This year, I planned on fixing dinner for a big crowd.

I know the governor discourages this practice, but I think we are OK.

Our daughter, her husband and our grandson are on the list.

Susie’s truck-driving brother is coming, and another brother and his wife from Florida will be joining us. All of us are close family who are in frequent contact except for the southern guests and they are getting COVID tests before coming north.

We haven’t seen them for about three years. They said they are driving here just because they have heard about my great cooking. For our family, eight is a big crowd.

At the top of the menu is a 22-pound turkey.

I always purchase two of these, one for now and one for Christmas.

I have tried various birds through the years, but I’ve settled on one I like the best. I put it in an old roaster with a lid like my mom used. Then, I bake it for one hour at 375 degrees. I lower the temperature to 275 and cook it for another three hours. I baste it every 15 minutes over the last hour. After four hours in the oven, the legs are falling off and the breast is separating from the bone. I always cook it the day before Thanksgiving to free up oven space.

I prepare my sausage dressing a day early also, but don’t bake it yet. Susie does the same with her corn casserole and sweet potato casserole. These go in the refrigerator. We take them out on Thanksgiving about 45 minutes before baking to allow them to warm up a little. I bake several loaves of bread on Wednesday also. Doing a lot of the cooking early allows us more time to spend with our guests. (Also, the ladies like watching the parades on TV.)

While most folks bake a pumpkin pie for the holidays, I always make a sugar-free chocolate pie. It has a sugar- free cookie crust, cream cheese, Cool Whip, and sugar- free chocolate Jell-O pudding. Then, I make a crumb topping apple pie. These can also be made early, usually late night Wednesday while I am watching sports or a movie on TV.

Thursday morning, we start fixing some of the salads and side dishes. A Snickers salad with chopped candy bars, bananas, Cool Whip, and vanilla pudding is easy to make. Usually, Angi makes that. Susie cuts and arranges the veggies and dip on a plate. I make the turkey gravy from scratch. Whoever is not busy puts a jar of applesauce in a pan, adds a bag of cinnamon red-hots, and cooks it until the candy is melted. On another burner, the potatoes are cooking. When they’re ready, Angi gets to mash them. Sometimes, some kind of cranberry dish shows up on the table. I don’t eat it, so I don’t know how to fix it and don’t care who makes it.

I have a rack in my microwave so I can warm up two plates of the turkey at once. If the timing is right, almost everything is done and heated to come out of the oven at the same time. We eat at noon, snack all afternoon while watching football, then warm up leftovers for dinner. And the next day. (And the next.) Christmas is just a repeat of Thanksgiving, but usually with just six people and smaller portions.

This year, I am going to try a new pie recipe. I don’t know how it will taste, but it sounds good. I am sharing that recipe at right.

Cookie Butter Pie

1 (8-ounce) pkg. cream cheese

1 cup Biscoff creamy cookie


¾ cup powdered sugar

2 (8-ounce) cartons Cool Whip,


2 (9-inch) graham cracker


¼ cup caramel sundae syrup

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, cookie spread and pow-dered sugar until combined. Fold in one carton of thawed Cool Whip. Divide between the two crusts. Spread second tub of Cool Whip over both pies. Drizzle with syrup. Freeze, covered, till firm.

Note: I had never heard of Biscoff Cookie spread. I finally found it at Meijer with the peanut butter. You can substitute Nutella or probably even use peanut butter. I am going to make one pie with Biscoff and the other with Nutella and see which I like.

Happy eating!

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