Some Thanksgiving meal tips

By Lucie R. Willsie

November 20, 2013

George MacKeeses was a good man.

So said Brenda Ramsey.

Ramsey is now the owner and manager of Brenda’s Kountry Kitchen.

But back when she knew MacKeeses, he was a successful chef and restaurateur who lived near Ramsey — and she was an inexperienced cook.

He was a kind older fella who took pity on a young, budding chef when she didn’t know her way around a kitchen and she was faced with making her first Thanksgiving dinner all by herself.

MacKeeses not only made the entire meal for her, but he taught her how to create every dish so, the next time she made Thanksgiving dinner, she knew exactly what to do — and all thanks to the kindness of MacKeeses.

“And I learned,” Ramsey said. “I learned well … but I knew, if I had any questions, I could still call on him for help.”

MacKeeses died about five years ago, but Ramsey said she still thinks of him often and fondly to this day.

Because now, this once-novice cook has been cooking and running her own restaurant for many years.

Ramsey has been cooking for years and years, she said. And she has prepared a Thanksgiving meal pretty much every year since she was that novice teenage cook.

And Ramsey is more than willing to give up some of her decades’ worth of cooking “secrets” just as her cooking mentor helped her.

Her first piece of advice is that dishes a great Thanksgiving meal should include are: a turkey and a ham (both because not everyone likes just one); stuffing; either sweet potato or pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream, of course, but Ramsey recommends preparing both; cornbread; sides, such as macaroni salad, deviled eggs especially because the taste goes great with ham or turkey, sweet potato casserole is a wonderful addition, potato salad, cranberry sauce, cole slaw, green beans, mashed potatoes and corn.

“Oh, and you’ve got to have rolls,” Ramsey added.

One piece of advice is to make sure to thaw the turkey starting early enough before cooking it overnight Wednesday, starting around 11 p.m., to Thanksgiving Day that Thursday morning around 6 a.m. at about 200-degrees Fahrenheit.

“It takes four days to thaw a frozen turkey,” Ramsey said. And, make sure the turkey is thawed inside of the fridge, not outside. “So, plan ahead.”

Remember to take the innards out of the turkey cavity. Not taking them out is a common beginner mistake. Ramsey recommends not fixing the stuffing or dressing inside the bird. Fix it outside by baking in a separate pan. Ramsey does sprinkle the clean inside of the turkey with garlic salt and then places three stalks of celery and one whole onion, peeled and cut in half, inside the turkey to hold moisture in. Then, Ramsey places three stalks of celery underneath the turkey but inside the browning bag so the turkey won’t stick to the bag.

She puts her turkey into the oven on Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving Day and slow cooks it over night.

“Anything slow cooked tastes better than quick cooked,” she said. Ten minutes or so before serving the turkey, brown it in the oven. It gives the skin just the perfect texture.

Back to the stuffing, Ramsey takes the juice from the turkey bag and pours it over some Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix, along with some additional chopped onions, three eggs, some sage and about one-half pound of her favorite sausage.

“Use any sausage you like,” she said. Then, mix it all together and bake in a pan at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Take off the foil and brown for another five minutes. “Just make sure the sausage is done.”

For example, one “secret” to making her fabulous biscuits is to prepare them the day before, form them and put them in a pan ready to bake, and then put them in the refrigerator over night.

“Do this and they’ll come out bigger and higher,” Ramsey said.

One secret she’ll never give up regarding her biscuits is the actual recipe.

“No way,” she said, emphatically. “No way … Everybody says we have the best biscuits in town.”

Brenda’s Kountry Kitchen, 420 E. Pine St., will be open on Thanksgiving Day offering typical holiday fare.

For more information, call 786-6553.





1 sliced ham

1 can of pineapple, sliced

1 cup of orange juice

1/2 cup of brown sugar

Yellow mustard, enough to make a thick paste


Place the ham in a baking pan. Pour the pineapple juice and orange juice into the pan. Mix the brown sugar and yellow mustard together separate and glaze the ham with this mixture. Wrap the ham in foil and bake at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for 1 and 1/2 hours.




A dozen extra large eggs

1 cup of mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste


Hard boil the eggs. Cut each egg in half. Mix the yolks in a bowl and place the whites on a plate. Mix the egg yolks, mayo, salt and pepper together. Scoop the mixture in even amounts into the shell of the white egg section. (Tip from cook: If the egg mixture is a little too dry, add in just a little dab of milk to soften.)




2 cups of self-rising corn meal

3 Tablespoons of flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup of buttermilk

(Dough should be runny, if not, add up to 1 cup of buttermilk total.)


Mix all the ingredients together and put into a baking dish. Bake at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes or until brown.




2 cups of macaroni noodles

1 cup of green peppers, chopped

1 cucumber, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 cup of mayonnaise

1 teaspoon of celery seeds

Salt and pepper to taste


Boil the macaroni according to directions on the box. Drain. Mix all the ingredients together. Salt and pepper to taste. Put in fridge or serve warm. (Tip from cook: Ramsey feels it tastes best after being chilled.)




5 sweet potatoes

1 cup of brown sugar

1 cup of milk

1 stick of butter

1 teaspoon of vanilla flavoring


Boil the sweet potatoes and peel. (Tip from cook: It is easier to peel sweet potatoes, unlike regular potatoes, after being boiled than before being boiled.) Mix all together. Bake in the oven at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 40 minutes.




A head of cabbage

1 cup of mayonnaise

2 teaspoons of vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste


Chop up the cabbage. Mix all ingredients together and chill.





1 fresh small-sized pumpkin, cut in half, or 6 sweet potatoes

1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice

1 can of evaporated milk

1 big box of instant vanilla pudding

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla flavoring

4 eggs

1/2 cup of flour


Bake the pumpkin halves face down in a pan in the oven at 350-degrees Fahrenheit between 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Tip from cook: If you can stick a fork through the peel, the pumpkin is done.) Then, scoop out the pumpkin innards and put in a blender. Or, peel and boil the sweet potatoes until done and mash or put in a blender. (Tip from cook: This mixture can be saved and finished up to a week later if kept in the refrigerator.) Mix or blend until smooth. Mix all the other ingredients together with either the pumpkin innards or boiled sweet potatoes and put into a pie shell. Bake for 45 minutes at 350-degrees Fahrenheit or until the top is browned. (Tip from cook: The only difference between the two pies is one is made with pumpkin innards, the other with boiled sweet potatoes. The rest of the ingredients are the same.)