Nothing Fancy, Just Good Food

The Story of Thanksgivings’ Past!

Hey everybody! I know ya’ll are just getting over my Halloween post but it’s time to move onward and upward! IT’S THANKSGIIIIIVVVVIIIINNNNNGGGGG! I’m so excited! SO STINKIN’ EXCITED! I can’t believe it’s already time for Thanksgiving! It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. It seems like last Thanksgiving was just yesterday! So much has happened since then but it just doesn’t feel like it! This year has been such a whirlwind! This time last year I found out that my best friends boyfriend was FINALLY ( 🙂 ) going to propose; there have been countless girls nights, family nights, gatherings, holidays, birthdays, and work days; there  was my moms surgery, her recovery, another surgery, and another recovery; memories have been made, problems have been had, life changes were made, life has been lived! All these things are the normal goings on of a family through out a year; but, it’s all just flown by! Sometimes I wish I could just push a pause button and savor these moments just a little while longer!

I keep seeing these pictures saying “there are only 7 more Mondays until Christmas” and I’m over here freaking out a little bit. It’s like I blacked out at the end of last year and woke up just in time for the holidays to start all over. But, that doesn’t make me any less excited for it! As many of you know, this is my favorite time of year! I love everything about the Fall and Winter…. Ok, I don’t love Halloween; but, we’ve had this discussion ok? I will never understand why people must cover every surface with spiders and spider webs for Halloween. There is nothing cute or fun about creepy, eight legged, killers ok? Give me Freddy Kruger, Jason, and Michael Meyers all you want. Men in masks and people covered in fake blood don’t scare me, I don’t even get a little creeped out by them. That’s child’s play to me. But don’t put me face to face with a spider and not expect me to curl up into the fetal position begging you to kill it. I will be all peace, love, and joy but go straight to Vito Corleone in a heartbeat when a spider is near!

Anyway! Where was I???? Sorry for my little outburst.. I’m passionate about that! 🙂 I LOVE this part of the year though. Rifle season is starting, which I love, because I don’t bow hunt. I have tendonitis and bursitis in  my left shoulder and I just don’t have the strength to pull a bow back. I do have a crossbow but I’ve never killed anything with it. Plus, with my job and my love of football, I don’t have a lot of time for bow hunting. So, rifle season is my forte and I love it. I love the chill in the air and the smell of the leaves. I love football and bonfires. And of course, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s boots, sweaters, camo jackets, holiday parties, and whiskey drinks season. I could go on and on! The only thing I haven’t mentioned is the food. The food is where it’s all at, where all the things I love about fall meet. The smell of soups, chili’s, and dumplins’ fill our house with the memories of my childhood. It wraps me in warmth, even though it’s cold outside. Which brings me to Thanksgiving. There are so many memories brought forth this time of year. My Mamaw loved to prepare for family holidays like this. She loved her family above all else and nothing made her happier than to be able to cook for us all. She was not happy unless we were all stuffed to the gills at any given time of the year; but no one left her house hungry! Her and my mom stayed in the kitchen for days prepping for these holidays. They would spend hours going over their menu, getting recipes together out of our old Lucern cookbook that the church ladies put together, and going to the grocery for all the stuff. Then, they would come home and steadily cook to make everything from scratch. Everything was so lovingly and painstakingly prepared and you could taste it in every bite of the food. Of course it only took about 20 minutes for it to all disappear from our plates but we would sit around the table talking for at least an hour after we were done. Everyone would split up and go their separate ways, Papaw was off to watch a football game, Daddy was hunting, me and Chance would play, my sisters would go to boyfriends and husbands family houses, my uncle would go off to his wife’s families house; but, Mama and Mamaw would spend another hour cleaning up and talking. After cleaning up they would spend hours and hours decorating for Christmas and then they would torture me by making me wake up at 3:30 in the morning to be in line for the McRae’s Bell Ringer sale. Or the Cracker Jack sale. Or any of the thousands of other sales that were out the next day. I would be so tired that I would crawl under the clothing carousels and hide to take a nap. One year when I was a little older of course, I went to the bathroom in McRae’s and slept on the little bench they had in there. I sure hated Black Friday shopping but I know that I would give anything in the whole world to have just one more day with my Mamaw dragging me behind her at those sales.

