4 Alumni Recipes to Add to Your Thanksgiving Feast

November 22, 2021 By Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu Matt Kelly, mkelly@virginia.edu

Are you looking for something new and different to grace your Thanksgiving table? Something new to step it up a notch?

UVA Today contacted several University of Virginia alumni who work with food on what they prepare for the holiday.

Here is a selection of some special dishes you can use to dress up your holiday table.

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Kristen Desmond

Kristen headshot

Kristen Desmond (Darden School of Business, Class of 1999), lives and cooks in Santa Barbara, California. For six years, she owned and operated Flagstone Pantry, a healthy gourmet grab-and-go in the Santa Barbara Public Market. During the pandemic, she cooked for World Central Kitchen, an international relief organization producing nutritious meals for families in need. Her team produced up to 5,000 meals per day. These days she tends her community garden space and works as a warehouse assistant at her local food bank.

“My contribution will be cranberry chutney,” Desmond said. “Thick, chunky, tart and festive. I believe this recipe was originally published in The New York Times, but I’m not sure. [Editor’s note: It was.] It’s been passed down by women in my family without attribution. It’s the one side dish I look forward to most and it takes leftover turkey sandwiches to the next level.”

Bowl of Spaghetti

Cranberry Chutney

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½ cup apple cider vinegar
2¼ cups brown sugar
¾ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups water
2 lemons, zested, pith removed, fruit cut into sections
2 navel oranges, zested, pith removed, fruit cut into sections
1 tart apple, peeled and medium diced
6 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried apricots
½ cup chopped pecans


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, curry, ginger, cloves, allspice, cinnamon and water. Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and lemon sections, orange zest and orange sections and the apple, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Add 3 cups of the cranberries, the raisins and the apricots. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 35 minutes. Add another 2 cups of the cranberries and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add the remaining cup of cranberries and the pecans and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes longer.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, pour the chutney into a bowl and let cool. Chill overnight or up to two weeks. Makes 6 cups.

Marcia A. Friedman

Marcia headshot

Marcia A. Friedman (College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 1989) is the author of two cookbooks, “Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life” and “The Essential Jewish Cookbook.” Her writing, recipes and quotes have been featured in such media as the Washington Post, National Public Radio and MarthaStewart.com. Her recipes have been included in two best-selling cookbooks by the Monday Morning Cooking Club. She lives in Arlington with her husband and their dog, a lab-hound mix.

Part Sicilian, Marcia also loves adding that heritage to the mix. Her deconstructed pumpkin cannoli captures many themes in a delicious and festive way.

“Thanksgiving this year falls on the same weekend that Hanukkah starts,” she said. “That timing called for a special recipe celebrating the traditions – such as fried and dairy foods for Hanukkah, and flavors such as pumpkin for Thanksgiving – of both holidays.”

Icecream cookie on a plate with powered sugar sprinkled on top
(Contributed photo)

Deconstructed Pumpkin-Bourbon Cannoli

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With a pumpkin filling and bourbon-scented pastry, beloved Sicilian cannoli become a perfectly themed dessert for the season of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Rather than tube-shaped shells, my rustic deconstructed version uses rounds of fried pastry sandwiching a generous dollop of creamy, flavorful filling. The pastries will puff up in spots while frying, which helps create pleasingly flaky layers. Put the pastries and filling together right before serving to prevent sogginess. For a shortcut, use store-bought cannoli shells (there should be enough filling for about 10 standard-sized shells).

Prep Time (Filling): 15 minutes plus resting time
Prep Time (Pastries): 30 minutes, plus resting time
Cook Time (Pastries): 10 minutes
Yield: About 10 deconstructed cannoli

For the Filling:

16 ounces (1 container) whole-milk ricotta, such as BelGioioso Whole Milk Ricotta con Latte
¼ cup mascarpone
2½ tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon (scant) ground ginger
1/3 cup canned pumpkin

For the Pastry Rounds:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¼ cup bourbon or brandy
Vegetable oil, for frying

For the Topping:

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Whipped cream garnish, optional


  1. To drain the ricotta, place it in a fine-mesh strainer lined with a large double-layer piece of cheesecloth. Place the strainer over a large bowl. Wrap the ricotta tightly in the cloth, squeezing to start extracting liquid. Place a heavy bowl on top and refrigerate for at least one hour. You can start making the pastry dough while the ricotta drains if you like.
  2. Discard the liquid and transfer the ricotta to a large bowl. Add the mascarpone, sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until smooth and slightly fluffy. On low speed, mix in the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and pumpkin. Refrigerate the mixture at least 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pastries. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cornstarch, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. With the whisk, work in the shortening to create a crumbled texture. In a separate small bowl, combine the vanilla extract, vinegar and bourbon, then stir the liquids into the flour mixture. Add cold water a teaspoon at a time as needed to create a cohesive dough. Knead about 2 minutes, until smooth.
  4. Divide the dough in half. In between sheets of wax paper, roll each half into a circle about 1/8-inch-thick. Let stand covered at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  5. When ready to cook, start heating about 1½ inches of oil to 365°F in a heavy, deep-sided pan.
  6. Working with one large dough circle at a time, roll the dough to about 1/16-inch thick. Use a 3-inch cutter to cut circles, rerolling scraps. The dough will tend to contract, so right before frying, roll over the circles with the rolling pin to thin them (it’s okay if they end up as ovals or odd shapes—that’s part of the rustic charm). You should end up with 20 to 24 rounds.
  7. Fry the rounds in small batches to avoid crowding the pan, turning a few times, until brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and cool completely.
  8. Make the sugar topping by combining the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon.
  9. To serve, place one pastry round on a serving dish and top with a generous dollop (3 to 4 tablespoons) of pumpkin ricotta filling. Top with another pastry piece, and finish with a dab of whipped cream (if using) or more pumpkin filling. Generously dust the tops with the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Serve immediately.

