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Small in Size, Not in Spirit

How to enjoy a scaled-down Thanksgiving 

There are certain elements that make the holidays extra special: being with loved ones, be they family or friends (or that perfect blend of both), enjoying special meals together and honoring the spirit of the season by helping others. 

For Thanksgiving 2020, these elements can still be found, even if your holiday is going to be a much smaller one due to the pandemic. CBM Bay Weekly wants to help you make this Turkey Day just as meaningful by offering up a buffet of ideas from food to activities to turn this stay-at-home holiday into a memorable one. 

We asked our writers to serve up their stories as one would lay out a holiday feast.  

First up, naturally, is what brings us to gather around the table this time of year – the food. 

–Kathy Knotts 

Thanksgiving Feast for a Smaller Crowd 

We asked area chefs, cooks and caterers to share their recipes that are ideal for a smaller affair. If you are looking for a seasonal side dish, a pumpkin people-pleaser (that isn’t pie) or are tackling the turkey for the first time this year, we have some delectable recipes and tips for you from soup to dessert. 

Spicy Pumpkin Soup 

By Gwyn Novak, chef and owner of No Thyme to Cook in Solomons 

2 tbsp unsalted butter 

1 medium yellow onion, chopped 

1 tsp minced garlic 

2 tsp curry powder 

1 tsp ground coriander 

Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional) 

1½ cans 100 percent pumpkin (about 22 oz) 

2½ cups chicken broth  

1 cup milk 

1/4 cup brown sugar 

1/4 cup heavy cream 

  1. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  1. Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more. 
  1. Add pumpkin and chicken broth; blend well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  
  1. With the soup on low heat, add brown sugar and mix. Slowly add milk while stirring to incorporate. Add cream. Adjust seasonings to taste.  

Serves 6 

Seared Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Parmesan 

By Gwyn Novak, chef and owner of No Thyme to Cook in Solomons 

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, halved 

5 strips bacon 

1 onion, diced 

Salt and pepper 

¼ cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

  1. Cook the bacon until crispy in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  
  1. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on a paper towel. 
  1. When it cools, crumble the bacon and set aside. 
  1. Add the Brussels sprouts and onions to the hot sauté pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 5-8 minutes or until they are tender. 
  1. Turn off the heat and add the cheese and crumbled bacon.  

Hint: Opt for fresh Brussels sprouts for this dish. Frozen sprouts will leach out too much water making it virtually impossible for them to brown well. 

Prep 6 min / Cook 18 min / Serves 4 

Bourbon Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Casserole 

By Chef Steve Hardison, Pirates Cove Restaurant in Galesville 

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks 

For the bourbon glaze: 

1 cup bourbon  

2 cups dark brown sugar 

1 tbsp kosher salt 

1 tbsp cinnamon  

1 orange, zested 

8 oz butter, unsalted  

  1. In saucepan, add all ingredients except the butter on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in butter. 
  1. In casserole dish, add sweet potatoes and cover with glaze.  
  1. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. 
  1. Remove foil and continue baking until sweet potatoes are cooked through. 
  1. Let cool and serve. 

A Simple Seasoning for Turkey 

By Mary Hoffman, of Yacht Haven in Annapolis (taught to her by a Frenchman who loved good food) 

Salt 

Pepper 

Garlic powder 

Rubbed sage 

Melted butter 

Bottle of white table wine 

  1. Rub the salt, pepper, garlic powder, sage and melted butter over the top of the turkey.
  1. Pour 1/2 to 1 bottle of white table wine in the roasting pan.  
  1. Cook 15-20 min per pound at 325 degrees with the lid on until almost done. When the internal temperature reaches 165, increase oven heat to 400 to brown as desired.  

Sausage Stuffing 

By Monica Alvarado, owner of Bread and Butter Kitchen in Annapolis 

1 pound sage sausage (we recommend our sage breakfast sausage, available in store) 

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter 

2 medium onions, chopped 

3 medium celery ribs, chopped 

½ cup chopped celery leaves (from inner celery ribs) 

1 pound white bread (I use a loaf of Italian bread), cut into ½ inch-cubes & dried overnight in the oven or 10 cups plain bread croutons 

¼ cup chopped parsley 

2 tsp poultry seasoning 

1½ tsp salt 

½ tsp freshly ground pepper 

1½ to 2 cups turkey or chicken broth, as needed 

  1. In large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and celery leaves. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are golden, about 8 minutes. Scrape the vegetables and butter into a large bowl. 
  1. Add sausage to skillet and cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add sausage to bowl and mix. 
  1. Mix in the bread cubes (or croutons), parsley, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in about 1½ cups of broth until the stuffing is evenly moistened, but not soggy. Place in a lightly buttered casserole, drizzle with ½ cup broth, cover, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. 

Lisa’s Amazing Pumpkin Torte 

By Monica Alvarado, owner of Bread and Butter Kitchen in Annapolis 

24 graham crackers, crushed 

⅓ cup sugar 

½ cup butter, melted 

2 eggs, beaten 

¾ cup sugar 

8 oz cream cheese 

3 cups pumpkin, mashed 

3 eggs, whites and yolks separated  

3/4 cup sugar 

½ cup milk 

½ tsp salt 

1 tbsp cinnamon 

1 envelope plain gelatin (we use Knox) 

¼ cup cold water 

Cool Whip 

  1. Preheat oven to 350. 
  1. Mix crackers, ⅓ cup sugar, and melted butter and press into a 9×13 pan. 
  1. Using stand or hand mixer, mix eggs, ¾ cup sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Pour over crust and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and cool. 
  1. In saucepan, cook pumpkin, egg yolks, ½ cup sugar, milk, salt and cinnamon until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.  
  1. In small bowl, dissolve gelatin in ¼ cup cold water. Add gelatin to pumpkin and stir. Cool completely. 
  1. Using stand or hand mixer, beat egg whites, ¼ cup sugar & fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour over cooked, baked crust. 
  1. Top with whipped cream and serve. 

