Make Thanksgiving extra special this year for your family

Photo by Ann Cipperly Melissa Scott’s Walnut Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Caramel Drizzle makes a scrumptious dessert for Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving will be different this year, make it special for family in your home and those who can safely attend. Spend the day being grateful, counting your blessings and remembering the first Thanksgiving.

By Ann Cipperly

Every year I look forward to Thanksgiving, as it a special time with family to savor good food and to be grateful for our blessings. This year will be different for most of us. Instead of gathering with family around the dining room table, we may be scattered at small tables around the house or outdoors, if we get to meet at all. Whatever the situation at your home, plan to serve delicious dishes and a sublime dessert for celebrating a day of being thankful.

After dealing with being home for months to avoid COVID and being concerned with uncertain times, this year makes Thanksgiving more important. Throughout the past few months, the best way to cope has been in being thankful every day for our family and small things.

Lately, I have been reminded of the first Thanksgiving and how difficult it was for the pilgrims. We visited Plymouth Rock years ago and saw a full-scale replica of the Mayflower. We listened to stories of how difficult the voyage was for the families. They struggled to survive to find a land where they could be free.

With high ideals of purifying the church and society, the pilgrims sailed from Plymouth, England, in early September. After a weary voyage on the Mayflower, the pilgrims’ sacrifices and hardships were only beginning.

The pilgrims stepped ashore in the New World in the middle of November. Being mostly townsfolk, they knew little of coping with the hazards of pioneer life.

The first blustery winter was brutal. Half of the colonists starved or died from the cold and pneumonia. Only five of the original 17 women survived.

Photo by Ann Cipperly
Ann’s niece Amanda Wunderlich had the beautiful idea of garnishing with colorful white chocolate cut into leaf shapes. The white chocolate is melted and colored, then set before cutting into leaf shapes.

The following spring, survivors discovered several bushels of seed corn left by an Indian tribe. A friendly Indian named Squanto taught them farming and how to plant corn. During spring and summer, they built warmer cabins. Their first crops were bountiful.

Those who gave so much to seek freedom set aside a time to give thanks to God. Governor William Bradford declared Dec. 13, 1621, as a day of feasting and prayer.

About 90 Indians arrived with wild turkeys and venison. Corn was prepared, and pumpkin was cooked in maple sap. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in prayers with grateful hearts.

This year at our home we will celebrate in prayers as we look back over a difficult year. It has been a year of losses. In our family, we lost three members in one month this fall who lived in other states. A family member in the hospitality industry for years lost his job with no prospects in the near future.

Our family has three in the military, who continued to work every day during the worst outbreaks of the virus.

There were good days as well. A long journey to M.D. Anderson earlier in the year resulted in a good report. Praises to God every day for a miracle, being thankful for another day no matter what else is happening.

There won’t be as many around our Thanksgiving table as last year. The best part last Thanksgiving was when 5-year-old Camden said that we should go around the table and say what we are thankful about. He started by saying he was thankful for Jesus, which was also what some others said. This year more than ever we are thankful for Jesus.

Whatever is on the menu at your home this year, remember to say grace for blessings and the best country in the world, remembering those who carved the path for our freedoms that we hold tightly to today.

Plan Ahead for
Thanksgiving Dinner

In order to be relaxed on Thanksgiving Day, plan the menu ahead and make a detailed list of ingredients needed, grocery shop for those items and prepare as much ahead as possible.

Decide what dishes you will make ahead to freeze and plan a time to prepare each one. I generally spend one day in the kitchen cooking. Other dishes can be prepared one at a time while cooking dinner. For instance, plan to bake potatoes with dinner one night and bake sweet potatoes at the same time for a casserole to freeze.

The most important thing about freezing dishes ahead is being sure they are tightly wrapped. Once the dish is cold, cover the top with plastic wrap and then completely cover the dish, top and bottom, with foil, securing tightly.

Homemade cornbread dressing can take a long time to prepare, but it freezes well. While you can use purchased chicken broth, it is better if you make stock by boiling a chicken or two with onions and celery. Use the stock for the dressing and make a casserole for that night’s dinner with the chicken.

Breads also freeze well. Most cakes can be frozen, or the cake layers can be frozen and then assembled the day before Thanksgiving.

Pies and cakes are generally better made the day ahead. Remember, with a turkey in the oven, it will be difficult to bake on Thanksgiving Day. Vegetable dishes can be prepared the day before and reheated.

