Karen and MaryThanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  It celebrates tradition, friendships and good food!  It gives the cooks in your family the chance to pull out some of their favorite old and new recipes.  But Thanksgiving can also be a very stressful time.  There’s a lot of work associated with pulling off this feast and with pulling together distant family and friends.

I’ve prepared a list of strategies you an follow to reduce the potential stress you may run into as you prepare for this years Thanksgiving feast.  Let’s bring back the celebration and lose the tension from this great, blessed, American tradition.

All great feasts begin with a great plan.

The guest list can include immediate family, extended family, or for those far from family, invite close friends and/or co-workers. It’s important to be more forthcoming about what you’d like each guest to contribute in order to ease you own workload.

Plan the menu and be creative by using your traditional recipes with one or two new recipes.  It is important to give new recipes a trial run before Thanksgiving so that you have time to prepare an alternative if it doesn’t work out.  Plan the desserts so they can be made well in advance.  Keep soufflés for another dinner. Prepare the shopping list while you are planning your menu.

Plan a theme for decorating your home included the table(s) and buffet.  The farmers and produce markets are filled with colorful types of squash, Indian corn, gourds and baby pumpkins.  Pick up fall leaves and autumn colored candles to finish off your presentation.

Decide when to decorate your table.  Plan to decorate and set your table the day before.  Pull out your linens, tableware, glasses, flatware and other special holiday items for your table.  As long as you won’t need your dining room table before Thanksgiving, lay everything out so you can see if you need to buy or borrow more dishes, glasses, lines, etc.  You’ll also see whether anything needs special polishing or ironing before the day.  You might even consider marking each serving dish with a Post-It note, so you don’t forget which dish goes where.  This will also enable other people to help you out that day.  Prepare table cards and assign seating for your guests.

Block out on your calendar when to shop and cook.  List the stores you need to visit for various items.  Don’t save everything for Thanksgiving Day.  Unless you have a commercial kitchen, it’s likely your dishes would have to be cooked in stages and reheated anyway.  So a week before the big day, review all of your recipes and decide which can be prepared in advance and reheated without losing flavor or texture.  Write out a cooking schedule and timetable.  Indicate the dishes you can make ahead, those that can be frozen, those that can be cooked in a Crockpot and those that must be cooked at the last minutes.

Order the turkey!  This is something that needs to be done in advance.  You’ll need about one pound of bird per person.  If you want leftovers I recommend ordering a pound and a half per person.

Get your knives sharpened.  If you haven’t had your knives sharpened in the past year, do that now.  Having knives ready to go will ease and speed up preparation.  It is much easier to cut yourself on a dull knife that a sharp one.

So now that you have planned your menu and completed your shopping and prep work, what do you do on Thanksgiving morning?  First: remember you’re the chef.  People are rarely more giving of themselves that at Thanksgiving, so offers of assistance in the kitchen may be profuse and generous.  Be wary.  You may delegate a close friend or relative to keep an eye on the creamed spinach, but don’t be surprised if the Macy’s parade or the NFL game draws your well-meaning helper away from the stove before the spinach is done.

Finally, Thanksgiving truly is a time to sit back and consider what you have to be grateful for.  In fact, many families include a time around the dinner table to talk about what they are grateful to have.  And besides one’s birthday and New Year’s Day, there is no other specific time during the year when everyone is reflecting collectively.  Thanksgiving is a great holiday!

Thanksgiving blessings to you and your family,

Chef Mary


Mom’s Pumpkin Bars

Chef Mary


4 eggs

1 2/3 cups white sugar

1-cup vegetable oil

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1-teaspoon baking soda

1/2-teaspoon nutmeg

1/4-teaspoon allspice

1/4-teaspoon coriander

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1-teaspoon salt

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/3-cup butter, softened

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1-teaspoon maple extract

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir into the pumpkin mixture until thoroughly combined.

Spread the batter evenly into an ungreased 10×15 inch jellyroll pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick but try not to over bake.

To make the frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Stir in vanilla and maple extract. Add confectioners’ sugar a little at a time, beating until mixture is smooth. Spread evenly on top of the cooled bars. Cut into squares.  Another idea is to cut the pumpkin bars into squares or rectangles.  Put the frosting into a piping bag with a tip and pipe a swirl design on each square before serving.  Keep left over pumpkin bars refrigerator.

Image from www.pinterest.com