A taste of home for the holidays

Petty Officer 3rd Class Keven Narvaez prepares for Thanksgiving.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Keven Narvaez prepares for Thanksgiving.

The military is a nomadic lifestyle; never in one place for long. But no matter where you go, you ultimately make new friends; get adopted into a family of peers. The holidays are the roughest to get through when you’re new to the military – when you’re far from the friends and family you’ve been with your whole life.

Most military units around the country, and a few out of the country, do something special for the holidays. In Kodiak, Alaska, one food service specialist aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley shared his experiences as he prepared his first Thanksgivings Day meal for the crew.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Keven Narvaez, a 24-year-old from Puerto Rico, joined the Coast Guard a little over a year ago and though he didn’t get to spend this holiday with his family, he did get to spend it with his shipmates aboard the cutter.

“I have never made a full Thanksgiving meal on my own before, but I’ve cooked pretty much every item on that menu multiple times,” said Narvaez. “It will be a great experience.”

Every year, the crew of the cutter hosts a Thanksgivings Day feast while at homeport for the crewmembers standing duty, their spouses and children. The feast traditionally features the following dishes: oven roasted turkey, homemade stuffing, savory turkey gravy, candied yams, homemade mashed potatoes and a green bean casserole as well as snacks throughout the day such as deviled eggs and spinach dip.

“Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday, right behind Christmas, in terms of food,” said Narvaez. “It’s definitely a morale boost for people who are not able to spend that day with their loved ones. We are a big family on the Alex Haley, and even though we cannot be home during this holiday, we make the most out of it.”

While the Thanksgiving Day holiday has passed, it’s never too late to share a recipe that will be great for a Christmas dinner. Here, Narvaez generously shares his favorite holiday recipe with us.

FS3 Keven Narvaez’s Candied Yams

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings.


5 pounds sweet potatoes (fresh)
3 cups brown sugar
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups corn flakes cereal
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups pecans or walnuts
1/2 pound butter (softened)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

– Preheat oven to 400 Degrees
– Bake sweet potatoes until soft (for about an hour)
– While sweet potatoes bake, place softened butter on mixing bowl with 1 cup of brown sugar and pecans. Mix on low speed for about a minute. Scrape sides of mixing bowl and add cereal, mixing it for about 30 seconds.
– Once sweet potatoes are soft, remove from oven and allow them to cool down. Peel them and place on mixing bowl with the remaining brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, eggs and heavy whipping cream.
– Place on a greased half shallow or a regular casserole dish and sprinkle the cereal mix on diagonal rows about two inches apart.
– Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
– Remove dish from oven and add marshmallows on the empty diagonal rows. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly brown.

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