With their home nestled among towering trees, Mary Ann and Dr. Norman Godwin will celebrate Thanksgiving with their grown children, extended family and international students. The holiday will also include a “thankful tree” and a cookie decorating contest on Thanksgiving, and then tailgating at their home before the Auburn-Alabama game on Saturday.
Mary Ann and Norman both grew up in Decatur and were high school sweethearts. They attended Auburn University and married in 1991 after they graduated. They lived in Birmingham for a year and then attended graduate school at Michigan State University, where Norman earned his Ph.D.
“We moved back to Auburn in 1996 as fast as we could, because we love it here,” Mary Ann said. “Norman desired to serve Auburn and be at the university.”
Norman serves as the associate provost for academic affairs.
While Mary Ann has a love of cooking and offering hospitality, she didn’t grow up in a family that enjoyed cooking. She was raised by a single mom who worked full time, and meals were simple. Mary Ann and her two older brothers had a large extended family who lived on farms. Thanksgivings were spent at their grandparents with huge tables laden with traditional dishes, including fresh vegetables from their gardens.
During summer months, Mary Ann watched her grandmothers make jellies and “put up vegetables,” but she didn’t have an interest in learning cooking skills at that time. She didn’t develop a desire to learn to cook until after she married Norman, who grew up with his mother cooking three good meals a day.
“I had the joy of being a stay-at-home wife before we had children,” Mary Ann said. “We were involved in ministries when we were first married, and it was a joy for me to have time during the day to do those things. I also had time to sit down with three cookbooks that were wedding gifts and plan my menus for the week. I picked recipes that looked interesting and tried them.”
Mary Ann tried different recipes every week until she learned how to cook. She has a talent for selecting good recipes and has adapted some. She is now not only a good cook, but she also organizes and plans menus and grocery shopping.
When their four children were small, they would celebrate Thanksgiving at home most of the time. Being in a college town, they often hosted international students and people who didn’t have anywhere to go.
When the Auburn-Alabama game was held here, they would have a great deal of company for Thanksgiving and tailgating. All of Mary Ann’s and Norman’s siblings and spouses attended Auburn, as well as their children.
Their four children are Harrison and his wife Catherine with two sons, Harrison III and Hampton, who reside in Birmingham; Sara Caitlin and husband Joseph Kelleher, who live in Auburn; Clay, who lives in Atlanta, and Ellis, who lives in Birmingham.
Mary Ann homeschooled all four children. When they were growing up, they enjoyed helping in the kitchen. When the family traveled, they would take the children to international restaurants. Now, they all enjoy different cuisines and cooking.
“When planning Thanksgiving, I think about what can go in the oven, on the stove top, in the crock-pot or on the grill,” Mary Ann said. “I also look at what can be prepared ahead. It is not good if you have 20 things that need to be in the oven at the same time.”
To be well organized, Mary Ann looks at every recipe to see if it can be prepared ahead. She lists the days and dishes she is going to make on each. She makes a timeline of what to do on Thanksgiving Day, such as when to put the turkey and ham in the oven so they are both ready at the same time. She also does this for side dishes.
“Being organized is a help,” said Mary Ann. “That is one of the gifts the Lord has given me of being organized in general and in life, so it is not hard for me. I think anybody can learn to be organized, but it is easier for some than others.”
Two weeks ahead, Mary Ann will prepare food to freeze for Thanksgiving weekend. These include homemade rolls, cinnamon rolls, a big pot of vegetable soup, sausage balls, banana bread and quiche with a hash brown crust.
A week ahead she will set the table and get the serving dishes out. She can see if she needs paper napkins or plates for the weekend.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, she will cook many of the dishes. She makes dips for tailgating and stores them in an extra refrigerator. For the turkey wraps, she prepares the chipotle mayonnaise and pickled onions ahead.
Some foods her children consider family traditions are homemade rolls, Napa salad and strawberry pretzel salad. The menu will also include roasted turkey breasts, ham, her aunt’s recipe for crock-pot dressing, roasted vegetables, mac and cheese or corn pudding, green beans, spinach salad, grilled asparagus (it gives the men something to do), brandied cranberries and canned cranberry sauce, among other dishes.
For desserts, she will offer a variety that have been prepared ahead. These include a rustic chocolate cake, lemon raspberry tart, honeyed cranberry apple fried pies and sometimes a chocolate chip and cherry bread pudding. She will have raspberry brownies or a cookie that is also good for tailgating.
While the meal is being prepared, Mary Ann will have a table outside for decorating cookies. One family brings cookies and icing. The kids and some adults decorate the cookies and hold a contest for the best ones.
They also have a “thankful tree.” Her son Clay will draw a tree on a large piece of cardboard and place leaves from the yard or cut-out leaves, pins and a pen next to it. The “tree” will be on the patio, and guests can write on a leaf what they are most thankful about this year and place it on the tree.
