Pumpkin and Cranberries

Two years ago I spent my first Thanksgiving away from my family, but surrounded by a newly adopted family. I spent that afternoon with my Brazilian host family in their home in Fortaleza preparing mashed potatoes for the dinner my fellow american students were preparing. My host mother was familiar with the concept of Thanksgiving because of an episode of “Everybody Hates Chris” which had made it to Brazilian TV. Although I did not want to burden her with more cooking on top of what she had already prepared for her family’s dinner, she was eager to help me make the potatoes the “american way” and even cut the skin off of a tomato to make a rose to place on top of the potatoes so they would be pretty for my friends. Later, I traveled on the bus with my glass bowl of mashed potatoes inside a backpack to the apartment where my friends were staying and we enjoyed a dinner of spinach, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and rotisserie chicken, while playing “pin the tail on the turkey” and “name your favorite president.” It was silly and fun and I loved that although we were from different backgrounds we could all share in one holiday celebrated for the purpose of giving thanks.

This will be my second Thanksgiving away from home. This time I am in Mexico and will be celebrating with other Americans and Mexicans in the name of bilateral understanding and giving thanks for this opportunity to live and work abroad. The tables have turned back home, and my parents will be hosting some Brazilian graduate students and their families. 

We split the Thanksgiving dinner between the four of us Fulbrighters in Guadalajara, and I am in charge of cornbread, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. The cornbread was easy, I used the same recipe from this post but made them as muffins. The cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie turned out to be much more of a feat. I thought I saw fresh cranberries at Superama last week, but now I am suspecting they were actually grapes or another berry. One of my friends saw canned cranberry sauce at Sam’s Club when she got the turkey, but I went to four different stores and was unable to find it. Canned pumpkin was no where to be found, and I luckily found fresh pumpkin at Walmart. I stressed myself out too much trying to find these prized ingredients that I became overcome with excitement when I found a seemingly pumpkin pie with a golden orange top which just turned out to be cheesecake. I was also unable to find frozen pie crusts, I only found graham cracker crusts, which just aren’t right for pumpkin pie. 

Luckily I live in the age of the internet and many ex-pats have celebrated Thanksgiving abroad and posted their recipes online to help others. The pumpkin pie was pretty easy to put together once I found an easy recipe for pie crust and roasted the pumpkin. I found this fantastic recipe for cranberry sauce made from craisins and cranberry juice from Ron Mikulak. Perhaps I am too excited about cranberry sauce, but it brightened my entire day to be able to make one of my favorite Thanksgiving side in less than ideal conditions.


Three variations of cranberries: craisins, cranberry juice, cranberry marmalade. None of which are fresh, but it will work.

Dried Cranberry Sauce (adapted)

– 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

– 3/4 cup cranberry juice (can be cocktail, whatever you can find, I used the one with the least amount of sugar)

– 1/3 cup sugar

– Juice of one orange (and zest if you have a zester, I did not)

– Dash of salt

– 2 tablespoons of corn starch

– 4 tablespoons of water


1. Add craisins, cranberry juice, sugar, salt, and orange juice into a pot and bring to a boil.




2. Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmer and watch the cranberries start to plump up. 




3. While the cranberries are simmering, make a slurry from the cornstarch and water, make sure to mix well!


4. Add the cornstarch slurry a little bit at a time until the sauce becomes the right consistency, I did not use all of mine.





Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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