Kachemak Cuisine: The experts agree: Don’t mess with Thanksgiving traditions

The New York Times published an entertaining opinion article on Sunday by Jennifer Weiner about Thanksgiving dinner, “Don’t Mess with the Dressing. Don’t Mess with the Turkey.” She wrote about an oldest sister and her three brothers. The baby brother, Joe, now grown, could shovel in food as fast as a wood stove burns through a cord of cottonwood when the temperature is below-zero outside. If Joe’s mom was unavailable to cook, the chore fell by way of the big sister, who loved to cook.

After a time, cooking Thanksgiving dinner became her responsibility and as all good cooks do, she thought many of the dishes needed an upgrade. She added special ingredients and gourmet touches, but her upgrades didn’t bide well with Joe and the others. Her conclusion was, as is mine, you don’t change a thing about Thanksgiving dinner, even if it means serving the same green bean casserole made with canned green beans and condensed cream of mushroom soup.

If your family is used to being served the jellied cranberry sauce from the can, you best not be making port wine and ginger spiced cranberry chutney. Don’t even think of tinkering with the turkey or messing with the dressing. Fresh made whipped cream may be delicious on top of pie, but it won’t replace Cool Whip, and if the pumpkin pie served is always store bought, probably skip making it from scratch as well.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are not the times when you should exercise your kitchen skills or source out special ingredients as a foodie. Weiner writes, “The food isn’t just food, it’s memory made edible. It’s history in a gravy dish. And the meal isn’t only about what’s on the table, it’s the people sitting around it, and the meals that came before it, and the ones that will follow. It’s about tradition, which means that there are things that matter more than how it tastes.”

My friend Jenny says, “You want to upgrade something, Teri, just put it in a fancier dish.” Well said ladies.

Hopefully you were able to send home leftovers with your fellow diners or took some to a neighbor who would appreciate them. People always think there are secret recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers they aren’t aware of. There really isn’t, or if there are, they are a very guarded secret.

Just do what you’ve always done with them over the years. Make soup from the turkey frame, make a perfect turkey sandwich with Miracle Whip spread on squishy white bread, add a thin layer of cranberry sauce and stand at the kitchen counter to eat it at about 10 p.m.

Reheat all the leftovers and serve them for dinner over the weekend one last time and move on. Yes, you could use the turkey in enchiladas or some sort of casserole, but they are still going to taste like leftovers — sort of like trying to creatively use all that red salmon still in the freezer about the time March rolls around and you are tired of it.

Dried cranberries are always in season and amaretto is a decadent almond liquor. Add white chocolate to the mix and this recipe could up as a favorite way to end a celebration meal.

Cranberry Amaretto Bread Pudding

Courtesy Taste of Home


3 large eggs

4 cups 2% milk

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

3 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans, optional

6 cups cubed day-old French bread


1 cup white baking chips

1/4 cup butter, cubed

1/4 cup amaretto


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk together eggs, milk, brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla and spices. Stir in cranberries and, if desired, pecans. Gently stir in bread; let stand until bread is softened, about 15 minutes.

2. Transfer to a greased 13×9-in. baking dish. Bake until puffed, golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

3. In a small heavy saucepan, heat baking chips and butter over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in amaretto. Serve with warm bread pudding.

This yummy soup recipe has been in my collection for years. Originally, I added some chorizo sausage we made with moose to it. Sometimes I make it without meat as it was originally written. This weekend I added leftover chicken. I would think leftover turkey would be just as delicious.

Roasted Corn and Green Chili Soup

Serves 4-6


2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, partially thawed

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 small white onion, chopped

¼ cup diced red pepper

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 tablespoon all- purpose flour

½ package reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1 (14 ½-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies

1 (14 ½-ounce) can vegetable or chicken broth

1 (14 ½-ounce) can drained and rinsed black beans

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Frank’s)

½ cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz. sliced mushrooms, sautéed (optional)

2 cups cooked chicken or turkey, cubed (optional) or

1 tube cooked and drained chorizo sausage or about ½ pound (optional)

For garnish: fresh cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, wedges of fresh lime and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.


1. Pre-heat a cast iron skilled to hot. Add about 1 tablespoon oil. Add corn and cook on high heat turning occasionally until corn browns a bit. Remove corn from pan.

2. Melt butter in large pot or saucepan. Add onion and, if using, mushrooms, cook 2 -3 minutes. Stir in red pepper, garlic, celery and carrot. Cook about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3. Stir in flour and cook stirring, 1 minute.

4. Stir in cream cheese, blending until well combined.

5. Stir in tomatoes, green chilies, broth, cumin, pepper, hot sauce, roasted corn and cooked meat.

6. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat until hot.

Serve in bowls with garnishes.

If you have secret turkey leftover recipes to share, please, by all means, email me at easthood.queen@gmail.com.

Use up leftover turkey in this roasted corn and chili soup, as seen here on Nov. 26, 2019, in Teri Robl’s Homer, Alaska, kitchen. (Photo by Teri Robl)

Use up leftover turkey in this roasted corn and chili soup, as seen here on Nov. 26, 2019, in Teri Robl’s Homer, Alaska, kitchen. (Photo by Teri Robl)

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