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Thanksgiving Tips from the Best Cook in the World: My Mom

By carolyncastiglia |

cranberry sauce recipe, stuffing recipe, how to cook a turkey

A photo from our family meal last Thanksgiving.

Like Paula, I am admittedly undomestic.  It’s not that I don’t like to cook, I don’t even know how to cook.  I can boil water and cook the various things associated with a pot of hot H20, like spaghetti and Ramen noodles, and I can make scrambled eggs and saute vegetables, but that’s about it.  Fortunately for me, however, I spend every holiday with the best cook in the world, my mom.  Here are her tips for cooking the perfect bird, along with her recipes for scrumptious stuffing, chunky mashed potatoes and citrusy, homemade cranberry sauce.

GRANDMA’S STUFFING (Serves 8 people)

One package of bread cubes (might also be called stuffing cubes, or you can buy bread crumbs, or cube a bread ball yourself)

One 48 oz. box of chicken broth

Stick of butter

One onion, finely chopped

6 or 7 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 potatoes, dice, then boil ’til tender

Cup of chopped walnuts

4 apples, peeled and diced

1 1/2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and celery until soft.  Mix all ingredients except chicken broth, melt butter and pour over mixture.  Mix in poultry seasoning and salt and pepper.  Warm chicken broth, add until dressing is moist.  Press mixture into a casserole dish, bake in oven at 350 for 45 minutes, or fill turkey carcass with stuffing.

MASHED POTATOES (Serves 8 people)

Peel and boil 8 large potatoes, when fork tender, drain, place potatoes back in pan

Add a stick of butter, start to mash.  Add milk til you’ve reached a desired consistency.  (Leave a few lumps for extra texture.)  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If you like, add one cup of sour cream.

CRANBERRY SAUCE (Serves 8 people)

1 cup sugar

1 cup orange juice

1 12-ounce package cranberries

Half cup chopped walnuts

1 orange – cut into small pieces

Zest of one orange

Boil orange juice and sugar.  Add cranberries, bring to boil briefly ’til the cranberries pop open.  Add walnuts and orange pieces along with orange zest, heating on med to low for another three minutes.  Put mixture in serving bowl, chill.


My mother’s best advice for making the perfect Thanksgiving turkey is to “buy a Butterball and follow the directions on the wrapping.”  However, the key to a terrific turkey, she says, is to let it rest for 30 minutes before you cut into it.  That way, the meat absorbs all the juice before you carve it, and you’re guaranteed a nice, moist slice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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About carolyncastiglia



Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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10 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Tips from the Best Cook in the World: My Mom

  1. goddess says:

    My Grandma made the same stuffing! She read about it at some point, and it was such a success she never made a different one. And that’s the first and only way I’ve always made it too.
    Cheers to your Mom and Grandma Carolyn- that stuffing is SO delicious!

  2. carolyncastiglia says:

    It is honestly my favorite food item of the entire year.

  3. paulabernstein says:

    Thanks for sharing, Carolyn. Sounds like it’s going to be a yummy meal!

  4. andrea says:

    It sounds delicious, but it’s not really cooking. Boxed broth? Butterball pre-buttered turkey? Poultry seasoning? Boxed bread cubes? This is more accurately “preparing”, from stuff other people have cooked.

    Cooking is truly a lost art.

  5. JesBelle says:

    No, that’s cooking. I’m an obssessive from-scratch cook and I start my stuffing by making a batch of cornbread (without a mix) but I wouldn’t put these recipes on par with Stove-Top either. As for boxed broth, it’s a necessity, not because one can’t make home-made broth, but because stewing hens are impossible to find and who has enough leftover chicken parts to keep up with the amount of broth one needs to run a kitchen? Even feet are too dear around these parts to just use for stock. As for the turkey, I use a free-range, unenhanced bird and, really, it’s not like there has to be a bunch of extra steps to preparing it over a Butterball. If you slow-roast it, you can even skip brining. I don’t see anything wrong with pre-mixed spices, either. If you don’t tend to keep lots of spices on hand, it’s more economical to get them pre-blended than to buy thyme, sage, marjororam, etc. separately. It’s no wonder non-cooks throw up their hands in despair when there’s always some foodie saying things like, “Well, before I start my meatloaf, I make a batch of saltines.”

  6. carolyncastiglia says:

    Hahahaha – JesBelle! You just made my morning.

  7. goddess says:

    LOL JesBelle- well said. I don’t bake my own wheat bread, but the kids sure love tearing up a couple loaves for my stuffing. Shoot- I didn’t grow those apples either…..
    There’s room for all osrts of cooking without the snobbery. Too bad that isn’t a lost art.

  8. Kikiriki says:

    See, now, when I cook Thanksgiving dinner, it’s from a turkey that I raised myself by hand from an egg and then slaughtered and plucked, stuffed with bread that I baked myself using wheat I grew myself and salt that I made by storing up my own tears and drying them out, and of course I made my own wheat grinder using metal that I smelted after I dug it out of the ground with my own bare hands. Anything other than that is just preparing stuff that someone else made.

    And all kidding aside, my mom makes the same stuffing as your mom, Carolyn, and it kicks the ass of any “homemade” bread stuffing out there. She makes it with prepackaged croutons (the kind you can find in the store specifically for stuffing birds), and it is dee-licious. My grandmother taught her to make it. The secret is the croutons, because they hold up under the onslaught of broth and turkey juice, whereas bread just gets mushy (which some people like, I just tend to prefer the croutons).

  9. Linda, the original one says:

    LOL @ “batch of saltines.” Traditional Thanksgiving fair is all pretty simple, recipe-wise. I always thought tht was kind of the point ~ that pretty much anyone can roast a turkey and make mashed potatos and dressing.

  10. JesBelle says:

    Don’t think I haven’t considered making the saltines, but that’s one foostuff best left to the pros. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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