Thoughts on Thanksgiving

As you know, the “first” Thanksgiving was a celebration between Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621. The Pilgrims had a lot to celebrate, after all, they were the Mayflower passengers who lived through a 66-day trip, disease, scurvy, starvation and malnutrition. Had it not been for the Native Americans…well you know the rest of the story.

It wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an annual celebration to be held on the final Thursday of November. In 1941, while FDR was president, Congress officially changed Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November, rather than the last.

There is no account of turkey at the original 1621 3-day feast, just fowl and deer. Additionally, there was no pie, of any kind; no potatoes, they were not grown in the new world; and not a lot of women (records have differing numbers, but there were probably about 9 women, 5 of whom were actually teenagers or young girls). Many of our Thanksgiving “standards” were nowhere to be found in Plymouth, it was a take-what-you-can-get, grow, and kill kind of party. Imagine how shocked the Pilgrims would be to find out we can order an entire cooked Thanksgiving meal online.


Source: 2018 Farm Bureau Survey

The Farm Bureau Survey tells us this year, on average, we will spend $48.90 to feed ten people with a very basic menu. In reality, most Thanksgiving celebrations in America probably cost more than $48.90. For one thing, the Farm Bureau Survey does not include wine, beer or appetizers, nor does it include the airline ticket to get your kid home from college for the holiday.

Over the centuries, Thanksgiving has taken on many traditions and year after year, we, as a country, and as individuals are certain to have things to be thankful for. So too has the menu changed and morphed with new and interesting options from multitudes of sources. Whether you are a Thanksgiving traditionalist or a new-fangled chef, Optima Group would like to share some of our favorite recipes and wish you and your family a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving!


From Any One Can Bake, published in 1927

  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

Beat eggs and sugar very light. Fold in flour sifted with salt and baking powder. Add vanilla extract and melted butter. Sprinkle sugar on top and bake in well-greased small individual tins in hot oven at 425°F twelve minutes. Serve with thin coating of white frosting and some kind of candied fruit on top.

Sweet Corn Bread
I like this cornbread recipe, but I add a little bit of honey for flavor and sometimes some kernels of corn for texture.

From Allrecipes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray or lightly grease a 9 inch round cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.


Classic Sour Cream Coffee Cake
This is a coffee cake everyone likes to nibble on until the Thanksgiving meal.

Cake batter ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon sugar filling (depending on how much filling you like):

  • ½ – ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch nonstick tube or bundt pan.

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Beat butter, sugar together under smooth and creamy looking.
  • Add eggs, and vanilla and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes
  • With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three additions alternately with sour-cream mixture in two, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until moistened.
  • Spread a third of batter in pan; sprinkle with a third of topping. Repeat twice, ending with topping.
  • Bake until a toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Cool in pan 30 minutes. Turn out of pan; cool, top side up, on a rack.


Libby’s Pumpkin Roll



  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)


  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.)  cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (optional for decoration

For cake:
 oven to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.
COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts.
BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

For filling:
 cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.
Be sure to put enough powdered sugar on the towel when rolling up the cake so it will not stick.


Judge Peters Pudding
An old Thanksgiving recipe from the Stevens clan that the Stevens didn’t much like, but anyone marrying into the family did. It’s a great counterweight to the pie regimen. 

Soak 2 packages Knox Gelatin in 1 cup cold water

Add 1 cup boiling water, 2 cups sugar

Stir until dissolved. Cool. When it begins to thicken add:

  • 2 bananas sliced
  • 2 oranges sectioned
  • Juice of 2 lemons (1/2 cup)
  • 12 dates
  • 6 figs
  • 20 English walnuts*

Stir from time to time to prevent fruit from rising.

Pour into gelatin mold. Keep in refrigerator until gelled.

Serve with whipped cream.


Grimes Shrimp
This is a Hubbard family favorite appetizer for every holiday. Named after the neighbor who passed the recipe on about 65 years ago.

  • About 1 ½ pound cooked and shelled shrimp
  • 1 small sweet onion, finely chopped or carefully chopped in food processor
  • 3-5 celery stalks, finely chopped or carefully chopped in food processor
  • 2 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 cup mayo
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce
  • A few splashes of lemon juice
  • Garlic salt to taste

Stir together everything but the shrimp, once combined add the shrimp and gently blend.

Cover and put in refrigerator for an hour or so before serving.

Serve in a shallow bowl, use toothpicks or small appetizer forks to eat.


Brandied Pumpkin Pie

Time: About 2 hours, plus 1 1/2 hours’ chilling
Yield: 8 servings

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (150 grams)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons (141 grams) unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), preferably a high-fat, European style, chilled and cubed
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water, as needed

1 3/4 cups squash or pumpkin purée (see note)
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (160 grams)
2 tablespoons brandy
2 teaspoons ground ginger (4 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (3 grams)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (3 grams)
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch ground clove

  1. Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until the mixture forms chickpea-size pieces. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough just comes together. It should be moist, but not wet. On a lightly floured surface, gather the dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk with the heel of your hand. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch circle. Transfer crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp edges. Prick crust all over with a fork, then chill crust for 30 minutes.
  3. While the dough chills, heat oven to 375 degrees. Line chilled crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes; remove foil and weights and bake until pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes more. Cool on rack until needed.
  4. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée, eggs, cream, dark brown sugar, brandy, ginger, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the nutmeg and clove. Pour mixture into the cooled pie shell. Transfer pie to a large baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden and center jiggles just slightly when shaken, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

1How Many Turkeys Are Sold for Thanksgiving.

Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice. The History of the First Thanksgiving. History of Massachusetts Blog. Aug. 31, 2011.

Olver, Lynne. American Thanksgiving. Jan. 3, 2015.