–recipes compiled by Krista Pfunder 

Making A Memorable Tradition 

For those who are staying home or celebrating with just their own household this year, it’s natural to miss the larger gatherings of years past. Consider planning special events or activities to help make this Thanksgiving memorable and unique. Your dinner conversation can be the shining star of this year’s festivities. 

  • Gather around the table and start a new tradition. Using a tablecloth, have everyone in the house write things they are thankful for directly on the cloth with a permanent marker. The tablecloth can then become a keepsake tradition to be used each holiday season.  
  • Create a family gratitude journal where each member of the family can record all of the things that make them smile or gives them a sense of gratitude. This can be done all year long.  
  • Consider creating a family Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar and enjoy the memories you make by completing the tasks each day.  
  • Get in the holiday spirit. Decorate the house, make an “Ugly Holiday Sweater,” or design and write your own holiday cards. With the extra time at home, each family member might be able to include a few lines in a letter about how this year has been for them and any sentiments they have to share with loved ones. 
  • Reach out and connect. Being socially distant doesn’t have to keep us from staying connected this year. Reach out to loved ones for a video chat, share a socially distant meal with a neighbor, or swap keepsake recipes with friends and family. 
  • Get crafty. Plan an at-home paint night as part of your after-dinner festivities.  
  • Have a cook off. Pick five ingredients and have each member of the household come up with creative recipes to incorporate the items. Have a cookie decorating contest, or have each member of the family pick and make a course for your Thanksgiving meal. Try a new recipe that you maybe haven’t had the time for.  
  • Get outdoors. Go for a scenic drive to see the last of the fall foliage. Go on a hike and collect items that can be used to make wreaths. Or spend time enjoying walkable or drive through holiday light displays. Annual Turkey Trots are mostly virtual this year but you can still run through your neighborhood to work up an appetite and justify dessert. See Bay Planner for in-person outdoor events. 

–Jillian Amodio 

Travel, Wisely and Safely 

With more stringent travel and gathering restrictions in place and our case numbers on the rise, families may worry about safety during the holiday. Marylanders are strongly advised against nonessential travel, particularly to states with elevated positivity and case rates. 

Dr. Ron Elfenbein of First Call Medical Center in Gambrills encourages families to be cognizant of the risks verses the benefits of visiting loved ones outside the home. For some, isolation has brought on mental health concerns. He encourages families to carefully weigh the risks of including others in your holiday plans. Elfenbein says to get tested before you visit. “Testing is not fool proof, but the more members that get tested, the less likely it is that someone will unknowingly infect others,” he says. 

If you do travel to visit people outside your household or if others are coming to visit, gather outdoors if possible, wear masks and wash hands. When indoors, have separate tables for each household and increase the air flow and ventilation with ceiling fans or open windows. 

–Jillian Amodio 

Giving Thanks & Giving Back 

Some families use the Thanksgiving holiday as a chance to spread kindness and generosity to others, whether that be feeding the hungry directly or collecting clothing or food items to donate. 

Giving back and helping those in local communities always makes a meaningful difference and as the holiday’s approach, the season of giving is officially here—even in the midst of a global pandemic. This Thanksgiving, when people are being asked to scale down their traditions, local non-profit Bello Machre in Glen Burnie will be making sure that the families in their care can still enjoy a hearty meal. 

Bello Machre board member Michele Marshall with the Thanksgiving basket she donated last year. Photo courtesy: Lindsey Norris.

Bello Machre, meaning “home of my heart” in Gaelic, has been providing care for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Maryland since 1972. “At that time, parents had very limited options: keep their son or daughter at home forever or place them in state institutions,” says Robert Ireland, Bello Machre’s president and CEO. “All of these parents had one thing in common: they wanted a place that provided guidance, opportunity, and loving care— a place for people with developmental disabilities to call home.” 

Today, the non-profit provides in-home care and support to over 200 people in 50 community homes throughout Anne Arundel and Carroll Counties. 

“We promise family members that we will always be there for their loved ones,” says Lindsey Norris, Manager of Outreach and Volunteer Services at Bello Machre. 

Each November, the program connects with local volunteers— businesses, churches, schools, families, and individuals—to request Thanksgiving basket donations. “Each basket contains enough food to feed up to six people and includes all the delicious sides that one could want on Thanksgiving, but in non-perishable form – boxed mashed potatoes, canned green beans, yams, corn, and cranberry sauce, gravy packets, boxes of stuffing, boxes of mac and cheese, dinner rolls, and boxed brownies or cake for dessert,” Norris says. “In addition, we try to make sure that each basket has a $25 gift card so that the home or family that receives it can purchase a turkey or ham.” 

The Thanksgiving baskets are organized by Bello Machre’s Development Team and distributed to each of their 50 residential homes, Support Services and Meaningful Day families. The baskets include enough ingredients to support the frontline staff who work and live in the homes, too. 

“This year, volunteers will leave [the basket] on the home’s porch in a safe, contactless way,” Norris says. “Our staff will rally to make sure the baskets get delivered before Thanksgiving.” 

According to Norris, this Thanksgiving tradition began about 10 years ago when local donor Steve Dannenmann offered to hand out Thanksgiving dinner baskets. That first year 20 baskets were donated to Bello Machre’s most needy homes. Now, the Thanksgiving basket program has grown to include all of the Bello Machre homes and services families. Norris reports that 100 baskets will be delivered this year. 

–Keri Luise 

Regardless of how you celebrate this year, there is still much to be thankful for. Be safe, be well, be happy.