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It’s the tastiest time of the year—Thanksgiving! Also known as perhaps the only day where it is permissible to eat and nap the day away. We at HCPL are celebrating by sharing our favorite dishes to cook (and eat). Let us know your favorite! 

Mac & Cheese – Leslie E. 

A few years ago, I decided to step up and contribute to Thanksgiving by making all the sides, which included mac & cheese—from scratch. A tall order for someone who only ever made it from the box. Luckily, I came across this great recipe for Old Skool Baked Mac n Cheese by Danni Rose. It starts by boiling the macaroni in chicken stock and it ends with pulling out a deliciously baked mac & cheese from the oven.  covers

Ingredients list for this dish: 32 oz chicken stock, 3½ cups of elbow pasta, 8 cups of your preferred cheese(s), 2 cups whole milk, 1½ heavy cream, 3 eggs, ¾ cup of sour cream, 1 stick of butter, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper to taste.  

Oven temperature: 375°
Baking time: 45-60 minutes 

If this kinda mac & cheese doesn’t quite seem like you’re thing, here are some great cookbooks: 
Trap Kitchen: Mac N' All Over The World by Malachi Jenkins 
101 Things to Do with Mac & Cheese by Toni Patrick (*for if you can’t let go of the box) 

Corn Casserole – Teresa G. 

Back in the early 1990s when I worked at the library Check-out desk, branch staff threw a Thanksgiving Potluck. We were introduced to the glorious and simple Corn Casserole. 1994 was my first attempt at this dish for my own family gathering and there has not been a year since that I have been able to escape the re-creation. It wasn’t until 2020 (when I had my son make the dish), that I discovered this: DO NOT DRAIN the corn. His version is much tastier and moist! covers

Ingredients list for this dish: Grated cheddar cheese to cover 8x8 (hold for the last few minutes of cooking only). The rest: 1 can whole-kernel corn (undrained); 1 can cream corn; 8 oz sour cream; ½ stick of melted butter; 1 box of Jiffy Corn muffin mix; 2 small beaten eggs; a dash of salt if you’d like & any oil you prefer to grease up your 8x8 pan 

Oven temperature: 375 °

Baking time: 30min 

Instructions: In a large bowl, (do not use cheese yet) combine/mix the ingredients. Pour the mixture into your greased 8x8 pan. Pop into heated oven. After 15 minutes, take it out and combine it again in the pan (so that the cooked portions around the edge get folded in with the middle uncooked portion; pop it back in for 10 min; pull it out again and sprinkle as much grated cheddar on it as you like. Pop it in for another 5 minutes. DONE. 

Take a look at a few eBook options for Thanksgiving fare!

Thanksgiving Crock Pot Recipes - Harris County Public Library - OverDrive 
Thanksgiving - Harris County Public Library - OverDrive 
Thanksgiving 101 - Harris County Public Library - OverDrive 

Green Bean Casserole – Alexis H. 

Each Thanksgiving one dish stands alone. This dish retains the title of “most loved” while being met with contorted faces of disdain. Just what dish could elicit such strong feelings, creating a rift, among jovial family and friends? Green Bean Casserole! 

I have always been a proud member of “Team Green Bean Casserole” and after trying numerous variations, from culinary to farm-fresh. Still, my love and adoration of one specific recipe remain resolute.  


Call me boring, crazy, or uninspired-  when it comes to Thanksgiving, the “Classic Green Bean Casserole” created in Campbell’s Test Kitchen back in 1955 reigns supreme. Honorable mention goes to this vegan variation that won my heart a few years back as well. 


1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup 
1/2 cup milk 
1 teaspoon soy sauce 
1 dash black pepper 
4 cups cooked cut green beans or 2- 14.5 oz. Cans of Green Beans 
1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions 


  • Step 1 Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. 
  • Step 2 Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions. 
  • Step 3 Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown. 

Enjoy Green Bean Casserole and want to brighten your horizons? Check out these titles available at 

Martha's American Food : A Celebration of Our Nation's Most Treasured Dishes, From Coast to Coast.. 
The Make Ahead Vegan Cookbook 
The Best of Thanksgiving- Recipes and Inspiration for a Festive Holiday Meal 

Butternut Squash Tortellini – Sarah G. 

