Cooking Lesson with the D Home Staff

Favorite family recipes from our D Home staff.

D Home Family Thanksgiving

Favorite family recipes from all our editors, including a powerful holiday punch from Hannah’s West Point grandfather, Candy’s last-minute turkey-in-a-bag, and a fancy fruitcake from Todd’s mom.


Christine Wilson’s Winter Squash Soup with Ginger

Christine Wilson
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a bowl of Campbell’s soup—at least not in my mom’s kitchen. She isn’t a food snob; she just makes meals the old-fashioned way. A friend once commented that the Wilson house always smells like there’s something in the oven. Try my mom’s recipe for winter squash soup, adapted from The New Basics Cookbook, and expect it to fill your kitchen with the comforting smell of baked winter vegetables. Its orange color makes it a festive dish, and its warmth is appreciated on a cold evening with a crust of bread.

Winter Squash Soup with Ginger
(Serves 12)

 2  acorn squash (about 2 pounds each)
 2  butternut squash (about 2 pounds each)
 4  tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
 4  teaspoons brown sugar
 3  carrots, peeled and halved
 1  large onion, thinly sliced
 10  cups canned chicken broth (or more depending on squash size)
 3/4  teaspoons ground mace
 3/4  teaspoons ground ginger
  Pinch of cayenne pepper
  Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a cleaver, cut the four squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. Place squash halves, skin side down, in a large, shallow roasting pan. Place 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar in each squash half. Arrange carrots and onion slices around the squash. Pour 2 cups of broth in the pan, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for two hours. Remove the pan from the oven and allow vegetables to cool slightly. Scoop the squash pulp out of its skin and place in a soup pot. Add carrots, onions, and cooking liquid. Add the remaining 8 cups of broth, mace, ginger, cayenne, and salt. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Puree soup, in batches, in a food processor until smooth. Return it to the pot, adjust the seasonings, and heat through. This soup freezes well.


Mary Candace Evans displays a turkey roasted inside a paper sack.

Mary Candace Evans
It was our first Thanksgiving in Dallas and away from family. I decided to make a Thanksgiving feast and invite all our friends when I suddenly realized I had never cooked a turkey in my life! Roberta Hammond, a co-worker at KDFW-TV, typed out instructions in capital letters on five-part paper. People often ask me, why not a plastic cooking bag? I say, if I’ve invested in a chemical-free, natural free-range bird that was lulled to sleep with Bach and then humanely executed, why wrap him in polycarbons? To me, the paper bag method is old-fashioned and Southern and gave me holiday success when we christened our entertainment life together as a couple.

Turkey in a Paper Sack

 1  turkey
 1  stick of butter, softened
  Salt and pepper, to taste
 1  large brown paper sack

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse defrosted turkey well and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the giblets. Stuff turkey. After making little cuts with a knife, rub butter onto the skin. Salt and pepper the stuffed bird. Stick it inside the sack. Close the sack with a twist-tie (create one by twisting five together or staple the bag shut), then place turkey in a large metal or foil baking pan and bake: 15 minutes per pound. Be sure the sack doesn’t touch any live heating elements in your oven. If you buy a huge bird, more than 15 pounds, you may have to hunt down a larger grocery sack or piece two together. When finished, toss the bag.


Peggy’s Holiday Green Beans.

Peggy Levinson
I started cooking these for holiday dinners, just so my kids would have something green to eat with all the starches in dressing, sweet potato pie, and mashed potatoes. The colors look great on the plate, like a fall day with the leaves changing.

Peggy’s Holiday Green Beans
(Serves 8)

 2  pounds green beans, washed and snapped
 1  yellow pepper, cut into thin slivers
 1  red pepper, cut into thin slivers
 1  orange pepper, cut in thin slivers
 2  shallots, sliced
 1  teaspoon olive oil

Blanch green beans for two minutes in salted water and rinse under cool water. Sauté shallots and peppers in olive oil until slightly crunchy. Add green beans and cook until tender.


Colonel Mente’s Artillery Punch

Hannah Seddelmeyer
My grandfather, a 1935 West Point graduate, died before I was born, but my mother always extols his greatness to me. With a proud look in her eye, she regales me with stories, always adding to the end some variation of “Fod would have adored you,” and that he, effectively, would have spoiled me rotten, been wrapped around my finger, and bended to my every whim. It’s for these reasons that I sometimes forget that we never met.

Colonel Mente’s Artillery Punch
(Serves 20)

 1  pound sugar, less to taste
 3  lemons
 2  oranges
 1  quart strong tea
 1  quart old Jamaican rum
 1  quart sherry
 1/2  pint brandy
 1  quart champagne
 2  quarts soda, optional  

Put sugar, grated rind of three lemons, juice of two lemons and two oranges, and boiling tea in a bowl. Cover and cool to room temperature. Add rum, sherry, and brandy. Chill. When ready to serve, add champagne. Dilute with 1 or 2 quarts of soda “for other branches” of the service.
Helpful tip: Learn to open a champagne bottle before attempting.


Rebecca’s Arkansas Ambrosia Salad

Rebecca Sherman
Ambrosia is a classic Southern side dish made many ways, sometimes with orange juice instead of yogurt, or peeled grapes instead of cherries, but almost always with oranges and coconut. My Arkansas grandmother made her version each Christmas for the family in Dallas; we kids loved its bright orange and red colors and sweetness. My grandmother called it a salad, but we all knew it was really dessert.

Arkansas Ambrosia Salad
(Serves 6)

 1  tablespoon plain yogurt
 3  medium mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned
 1/2  cup maraschino cherries
 1/2  cup shredded coconut
 1/2  cup chopped pecans, optional

Combine yogurt, orange sections, and cherries, stirring gently to blend. Refrigerate until serving time. Fold in coconut and pecans just before serving.

