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Food is a focus in most of the holidays we celebrate. But there is no holiday like Thanksgiving, where the meal is absolutely the main event.

It isn't enough to have a large turkey or maybe stuffed ham. The entire meal needs to reflect a family's traditions. There must be traditional side dishes and time-honored holiday desserts.

The Enterprise invited readers to share favorite recipes they use to round out their Thanksgiving Day feast — what they serve with their big bird — and readers sent in a well-rounded selection of dishes. The dishes covered the spectrum of traditional holiday fare — cranberries, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, dressing and pumpkin.

The first recipe we received was for cranberry salad from Juanita Eppard of Hollywood. “This is a recipe given to me by our secretary at Owens Road Elementary in Prince George's County in November 1971 named Gladys Briles,” Eppard wrote in an email. “I have used it ever since and my family has always loved it.”

It features fresh cranberries and oranges, along with canned pineapple and nuts.

Julie Kemp of Hollywood shared a dressing recipe passed down in her husband's family. “I was raised by a mom from Midwestern roots. Although a great cook, her stuffing was boring. When I married a New Yorker 42 years ago, I was thrilled with my mother-in-law's stuffing,” Kemp wrote. “We no longer 'stuff' the turkey so we now call it 'dressing.' Her dressing was pleasing to the taste and the eye. She stopped putting in chopped giblets to please me.”

Liat Mackey, family and consumer sciences extension educator for University of Maryland Extension St. Mary's County, is practically duty bound by her job to suggest something healthy. She did not disappoint. She suggested serving roasted brussels sprouts with a balsamic vinegar drizzle on top.

Mackey noted that brussels sprouts aren't for everyone, but that roasting them enhances the vegetable's sweetness, thereby appealing to a wider range of taste buds.

They are “the ultimate family palate and plate divider at our Thanksgiving table,” Liat wrote. “There are those who insist that Aunt Liat's brussels sprouts have prime real estate on the side dish table, and those that pass on the green acreage and opt for the real mashed potatoes, which are not a longstanding traditional dish in my family — mostly a dish by marriage into the meat and potato lovers genetic pool.”

True to her vocation, Mackel described how good brussels sprouts are for you. Brussels sprouts are “in the cruciferous vegetable family, known for cancer risk reducing phytochemicals naturally present in them. Cruciferous vegetables, such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and others, are also good sources of fiber, minerals, and vitamins, such as vitamin A and C.”

Beverley Schwartzenburg of Lexington Park sent in a recipe she brought from her native country that features a traditional Thanksgiving ingredient.

“I am Australian and so Thanksgiving was a complete change for me when I got married,” Schwartzenburg wrote. “I love the Thanksgiving celebration. As our family grew and we started celebrating Thanksgiving at our house, pumpkin soup is an Australian favorite which was very easy to add to our Thanksgiving meal.”

The fifth recipe was sent in by Michael and Silvana Martirano, the superintendent of St. Mary's County schools and his wife. The Martiranos' recipe for sweet potato pie features a glaze of real maple syrup and a nutty topping.

“This is one of the favorite Martirano family Thanksgiving desserts,” the superintendent wrote. “The holidays have officially begun after eating a generous slice of this fantastic pie.”

The Enterprise test kitchen tried out three of these five recipes — the sweet potato pie, cranberry salad and the roasted brussels sprouts.

The cranberry salad was easy to prepare, made a large amount and was pronounced “very good!” by a member of the test kitchen family. We doubled the sweet potato pie recipe, as recommended, and thought the maple syrup and nuts made this recipe stand out.

The very healthy brussels sprouts were also easy to prepare and the drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar made the dish special. As far as the test kitchen was concerned, this was the best method ever attempted for making brussels sprouts.

