A Different Kind of Thanksgiving Feast — Nikkia Rhodes
Chef Nikkia Rhodes. Professional Chef Nikkia says she is “voluntold” that she has to do something as part of the Thanksgiving food preparation for her family, even if it isn’t the main entree. “I really like making desserts with my nieces and nephews.”
Chef Nikkia Rhodes spent her childhood watching her mother, Dawn, cook on Thanksgiving as part of her job at the Volunteers of America family shelter.
“I grew up spending my holidays at the shelter helping her feed other people,” Nikkia says. “We would have our holidays the day after or the day before.” While Nikkia will be off from work on November 25th this year since she now teaches in Iroquois High School’s Create Pathway culinary arts program, her family’s food plan still revolves around mother Dawn’s schedule since she continues to work in food service.
Now that Nikkia is a professional chef, she says she is “voluntold” that she has to do something as part of the Thanksgiving food preparation, even if it isn’t the main entree. “If I’m not physically cooking then I’m helping plan it and figure out who is cooking what,” she says. “I try to make sides, and I really like making desserts with my nieces and nephews.”
Prior to COVID-19, Nikkia’s family always house-hopped on Thanksgiving and nibbled food in other places so their meat for their at-home meal has usually been ham or pot roast. “We pick a different protein and build a meal around that,” she says. Every family seems to have a non-negotiable food that must be made on Thanksgiving, and in Nikkia’s family, that is green bean casserole. She says her brother will have a fit if he doesn’t get his mom’s recipe.
As she looks toward Thanksgiving, Nikkia is thankful to have a job. She saw how COVID-19 ravaged the restaurant and food industry, and even though she had to pivot to online instruction, she still had income when so many people were struggling. She is thankful to be back with her students whose needs have increased dramatically over the last 18 months whether due to COVID-19 or gun violence.
Lili’s Thanksgiving Pizza.
Lili’s Thanksgiving Pizza
Serves 8 people
2 ⅓ cup all purpose flour
1 packet of instant yeast
1 ½ tsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp celery salt
½ tsp sage
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp pepper
2 tbsp pepper
¾ cup warm water
½ cup shredded turkey, dark and light mix
⅓ cup corn
¼ cup fried crispy onions
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup turkey gravy
½ cup mozzarella cheese
½ cup smoked gouda cheese
Garlic Butter (store bought or homemade)
1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. While your oven is preheating, begin making your pizza dough. Start by adding your warm water, sugar and yeast to a large bowl. The water should be warm but not too hot. Allow your yeast to bloom while you prepare your dry ingredients.
2. Combine your flour and seasonings in a bowl.
3. Combine your yeast and water with the flour and seasonings and knead until you have a smooth ball of dough.
4. Allow your ball of dough to rest for at least 30 minutes before shaping into a pizza. This can make one large pizza or about 3 personal pizzas.
5. Next you can get your toppings together. Shred your turkey breast, and thighs, gather your cranberries, crispy onions, corn, cheese and gravy.
6. Once your pizza dough has rested you can shape it into one large pizza or make individual pizzas. Your pizza dough will go onto a pizza stone or a sheet pan whenever you are ready to bake. We like to make individual pizzas with the kids and let them decorate it with all of the toppings! Have fun and be creative.
7. Once your masterpiece is ready, pop it into the oven for about 13-18 minutes, depending on your oven and preferred pizza thickness. You want the edges of your pizza to be crisp and the center to be cooked through.
8. Brush the edges of your pizza with garlic butter while it is still warm and enjoy!