A Taste of Thanksgiving in Ryan’s Crossing

Thanksgiving is a holiday of favorites – most of which surround a perfectly roasted turkey centered on the dining table. It is a day dedicated to culinary overload encouraged by endless options and elastic waistlines. It is a celebration meant to encourage a pause of reflection and thanks for the previous year’s abundance. While America celebrates Thanksgiving in November, the holiday is a favorite throughout the world and throughout the year.

Today’s traditional feast looks much different than those first Gathering of the Harvest celebrations. In fact, it wasn’t until 1863 that Thanksgiving, as we know it, became a national holiday with President Lincoln’s declaration. Thus began a trend in American kitchens as they really began to feel the weight of growing menus. In the early 1900s, whole turkeys shot up in popularity as the birds were large enough to feed numerous people while also not needed for future purposes such as laying eggs or making milk.

Which side of the cranberry sauce fence do you sit on? This polarizing topic was likely irrelevant to the original celebrants of this fall feast as the dish required a great deal of sugar. Sugar would have been a luxury item in the 1600s and, therefore, unavailable to the colonists. How do you like your potatoes? Sweet potato casserole or the traditional mashed? Again, this was a question that the colonists would not have understood as tubers had yet to be introduced to their diets.

Jumping to dessert, pumpkin pie is typically the jewel of the Thanksgiving crown. Still, our colonist friends never enjoyed them as they required such rarities as butter, flour, and an oven. Pumpkins and squash were a new item for those early settlers but were likely served straight from their rind after being heated directly on hot coals.

So, what did those early settlers eat? They likely arrived at their new homestead tired of a diet inclusive of hard biscuits, dried meats, pickled everything, grains, and fish. After all, the trip to America necessitated foods that could easily be stored on that long journey across the ocean. As the colonists embraced their new home, their taste preferences shifted to include that which this new land provided.

It is true that the Pilgrims and Native Americans shared great feasts. This offered an opportunity to introduce new flavors to each other’s cultures. Tables would have included goose, duck, or waterfowl. Eventually, venison would become a welcome addition to the dinner plate. Chestnuts, walnuts, and beechnuts would have been staples along with shellfish, eel, and corn.

As the colonists became more acclimated, they would learn how to grow, harvest, and eat native crops such as carrots, turnips, onions, and garlic. This sharing of recipes may have been the start of today’s often heard Thanksgiving announcements of “I’ll bring my famous stuffing!” or “Grandma’s turkey will melt in your mouth!” Whether you are digging out a notecard with well-worn corners to whip up a memory or sharing something brand new with your guests, from the team at Ryan’s Crossing, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

And if you would like to try something new, here are a few of the Ryan’s Crossing’s team favorite recipes, shared from our family to yours:

Duo Tater Bake- Triple A Homes

Makes: 2 casseroles (10 servings each)


  • 4 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cartons (8 oz each) spreadable chive and onion cream cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Topping:
  • 1 cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese


  1. Place russet potatoes in a Dutch oven and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook until tender, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook until tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain; mash with half the cream cheese and sour cream and the 1/4 cup shredded cheese.
  3. Drain russet potatoes; mash with the remaining cream cheese and sour cream. Stir in the milk, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
  4. Spread 1-1/3 cups russet potato mixture into each of 2 greased 11×7-in. baking dishes. Layer each with 2 cups sweet potato mixture. Repeat layers. Spread with remaining russet potato mixture.
  5. Bake, uncovered, at 350° until heated through, about 15 minutes. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over casseroles. Bake until cheese is melted, 2-3 minutes longer.

Cranberry Apple Stuffing- ICG Homes

Makes 12 servings


  • ¾ pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • ½ cup butter, cubed
  • 1 package (12 oz) seasoned stuffing cubes
  • 1 ½ cups chopped apples
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried sage leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash salt
  • 1- 1 ½ cups apple cider or juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, celery, onion, and garlic over medium heat until sausage is no longer pink; drain. Add broth, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Add butter; cook and stir until butter is melted. Remove from the heat.
  2. Stir in stuffing cubes, apples, cranberries, almonds, sage, thyme, pepper, salt, and enough cider to reach desired moistness. Transfer to a greased 13×9-in. baking dish.
  3. Cover and bake 25 minutes. Uncover; bake until lightly browned, 5-10 minutes.

Pumpkin Spice Cake- Ryan’s Crossing

Make 16 servings


  • 1 package spice cake mix (regular size0
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 package (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • Cream cheese frosting or whipped cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 10-in. fluted tube pan. In a large bowl, combine the dry cake mix, eggs, pumpkin, water, oil, pudding mix, and cinnamon. Beat at medium speed for 5 minutes. Stir in pecans.
  2. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost cake or serve with whipped cream.
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