That is just one of the many reasons that Thanksgiving means so much to me and my family! Of course, now that Mamaw and Papaw are gone, we do things a little differently. But the heart is still all there! I’ve spent the past two weeks thinking about what recipes I wanted to share with ya’ll for this weeks blog. I always hate to repeat recipes without changing them up a little but the cold, hard facts are, my favorite recipe of all time is my mama and Mamaw’s cornbread dressing! We have it every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes for Easter and it’s something that we all look forward to throughout the year. Why don’t we make it throughout the year, you may ask. Well, for some reason, if we’re not cooking for an army, we’re not making it. When my mom and my Mamaw perfected this recipe, there was no “measure this,” or “add this many of that.” It was add it until it looks right. And it always looked right for about 40 people. Many say that this is the mark of a true chef. You don’t have to measure to know how much it needs you just throw it in there and see what it looks like. This has been my downfall many, many times because I am far too lazy to measure anything. Seriously, I just don’t have the patience for it. I know it’s stupid. I get mad at my mom anytime a recipe isn’t exactly the way it’s supposed to be, because she says, and I quote, “Calah!!! You didn’t follow the recipe!” Heck yes I did! I just did it better than the original one. I eye the measurements and that’s exactly what they do with this recipe. It’s frustrating for me because to share it with ya’ll the best I can do is guess at measurements. But, I don’t think there is anyway to really screw it up. The other problem with this recipe is that it really consists of 3 different recipes. And while that may sound confusing it really isn’t. You just have to pay close attention.

First things first, you have to make a turkey. For this, I usually get a small turkey breast from the meat department and cook it in the oven or in the crockpot a couple nights before or the night before we make this. I make it simple, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and you definitely don’t have to babysit it since it’s a small breast. You can get the turkey breast tenderloin or a raw turkey breast. Just make sure it’s small. Just follow these directions:



1 stick butter,

1 can chicken broth,

1 can water,

Lots of salt and pepper.

Turkey is really bland and will soak up the flavor of anything you put with it. You can also make this with chicken instead of turkey if you prefer. 🙂 Turkey is also really dry so just make sure that however you make it, you put a good bit of liquid in with it. It’s going to soak that up as well! Put it in a crock pot or a dutch oven. IF YOU PUT IT IN THE CROCKPOT: you’ll need to keep an eye on it and not let it cook for more than 2 or 3 hours on low. It will burn and it will be nasty and before you ask, yes, I’m speaking from experience! If you put it in the dutch oven or a good oven safe pan with a lid, put all the ingredients in there with it and cook it for an hour to an hour and a half on 450 degrees. Just make sure it’s cooked thoroughly. While you don’t have to babysit it and baste it like the larger turkey’s, you do have to make sure it has enough liquid and make sure that it is cooked thoroughly because it is poultry and the last thing we want is bad case of salmonella on Thanksgiving! Or any time of the year for that matter! Now once that’s done,  you need to set it aside to cool. You’ll need to keep the broth that it sat in but if it has any bones or skin, debone and deskin (Is that a word?) the meat and put it to the side while you finish the other things you need.

The most important part of a cornbread dressing is the cornbread itself. I use my sweet Papaw’s old recipe and it’s the best! If  I do say so myself 😉 It’s super easy! All you really need is about 4 ingredients. I’ve posted a recipe for it before and I’ll post it again but if ya’ll want to go check out the original blog that I posted it in, it was an especially good one, 😉 just click here and it should take you right to it! Now, as I said, it’s pretty simple but it’s another recipe that you have to eye. It needs to be the consistency of pancake batter. It also depends on the size of your skillet. I use a large, heavy, pre-seasoned, cast iron skillet. It’s really important that you don’t go buy some random skillet from just anyone. You need a good one. It needs to be seasoned. You CANNOT wash it. If you have one that hasn’t been seasoned or needs to be re-seasoned, all you have to do is rub it down with shortening, put it in a HOT 450 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Once you pull it out, rub the excess grease off with a DRY rag. Let it cool and store it. AGAIN, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WASH THIS SKILLET… EVER!! For the cornbread, all you need is self rising corn meal, eggs, buttermilk, and vegetable oil. And the skillet obviously. Since I use a large one instead of a small one, I make a double recipe. But, I’m giving ya’ll the recipe for a smaller 12 inch “pawn” of cornbread.


