The Five Holiday Dishes I’m Making Now

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. William Arthur Ward

This turkey was prepared by my dear friends, Wendy and Bruce. Bruce carved the bird so beautifully for a sumptuous family Thanksgiving feast!

Do you have special foods you prepare and/or enjoy only on holidays? Growing up, I recall eating turkey only on Thanksgiving and ham on Easter and maybe Christmas. When I had my own family, I prepared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner more than once a year as it was always a favorite meal. We loved the aroma of these "holiday" foods, including sweet potatoes, collard greens, turkey (and gravy), homemade breads and desserts. 

Thanksgiving in August

Thanksgiving in August. My family loved this. Why wait?

My sister Susan and me

Susan and I have cooked many a meal together, including memory filled Thanksgivings.

I've found if I have room in the deep freezer, I'll pick up a turkey. Love making soup during the year with the stock. This also works well for foods that I can prep and freeze ahead, including collard greens and other veggies, macaroni and cheese, and pies. I'm a huge fan of make it now, eat it later dishes.

Susan and I typically visited the Merrifield Farmers Market in McLean, Virginia a couple of days before Thanksgiving to stock up on fresh vegetables, cheeses, and foods that we would enjoy over the long weekend. We'd leisurely roam the market, sipping hot cider and take our time selecting foods that our family would enjoy--its been one of my best holiday food adventures.


I dug deep into my recipe files to find those dishes that brought my family joy. I'm not waiting until a holiday to fix these. As the past months as shown us, our best time is now.

Honey roasted carrots

Dish 1.

These honey maple roasted carrots have become a favorite, especially when can get locally grown carrots at the farmers market. 

Honey Roasted Carrots


2 pounds (medium sized is best) fresh carrots, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chies

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut the carrots into thirds, crosswise on a sharp diagonal.

Lightly oil a sheet pan. Place carrots on prepared pan and drizzle with olive oil, maple syrup and honey.

Sprinkle with coriander, salt and pepper. Toss to coat (use your hands!)

Roast for 10 minutes then stir to redistribute on the pan. Return to oven and roast for an additional 15-20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes. Carrots are done  when they are tender and some of the edges are cartelized. Loosen them from the baking sheet with a spatula. 

Sprinkle with sesame and pomegranate seeds before serving. 

Dish 2.

Sweet potatoes are another veggie that I've come to love by itself, baked, or included in other dishes like breads, soups/stews and even smoothies. My family enjoys stuffed baked sweet potatoes as a sort of riff on candied sweet potatoes, which is what we grew up with. 

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Wash off the dirt from three large sweet potatoes. Dry with a damp towel.

Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a sharp knife three times all over (releases the steam while baking). Place on a heatproof baking dish and place in oven for one hour or until potatoes yield to the touch (cook times may vary depending upon the size of the potatoes).

Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly so you can remove the skins without burning your fingers!

Once the skins are removed, place potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 2 tablespoons butter, juice from 1 large orange (you can also grate up a little of the rind into the potatoes), and 3 tablespoons milk. Blend mixture with a potato masher or small portable mixer until smooth.

You can place the mixture into a casserole dish and keep warm until ready to serve. I like to place the mixture back into the hollowed out sweet potato skins and sprinkle with Ginger Spiced Pat's Granola and a few pecans. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes until heated through. We actually eat these for breakfast with vanilla yogurt or a drizzle of heavy cream. You don't have to wait for a holiday to enjoy this dish.

Stuffed sweet potato


Dish 3.

Collard greens are a dish that I've eaten and enjoyed for as long as I can recall. My Mom grew collard greens, turnip greens and mustard greens in our large garden in St. Albans, New York. She usually harvested them during cold weather, even when there was snow on the ground. She was sure the greens were at their best taste then. She may have been right. 

My sister Susan makes the best family greens; they're always on the table at Thanksgiving. Here's how Susan prepares her greens.

I like to mix collard greens, turnip greens and kale. You can also do just collards. I buy at least 2-3 pounds. Wash thoroughly by soaking in a sink of cool water. Remove from sink and remove the ribs and stems by folding leaf over and cut the stems out. Then chiffonade the greens by rolling the leaves and cutting in thin strips. 

Take one large smoked turkey leg and place in large stockpot filled with chicken broth and water. Cook on low for one hour covered. 

In another pan sauté one finely chopped onion, 1/2 red pepper, 4 large cloves of finely chopped garlic, 1 large rib of celery finely chopped. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add greens to stockpot and then add onion mixture to pot. Season with several sprigs if fresh parsley, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp cracked black pepper and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Squeeze half a lemon and 1/2 tb sugar to pot. 
Bring pot to boiling then turn down to medium low for 45 minutes. Remove turkey leg (which will be tender) and remove meat from bone. Put meat back in pot and stir to mix. Serve with hot sauce if desired. 


Collard, turnip and mustard greens
Dish 4.

Fruit salad--actually oranges, grapefruit, apples and maraschino cherries is another "dish" that my family ate only during holidays. There was no recipe for it. This was my Dads specialty and he always looked forward to receiving a crate of Indian River citrus from Florida each winter. He'd carefully cut up the fruit into a large glass bowl and took pride doling out portions of it as our first course for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Susan and I always prepare fruit cup, as my Dad called it, for our families. It's become a time honored tradition and it reminds us of Dad.

When Susan's daughter graduated from college, she prepared a beautiful fruit platter using fruits we picked from the lovely AirBnB home we stayed at. What a treat! 

Susan and her daughter, Aspen upon her graduation from Chapman University.


Dish 5. This is from Susan.

I remember this recipe fondly every time Thanksgiving rolls around. I was working a first job right out of college in New York City, many years before I attempted to cook my own thanksgiving feast. I worked with a young woman named Sarah. Sarah was very sweet and she hailed from Meridian, Mississippi. She grew up on a pecan farm and told me they ate pecans every day in almost every recipe her grandmother made. She also had a strong southern accent. I remember she was describing someone who tried to disrespect her Mama which prompted her to describe the woman looking like ‘twenty miles of bad road’. I can almost hear her saying it today. 

We would eat lunch together every day. The Monday before Thanksgiving she brought in a delicious pecan pie to share with our colleagues. It was so simple but very good--wasn't a crumb left in the pie pan. I asked her to please bring me a copy of the recipe the next day. Before I could blink, she tore off a sheet of a pink telephone message pad (pre-computer) and wrote down the recipe.

I’ve adapted this recipe by adding a layer of milk chocolate chips on the bottom of the pie crust before you pour in the filling so it becomes Chocolate Pecan Pie.  This pie is sweet so you only need a thin slice. I serve with homemade whipped cream. 

Sarahs Pecan Pie (makes one 9" pie)

Preheat oven to 350 F


3 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 cup Karo syrup

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup pecans, broken pieces or halves

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1 9" pie crust

Whipped Cream
I pint of heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt 

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for pie and stir gently. Pour into the prepared pie crust. Place pie on a cookie sheet and into the oven on the middle rack.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool on rack. 

For whipped cream
Place a large mixing bowl into the freezer for an hour. Remove from freezer and pour heavy cream into the bowl. Mix on high speed until the cream begins to thicken. Slowly pour in the sugar in a steady stream. Add vanilla extract and continue to beat until you get medium peaks. Keep refrigerated and serve a dollop over the pie. 

Share what you’re eating now—we’d love to hear what’s on your table. 


Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland food and lifestyle company.

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