Personalizing Your Plate

A pinch of sugar, a dash of flour and a sprinkle of cinnamon- these are the ingredients of Thanksgiving traditions. Although Thanksgiving is a nationally celebrated holiday, every family has their own personal recipes and menus that make their Thanksgiving feasts one of a kind.

Spanish teacher Priscilla Wentworth infuses this American holiday with her Latin heritage. While she always has a turkey, her family includes the Spanish influence of a rice dish. Her mother, who is Costa Rican, prepares pasteles, dough stuffed with vegetables such as squash and potatoes. Even though they are time consuming to prepare, they can be frozen and eaten through the rest of the holiday season.

“In Spanish, “el pastel” means cake, but don’t let the name fool you… they have nothing to do with cake,” said Wentworth.

In addition to unique recipes, Thanksgiving is all about bringing back familiar traditions. Principal Dodig brings a favorite cranberry dish to Thanksgiving dinner at his daughter’s house each year. Although the recipe is not his own, it’s a tradition that he enjoys sharing with his family. The recipe, from Williams Sonoma, is perfect for anyone looking to switch up his or her regular old cranberry sauce.

Some Staples faculty members look back fondly at Thanksgiving memories from childhood. Assistant Principal James Farnen enjoyed his childhood Thanksgivings, although he chose not to continue some family traditions.

“When I was a kid, there was always an Irish dessert- mince meat,” said Farnen, “I definitely tried to steer clear of that.”

Now, Farnen’s Thanksgiving dinner has an Italian influence, because he and his wife share a common heritage. Their family table has delicacies such as lasagna, homemade cannelloni, and antipasto with fresh meats. Out of all of these, Farnen especially enjoys a turkey soup with homemade noodles that his mother-in-law prepares each year. They also incorporate classic Thanksgiving foods such as a sweet potato casserole his wife makes.

Although Thanksgiving is perhaps the most classically American holiday, many Staples faculty members and their families put a unique spin on the meal. The traditional elements of the meal are pivotal, but families love to switch up the dishes that sit with pride on the dining room table surrounded by family. Whether it is incorporating heritages, updating classic recipes, or disregarding dishes from their childhood, around Staples, the Staff’s families always personalize their Thanksgiving.

See below recipes

1) Pastelles

-Dough (in rectangle shape)

            green bananas


            yautia (root vegetables)


-Put pork or chicken inside dough, (her family does chicken)

-Wrap it in plantain paper tie it up and boil for half an hour

-Freeze them


2) Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce has always been part of the traditional Thanksgiving menu. In the 1960s, an uncooked sauce of coarsely ground cranberries and oranges became a national favorite. But since then, the original quickly cooked cranberry sauce has regained its popularity, with many variations such as this one with apple, orange and a hint of spice.


  • 1/2 orange
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, pippin or
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves


Squeeze the juice from the orange and set the juice aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind and cut the rind into small dice. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.


Peel, core and quarter the apple. Cut into 1/2-inch dice and place in a saucepan. Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Add to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes.


Transfer the cranberry sauce to a heatproof bowl and let cool for 1 hour before serving. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a sauceboat and pass at the table.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Thanksgiving & Christmas, by Chuck Williams (Time-Life Books, 1993). 



Sweet Potato Casserole




4 cups sweet potato, cubed1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Put sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Cook over medium high heat until tender; drain and mash.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, white sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish.
3. In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture.
4. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.