Our Thanksgiving Menu – – From Our Table to Yours

Every year, Neal and I host Thanksgiving for our family. Some years, we have had 20+ with all of our extended family. Other years, we just have our children and grandparents for a total of 8-12 (and typically four dogs). No matter how many, we enjoy making and eating scrumptious comfort food.  Some of our dishes are homemade; some are recipes from other cooks; and some are more store bought. This combination works for us!

Note: My pictures are not professional (i.e. blog worthy). These are from previous Thanksgivings. However, they do show that we are just real people who enjoy good food and time with our family. I will  insert new pictures when we cook this Thanksgiving.

This picture below is from 2018.

This picture below is from 2019. I love how Izzy (our granddog) is looking for scraps of food on the floor.

As good as the food is . . . the real joy is spending quality time with our family. Some of our favorite memories are sitting around our porch fireplace telling stories, sharing our favorite Netflix series, and just enjoying each others company. We are truly blessed.

We are sharing our menu and recipes with our readers and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving in advance.

Our Thanksgiving Menu:

    • Turkey
    • Mimi’s Yummy Dressing
    • Gravy
    • Sweet Potato Casserole
    • Macaroni and Cheese
    • Green Bean Casserole
    • Yellow Squash Casserole (some years)
    • Cranberry Sauce
    • Strawberry Pretzel Salad
    • Pumpkin Cheese Cake (topped off with Reddi-wip)

Some items we make one to two days in advance. We do this for two reasons.

    1. Some foods have a variety of seasonings and taste better after the flavors have had time to marinate.
    2. It reduces the meal preparation time on Thanksgiving Day so we have more time to spend with family.

CHECK OUT THE RECIPES BELOW

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE:

I make this two days before Thanksgiving. It gives time for the cake to congeal and for all the spices to become fully flavorful. Neal and I are convinced the cheesecake gets even better every day when we eat leftovers. We enjoy it so much, we bargain over the last piece.

This recipe is from Paula Deen, 2007 with adaptations made by Suzanne.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Crust:

    • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (I use 1 ½ cups)
    • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 6 tablespoons melted salted butter

For crust:

In a medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Filling:

    • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
    • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For filling:

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar, and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place in the oven for 1 hour. Bake for 35 minutes and then turn off the oven and let sit in the oven for an hour. Remove from the oven after one hour (see *note below). Cool at room temperature for an additional hour. Loosen sides with a spatula. Chill several hours (or 1-2 days like we do) before serving.

*A personal note: We have worked hard each year perfecting our technique of the cheesecake not cracking. Most years, we are successful. But in the years we are not, it still tastes GREAT! So if your cheesecake cracks while cooking, don’t sweat it. It will still taste delicious and that is what really matters.

MIMI’S DRESSING:

Oh how we miss Mimi (Neal’s Mom). She passed away over three years ago. We also miss my Dad who passed away shortly after Mimi. Neal and his two brothers have variations of this recipe because each of them helped Mimi make it at some point over the years.

We prepare this the weekend before Thanksgiving and then freeze it. The day before Thanksgiving day, we remove it from the freezer and and put it in the refrigerator in preparation for baking it on Thanksgiving day.

Throughout the fall, Neal makes homemade cornbread using an iron skillet when we have hearty soups. . . talk about comfort food! YUM! We save the leftover cornbread (put in a gallon size freezer bag and freeze). Neal uses all the leftover cornbread to make the dressing.

    • 6 cups stale corn bread
    • 3 cups stale biscuits (cook 6 frozen buttermilk or southern style Pilsbury biscuits and let them sit out to get stale)
    • 4-6* cups chicken stock (we use Swanson).  *Depending on how moist you like dressing; 6 cups will make it “soupy” but it will be very moist when baked. We use 6 cups.
    • 2-3 cups shredded chicken. We purchase a rotisserie chicken from Publix and remove the meat and then dice it using a sharp knife. We don’t like big chunks of chicken. Optional: You can add more chicken if you like more meat.)
    • 2 sticks melted butter + 6-8 pats on top
    • 1 medium onion + 1 cup diced celery sauteed
    • 2 tbsp poultry seasoning
    • 1 tbsp rubbed sage
    • 1/2 tsp celery seed
    • 2 raw eggs lightly beat
    • Optional: You can add hard boiled if desired.