Thanks all those who were kind enough to share their special Thanksgiving recipes with our readers. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving recipes

Cranberry salad


1 quart raw cranberries 2 oranges (1 peeled and 1 unpeeled) 1 cup sugar 1 small can crushed pineapple 1 packages of strawberry gelatin (small packages)

1/2 cup chopped celery (optional) 1/2 cup nut meats (optional) 1 cup hot water


Put cranberries and oranges through food processor, then add nuts, sugar, pineapple, celery. Dissolve gelatin in one cup of hot water and add to mixture. Place in refrigerator until congealed.

Note: “I always use nuts and leave out celery.”

Submitted by Juanita Eppard

Cream of pumpkin soup


1 pounds pumpkin 2 leeks or 2 large onions 8 ounces potatoes 3 chicken stock cubes 4 cups water 1 cup cream salt, pepper


Peel pumpkin, cut into small pieces, put into large saucepan. Add sliced leeks or peeled and chopped onions, peeled and chopped potatoes, crumbled stock cubes and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat; simmer uncovered, 25 minutes or until vegetables are very soft and tender. Push vegetables through a fine sieve or puree in blender. Return puree to saucepan, add cream, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring; reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes. Serves six.

Submitted by Beverley Schwartzenburg

El's Super Dressing


2 long loaves of either cracked or whole wheat bread 5-6 ribs of celery, chopped finely 2 large onions, chopped finely 1 pound mild sausage in a tube 2 large apples, chopped, unpeeled 1 tsp. poultry seasoning 2 large cans of diced tomatoes (or whole that you cut)


Brown onions, celery, and sausage until sausage is cooked. Drain grease. Drain tomatoes. In a large bowl, tear the bread into small chunks. Moisten bread gradually with tomato juice. It's possible there will be extra, so don't add all at once. Add everything and cut together, or mix with hands. Place in two greased 9”x 13” casserole dishes. This freezes well if pre-prepping is desired. Bake at about 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Depending on how crunchy you want it to be, cover with foil for first half of baking time. Great cold, too! Enjoy!

Submitted by Julie Kemp

Roasted brussels sprouts


Select firm, fresh brussels sprouts that are no more than about 1-inch long and in diameter. Wash them, and peel and discard (or compost) the outer leaves. Cut them in half, quarters for larger ones.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts in olive oil and lightly salt and pepper them. Spread only one layer thick on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until they are soft but not mushy and caramelized (browned, but do not let them burn). Shake or toss them in the pan after about 25 minutes of baking time.

Serve when done, or chill and reheat later. You can also drizzle a little balsamic vinegar that has been reduced by cooking and stirring it in a pan on medium heat on the stove, until the vinegar is like a thin syrup and about half the amount you started with. Make this after you turn the sprouts in the oven. It may get too thick/brittle if done too far in advance. Drizzle a little bit over the sprouts and gently toss before serving.

Submitted by Liat Mackey


2 pounds of real sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed 1 cups of plain yogurt cup packed, dark brown sugar teaspoon of nutmeg teaspoon of cinnamon 5 egg yolks

teaspoon of salt 1 (9-inch) deep dish, frozen pie shell 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted 2 to 3 tablespoons of maple syrup (there is no substitute and you must splurge and get the real thing) 1 can of whipped dairy cream topping


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place cubed sweet potatoes into a steamer basket and put steamer basket into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than a few inches from the bottom of the basket. Allow the sweet potatoes to steam for at least 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender. Mash the sweet potatoes with a potato masher and set aside and allow them to cool.

Place sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Add yogurt, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, yolks and salt and beat until all ingredients are combined. Pour this batter into the pie shell and place onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle pecans on top and drizzle with maple syrup (We like lots of pecans and maple syrup).

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the custard reaches 165 or 180 degrees F. Remove from oven and cool. When serving each slice, place extra pecans and syrup on top of each slice along with a generous amount of whipped cream. If there is any pie leftover, which we doubt, place it in the refrigerator. Additionally, we usually double the recipe and make two pies because this pie disappears so quickly. Enjoy.

Submitted by Michael and Silvana Martirano