Gratitude & Good Food

November 23, 2022


The holiday season is best spent with loved ones. Whether you’re a student returning home from school or you’re traveling to visit friends and family you haven’t seen in quite some time, the holidays are the perfect time to be with those you love.  And what better way to spend quality time with those you care about than enjoying a delicious meal?

Two of our Fresh Ideas teammates share their favorite holiday recipes as well as what they’re most thankful for this holiday season.

The first recipe is from Chef Beth. Chef Beth has been with Fresh Ideas as both a chef and Director of Dining Services. She says Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate gratitude and express ourselves with food. “For myself growing up, Thanksgiving was a time to share new recipes with my family. Usually, it was a fancy dessert I saw in a magazine or cookbook.” Nowadays as a chef for Fresh Ideas, she enjoys making the full Thanksgiving meal to help create new memories for students. “It is such a joy hearing about their family traditions and how they celebrate the holiday, and of course, their favorite desserts!”

A staple dish at Chef Beth’s Thanksgiving table is candied sweet potatoes. “Not only are they delicious, but we now have gluten-intolerant family members and this recipe can be made gluten-free.” Sweet potatoes pack a lot of flavor and nutrients, but her preferred cooking method is to roast them whole because doing so retains more vitamins than boiling the sweet potatoes.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

  • Sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of soft butter or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Mini marshmallows


Roast the sweet potatoes whole at 350 degrees. When they are knife-tender, remove them from the oven. Next, cool the potatoes (you can also do this the day ahead to save time on the holiday.) When ready, peel the potatoes and slice them into chunks, then gently stir in a large mixing bowl with your seasonings, (a tablespoon of brown sugar, a tablespoon of soft butter or olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt per potato is a good ratio to follow). Transfer to a prepared baking dish and bake uncovered until the sugar is melted and the potatoes are golden brown. Now it is time to add as many marshmallows as you want and bake a few more minutes until they are melted, so about five minutes.

There are many variations and substitutions for candied sweet potatoes depending on your preferences. Try using apple juice or apple cider for part of the sugar, or honey and fresh squeezed orange juice. Molasses, toasted pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, and bourbon would also be delicious. You can even try growing your own sweet potatoes next summer. Cooking together is part of the Thanksgiving celebration, and hopefully, this recipe will inspire you to add it to your dinner table this holiday season!

Our next recipe is from Chef Shawn. Chef Shawn’s favorite part of Thanksgiving is that it is still all about spending quality time with loved ones and taking care of others. The holiday season is all about practicing gratitude, and he is grateful for his health, friends, and family.

When cooking for a larger group, Chef Shawn enjoys making to make the traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings but says he often doesn’t have that many people to cook for these days. Looking back on his Thanksgiving holidays growing up, he remembers two of his favorite dishes: his dad’s homemade cream corn, and his oyster cornbread stuffing.

Oyster Cornbread Stuffing

  • 1 batch of southern cornbread cooked, dried, and crumbled
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 large stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, finely diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon
  • 3 cups turkey stock
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 3 cups raw oysters and their liquor oysters chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Sauté the onions, fennel, and celery and add to the cornbread with the herbs and spices. Add the cooked sausage and oysters with all the juice and fat. Let soak and mix just until everything is incorporated and wet, and be careful not to over mix. Place into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees until the internal temperature is 165 degrees (about 45 minutes to an hour). Enjoy!

We’re grateful for our Fresh Ideas teammates and the guests we get to serve each day. From our table to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!


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