Thanksgiving Day is always special with the four children and their families, extended family that live in Auburn and international students, as well as friends who don’t have anywhere to go.
After Thanksgiving, Mary Ann quickly transitions into the football weekend. She will have favorites for a breakfast-brunch with the quiche, sausage balls and homemade breads. Family will eat when they get up and are ready.
For Friday lunch, she will serve turkey or ham sandwiches or barbecue she has picked up earlier. For tailgating on Saturday, she will offer turkey wraps, chicken fingers, hot blackeye-pea cheese dip, salads, a tray of cold vegetables with hummus and assorted desserts.
Mary Ann is organized for all of her meals, not just for Thanksgiving weekend. She keeps favorite recipes in binders. On Sunday nights, she will make her menus for the week, considering their schedule. She makes her grocery list and goes to the grocery store Monday morning. Her grocery list is a spreadsheet of how the grocery store is laid out.
“I didn’t grow up with family around the table,” Mary Ann said. “This wasn’t something I always dreamed about or what my family did. It is the way the Lord has knit together my husband and myself for our desire to practice biblical hospitality.
“It has been such a gift from the Lord to serve my family, and it has been my joy. I have loved every minute of it. A friend told me that cooking for her is like giving her family a hug and showing them love. For me, when all my kids are coming for Thanksgiving weekend, it is a way for me to show them that I love them to have the things I know they have loved over the years.
“We live in a country with so much abundance, and none of us have really known what it is like to do without,” Mary Ann said. “Even though difficult things happen in life, and we might not have a happy circumstance, we still have much to be grateful for as the Lord has been gracious and kind. We try to talk about what we are thankful about all the time. It is just easier to express at Thanksgiving.”

Hot Cheesy Black-Eyed Pea Dip
Serve with crackers or tortilla chips
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
16 oz. can black-eyed peas, drained, rinsed
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
1 envelope buttermilk ranch salad dressing mix
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Sauté onion in butter in a skillet. Combine onion with remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spoon into a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Mary Ann’s Aunt’s Crock-Pot Dressing
9 x 13 inch pan cornbread, crumbled
6 slices bread, toasted and cubed
4 eggs, beaten
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 carton chicken broth
½ onion, chopped (simmer in broth)
1 Tbsp. poultry seasonings
Sage and black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
Combine ingredients and blend well. Place in a crock-pot. Cook on low for four hours.
Brandied Cranberries
Three 12 oz. pkg. fresh or frozen, thawed, cranberries
3 cups sugar
½ cup brandy
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cranberries in a single layer in two slightly greased 15 x10 x 1 inch pans with a rim. Pour sugar over cranberries. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for one hour.
Place cranberries in a large bowl; gently pour in brandy. Cool. Put in a covered container until ready to serve chilled or at room temperature.
Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Pecans
10 oz. pkg. fresh baby spinach
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
4 oz. pkg. crumbled goat cheese
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Place first 7 ingredients in a large bowl, tossing gently. Drizzle with Apricot Vinaigrette, tossing gently to coat.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 Tbsp. apricot jam
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Makes six servings.

Grilled Smoky Glazed Asparagus
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 Tbsp. sweet smoked paprika
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cumin seeds, optional
1 lb. thick asparagus, peeled
Combine all ingredients except asparagus and blend well. Add asparagus and coat with mixture. Let sit 30 minutes. Grill over moderately high heat for about six minutes.
Napa Oriental Salad
1 ½ large heads Napa lettuce (Chinese cabbage)
6 green onions
2 pkgs. uncooked Ramen noodles, crushed (I use chicken flavor, adding only 1 of the 2 flavor packets.)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
6 Tbsp. margarine
1 pkg. slivered almonds
Finely chop lettuce and onions; refrigerate 8 hours or more. In saucepan, melt butter. Add noodles, seeds and nuts; stir and cook until brown. Spread on paper towel until cooled.
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
1 cup salad oil
Combine all ingredients, except oil, in jar and shake until sugar is dissolved. Add oil. Just before serving, combine all salad ingredients and top with dressing. Serves 12-16.
Options: Add 2 Tbsp. chives, water chestnuts
Mary Ann’s Roasted Vegetables
Try other vegetables, such as parsnips, new potatoes, asparagus and tomatoes.
2 garlic bulbs, separated into cloves and peeled
3 baking potatoes, quartered
3 medium beets, peeled and halved
1/2 lb. fresh large mushroom, halved
1/2 lb. baby carrots
1 large, sweet onion, quartered
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp. dried basil, optional
2 tsp. dried oregano, optional
1/2⁄ tsp. salt
1/2 lb. green beans
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together except green beans in a large bowl. Place on a lightly greased 15 x 10 inch baking pan with a rim. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir in green beans. Bake 15 minutes longer. Makes 6 servings.