1 cup cornmeal,

1 egg,

1 cup buttermilk.

In a mixing bowl, throw it all together and mix it up. Make sure it’s the consistency of pancake batter. If you need to, you can add a little more buttermilk. Just add until it’s the right consistency. Same goes for cornmeal. If it seems too soupy, add more cornmeal. Only add 2 eggs if you do 2 cups of cornmeal and use a large 17 in. skillet! Easy peasy. Put the skillet over high heat, add about a quarter of an inch of vegetable oil into the bottom of the pan and allow it to get really hot. Not boiling! Just let it get hot enough to sizzle when you drop in a some of your batter. Once its hot, slowly and carefully, pour in your batter and remove from heat. Put into a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, it’ll be a nice golden brown and smell like heaven. For cornbread you need at least two pawns. So you’ll have to double this recipe. I highly recommend, making the batters seperatly though and not trying to make it all at once. Especially if you’ve never made cornbread before and you’re a big measurer. You have to make this enough times to know what looks right and if you start off trying to make two at once, there is a really good chance it won’t turn out right! For dressing, we like to add a can of corn and an onion to the cornbread so that it cooks in and adds a little flavor! 🙂

Once the cornbread is done, it’s time to start on the third and final recipe of the dressing. The dressing itself! You need to crumble your cornbread. It’s your choice on how fine you crumble it. A lot of people like it chunky, my mama always liked it really fine. She’ll spend an hour making sure there are no chunks in that cornbread! It’s up to you though! You can use your hands, your spoon, a pastry blender, my mom uses something she calls a chopper that looks like a medieval torture device… 🙂 Whatever you want!


Once you’re done chopping the cornbread, you can start adding the other ingredients. I’ll put the full recipe below, I don’t add celery, because my mom hates it; but, if you want it you need about a cup and a half of chopped celery.

1 medium onion (2 if you don’t add it to your cornbread),

3 green onions,

1 can cream of chicken soup,

1 can cream of celery soup,

1 can corn (2 if you don’t add any to the cornbread),

3/4 cup shredded turkey or chicken,

2 raw eggs (you can boil these too),

1 stick butter,

a couple dashes of salt,

Lots of broth and ground black pepper.

First you want to chop your onions and green onions, shred the chicken or turkey, and boiling your eggs if you want to boil them. Also, chop your celery if you want it. 2 or 3 stalks should do it (like I said, about a cup and a half).  Add the onions, green onions, cream of chicken, cream of celery, eggs, turkey, pepper, salt, and butter. It’s going to be hard to stir so while you’re adding all of that stuff, add the broth, a little at a time until it’s easy to stir. It needs to be about the same consistency as pancake batter, as well. You don’t want it too soupy but if it’s too dry it won’t be good either. Keep in mind that when you put it in the oven it’ll be thin like pancake batter; but, when you pull it out it’ll be stiff like a cake. That broth will keep it moist but a lot of it soaks into the bread. You’ll bake it at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. This is really versatile. You can use regular bread if you want but there’s just nothing like cornbread dressing! You can also add cheese or use a cornbread mix. You can use a rotisserie chicken and canned broth. Hard boiled eggs, raw eggs, cream of mushroom soup, less broth, more broth, sausage instead of turkey or chicken, mushrooms. The possibilities are endless! It’s pretty hard to screw this up! But, my favorite has to be just like my mama and Mamaw make it! I can’t imagine it being any better than that!