Liz Dunn

Liz Headshot

Liz Dunn (College of Arts & Sciences 1991) graduated from Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School with diplomas in Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts. She apprenticed at Fauchon, a French gourmet food and delicatessen company in Paris, and worked in catering and restaurants.  Most of her work has been entrepreneurial.

“I worked out of my home for several years doing specialty cakes and desserts,” she said. “I opened Cups and Cakes.  I sold out to my partner and then moved back to Savannah to take care of my father.”

 Her father, also a UVA graduate, passed away in 2020.

“I am currently managing a couple of his businesses and am president of The Dunn Foundation,” she said. “I do occasional specialty desserts under the name That Gal Who Bakes and I bake for Unseen Guest, a local effort that delivers premade meals to homebound AIDS patients. I find my work with Unseen Guest particularly satisfying, as I have to take recipes I’ve used and try to beef them up nutritionally while still maintaining the delight that dessert is.”

She is building a commercial kitchen business.

“It will be a sublet-able commercial kitchen, which will also provide space for cooking classes,” she said. “My aim is to help people in small food business. I will simultaneously be launching a wholesale baking business which will sell items to raise money for The Dunn Foundation and provide baked goods for the third business: a drive-through coffee kiosk.”

Two cupcakes

Ham and Cheddar Corn Muffins

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3 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
½ cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 sticks butter, melted
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1/3 ham steak, cubed


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Prepare muffin tins with either paper wrappers or brush with melted butter.
  2. In a large bowl, add flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Whisk to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, add milks, eggs, and butter.  Whisk to break up the eggs.  Pour and whisk this mixture into the flour mixture.  Fold in the grated cheese and diced ham until just combined.
  4. Scoop or spoon batter into the muffin tins to ¾ full.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden and gently springs back.

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Christopher A. Janowski

Christopher Headshot

Christopher A. Janowski (School of Architecture 1982) worked as a video production editor from 1983 to 1992, then did a career change. He went to cooking school and in 1995, opened a wood-smoked barbecue restaurant in Newton, Massachusetts, outside Boston. Two years later, he opened a second location of Blue Ribbon BBQ, in Arlington, Massachusetts, and recently a third location in Dedham, Massachusetts.

“In 2002, I moved back to Vienna, Virginia, and in 2003 opened another quick-service barbecue joint in Chantilly called Willard’s BBQ, and then subsequently opened a second location in Reston,” he said. “Both utilize giant smokers built in Texas and serve a full menu of barbecue meats, homemade side dishes, soups and desserts.

“Here is a recipe I created at home for Thanksgiving and then adapted for the restaurants.”

Mushrooms and greens

Creamy Braised Kale and Mushroom Casserole

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2 cups brown mushrooms, sliced thin
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 head of kale, all stems removed, chop into bite-sized pieces
2 slices bacon, cut into very thin strips/small pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup yellow onion, thin sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced small
2 cups chicken stock
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Cornstarch/cold water mixture (equal parts)
Heavy cream, about 2/3 cup
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook mushrooms in butter and oil for 5 minutes. Add minced garlic, some salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms are almost browned slightly. Salt and pepper to taste and put aside.
  2. In the same pan, cook bacon in butter until slightly browned. Add onions, cook for 5 minutes, add garlic, cook 5 more minutes, then add chicken stock and bring to a low boil. Add kale, nutmeg, cayenne and a little salt and pepper. Cook until kale is tender, maybe about 20 minutes. Taste kale and liquid and adjust salt & pepper as needed.
  3. Remove cooked kale from the braising liquid, set aside and bring liquid back to a simmer, then stir in the cornstarch mixture. Cook for 5 minutes until braising liquid is thickened, then add heavy cream and mix in well. The cream sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but not as thick as cheese sauce.
  4. You now have cooked kale, cooked mushrooms and the finished cream sauce. Place in three separate containers to cool.
  5. To assemble finished product, add some of the mushrooms to the kale (use about 1/2 cup of cooked kale per serving) and mix in enough cream sauce to keep it moist during re-heating either on stove top or covered in oven. Makes 6 servings.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications