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Thanksgiving Recipes and Stories from Central

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Whatever you are up to for the day, whether it’s spending time with family, or grinding away at work (thank you, if you are), we hope it’s a great day for you.

Today’s blog is a compilation of Thanksgiving recipes and stories from the Central family–so it’s a long one.  But use our “quick links” below if you’re only interested in seeing a certain recipe or story.

Quick Links

Red Mac n’ Cheese Recipe from Vicki Price

Baked Mashed Cauliflower Recipe from Tracey Rector

Green Bean Casserole Recipe (Plus Funny Story) from Carrie Shambarger

Thanksgiving Reflection from Stephanie Paulson

Red Mac n’ Cheese

by Vicki Price, Freight Analyst

My family always had Thanksgiving and Christmas at my Grandpa’s house in Niles, Ohio. Since he passed and we moved to Indianapolis, we spend holidays at the lake.

They always made two kinds of mac and cheese, a regular baked mac and cheese with Velveeta and a strong mac and cheese.  (Us kids called it red mac and cheese!)

The strong mac and cheese was made with the sharpest cheddar and Campbell’s tomato soup.  (The sharper the cheese the better!)  Leftovers are great too.  Enjoy!


  • 1 pound package of macaroni

  • 2 cans Campbell’s® Tomato Soup

  • 2 to 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  • 3/4 to 1 cup of milk (sometimes I mix in an egg or the egg white to help hold together, but not needed)

  • 1/4 to 1/2 stick butter


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF
  2. Cook macaroni until al dente and drain
  3. Return to the pan
  4. Mix in butter and 1 can of soup
  5. Take the other can of soup and mix it in, only a little at a time not to make too soupy–you may need to add a third can of soup depending how dry it still is, along with more milk
  6. Spray or butter a deep casserole dish
  7. Pour half of the macaroni mixture into the dish
  8. Cover with cheese
  9. Pour the rest of the macaroni over the cheese and cover with more cheese
  10. Tricky Part: There needs to be some of the milk/soup collected in the bottom.  If there isn’t any, pour a little milk to see about 1/2 inch of liquid in the bottom of the dish if a glass dish before baking.  Also, swish the dish from end to end and side to side so you can distribute the milk to mix it in a bit and for the mixture to settle.  If not a glass dish, eyeball it.
  11. Bake at 350ºF for one hour (the top should be a little browned.  The whole thing might be a little browned, and that is okay).

Baked Mashed Cauliflower Recipe

by Tracey Rector, Catalog/Web Content Coordinator

Around 15 million Americans have a food allergy–and I happen to be one of them.   Peanuts and potatoes.  Thankfully they aren’t dangerous, just enough for me to have changed my diet.  I found out about the allergy about seven years ago, so it’s been seven years since I have had mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. (I’m totally okay with it though, you’d be amazed to know what you can live without when it doesn’t make you feel well.)

It wasn’t until this year I started experimenting with recipe swaps and I tested out different things with cauliflower as a substitute for potatoes. Of course, nothing beats a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, but I think I found the next best thing.  I recently stumbled on this recipe from Pride and Vegudice called “The Best Mashed Cauliflower” and it has been the best I’ve had yet. I made a few changes which is what I will share below, but be sure to pop over to their site and view the original version.


  • 2 medium-sized heads of cauliflower, washed and chopped into florets (I actually used two 12 oz. bags of frozen cauliflower from my local Kroger)

  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 tablespoon sea salt

  • 2 dollops of light butter

Side note on the ingredients: Original recipe calls for fresh Black pepper to taste and any herbs–feel free to add in your own, I tweaked it and put in the light butter instead


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF
  2. Steam the cauliflower until it’s very tender
  3. Puree in a food processor until smooth (scrape down the sides when necessary)
  4. Add coconut oil, Parmesan cheese,  sea salt, butter and any herbs/pepper you would like to add
  5. Continue to puree until the texture you prefer (my preference is very smooth, so I pureed for a few minutes)
  6. Pour pureed cauliflower into a casserole dish
  7. Place in oven for 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown to give the top a thick texture

Green Bean Casserole with Funny Thanksgiving Story

by Carrie Shambarger, Category Manager

Thanksgiving seems to be the one holiday that always goes a little haywire in my family.  For some families it’s Christmas or maybe Easter.  Or maybe there are lucky families whose holidays are all picture-perfect and go off without a hitch.  Not for my family.

One Thanksgiving a few years back takes the cake (mmm… rum cake, yum).  The turkey was in the oven.  Appetizers were being plated.  Guests were to arrive within the hour.  Toilets wouldn’t flush.  The green bean casserole was…  Wait, toilets wouldn’t flush?!?

Yes, the sewage system in the house decided Thanksgiving was a good day to clog up.  We told the little kids in the house not to flush the toilets until further notice.  Little kids, being little kids, promptly forgot and flushed the toilets repeatedly.  Now we’ve got sewage on the bathroom floors.  While that’s being cleaned up (can I just say, yuck), a couple courageous uncles ventured into the basement to work on the source of the problem, with a few bystanders ready to pitch in if needed.  Not really.  We were just there to watch as a clog broke free and promptly covered my uncles with some really nasty stuff.  Ding dong!  Guests are here!