Mamaw was always very good to make certain things for certain people. My mom is so picky that every time we would have dressing, Mamaw made a separate pan without celery just for her. When she made beef and veggie stew, instead of using just stew meat she would make a separate bowl with hamburger meat instead just for my mom. She made something called husbands delight for my dad, butter beans and corn bread was my Papaws favorite. Everybody had something. For me, it was her cauliflower salad. It consists of a bunch of different layers that are supposed to be tossed before serving. BUT, I only liked the topping of it so she wouldn’t toss it and she always let me get to it first so that i could scrape off some of the top. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the lengths that she went to to make everyone happy through the food that she made. Back then, it was just Mamaw. Now I think, “Oh, what a saint! That would drive me crazy!” But it made her so happy to see us pleased!

I wanted to share this salad with ya’ll though because it was something that I always looked forward to at Thanksgiving. It’s a pretty good salad, now, I like it all together. Back then you couldn’t pay me to eat all of it! Some people call it Seven Layer Salad, I always remembered it as Cauliflower salad, ya’ll can call it whatever you want! It’s an old recipe and I’m sure it has a million and one names 🙂 Ya’ll may think it’s a little weird, it’s definitely different! But, I think ya’ll will like it!

Mamaw’s Cauliflower Salad:

1 head iceburg lettuce,

1 head cauliflower,

3 green onions,

2 cups mayo,

1 pkg. ranch dressing mix,

Lemon pepper,

Bac-o Brand Bacon Bits.

Wash and chop your lettuce and put it in the bottom of a large bowl. Wash and chop the flower of the cauliflower, not the stem, throw the stem away, it’s gross… really gross. 🙂 I chop the cauliflower pretty finely, I like little chunks of cauliflower because I’m still not a huge fan of it, but that’s your preference! 🙂 Layer it on top of the lettuce. Chop your green onions and throw them on top of the other two layers. Now spread on the mayo.. Yes, mayo…. on a salad… don’t judge me, you don’t know my life! 🙂 Sprinkle the ranch mix over the top of the mayo and then sprinkle the lemon pepper over that. Cover it and let it chill in the fridge until you’re ready  to serve. Add the bacon bits and toss before serving! And yes, when I said I just ate the top layer, I meant, I would scoop off the mayo, ranch, lemon pepper, and bacon bits, and eat it by itself. Again, don’t judge me! 🙂 I know it’s not a traditional salad; but, it’s an old school southern recipe and it’s a family tradition!

Another traditional side dish that we all love is Broccoli and Rice Casserole. It’s not really healthy, it’s got cream of stuff soup in it, and it’s got broccoli, I know people hate broccoli but this is actually the recipe that got me to start loving broccoli! I know that cream of anything soup is not the ideal for a lot of people and there are recipes on Pinterest with alternatives; however, this recipe is from a cookbook that was written by church ladies in the 90’s. And if ya’ll know anything about the 90’s you know we loved our cream of anything soups! And mayonnaise in our salads! 😉 Here’s how ya’ do it!

Broccoli and Rice Casserole:

1 1/2 cups Minute rice,

1/2 cup water,

1 can cream of mushroom soup,

1 can cream of broccoli soup,

1/2 cup chopped onion,

1 pkg. frozen broccoli, or 2 heads fresh broccoli,

1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese,

3/4 stick butter,

Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste.

Cook the rice according to the directions on the package. Melt the butter in a baking dish (we always use a Corningware ceramic dish, mostly because we could always find the glass tops for those though 🙂 ) Combine the soups, onion, broccoli, cheese, rice, and seasonings together and spread into the bottom of the baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Pull it out, sprinkle some extra cheese on top, and bake for another 10 minutes, uncovered. Ya’ll can substitute the cream of mushroom soup for any cream soups and you can try the healthy substitute as well!

Now, I know that ya’ll alllll came here for the sweets. That is one of the biggest parts of Thanksgiving! At least it is at our house! We always, always, always make pecan pie. There is no getting around it. It will always be there. And a majority of the time, my sister Melissa is the one that has to make it. She loves to make pecan pies, she know the recipe backwards, forwards, sideways, and blindfolded. That is almost always her contribution to the meal. I don’t know how it got started, but somewhere along the line, every year it would be, “Is Melissa making that amazing pecan pie again this year?” And every year she did. It’s a classic and traditional recipe that you can find most anywhere. It’s not much different from any other pecan pie recipe. Alas, it’s amazing. And we always make two… and they’re always devoured with no left overs pretty quickly after the meal! And we always cheat and use a frozen pie shell but it just so happens that I have a pretty amazing recipe for a pie crust that you’ll really, really, really like .You can find it simply by clicking HERE.

