Thanksgiving favorites from the Family Recipe Box

Posted on November 24, 2020 by Sonoma Valley Sun

As many people have been cooking at home more than ever, The Sun saw a great opportunity to introduce a new monthly recipe section that focuses on recipes and stories from around Sonoma Valley.

By Leslie Nicholson | Sonoma Valley Sun

The roots of our local food are deep. Family recipe boxes are filled with recipes that have been handed down, clipped from newspapers, copied from friends’ friends’ recipe collections, and passed between neighbors.

We welcome your recipes and stories – they can be emailed to [email protected]. We hope you enjoy our new section and we look forward to sharing your food memories and stories.

For me, a love of cooking comes from being around a family of good cooks. Our Thanksgiving holidays were spent with my Dad’s relatives in Wisconsin. There was always an abundance of food and plenty of room for everyone in our large family. My Grandma’s pies were always amazing.

Another holiday favorite is my mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole. She loved making it and when I make it, it is truly comfort food. My mom passed away almost four years ago. I know she would be proud that this recipe would be highlighted as part of a Thanksgiving food article. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does and sorry, no marshmallows in the recipe. Add them if you like them.


Start to finish: 1 hour (can be made ahead and baked later). Servings: 8-10

2 ½ – 3 lbs. sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled

2 eggs

¾ cup brown sugar

½ cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

orange juice (up to one cup)

1 cup pecan halves

Mash sweet potatoes (you should have about 6 Cups). Beat in eggs, ¼ cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup melted butter, salt, and cinnamon. If the potatoes seem a little dry, beat in orange juice a little at a time until the potatoes are light and fluffy. Put in a 1 ½ or 2-quart casserole. Before baking, arrange pecans over the top. Sprinkle on the rest of brown sugar and drizzle with remaining butter. Bake in a 375 F. oven for 20-25 minutes. Can be made a day ahead or frozen until ready to use. Thaw before heating.


Sheana Davis, local chef and owner of The Epicurean Connection, has hosted a “Friendsgiving” for the past 15 years. Friends and family were welcome to celebrate a meal with her husband and daughter at their café.

 “After we sold the café, we decided to have a quiet Thanksgiving dinner, my husband, daughter, and I together at our home,” says Davis. “This year with COVID, it will be my husband and I and we will enjoy the day off together, cooking, relaxing, and playing games at our home. Our daughter will celebrate in her home in Oakland and our parents will celebrate a delivered meal at their home. Stay safe and enjoy your Thanksgiving.”


Start to finish: 1 hour. Servings:  4-8 


4 eggs

1 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose or pastry flour

1/2 C. sugar

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt



1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 small tart apples, peeled (or pears or a combination)

2 tablespoons Bourbon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

A sprinkle of ground cloves

8-ounce Brie or Camembert sliced into thin wedges (like apples)

Sifted powdered sugar, for finishing



Preheat oven to 350° F.

Add milk, eggs, butter, vanilla, flour, sugar, and salt to a blender and pulse until smooth. Let rest for at least 30 minutes minimum and or up to 24 hours.

Put a 10” pie plate or skillet in the oven to preheat.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan or skillet over medium heat. Add apples, Bourbon, and spices and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Remove pie plate from oven and pour in half the batter.

Evenly spoon the apple slices over the batter. Pour remaining batter over apples.

Arrange slices of Camembert around the pie pan and bake until Clafoutis is golden and set in the center, about 40 minutes.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes. Finish with powdered sugar and serve.



Servings: 12 pancakes

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 whole eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

Step 1

In a bowl, mix the milk, pumpkin, eggs, and oil. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.

Step 2

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Top with Blackberry Pomegranate Jam or Maple Syrup.



Start to finish: 1 hour. Servings: 4-6


4 cups fresh Egg Bread cubes, toasted

1 ¼ cup sweet butter, melted

½ cup leeks, sliced thin and rinsed

½ cup shallots, chopped fine

1-pound seasonal wild mushrooms, coarsely chopped

½ cup Italian Parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

½ cup Pinot Noir

2 cups whipping cream

6 large eggs

½ cup grated Matos St. George (or a Cheddar of choice, can even be pre-grated Cheddar)


Preheat oven to 350 F. Place bread cubes in a large bowl, and drizzle with ½ cup sweet butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottom sauté pan, melt ½ cup sweet butter. Add in leeks and shallots and sauté for 5 minutes. Add in mushrooms and continue to sauté for 3 minutes.  Sprinkle in Italian Parsley, Thyme, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes until wine is reduced and mushrooms are tender.