Breakfast Quiche with Hash Brown Crust
This recipe can be made in a quiche dish or a 9 x 13 inch pan.
1 lb. 4 oz. pkg. fresh hashbrowns
¼ cup melted butter
4 oz. shredded hot pepper jack cheese or additional Swiss
12 oz. or 2 cups diced cooked ham
4 oz. or 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup light cream
6 eggs for a quiche dish, 7 eggs for 9 x 13 inch pan
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
Sautéed red or green pepper, sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. lemon pepper, optional
1 tsp. dry mustard, optional
Press hash browns into pan. Press partly up sides to create a crust. Drizzle melted butter over crust and bake at 425 for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Reduce oven to 350. Toss ham, cheeses and vegetables together and place in crust. Beat cream, eggs and seasonings and pour on top. Bake uncovered at 350 for about 40 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Can make crust ahead and add egg mixture to bake in the morning.
Raspberry Brownies with Chocolate Glaze
Betty Sims
Mary Ann sometimes makes half the recipe.
8 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter
1 cup margarine
4 cups sugar
8 eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 cups chopped pecans
1 ½ cups raspberry preserves
Chocolate Glaze:
2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups whipping cream
Microwave chocolate chips on medium in a 2 quart Pyrex cup for 2 minutes or until melted. (Microwaves vary so be careful not to burn chocolate.) Add whipping cream, whisking until smooth.
Combine chocolate, butter and margarine in 2-quart microwave-safe dish. Microwave until melted and stir. Combine sugar and eggs in bowl and mix well. Stir in chocolate mixture, flour and salt. Add pecans and mix well. Spoon into 9 x 12 inch baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Spread with raspberry preserves. Let stand until brownies are cool. Spread with Chocolate Glaze. Cut into squares. Store in refrigerator.
Roast Turkey Wraps with Chipotle Mayonnaise and Pickled Onions for Tailgating
Pickled Onions:
1 red onion (6 oz.), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
½ tsp. salt
Chipotle Mayonnaise:
1 ½ tsp. chopped canned chipotles in adobo, including some sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
4 (8 inch) flour tortillas (preferably whole-wheat)
¼ lb. sliced or shredded roast turkey or chicken meat
3/4 cup snow pea shoots or shredded lettuce leaves
To make pickled onions, blanch onion in a 1½ quart saucepan with boiling water 1 minute; drain. Return onion to pan along with vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a boil; then simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Cool, then chill 2 hours.
For Chipotle Mayonnaise, blend chipotles and 1/4 cup mayonnaise in a blender or food processor until smooth.
To prepare wraps, toast a tortilla directly on a burner (gas or electric) at moderate heat, turning over and rotating, until puffed slightly and browned in spots, about 40 to 60 seconds.
Spread 1 tablespoon Chipotle Mayonnaise on toasted tortilla. Put one fourth of turkey and pea shoots across middle of tortilla and top with some drained pickled onion. Season with salt and pepper and roll up wrap. Make 3 more wraps in same manner. Serves 4.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
2 cups pretzel sticks
1 ½ sticks margarine
1 cup sugar
6 oz. pkg. strawberry gelatin
2 cups boiling water
10 oz. or two 6 oz. pkg. frozen strawberries
9 oz. carton frozen topping (Cool Whip)
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
Crush pretzels into oiled 2-quart baking dish. In saucepan, melt margarine and sugar. Drizzle over pretzels and bake 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool.
In bowl, mix gelatin and 2 cups boiling water. Add strawberries and chill. Blend topping, cream cheese and sugar. When pretzels are cool, spread cheese mixture on top, then gelatin. Refrigerate until firm.
Cut through pretzels to serve.
Sugar-Crusted Chocolate Chip and Cherry Bread Pudding with Vanilla Cream Sauce
6 Tbsp. butter, room temperature, divided
8 slices white sandwich bread to make 8 cups (can use French loaf, sliced)
3 ½ cups half and half
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. or more sugar
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups dried tart cherries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread 4 tablespoons butter over bread slices. Cut bread into 1 inch pieces. Whisk half and half, eggs, vanilla, and ¾ cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Add bread cubes, chocolate chips, and dried cherries; toss to coat.
Pour mixture in a 9 x 13 inch dish. Dot top with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle top with 3 tablespoons sugar or more if needed to cover mixture. Bake until top is browned, about 15 minutes. Serve with Vanilla Cream Sauce.
Vanilla Cream Sauce:
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
½ cup butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
In a saucepan, combine cream, sugar and flour. Stir and then add butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for three minutes until thick. Remove from heat and add vanilla.