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Hosting Thanksgiving? No need to be nervous

Here’s your no-sweat guide to nailing the biggest meal of the year

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! It is the largest dinner I host all year, and I have some tips that will make your hosting journey a breeze. 

Some years we’ve had about 15 people over, but one year, we had over 30! Whatever your guest count, remember that planning and organizing will make everything go smoothly. 

Some general tips:

  • The biggest tip: Write down/print out your recipes ahead of time so you’re not spending precious time searching for them later. 
  • Have freezer baggies on hand. These are important to my process, as I organize ingredients and spices in them. I love to measure my spices in advance and put them into a labeled baggie. That way, when I start cooking, it is easy to grab and season. It’s one step that goes a long way.

I also put my boiled mirlitons into baggies until I am ready to use them, and I use another baggie for the stuffing. 

  • Break down your recipes into steps for each day, and work ahead. For example, you can boil mirlitons a day or two before your event. During this time, also boil your eggs for deviled eggs, noodles for macaroni and cheese and potatoes if you’re making sweet potatoes. Set them aside in freezer baggies until you use them. 

Mirliton stuffing can be made ahead and frozen as well. I would not keep it in the fridge for more than two days before the event. 

  • Buy premade items that will help you. For instance, if you are not good at making pie crust, buy it. If you aren’t confident about making dinner rolls, buy them. Make the preparation less stressful where you can. 


My Thanksgiving menu: 


  • Deviled Eggs 
  • Shrimp-and-crab-stuffed mushrooms 


  • Fried turkey 


  • Stuffed mirliton 
  • Mac and cheese 


  • Apple crumble pie


Prep schedule:


  • Check turkey weight to ensure it will have enough time to defrost. Place it in the fridge. This is extremely important, especially if you are frying your turkey. An improperly defrosted turkey can cause a grease fire. 


  • Do all your grocery shopping today. Review the recipes and see what you need to buy and what you can use from your pantry and fridge. 
  • If you haven’t started defrosting your turkey, do it now. 


  • Let’s start cooking! Read your recipes so you know how much you are making. 
  • •ut onions, celery, garlic, bell pepper and green onions; boil mirlitons, macaroni noodles and eggs. 


  • Make your apple pie; place it in the fridge, or you can wrap it and place is somewhere secure. 
  • Cook stuffings — one pan for mushroom stuffing, another for mirliton stuffing 
  • Assemble and stuff mushrooms. Place breadcrumbs and a small cube of butter on top; wrap and place in the fridge to cook fresh tomorrow. 
  • Assemble and stuff mirlitons. You can pre-cook these today and reheat tomorrow. When you reheat them, place a dab of butter on top of each one so they won’t dry out. 
  • Inject your turkey with Cajun butter. I try to inject every few inches; this is the secret to keeping it moist. Sprinkle as much Cajun seasoning as you like all over your turkey and place back in the fridge until tomorrow morning. 
  • Make filling for the eggs. You also can put this into a baggie and store in the fridge. Cut the corner of the baggie and pipe into the eggs in the morning. 


Shrimp- and Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms


  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 15 large cap mushrooms, stems reserved and diced
  • 4 green onions, chopped (heaping 1/4 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 lbs of shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut up
  • 1/2 lb of crab meat picked over
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp. Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 stick butter, cubed up for tops


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. 
  • Add the mushroom stems, green onions, celery and garlic; cook until they have softened, about five minutes.
  • Add the shrimp and cook until pink. Add the breadcrumbs, Slap Ya Mama seasoning and cayenne.
  • Add crab meat and mix around.  
  • Remove from heat and add in the parmesan cheese
  • Add heavy whipping cream. 
  • Spoon it into the mushroom cap and place on a baking sheet.
  • Slice a small cube of butter and place on top.
  • Sprinkle some Slap Ya Mama seasoning over the mushrooms.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden.
  • Top with extra parmesan if desired.

