SMALLER CELEBRATIONS: Cooks share tips and techniques for the coming feast

Tessa Sweney, Reasor’s bakery employee, decorates fall-themed cakes. Many people have begun preparing for Thanksgiving in similar ways.

Thanksgiving this year will look very different to many Americans. With COVID-19 locking down portions of the country making travel difficult, families may be separated.

In spite of the challenges, some local residents are still excited about the fellowship they anticipate with family members who are in their "pods," or others they plan to see – along with the delicious food they’ll be eating.

Thanksgiving varies from household to household. Some focus on a standard Thanksgiving with the typical foods, while others may try other things to break the norm.

Heather Winn, family and consumer science educator with the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, said her family typically follows the former.

“At our house, we do the traditional Thanksgiving with the turkey, dressing, cranberries and casseroles,” said Winn. "We added the tater tot casserole a couple of years ago when that became a popular thing to do. We traditionally bake our turkeys, but a lot of families have begun frying their turkeys.”

This year, Winn will have to prepare the meal along with her sister for the first time. She said that after Thanksgiving, many people can get more creative with leftovers than they may realize.

“We do a turkey breast as well, because some of us like the dark meat while others do not,” said Winn. “I know people get so tired of leftover turkey, but there are so many things you can do with it. With all of the leftover turkey you have, you can use it in the place of chicken in recipes. Say you were going to make a chicken salad; you can make a turkey salad.”

Teddye Snell, another member of the community who works for the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, said her family follows a guideline and all have their favorites. Instead of turkey, they heavily favor a ham on Thanksgiving.

“With my family, Thanksgiving isn’t something you get a lot of leeway to play with,” said Snell. “They all have their favorites, so I usually make their favorites. We are not a turkey family; we usually do ham. There have also got to be some yeast rolls and loaded mashed potatoes.”

Snell said she prepares her ham standard roast and that she always buys the butt portion. She cooks it for 10 minutes per pound at 325 degrees, with a little bit of water in the pan, tightly wrapped in foil. Despite her commitment to a certain Thanksgiving format, she does have one experiment she is working on this year.

“I am playing with a little recipe for a savory bread pudding this year, which takes leeks, artichoke hearts, cheese, bread and a custard sauce. I think this will make a nice supplement for Thanksgiving dinner; I think it could even replace stuffing," she said.

Lauren Cole, vice president of the NSU student body, typically travels for Thanksgiving, but is having to stay at home this year due to COVID-19. While she is sad that she will not be seeing some of her family, she understands it is necessary.

Cole will still be enjoying a Thanksgiving meal, however. Her favorite dish is something she helps make herself.

“My favorite dish we have at Thanksgiving is the deviled eggs,” said Cole. “My mom and my aunt make them together and I always enjoy them. My uncle's mom also makes the best mashed potatoes every year. They are definitely not the kind that come from a box and you can tell that they were made with love. Another tradition that my family does at Thanksgiving is eating ham instead of turkey, and we also usually have brisket, too.”

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