My family always has the same Thanksgiving food, which is AMAZING: fried turkey, baked ham, corn on the cob, green beans with bacon, potato salad (with pickles! NOT RAISINS),


stuffing, gravy, and rolls. Living kinda far away from home means I don’t make it back to visit as often as I’d like. Lucky for me, they usually make the same delicious meal for Christmas! Rather than try to duplicate any of my parent’s wonderful cooking and disappoint myself, I’ve been branching out and trying different types of recipes for the last couple of years. I especially like experimenting with the delicious butternut squash. I recommend this Butternut Squash Tortellini recipe by Giada De Laurentiis. It’s a little sweet (dried fruit) and savory (sage) and very buttery (reduce the butter if you’re so inclined). Don’t let the “tortellini” part scare you. No need to make your own pasta unless you want to! This recipe uses store-bought wonton wrappers. I have successfully used vegan ingredients, subbing the butter and the ricotta for their no-dairy counterparts. If you don’t like butternut squash (they are a BEAST to cut!), try subbing in canned pumpkin! If you’re like me and you DO like butternut squash, HCPL has a lot of great books with recipes that might give you inspiration for thinking outside of your traditional Thanksgiving meal. 

You can check out this video for a VegDucken recipe if you want a butternut squash vegan cooking challenge. And check out the HCPL YouTube channel for more great recipes! 

5-Ingredient Vegan Cooking 
Squash: 50 Tried and True Recipes 
Dare to Cook Seasonal Italian Cuisine: Winter 
The Complete Autumn and Winter Cookbook 
Giada’s Italy 
Happy Cooking Make Every Meal Count with Stressing Out 

Green Beans Almondine – Amanda P. getaway

Yield: 4-6 servings 


1 tsp olive oil 
1 lb. green beans (fresh/frozen/canned, French style) 
¼ + cup sliced almonds (unsalted) 
2 TBS unsalted butter 
2 tsp lemon juice 
½ cup chopped shallots 
1 clove garlic, smashed/chopped 
Salt & pepper to taste 

Add olive oil to hot skillet & sauté beans until al dente; set aside 
Add butter, almonds, garlic, & shallots to skillet; cook until brown  
Add cooked beans to mix, toss, cook until tender 
Add lemon juice, stir, add salt & pepper as desired; serve immediately, or chill in refrigerator  

Sweet Potato Pie - Nikki S 

I’ve always felt weird about using a vegetable for a pie filling, but I think I’d feel even weirder if I didn’t see this pie on our Thanksgiving table. This is an absolute staple in our house, and an absolute must in the South! Even those of us who aren’t really pie fans know that you can’t go wrong with a sweet potato pie!  

My mom and I are usually the ones who do all the baking, so we have a special tradition. We make an extra that we call “the practice pie.” For some reason, the practice pie always comes out looking wrong, so we obviously must take a slice to test it out ourselves. And of course, we can’t have a partially-eaten pie on the table, so we end up with a pie that belongs just to us (and the rest of the household lucky enough to find it before we eat it). You may be secretly side-eyeing us, but trust me, with a pie this good, you’ll end up wanting to do the same! 

Ingredients pic books

1 (9-inch) unbaked pastry shell, partially baked, if desired 
3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes 
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter 
1 1/4 cups sugar 
2 large eggs 
1/4 cup evaporated milk 
1 teaspoon nutmeg 
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon 
Miniature marshmallows, optional 


If desired, partially bake the pie shell. For a frozen or store-bought pie crust, see the package instructions. For homemade, line the pie shell with a sheet of foil or parchment paper. Don't prick the dough. Add pie weights, dry beans, or uncooked rice to about two-thirds full. Bake it in a preheated 425 F  oven for about 15 minutes, or just until it begins to color. cooks

  • Remove it to a rack and carefully remove the foil or paper and the pie weights. Let it cool completely before you fill it. 
  • Reduce the oven heat to 350 F 
  • Combine the hot mashed sweet potatoes and butter in a large mixing bowl; mix well. 
  • Add the granulated sugar and eggs; blend with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. 
  • Add milk and spices. Blend well and pour into the pie shell. 
  • Bake at 350 F for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is firm.
  • If desired, top with a layer of miniature marshmallows the last 8 to 10 minutes of baking time and bake sweet potato pie until golden brown. 

Here’s some picture books that mention the goodness that is sweet potato pie:  
Twelve Dinging Doorbells by Tameka Fryer Brown 
Sweet Potato Pie by Kathleen D. Lindsey

And if this recipe doesn’t spark your fancy, here’s some other places to find Sweet Potato Pie recipes! 
The Southern Baking Cookbook : 60 Comforting Recipes Full of Down-South Flavor by Jenn Davis 
Bress ‘n’ Nyam by Matthew Raiford 

Mashed Potatoes – Anjela M. 

Can you guess the one side that many will serve on Thanksgiving that is so popular it has its own song and dance? Mashed potatoes! Mashed potatoescover are one of the simplest and tastiest sides you can make that is hard to get wrong, but I do have a few tips to make the best mashed potatoes: 

  • Make sure to cut your potatoes as evenly as possible, so they have the same cooking time.  
  • Season your water with salt before cooking. If you don’t you may end up with bland potatoes.  
  • Warm your milk or cream up on the stove before you add it to your hot potatoes. This will keep your mashed potatoes from cooling down.  
  • Find more mashed potatoes tips from this Southern Living article. 

