She’s Grateful: Thanksgiving Traditions, Part II

November 24, 2014

It’s here:

The long awaited Thanksgiving break has arrived!

Teachers everywhere are breathing sighs of relief over having much-needed time away from classrooms, and mothers are equally excited about having their littles at home with them for several days in a row once again. Children are thrilled to have hours of uninterrupted play time with cousins and friends, while the guys are anxiously awaiting to hear some variation of “come to the table.”

Recipe courtesy of AshLee’s family recipe collection.

While food has become such an integral part of the Thanksgiving holiday, the older I get I have come to realize that it’s not so much about eating the food as it is that eating together creates unity and perfect bonding moments. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions began twelve years ago when I obtained a Thanksgiving Journal as a young teenager. While the journal has holidays recorded that have been spent in Texas, Arizona, and Ohio, the menu recorded each year is exactly the same. Sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and walnuts sprinkled on top, Grandma Abatangelo’s perfect apple pie with homemade crust, Grandpa’s authentic lasagna, Aunt Teresa’s gourmet salad. And oh! The grape juice. It is most certainly not a holiday without Welch’s grape juice, a family tradition since my mother was a little girl growing up in Cincinnati.

Each year after we have watched the children carefully print their names with colored pencils and the adults have written pages full of gratitude inside the journal, we gather together to reminisce over Thanksgivings past, now our favorite family tradition; a tradition that has developed and come alive over the years because of a simple, beautifully bound brown book. It makes my heart full of love for life and those I share it with. Reading the names of people present year after year, those who are no longer alive, and those little ones who have been born since the beginning of my Thanksgiving journal allows me to remember life as it has been and how it has changed. For me, the holiday is not merely about food, the current guest list, or what to wear; it is about what it has been, what it is, and what it will be. It’s a time to remember and reflect, but also to look ahead to a bright and beautiful future.

Ever since I was little girl, my mother and I would begin baking for this festive occasion several days in advance, and many of our lovely contributors have shared their favorite family recipes with us today. What a perfect opportunity for you to grab your children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, or friends to create a lifelong love of food, family, and togetherness.

For Jessica, every time she thinks of all the yummy Thanksgiving food, her father’s famous dish comes to mind. Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, and twice-baked potatoes are no exception. The recipe is originally from an old Taste of Home magazine, and it has become special a traditional Thanksgiving food in the Wyatt household.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
Image via I Heart Naptime

Preparation: 15 minutes
Baking Time: 85 minutes

6 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup of butter
3/4 to 1 cup milk or heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons of crumbled cooked bacon
1 tablespoon minced chives
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Dash of pepper
1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) of shredded cheddar cheese
Paprika (optional)

1. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. When cooling process is completed, cut a thin slice off the top off the top of each potato. Make sure to scoop out the pulp while leaving thin shells aside.
2. Find a large bowl and mash the pulp in with butter. Afterwards, mix in the milk, bacon, onion, chives, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of cheese.
3. Once that is completed, spoon mixture back in potato shell. Sprinkle with leftover cheese and a couple dashes of paprika. Place back in oven (uncovered) at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Add an extra 5 minutes until cheese is melted.

This next recipe, a sweet potato loaf from Ciara’s mother, is a Johnson family tradition. The yummy combination of holiday spices is like fall in your mouth. It has become one of their family’s favorite holiday treats!

Sweet Potato Loaf
photo (7)

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/3 c. water
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (2 c. will make it extra moist-do not use canned sweet potatoes)
1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (more if desired)
1/2 c. raisins (optional)

You will also need 2 one pound coffee cans (or small soup and vegetable cans)

1. Move oven rack to bottom row.
2. Combine sugar, oil, eggs, and water. Beat with electric mixer at medium speed until just combined.
3. Combine next 5 ingredients; add to egg mixture, mixing until just moistened. Stir in sweet potatoes, nuts, and raisins.
4. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 1 pound coffee cans (small soup and vegetable cans may also be used). Fill only 1/2 full with batter.
5. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in cans for 10 minutes. Remove from cans to wax paper to complete cooling.


Ashley been using this recipe for so long that the original source has long since been forgotten. This is her traditional contribution to her family’s Thanksgiving meal, and if you are not already making a sweet potato casserole, this is the perfect year to begin!

1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar plus some to adapt taste
3/4 cup chopped pecans
4-5 sweet potatoes or yams
1 tsp ground cinnamon
White Sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Wash and peel and dice potatoes, then boil them in water until soft.
3. Mash with a fork, leaving some bite sized pieces.
4. Melt butter in another pan and combine brown sugar, cinammon, and pecans.
5. Pour the mixture in with the potatoes and put in a baking dish. (At this point I taste the potatoes to make sure they are sweet enough, if not, I add a little more brown sugar and white sugar until I get the taste I like. I tend to like different sweetness of different days so this is your personal opinion.)
6. Top with marshmallows and bake for 15 minutes, or until marshmallows are browned on top.

Be on the lookout Thanksgiving Day for one more post on our favorite, meaningful traditions.

Until then, enjoy your preparations for Thursday’s feast and continue participating in #ShesGrateful on social media!