When I had a large number of guests for Thanksgiving, I would roast a smaller turkey the day before to be sure I had plenty, even though I was cooking a large bird the next day. I would boil the giblets for stock and make a batch of gravy from the drippings. I had the gravy ready to reheat and serve without being at the stove at the last minute.

Remember, for a tender turkey, it has to rest 20 to 30 minutes, depending on size, before carving. Otherwise, all the juices will run out, making it dry.

When there are children coming for dinner, be sure to include dishes they will like. Serve mac and cheese, which can be frozen ahead, corn, fruit and bread that children will enjoy.

This can be a difficult season for many with empty chairs at the table where loved ones once sat, a sickness in the family, financial problems or a sadness with family members not able to be with us because of COVID-19.

This year more than ever, become aware of those in the community who are lonely or unable to prepare a meal for themselves.

Just as that first Thanksgiving, we can prepare what we have, share it with others and be thankful to God for what we have survived and for things we take for granted every day.

Ann Cipperly can be reached at

Cheese Cookies with Pecans

Rose Ann Denson

2 cups (16 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup butter or oleo, softened

1/4 tsp. hot sauce

2 tsp. dry mustard

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup self-rising flour

2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Pecan halves

Combine cheese and butter in mixing bowl on medium speed of mixer. Add flour, mustard and hot sauce. Add Rice Krispies and stir in gently; otherwise they won’t be crisp.

Place by spoonfuls on baking sheet. Press down, using a fork. Top each with pecan half. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Southern Cornbread Dressing
Sue Whittelsey

6 cups chicken or turkey broth

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

¼ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. salt

4 cups cornbread crumbs

2 slices white bread, crumbled

Combine broth, celery, onion and parsley; bring to a boil and cook until vegetables are transparent. Add remaining ingredients, mixing until liquid is absorbed.

Spoon dressing into a buttered 3-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until lightly browned. If it seems to be getting too dry, add more broth. Makes 10-12 servings.

Mama’s Old-Fashioned Cornbread Dressing

Laura Cooper

2 cups cornmeal

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

2 large eggs, beaten

2 cups buttermilk

2 Tbsp. bacon drippings

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

12 slices day-old bread, crumbled

2 to 2 ½ cups turkey or chicken broth

1 cup milk

2 large eggs, beaten

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. poultry seasoning

½ tsp. rubbed sage

¼ tsp. pepper

Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs, buttermilk and bacon drippings, stirring well.

Place a well-greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet in a 450-degree oven for four minutes. Remove from oven; pour batter in the hot skillet. Bake for 35 minutes until lightly brown. Cool. Crumble cornbread into a large bowl.

Sauté onion and celery in butter until tender. Add along with the bread and next 7 ingredients to cornbread; stir well. Spoon into greased 13 x 9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 8 or more servings.

Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Kim Walker

6 lbs. sweet potatoes

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

½ cup heavy cream, warmed

3 or 4 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick each potato twice with fork; bake on foil-lined shallow pan on lower third of oven for about an hour or until very tender. Cool slightly.

Scoop out warm potatoes into large bowl. Mash with potato masher, and stir in butter, cream, syrup, salt and pepper. Serves 10.

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes

Having this dish prepared ahead to simply reheat saves from having to mash potatoes at the last minute.

5 lbs. potatoes (Yukon Gold are great)

1 cup sour cream

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

2 tsp. salt or to taste

Black pepper or white pepper to taste, optional

½ stick or more butter

Peel and cook potatoes; drain well. While potatoes are cooking, beat sour cream and cream cheese until fluffy.

Mash potatoes with butter and then gradually add hot mashed potatoes to cream mixture; beat until fluffy. Add seasonings to taste.

Spoon into greased casserole dish. Store in refrigerator until ready to bake. Can be made a day or two ahead. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until thoroughly hot.

Nelle’s Thanksgiving Green Beans

It is easy to halve the recipe.

8 cans whole beans (use best quality)

8 slices bacon, partially cooked

2 scant cups brown sugar


Garlic salt

Drain beans and rinse well in cold water; dry. Place in buttered baking dish. Cut bacon into small pieces and place on beans. Sprinkle brown sugar on top and shake garlic salt over the beans. Dot with butter.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees, stirring often until bacon is cooked and beans are hot. Serves 12. Be careful not to break the beans when stirring.