In a large bowl, whisk together whipping cream and eggs. Generously butter eight 6-ounce ramekins. Evenly spoon mushroom mixture into ramekins. Sprinkle with cheese. Gently ladle egg and cream mixture into each ramekin. Place ramekins on a baking sheet pan and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving.

Enjoy with a glass of Pinot Noir!


Local baker and mom Heidi Cullen loves Thanksgiving food traditions. “One of the things is that we always make everything from scratch from dinner rolls to the turkey. But one of the fun things that we do is we always at least incorporate one or two new items every year.

“My mother came from Germany so she was really not that into Thanksgiving, but my father was very into it and loved getting up early to cook the turkey. I would usually spend Thanksgiving at my Dad’s. I would get there early in the morning and he had already gotten the bird started. I would help out by cooking the rest of the meal,” Cullen reminisces. “One year we accidentally cooked the bird upside down and that was one of the best turkeys we made up until that point. From that point on we always cook our turkey upside down. It really is the best way. Because all the juices run into the breast and then the last half an hour you flip it back over so the top gets nice and browned.

“My success at making gravy is partly due to the fact that my mother’s side of the family passed on the recipe and technique for making incredible gravy,” explains Cullen. “In Germany, they traditionally cook a goose for Christmas. I tweaked our family gravy recipe, which is good with many German dishes to make it perfect for turkey gravy.”



Start to finish: 1 hour. Servings: 8-10 

1 teaspoon salt 

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 ground nutmeg 

3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots 

Two 1-lb. celery roots, peeled and sliced

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced 

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup canned chicken broth 

8-ounces Fontina cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix salt, pepper, and nutmeg in small bowl. Sprinkle half of shallots in  a 16-cup oval Raton dish or 15 x 10 x 2 glass baking dish. Top with half of the celery root and half of the potatoes. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over. Repeat layering with remaining shallots, celery root, potatoes and spice mixture. Bring cream and broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Pour over vegetables. Cover tightly with foil.

 Bake until celery root and potatoes are almost tender, about 45 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450°F. Bake uncovered until juices thicken, about 10 minutes. Top with cheese. Bake until cheese melts and browns, about 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before serving.



Start to finish: 2 hours. Serves: 8-10

3/4 C. beluga lentils (French lentils)

6 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (from about 1-2 lb. whole pumpkins)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

4 cups baby arugula

1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

 Place lentils in small bowl. Cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes; drain.

Cook lentils in boiling kosher salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils. Rinse under cold water, then drain.

 Preheat oven to 375°F. Place pumpkin in large bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika, and sea salt. Arrange pumpkin in a single layer on a baking sheet; roast 20 minutes. Turn pumpkin over. Roast until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.

 Combine beluga lentils, pumpkin, and oil from baking sheet with arugula, half of the goat cheese, mint, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates. Sprinkle salads with remaining goat cheese.



Start to finish: 5 hours (can be made ahead)

Servings: 12 


For the crust:

3/4 cup smashed up biscotti crumbs (preferably cranberry biscotti)

½ cup pecans 

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup  granulated sugar 

½ stick unsalted butter melted and cooled


For the filling:

1 ½ cup canned solid packed pumpkin

3 large eggs

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon bourbon liquor (can use rum, calvados, something comparable)

1/2 cups granulated sugar 

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

24 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature


For the topping: 

2 cups sour cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon bourbon

Garnish: pecan halves


To make crust:

You will need a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment leaving the parchment overlapping the bottom of the pan and locking the sides into place.

 Stir together crumbs, pecans, sugars and butter in bowl until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly into bottom and a half inch up the side of the pan, then chill crust, one hour.

 To make the cheesecake filling:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and bourbon in a bowl until combined.

Stir together granulated sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about three minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer the cheesecake to a cooling rack.

 Make the topping:

Combine sour cream, sugar, and bourbon in a bowl, then spread on top of the cheesecake and bake five minutes. Cool Cheesecake in pan on rack, about three hours.

 Chill, covered, until cold, preferably overnight. Remove side of the pan and bring to room temperature before serving.


We welcome your recipes and stories – share them at [email protected].






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA