From Times readers:

The folks at Big Storm Brewing Co. in Odessa shared this tip on Twitter: "The shameless Thanksgiving burrito. Roll turkey, corn, mashed potatoes and stuffing into a burrito."

Connie Vannatta of Pinellas Park shared a couple of her family traditions, including Holiday Fruit Salad and Orange Bread ("my husband's nana's favorite").


Holiday Fruit Salad

4 cups canned pineapple chunks, drained

2 cups canned mandarin oranges, drained

1 cup maraschino cherries

1 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Serve with 2 cups mini marshmallows.


Orange Bread

1 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg

1 cup orange juice

Grated orange rind from 1 orange

3 cups flour

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Pour batter into loaf pans (this makes 2 loaves) and bake for an hour. As soon as it comes out of the oven, spread 1 teaspoon butter on top of each loaf.

Sue Nutt of Holiday says this cranberry concoction is great with turkey and dressing. The recipe is below. Sue says you can use any flavor Jell-O as long as it's red; she uses raspberry.


Cranberry Mold

1 large box red Jell-O

1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped toasted pecans

Make Jell-O, add whole-berry cranberry sauce and stir to combine. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes. Add celery and pecans. Stir well and refrigerate in mold until the next day.

Helen Caros of Oldsmar shares this story: After 30 years running the Diana Motel in Clearwater, my parents, Nick and Mary Conomos, bought their own home in Clearwater. My father finally got the garden he always wanted and planted various vegetables and other plants and enjoyed watching them grow. One day, my mom had some seeds left over from a butternut squash she had used in a recipe. My dad planted the seeds, lots of them, and within a few weeks, his yard and garden became overgrown with squash. My resourceful mother, who was also an amazing cook, decided to use the squash and make a pumpkin pie with a Greek "twist." The pie became a tradition every Thanksgiving as we combined our Greek heritage with our American celebration.



1 large butternut squash, cooked and pureed, about 1 ½ cups pureed squash

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

4 large eggs

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

1 (8-ounce) block of cream cheese

1 (16-ounce) container ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1-pound package phyllo dough

2 sticks butter (unsalted)

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove stem and scoop out seeds. Place squash, cut side down, on a foil-lined oiled baking pan; add about ¼ cup of water to the pan.

Cover loosely with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the squash is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely then peel and mash or puree the squash. Reduce oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center of the oven.

In a mixing bowl with a spoon, combine the squash with the brown sugar. Add eggs, spices, salt, cheeses and flour. Layer half of the phyllo sheets in a 9- by 13-inch pan or larger, buttering every second sheet. Overlap sides. Pour butternut squash mixture in and cover with rest of phyllo. Gently score just the top layers of phyllo with a very sharp knife. The top sheets of phyllo should be well buttered in order to prevent drying out.

Place on the center oven rack. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until set and golden. Pie must be cooled for at least an hour prior to cutting.

From Times staff:

Terry Tomalin, Times outdoors/fitness editor: Every year around Thanksgiving, right in the middle of the fall king mackerel migration, my mother-in-law starts bugging me about smoked fish spread. Grandma is a fish-eating machine. She doesn't get a chance to catch many herself, so she counts on me to bring home the fillets. People tell me that I have the best fish spread in the free world. I usually start with fresh kingfish or Spanish mackerel (amberjack will work in season), which I have smoked at Ted Peters in Pasadena. I make sure the fillets are free of bones, then I crumble them by hand and follow this recipe:


Terry's Fish Spread

3 to 5 pounds crumbled fish fillets (kingfish or Spanish mackerel)

1 cup celery, finely chopped

1 cup sweet Vidalia onions, finely chopped

½ cup sweet relish, rinsed then drained

½ cup diced jalapeno peppers, rinsed then drained

1 cup fat-free mayonnaise

1 cup fat-free sour cream

Mix the first five ingredients, then mix the mayonnaise and sour cream together and stir in a little bit at a time, based on how creamy you like your spread. Serve on crackers with sliced jalapeno peppers.

Irene Maher, Times staff writer: Oyster dressing is a common side dish on the Thanksgiving table, especially for Southerners. My husband just loves it and practically cried one year when I asked to take it off the long list of dishes my family craves. What's unusual is that I've been making it for him for more than 20 years, but I've never, ever tasted it. I don't eat seafood, especially not oysters. So, I've been mostly following what my husband tells me is a winning Paul Prudhomme recipe. Over the years, I've simplified the preparation and reduced the amount of butter, but I'll never know how it tastes.

Steve Bousquet, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau chief: No Thanksgiving is complete in my family without the side dish my mother simply called turnip and carrot. We only eat it on Thanksgiving. I was raised in a large Irish Catholic family in Rhode Island, and my wife Nancy has lived nearly all of her life in Florida and was raised in Fort Lauderdale. She had never heard of it, but she makes it expertly, and we'll have it again this year.

Ben Montgomery, Times staff writer: A few years ago, (we) ran a ridiculous ancient Aztec recipe for turkey mole in Taste. Of course I tried to make it. The recipe called for roughly 100 ingredients ... It took me eight hours of Olympic-level cooking and stirring. And in the end, my unsophisticated Okie family refused to eat it because they couldn't get down with the idea of "chocolate" on turkey. "Look what college boy done brought. Chocolate sauce for the turkey!"

Thanksgiving food traditions from readers and writers of the 'Times' 11/20/15 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2015 11:34am]
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