Melissa’s Pecan Pie:

4 large eggs,

3/4 cup sugar,

3/4 stick butter,

1 1/4 cup dark Karo syrup,

2 cups pecans, chopped.

I think one of the reasons that Melissa’s pies are always so good is because she’s pretty OCD about her pecans. Not just pecans, anything that she chops has to be absolutely perfect. She will stand with a small pairing knife and a cutting board and make sure all the pieces of the onion that she’s cutting are the same size and it will take an hour if you ask her to cut up anything for you. I ain’t got time for that. I ain’t got patience for that! I will put it in a food processor if I want it to be small because I prefer to make a few quick cuts and I don’t care if one dice is bigger than the other. It’s all getting cooked down anyway! But, just as my mom has her little chopper for her cornbread, Melissa has one of those from Pampered Chef and she gets them all finely chopped! After you get that all done, you can start the filling by melting the butter in a skillet until brown, remove from heat, and then add sugar. While the mixture is cooling, beat each egg separately and add one at a time, stirring after each addition to the mixture. Add pecans and karo syrup and pour into an unbaked pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes. After it gets out of the oven, it will need to set up. Let it cool for about 20 minutes before you cut it. This lets everything gel up and get all nice and gooey so that when you cut it, you get all that ooey gooey deliciousness in one big bite!

Another traditional Thanksgiving dessert is sweet potato casserole or sweet potato pie. I love sweet potato pie but I’m not big on topping it with marshmallows. I don’t know why but I’m just not a big marshmallow fan. I usually top mine with homemade whipped cream and toasted pecans. YUM!! My mom will not eat sweet potato pie. She said that it’s disgusting because you boil the potatoes and boiled sweet potatoes are disgusting. So, I don’t make it often because I know she won’t eat it. But, it’s another one of my faves!

Sweet Potato Pie:

2 medium sized sweet potatoes,

1/2 stick butter,

1/2 cup brown sugar,

1/2 can sweetened condensed milk,

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream,

2 eggs,

1 tsp. cinnamon,

1/2 tsp. nutmeg,

1 unbaked pie shell.

Wash, peel, and boil your sweet potatoes. When they’re fork tender, add the half stick of butter and milk, mash them up really well. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Pour into the pie shell and bake on 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes. I know half a can of sweetened condensed milk is tough, what are you going to do with the other half? I will drizzle some over the top of the pie, maybe add a little to some heavy cream for whipped cream, or you can make two pies and take one to a friend. 🙂 I cover the top in whipped cream, toast pecans with a little butter and salt and sprinkle them on top. This is one easy peasy recipe that you can easily make your own. You can add marshmallows to the top and bake it for a few minutes to get a toasty flavor on top. You can add sweetened cream cheese, maple syrup, a little of your favorite bourbon, or even make it a caramel sweet potato pie using this caramel pie recipe and adding it on top.  It really is what you want! Have fun with it!

I really hope that ya’ll have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Before we know it, I’ll be writing and you’ll be reading my Christmas blog! I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be writing about for ya’ll yet; but, I do know I’ll be putting a DIVINE fudge recipe that would be perfect for your upcoming Christmas cookie swaps! I can’t wait to share some more of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions with ya’ll, so don’t miss out! Ya’ll come back now, ya hear? 😉


  1. Bonnie J Cocuzza

    Oh my goodness! Thank you for these recipes. They all sound great but I can’t wait to make the sweet potato pie. That was always my favorite next to pecan. The last time I made pecan pie it seemed not right so I’ll use Melissa’s recipe this time.

    I love your good cooking ideas.

    • calahh

      Pecan pie is a recipe that you have to follow just like it is or it wont turn out right! Which is one reason I don’t mind Melissa making them because I always seem to eyeball my measurements instead of actually measuring! The sweet potato pie is so easy and so yummy! Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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