Gulliver’s Creamed Corn

Katy Leonard

Two 10 oz. pkg. frozen white corn

2 cups whole milk

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. butter

Bring first four ingredients to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes while stirring frequently. Add butter and flour; mix well and heat on low until thick.

Norma’s Easy Mac and Cheese

1 cup elbow macaroni, cooked according to pkg. directions

2 eggs, well-beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pt. milk

1 lb. grated sharp cheddar cheese

½ lb. cheese for topping

Mix all ingredients together except extra cheese for topping. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with extra cheese and turn up temperature to 400 degrees. Continue to cook until brown.

Green Bean Bundles

Katy Leonard

5 cans Delmonte Blue Lake whole green beans, drained

8 to 10 slices bacon

1 large bottle Creamy French dressing

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut bacon slices in half; gather a generous handful of green beans and wrap with a bacon half. Place in 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.

Pour entire bottle of dressing over green bean wraps. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 for 1 hour.

Easy Sour Cream Rolls

Katy Leonard

1 stick butter, melted

8 oz. container sour cream

2 cups self-rising flour

Mix butter and sour cream; add flour and stir until well mixed. Bake in tiny, lightly greased muffin tins at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Tiffany’s Cranberry Chutney

Rose Ann Denson

4 cups (1 lb.) fresh cranberries

1 cup raisins

1½ cups honey

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1½ tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

3/4 water

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup chopped almonds (optional)

½ chopped sweet onion

1 medium apple, cored and chopped

½ cup thinly sliced celery

Combine berries, raisins, honey, spices, water and vinegar in large saucepan. Simmer 15 minutes. Stir in nuts, onion, apple and celery. Simmer another 15 minutes. Cool. Pour into jars. Chill. Keeps indefinitely in fridge. (Makes 4 pints.)

Walnut Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Caramel Drizzle

Everyone in my family loves to bake. This is a recipe from my niece, Melissa Scott, who now lives in Franklin, Tenn. Her sister Amanda also bakes and came to our house one year with a cake that looked like a roasted turkey!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. salt
1 cup apple butter
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp. unsulfured (light) molasses
1 cup golden raisins
1 ½ lbs. cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. unsulfured (light) molasses
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. whipping cream
1 ½ cups chopped toasted walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Combine first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk apple butter, buttermilk, oil, eggs, molasses and raisins in medium bowl to blend. Stir apple butter mixture into dry ingredients. Divide batter between pans. Bake about 25 minutes for until test done. Transfer to racks; cool 20 minutes.

Run knife around sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes onto parchment-lined racks; cool.
Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth; add remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth. Spread 1 ½ cups frosting over one layer. Top with second layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate while preparing caramel.
Stir sugar and cream in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Boil and stir 1 minute. Let stand until very thick but still pourable, about 5 minutes. Drizzle caramel over cake. Press nuts onto sides of cake. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Meringue Topping

Peggy Dyar

1 deep dish pie crust


1 cup sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 Tbsp. self-rising flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. lemon flavoring, optional

Marshmallow Meringue (recipe follows)

Combine all filling ingredients. Pour into pie crust. Bake 45 minutes at 375. Remove from oven and increase temperature to 400. Cover pie with Marshmallow Meringue and bake 6-7 minutes.

Marshmallow Meringue
3 egg whites at room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow crème
Beat egg whites, vanilla and salt on high speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating until still peaks form. Beat about 1/4 marshmallow crème into egg white mixture; repeat until remaining crème has been added.

Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Spread on cooked pie. Bake at 400 for 6-7 minutes or until lightly browned.

Double Layer Pumpkin Pie

Laura Cooper

4 oz. cream cheese (half of 8 oz, pkg.), softened

1 Tbsp. milk or half and half

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 ½ cups Cool Whip, thawed

1 graham cracker crust

1 cup milk or half and half

2 pkgs. (4 serving size) vanilla flavor instant pudding and pie filling

1 can (15-16 oz.) pumpkin

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cloves

Mix cream cheese, milk and sugar with whisk until smooth; gently stir in Cool Whip. Spread on bottom of crust.

Pour 1 cup milk into bowl; add pudding mix. Beat with whisk until blended; about two minutes. Mixture will be thick. Stir in pumpkin and spices. Pour over cream cheese layer. Chill at least three hours. Garnish with additional whipped topping and nuts if desired. Makes 8 servings.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here