Deviled Eggs


  • 14 eggs, boiled
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sweet relish
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • sprinkle of cayenne or, for more flavor, Slap Ya Mama seasoning (I like the hot one for this!)
  • 2 tbsp green onions


  • Fill pot with water that will cover the eggs.
  • Place 1/2 cup baking soda in the water (this helps the eggs peel easier).
  • In a separate bowl combine the mayonnaise, relish, 1 tbsp green onions and mustard.
  • When the eggs are done boiling, run them under cold water and peel them.
  • Slice the eggs in half and take the yolk out; put it in a separate bowl.
  • Mix the yolk with the mayonnaise mixture.
  • Stuff the eggs with the mayonnaise/yolk mixture.
  • Sprinkle cayenne or Slap Ya Mama on top.
  • Sprinkle remaining 1 tbsp of green onions over the top.

Fried Turkey

  • For frying turkey, the general guidelines are to fry 3.5 minutes per pound. This has been a failsafe method for us for many years. The most important step is to fully defrost your turkey; allow one day for each four to five pounds of weight. A 16-pound turkey will take four days to safely defrost in the fridge. 
  • Inject Cajun butter into as much of the turkey as you can. We use a whole bottle (17 ounces) for a 12–14-pound turkey.

Shrimp- and Crab-Stuffed Mirlitons


  • 4-6 mirlitons 
  • 1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 1 tbsp Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning 
  • 1/2 stick butter 
  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped 
  • 3 tbsp garlic minced 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp pepper 
  • 1/2 lb crab meat 
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs 


  • In a large pot, bring mirlitons to a boil and boil until you can poke easily with a fork — about 25-30 minutes; drain and cool.
  • Chop up the shrimp and place in a bowl; season with half of the Slap Ya Mama seasoning; cover and refrigerate.
  • Remove seeds from the mirlitons.
  • Scoop out the pulp and reserve (leave the shell about 1/4 inch thick if you want to stuff the shell with the dressing).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Melt butter in a large sauté pan.
  • Sauté the onions, celery and bell pepper until tender — about five minutes. 
  • Add mirliton pulp. 
  • Sprinkle remaining Slap Ya Mama seasoning, salt and pepper. 
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes on low heat. 
  • Add shrimp and cook until pink.
  • Add breadcrumbs.
  • Adjust seasoning.
  • Stuff shells or bake in a baking dish for about 25 minutes.

Baked Mac and Cheese


  • 1 lb elbow macaroni noodles
  • half a stick of butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cheddar cheese, shredded 
  • mozzarella cheese, shredded 
  • About 4 cups heavy cream 
  • about 4 eggs (large) (I use one egg per cup of heavy cream, so if you need more liquid in your pan, let that be your guide.) 


  • Boil the macaroni noodles according to the package directions. 
  • When the noodles are done, strain them in a colander, put the butter on top and stir them around.
  • Spray a baking dish (I use a 13-by-15 dish).
  • Lay out a layer of noodles to cover the bottom of the pan.
  • Sprinkle the salt and pepper on top of the layer of noodles.
  • Lay out a hefty layer of cheddar, then sprinkle mozzarella on top as well.
  • Lay another layer of noodles on top of the cheese.
  • Repeat with salt and pepper.
  • Repeat with another layer of cheeses.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, then add the heavy cream. 
  • Pour on top of the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish. It should almost cover your noodles but sit right below. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

Apple Crumble Pie


  • store-bought pie crust 
  • 1 tbsp flour 
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 2.5 apples, peeled and thinly sliced 


  • 1 stick of cold butter
  • 3/4 cup flour 
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 


  • Set your oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Line a baking sheet with foil. 
  • In a food processor or with a hand pastry cutter, cut the butter, flour, sugar and cinnamon until you get a mixture of large and small pea-sized clumps. I like mine more on the small side. 
  • Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use. 
  • In a large bowl, toss the apples, ginger, cinnamon, salt, sugar and flour until coated well. Transfer the apple mixture to the crust; sprinkle it with the crumb topping. 
  • Bake until the top is golden and apples are tender — 50-60 minutes.

Written by Joy Monnerjahn

Joy Monnerjahn is the owner of The Bayou Belle, where you will find many Louisiana recipes. She grew up in Southern Louisiana and enjoys bringing the flavors of her home to her dishes. Learn more at, and reach her at

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