Stories like these are usually not all that funny as they’re happening but afterwards they’re our favorite stories to remember and re-tell.  Who remembers the perfect Christmas when the ham was perfect and the decorations were perfect and the conversation was… polite.  Nobody.

We remember when the ham was frozen and the centerpiece caught on fire and the conversation was… spirited.  That’s when memories are made.  Life is about experiences, not about perfection.  So don’t even try to make the next holiday get-together perfect.  Of course don’t purposely try to get the dog to take off with your grandma’s wig and refuse to give it back (yes, it can happen), but if it happens, well, that’s a memory you’ll now have forever.

Now, about that green bean casserole, which is a MUST for any holiday even if you’re a Martha Stewart wannabe.



  1. Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cups of onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish
  2. Bake at 350ºF for 25 minutes or until bean mixture is hot and bubbling
  3. Stir bean mixture
  4. Sprinkle with remaining onions
  5. Bake for 5 minutes or until onions are golden brown

Thanksgiving Reflection

by Stephanie Paulson, Designer

Oh, Thanksgiving. What a truly American holiday—one of the few days we’re not only allowed, but encouraged to eat until we are full to bursting. But what is it about Thanksgiving that makes it so special? I mean, other holidays are celebrated with a feast, so what’s different about this one? With Christmas, you get stacks of presents. With Easter, you get baskets full of candy. With Independence Day, you get fireworks. And with Thanksgiving, you get…food. That’s it? That’s it—and that’s why Thanksgiving is so great: the spotlight is entirely on the food.

Other holidays are focused on something else, and the food is almost like an extra hassle we have to deal with. “The tree’s up, the lights are hung…crap! I need to make dinner!” The food is an afterthought, and often not particularly memorable. Because Thanksgiving emphasizes a singular concept, we are able to put more energy into reflecting on that theme, and can extract greater meaning from it. We’re not as distracted from the bigger picture: what all of this food really means to us. Thanksgiving, of course, is about just that—giving thanks. It’s the time of year we remember how fortunate and grateful we are to have such bountiful lives.

It’s a common saying that food is the key to someone’s heart, so when an entire day is dedicated to sharing food with those we care about, it really drives home the significance of that day. Meals take thought, energy, and time to prepare—things most people consider pretty important. So when they are willing to spend them on someone else, it’s a big deal. Even a simple 30-minute dinner is a display of affection, so a Thanksgiving feast that costs hours of planning and preparation, not to mention potential frustration and struggle, is overflowing with emotion. The way I see it, Thanksgiving is love.

This holiday is one that I’ve only recently become particularly sappy about. Growing up, it was always a relatively small occasion—definitely one I looked forward to, but as much as I hate to admit it, one I took for granted. I have a bit of a mixed family: step-parents and step-siblings (both older and younger), and throughout school there was not usually a problem getting us all together; plus, I’d get two dinners—one with Mom and one with Dad. Now that all of the kids have moved out, though, it’s much more difficult to make this work. My brother is married and just had a baby, and is starting his own traditions with his new family. My step-sisters live in Chicago and New York City, with high-profile jobs and busy schedules. I’m beginning to miss the simplicity of the holiday. I understand this is a time for transition, but I can’t help feeling a bit nostalgic.

On the other hand, I’ve really been looking forward to a new tradition I began participating in a few years ago. My step-mother’s sister hosts a huge Thanksgiving party, with the number of guests each year hovering around 30. It’s a fantastic mix of extended family and friends, and the dinner table makes a huge “L” throughout the dining and living rooms.

The pre-dinner mingling is great, sipping on wine and chatting while my stepmom’s sister follows her minute-by-minute schedule of things rotating in and out of the oven. The Macy’s day parade is usually on in the background, muted of course, but with great holiday music playing over it. The feast is beyond outstanding. Everyone contributes a dish or two, there are usually at least five different pies, and I’ve definitely added some new favorites to my list that I look forward to each time. But the best part about the entire day is going around the table one by one and telling everyone something we’re thankful for. Sometimes it’s a simple “for my family,” or even “that we get to eat soon.” There’s silly, serious, tearful, and hilarious things people say that cause us to examine our lives a bit more closely, even if only for a few minutes. I’m really beginning to love this holiday, because it’s the perfect time of year to reminisce upon the time that has passed, and look forward to the possibilities of the future.

I’m sure everyone has their own unique association with Thanksgiving—whether it’s a tradition or a memory, big or small, full of joy or full of pain. No matter what, though, it’s a time to reflect, forgive, and unite.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving this year—I hope it’s one you’ll remember forever.

Absolutely the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. Here is a cookie recipe from All Recipes perfect for all your holiday events. Don’t forget to use the blog on Central’s cooking tips with information for making the best cookies.

Absolutely the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Servings: 24 (2 dozen)


  • 1 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter flavored shortening, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Finally, fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until light brown. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Footnotes, Editors Note

Mexican vanilla extract can be found in Mexican grocery stores. If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute regular vanilla extract.

Nutritional Information

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 241 | Total Fat: 13.7g | Cholesterol: 22mg