Mix ingredients and pour into a well greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until browned and dressing is solid.

Below is a picture of the cornbread and biscuits sitting out getting stale.

Below are some picture where we are mixing ingredients.

  

May our sweet Mimi bless you and your loved ones this Thanksgiving!

We Prepare the following casseroles the day before Thanksgiving but actually cook them on thanksgiving day:

GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE:

We make this in advance and refrigerate. However, we do NOT add the topping until we bake it on Thanksgiving day. It you add it in advance, it will get soggy.

This recipe is a good example of not messing with a good thing because we actually use French’s Green Bean Casserole Recipe. We double this recipe because of the number of guests. Also, in recent years, our daughter Emmy has become responsible for making this – – a rite of passage and we love it!

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE:

Cook time is 30 minutes

Serves 12 people

Filling:

    • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (4 potatoes)
    • 1 cup of sugar
    • ½ cup melted butter
    • 2 beaten eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • ½ cup milk

Topping:

    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • ½ cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup melted butter
    • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Filling:

In a large bowl combine all the filling ingredients. Transfer to a buttered 1 ½ quart casserole dish.

Topping:

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, and butter until moist and the mixture clumps together. Stir in the pecans and spread over the top of the sweet potatoes in an even layer. Bake until the top is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.

Read more from Food Network HERE.

MACARONI AND CHEESE:

We typically say that we are making this for the kids but let’s be honest . . . we all LOVE homemade macaroni and cheese. It is the best southern comfort food!

    • 8 oz package elbow macaroni
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 cup evaporated milk heavy cream or half & half
    • 8 oz shredded cheese
    1. Boil the noodles in a large pot. When soft, drain.
    2. While the noodles are, put 2 tablespoons of butter in the pot mover medium heat.
    3. After the butter melts, add your cream and stir.
    4. When the cream is hot, but not boiling, turn the heat to low and add 2 ounces of cheese (a quarter of your 8 oz. shredded cheese).
    5. Add the noodles and stir until all the noodles are coated.
    6. Spray a casserole dish.
    7. Pour the noodle mixture into the casserole dish while layering the 5 ounces of the shredded cheese (leave 1 ounce to top the casserole)
    8. Bake covered with foil on 350 for 35 minutes.
    9. Remove the foil, add the remaining 1 ounce of cheese and let this melt on top for about 5 minutes.

Yellow Squash Casserole:

We don’t make this every year. I am not a big squash fan, but some members of our family really like this. This recipe is from Christin Mahrlig  on the Spicy Southern Kitchens’ website; click HERE for the recipe.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad by Paula Dean

This recipe is by Paula Dean on the Food Network website; click HERE for the recipe. If you have not had pretzel salad, you don’t know what you are missing! It is also perfect for a summer dessert! It is yummy!

We cook the following on the day of Thanksgiving (in addition to Actually cooking the casseroles above):

TURKEY:

We fry a turkey because the meat is flavorful and the skin is crispy. My mouth is watering just typing this.

To prepare the turkey, Neal uses a syringe to inject Italian dressing in the turkey. He strains the dressing and only uses the remaining liquid (without all the chunky seasoning). He injects this all over the turkey.

Next, he rubs the outside of the turkey with Old Bay seasoning. Then he deep fries the turkey.

Paul Longton from FOOD52 provides detailed instructions and safety tips for frying a turkey; click HERE to learn more. PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL and keep small children and pets away from the hot oil.

GRAVY:

Our confession . . . because we fry the turkey, we don’t have any turkey drippings so we just make gravy using McCormick Turkey Gravy Mix. Don’t worry, it tastes great!

CRANBERRY SAUCE:

Neal makes this an hour or so before we eat and it makes the house smell heavenly! We use the Ocean Spray recipe on the bag of cranberries. However, Neal adds some orange zest and that makes the house smell Heavenly!

