The first Thanksgiving I ever hosted was a cooking obstacle course, except the stress had nothing to with the actual cooking task at hand. It was the fact that I knowingly tossed my family’s traditions out the window, in an effort to create new ones for my own growing family — I was four months pregnant with my first daughter.
The list of what I changed goes on and on (including the stuffing and cranberry sauce). Therein lies my biggest mistake that very first Thanksgiving: I changed too much, too fast. Rather than create the picture-perfect memory of a blissful family Thanksgiving, I was left feeling under-appreciated for all my hard work.
What does any of this have to do with your Thanksgiving plans this year, you may be wondering? It’s pretty simple, actually. Learn from my mistakes. Thanksgiving is first and foremost supposed to be about family and being grateful. People hold tight to their traditions, though, and making drastic changes to beloved family recipes is an invitation for disaster. This doesn’t mean you can’t chart your own course. It just means you should stick with familiar favorites, but give them your own twist.
Twists on the classic apple pie
The Thanksgiving feast just isn’t complete without an irresistible piece of pie at the end. Something about the buttery crust and rich filling brings comfort and nostalgia to the table, and we’ve rounded up plenty of restaurants and bakeries that dish out just-like-mama-made pecan, pumpkin and apple pies. There are also outside-the-crust options (could you turn down a Fat Elvis Pie?), so check out our full coast-to-coast pie guide and grab a slice — or two! Here are a few highlights to warm up your sweet-seeking taste buds.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds — Brooklyn
Nothing’s more American than apple pie, but this bakery manages to improve on the classic with a mouthwatering salted caramel version. Inspired by caramel apples, this salty-sweet slice is a “taste bud waker-upper” and was praised by Bobby Flay as “what apple pie would look like if your grandma had game.”
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Some of my must-have travel items include three types of flour, two types of sugar and a collection of ground spices. Not your average vacation packing list, I know, but essential for me when hunkering down at the beach for two weeks. As my Instagram feed filled with photos of sugo, breakfast bread puddings and homemade pies, someone commented “don’t forget you’re on vacation.” But here’s the catch: I love cooking, and it never feels like a chore or something I want to take an extended break from doing.
My life as a recipe developer is driven by two goals. First and foremost is flavor, but a close second is creating recipes with easy techniques, so that people can see just how enjoyable cooking can be. Vacation inspires a lot of creativity in the kitchen, too. I found myself surrounded with super-sweet berries out on the North Fork of Long Island, and suddenly my mind was filled with thoughts of homemade pie. My go-to recipe is made using a food processor, as well as cornmeal and vinegar — three things I didn’t have at the house I was renting. Necessity being the mother of invention, I gave some more thought to my original recipe.
Keep reading for the recipe
Two desserts that are decadently delicious on their own, chocolate and pie, are bettered only when combined, creating an intensely rich and comforting dish that will satisfy any sweet tooth. Whether you’re serving guests or simply preparing an after-dinner treat for your family, Food Network’s top five chocolate pie recipes will impress crowds and kids alike.
5. Moo-Less Chocolate Pie — Alton’s milk-free dessert boasts traditional taste and texture, thanks to semisweet chocolate chips, a squeeze of honey and one secret ingredient: silken tofu.
4. Bobby’s Lighter Frozen Chocolate Mousse Pie — Made with low-fat milk and fat-free whipped topping, this no-bake pie guarantees guilt-free decadence without sacrificing your favorite flavors.
Get the top three recipes
Home is where the heart is.
Cliché? You bet. But I say it regardless because I believe it‘s true.
I’m both a California girl and a New Yorker. But my home is not defined by the house that I grew up in or the little apartment I rent in New York City, it’s defined by the people who make me happy. My dad is one of these people. So for his birthday last weekend, I was ecstatic to journey back to the golden coast to celebrate with my family.
Although everyone loves my dad’s cooking, he was banned from the kitchen for the festivities. My mom took over as executive chef and put me on cake duty.
Birthday cake can be tricky. As a baker, you must sacrifice your own taste cravings to those of the honoree. In my limited experience, I’ve come to learn that red velvet is not everyone’s favorite (unfortunately), and boxed mixes are actually preferred by some people (I try not to take it personally). There are also rare cases in which the perfect celebratory dessert isn’t cake at all.
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As a kid, I loved those rotating dessert cases in restaurants. I’d usually have a slice of pie picked out before we even got to the table.
So when it came time to create 50 pie recipes for Food Network Magazine, I often thought about an imaginary dessert case large enough to hold them all. Our solution? We decided to freeze a slice of each and have a little fun.
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If you’re using homemade pie crusts, make the dough now and freeze it in freezer bags. Defrost the dough and bake your pies the day before Thanksgiving.
Start making your Thanksgiving desserts with the help of these video tutorials.
Browse more of Food Network’s Thanksgiving recipes and tips.
When thickening a fruit pie filling, there are several options to consider. Very often flour or cornstarch is used, but in certain instances tapioca, arrowroot and potato starch can also help achieve the desired consistency.
Find out which thickener won’t break down, preventing your pie from becoming a watery mess in Food Network Kitchens Pie Thickener 101 post.
Now that you’re armed with these tips, start baking these popular Thanksgiving desserts.
There’s no doubt that apple and pumpkin are among some of the most popular pie varieties, but nothing beats a fresh berry or peach pie, especially when the fruits are at their peak. Now, imagine cleaning handfuls of fresh cherries, drying them off and taking time to prepare the filling mixture. You’ve rolled out the crust, baked off the pie and let it cool. The vanilla ice cream is ready and you cut the first piece, only to see your filling run around the pie plate, creating a mushy crust. How can you keep your pie from running and what pie thickeners are appropriate? We asked Food Network Kitchens for their expertise.
The “juiciness” that happens when fruit cooks in a pie is most copious with fruits like berries and peaches, fruits that have a lot of juice, especially during the summer. We use thickeners to add body to these juices so that they can stay inside the pie — or at least close to it — so when we cut into it, the crust stays crisp and the whole thing is more fun to eat.
Find out how to make the perfect pie filling »
This weekend, grab your rolling pin and make this seasonal pie filled with sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb — it’ll transport you back to your grandmother’s kitchen.
Get the recipe: Grandma’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
Browse more of Food Network’s springtime recipes.