Andrea Tomek

Every Christmas season, my husband and father-in-law assemble a model train set in a loop around the base of the tree. My mother-in-law spends a day in the kitchen, making batches of Chrusciki (Polish bowties), a recipe from family friend Leon Pivinski. Recently, I made my first attempt at baking them. Word to the wise: A little extra powdered sugar goes a long way toward camouflaging any mistakes.

Chrusciki Polish Bowties for Christmas
(Makes about 50)

 5  egg yolks
 1/2  teaspoon salt
 4  tablespoons sugar
 2  tablespoons brandy
 5  tablespoons sour cream
 2 1/2  cups flour
  Canola oil

Beat egg yolks with salt in a bowl until lemony. Add sugar and brandy, and beat. Add sour cream and flour. Mix thoroughly. Knead dough until bubbles form. Divide into two balls. Put in refrigerator for 30 minutes wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out, and cut into 1 inch by 3 to 4 inch strips with slits in the center. Place one end of the strip through the slit and form a bowtie by pulling one end of strip through slit. Pour oil in an electric frying pan, about 1 1/2 inches deep, and heat to 350 degrees. Fry bow ties until golden brown on both sides. Drain on a paper bag. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Norma’s No Bake Fruitcake

Todd Johnson
Yes, everyone hates fruitcake, but my mother’s version will make anyone a believer. “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like it,” she brags. The recipe’s origins are unknown, but my mom has been making it for four decades, and, trust me, it’s a labor of love (as she’s told me—repeatedly). “It’s dense and thick, and you really have to smush it into the loaf pan,” she explains. “My arms usually give out. But it’s worth the trouble.” Best served chilled, this fruit cake freezes well and can be kept for several months. And, no, not as a paperweight. Mom told you—this is a good fruitcake.

Norma’s No Bake Fruitcake
(One loaf)

 1  12-ounce package vanilla wafers
 3  cups pecans, chopped
 1/2  pound dates, chopped
 1/2  pound candied cherries (both red and green), chopped
 1/2  pound candied pineapple, chopped
 1  14-ounce package of shredded coconut
 1  14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Roll vanilla wafers into fine crumbs. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Press mixture into a loaf pan, and put some muscle into it. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Serve slightly chilled.

Loyd Zisk

Twenty years ago, when I spent my first Thanksgiving in Dallas, I was a little nervous when I learned that all my new in-laws were coming for dinner. After calling my mother and getting our New England holiday recipes, I felt confident that I could pull off—perhaps even create—the best Thanksgiving meal ever cooked. Ha. Turns out, this Dallas family couldn’t, or wouldn’t, eat anything but their old family favorites. (Every year I am treated to the refrain, “remember the year she served creamed onions?”) So, over time I have learned to make new favorites, dishes that aren’t exactly mine or theirs. The following cornbread is a new tradition, seemingly embraced by all.

Jalapeño ’n’ Jack Cornbread
(Serves 10-12)

 1  cup cornmeal
 1/2  cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
 3/4  teaspoon salt
 2  teaspoons baking powder
 1  cup creamed corn
 1  cup buttermilk
 1  cup Canola oil
 2  eggs
 1  tablespoon chopped jalapeño

Combine first four ingredients. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and then add into the dry mix. Bake in a greased 9-inch square pan at 350 degrees for one hour.


Roger’s Whtie Cornbread Dressing with Onion

Roger Brooks
When I was a boy, I knew Thanksgiving was approaching when my mom put out a huge silver bowl of cubed bread pieces to dry out for her stuffing. My anticipation began soon after. When the big day arrived, my mom was up long before dawn, preparing the family feast. We kids woke up to the spicy aromas of the turkey and her homemade dressing baking in the oven. Who could ask for more?

White Cornbread Dressing with Onion
(Serves 8-12)

 1/2 large white onion, chopped
 2  stalks celery, chopped
 1/2-2/3  9-inch round of white cornbread, baked as directed and crumbled
  (Use any brand; mom uses Martha White white cornbread mix.)
 8  ounces dried breadcrumbs
 2  15-ounce cans chicken broth
 1  tablespoon sage
 1/2  tablespoon poultry seasoning
 1/8  teaspoon salt
 1/2 teaspoon pepper
 2  eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine and mix the onion, celery, crumbled cornbread, and breadcrumbs. Add the chicken broth and mix well by hand. Let the mixture stand for five minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb the broth. Add the seasonings and eggs, again mixing well. Lightly grease a 9-inch pan. Pour the mixture into the pan and tap the pan several times to level the dressing. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to one hour, or until brown.
Variations: Add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped apples or cranberries plus 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

My brother-in-law Richard Escamilla is a great guy. He’s friendly; he treats my sister well; he’s always laughing. But I am never happier to see him than on Thanksgiving or Christmas. There are no hellos, hugs, or handshakes. All I want are the loaves of pumpkin bread cradled in his arms. A few years ago, he hinted that he was going to try a new kind of bread. He was politely informed that no pumpkin bread meant no entry. He heeded the warning and brought the bread. Good thing—we weren’t joking.

Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts
(One loaf)

 1  cup sugar
 1/2  cup firmly packed brown sugar
 1  15-ounce can of pumpkin
 1/2   cup oil
 2 eggs
 2 cups flour
 1 teaspoon soda
 1/2   teaspoon salt
 1/2   teaspoon nutmeg
 1/2   teaspoon cinnamon
 1/4   teaspoon ginger
 1/2   cup walnuts, chopped
 1/4   cup water

Combine sugars, pumpkin, oil, and eggs in a bowl, and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to pumpkin mixture, mixing well. Stir in nuts and water. Pour into a well-greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour to one hour and 15 minutes or until bread tests done.


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