Rolls:

We top of dinner with Sister Schubert yeast rolls. Nothing better than melting butter on a warm roll!

The Last Ingredient . . .

The one ingredient my mother always says you need to add to any recipe is LOVE.  So be sure you are cooking with lots of LOVE for those you love.

And one of my favorite moments on Thanksgiving Day is after the meal when every belly is full, some are sneaking a few last bites, and everyone is enjoying a relaxing time with family.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving food and how are you celebrating Thanksgiving this year?

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JOY: Love Jesus, Love Others and Love Yourself . . . and Some of My Favorite Books

Just a little background about me to give you some context . . . I worked as an educator for over 31 years. I enjoyed this work, but my last 15 years of being a superintendent were all-consuming ?. I was accustomed to working 12-16 hours most day with tremendous stress. I retired a few years ago and now work part-time as an education consultant. The time demands and stress are far less and for the first time, I have more balance in my life.

I have always been a lifelong learner; learning truly feeds my soul. I am constantly trying to become a better version of myself. To do this, I read my Bible (try to do so daily but sometimes fall short), pray, and listen to spiritual and personal growth books. Continue reading “JOY: Love Jesus, Love Others and Love Yourself . . . and Some of My Favorite Books”

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Gratitude, Loss, Prayer . . . and the Holy Spirit

From 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

From Philippians 4: 6-7 NIV “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

From Psalm 9:1 NIV “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

From Colossians 3:17 NIV “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Continue reading “Gratitude, Loss, Prayer . . . and the Holy Spirit”

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Displaying Family Keepsakes

What makes this china cabinet so special to us?

When my sweet mother-in-law Faye passed away, my father-in-law decided to sell their home and move to an independent living facility. None of Neal’s brothers wanted this china cabinet. Neal and I really did not have room for it, but it kept calling me. So . . . we brought this beautiful china cabinet home with us. It reminds me of Faye each time I see it. She used it as an actual china cabinet. Continue reading “Displaying Family Keepsakes”

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Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt

Background:

We wanted to surprise two very special girls with a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando.  Our son Ryan’s partner is Bekah; she has two precious girls (Ocean and Luna) whom we love very much!

Instead of just telling them we are going to Universal Studios, we wanted to make telling them a memorable experience (as well as the trip itself). Hence, we decided to create a Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt to reveal our trip.

You can do this for birthday parties, rainy days, Harry Potter weekend movie marathons, or any occasion which would warrant a Harry Potter scavenger hunt.

Continue reading “Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt”

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How to Pack Light for a Flight (and other packing tips)

In recent months, I have been traveling quite a bit in my role as an education consultant. Neal and I went to Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania in January. I recently traveled to Wisconsin and California and then will travel to Philadelphia at the end of this month. All this to say, I have learned how to pack light.

Continue reading “How to Pack Light for a Flight (and other packing tips)”

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Feeling Blue … What to do?

We all struggle with feelings of sadness . . . feeling blue. This time of year when it is gray outside can be hard for many people.

Social media also gives us the false sense that everyone’s life is full of fun and devoid of the challenges of life. WRONG! We all struggle with these feelings of insecurity, knowing our purpose and feeling less than.  So if you are a little down and out, here are some suggestions that have worked for me . . . that get me out of my “funk” and start feeling better about me and my life.

Continue reading “Feeling Blue … What to do?”

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No Matter Your Circumstances, Rejoice in God!

I just finished reading the short book of Habakkuk in my Bible. Habakkuk is a prophet and he had a conversation (borderline argument) with God about all the evil in the world. In the end (after the conversation), Habakkuk puts his trust in God. No matter all the evil in the world and how everything around him is gloom and doom, he puts his faith in God.

Continue reading “No Matter Your Circumstances, Rejoice in God!”

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I’m Martha When I Should be Mary

Many of us know the Biblical story of Martha and her sister Mary. After raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus and His disciples visited the home of Martha and Mary in Bethany.

Luke 10:38-42 (NASB)

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.‘”

Continue reading “I’m Martha When I Should be Mary”

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