And if you’re like me and think leftover mashed potatoes don’t taste the same, but you don’t want to toss them even though it’s been three days, you can do what my family does: make flautas de papa (a potato-filled flauta). Check out The Mexican Home Kitchen by Mely Martínez to learn how to make this easy recipe. You can also find recipes that call for chicken, but use leftover turkey to make enchiladas, pozole, mole, and if you’re up to the challenge tamales. And if you need some Thanksgiving tunes, like James Brown’s Mashed Potatoes, check out this playlist on Freegal.  

Pink Stuff (Cottage Cheese JELL-O Salad) - Darcy C. 


pink stuff

My grandmother – who we called Momoo – made this for every single family gathering. This recipe is most likely from 1968 during the Golden Age of JELL-O cuisine. Horrifying bright pink? Oh, yes. Delicious? Absolutely! 

Ingredients: 1 container of cottage cheese; 1 box of flavored JELL-O powder; 1 container of Cool Whip; 1 can of crushed pineapple, well-drained 
Instructions: Mix ingredients in large bowl; chill if desired 

Note: While strawberry-flavored JELL-O is the “traditional” ingredient, Momoo would often choose the color of JELL-O to fit the season. If your table setting is in Fall colors, you may consider using orange-flavored JELL-O powder; in this case, canned Mandarin oranges are advised. 

Cranberry Sauce – Erin P.  

I’m not the best cook, but my sister is a wonderful one. I made cranberry sauce for the first time from scratch when I was headed to her house for the holidays, and I wanted it to be good. I gathered recipes, I read them over, I weighed their pros and cons. In the end, I used the one on the cranberry bag but added some pie spice. It was amazing.  

As it turns out, no one in my sister’s family eats cranberry sauce.  pics

Still, it is a great compliment for turkey, and it is even better the second day on your turkey sandwich. These days I just add cinnamon and make it for my mother and myself (my father will only eat the kind from the can)   

Here’s the recipe I use:   

  • ¾ cup white sugar  
  • ½ cup orange juice  
  • ½ cup water   
  • 1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries  
  • Cinnamon to taste   

Instructions: Combine sugar and orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Add cranberries. Return to boil. Reduce heat and cook until most of the cranberries pop. (I was amazed the first time I watched that happen). A little more than 10 minutes. Add cinnamon.  

It’s a staple of Thanksgiving for many (my sister notwithstanding) so I found lots of recipes for more complex cranberry concoctions in various magazines and books in our databases.  

Orange-Maple Cranberry Sauce: Taste of Home, Sept. 2022 From Press Reader - Page 45   
Roasted Grape, Apple and Cranberry Sauce: Cooking Light, Nov. 2018 from Flipster - Pages 88 - 89  
Raspberry Cranberry Sauce - Women’s World, Nov 2022. From Overdrive – Pages 30 – 31  

Pecan Pie - David C.

I was born and raised in Texas, but my family’s roots on both sides are in northwest Ohio, so growing up here in the 1970s, the Thanksgiving table was heaped with the stolid, mostly beige, and aggressively bland fare typical of the Midwest. Over the decades, as we assimilated, Thanksgivings gradually took on some southern inflections—with varying degrees of success. No one in my family will forget, or let my sister live down, the cornbread dressing fiasco of ’87. Nor will any T-Day pass without at least one of the kinfolk sidling up to remind me of my one disastrous attempt at smoked turkey. (Due to weather conditions and my own ineptitude, the bird was still raw at 10 pm, by which time the whole clan was so well lubricated that no one much noticed, but the next day, recriminations flew. I was blamed, rightly or wrongly, for apocalypse-grade hangovers and a mysterious head-shaped dent in the living room sheetrock).

One inarguably southern dish that landed on the menu sometime in the early 90s and stuck, is pecan pie. I inherited this recipe from a friend whocover found it in a mimeographed copy of a Junior League of Baton Rouge cookbook, so it is pedigreed, authentic, and, of course, delicious. (Now, if we could only get the crew from Ohio to stop calling it pee-can pie…) 

1 C. brown sugar 
3 eggs, beaten 
2 Tbsp. flour 
¼ tsp. salt 
1 Tbsp. Butter 
1 tsp. Vanilla extract 
1 C. Light corn syrup 
1 C. pecan halves 
1 Unbaked pie shell. 

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350° Cream butter with mixed sugar and flour. Add syrup and eggs. Beat until frothy. Mix in salt, vanilla & pecans. Pour into a 9-inch unbaked pie shell. Bake 40-45 minutes at 350° Let cool and serve with whipped cream. 

Explore the full range of southern-style pie baking with Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan by Nancie McDermott 

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