This was originally published on Food and Fond Memories on December 1, 2009 by sandyaxelrod Leave a Comment (Edit)

Woman (Sandy) in a colorful print dress present a golden brown turkey that is sitting on a cutting board

Tada! Presenting our glorious turkey

It has been many years since I prepared the Thanksgiving Day meal for my family.  For seventeen years we were in the catering business and preparing feasts for our clients after which we were happy to go anywhere but our home and to have someone cook for us.  Then our son Brian got engaged and we went to his then fiancee Eve’s parents home in Orlando to meet them and celebrate the holiday weekend.  We did this for a year or so after they got married too.  Eve’s dad Vinko is a fabulous cook and her mom Zrinka is the type of person who makes you feel right at home.  Then for the next couple of years we were with Eve’s family at her  brother and sister-in-law’s and at Brian and Eve’s.  This year I actually requested to take my turn making the feast.  I was so happy to be doing this that I planned a huge menu even though there were only six of us.  The key to relaxed entertaining is preparing as much as possible ahead of time.  I made my shopping list and spread my grocery shopping over three days the week before.  Last Monday I started my prep work and by Thursday morning with the exception of roasting the turkey and making the potatoes all I really had to do was assemble and heat.  My husband even set the table for me.  He knows that I am the consumate control freak so he constantly asked me if he was doing it right and of course it was perfect and gorgeous when he finished.  I have him well trained after over 40 years of marriage!

Glass topped dining room table elegantly set with pastel placemats, black napkins with silver napkin rings, metallic red chargers, sterling flatware and multicolored roses

Our Table All Set and Waiting for the Food and Guests

Thanksgiving Menu 2009

Herb and Cheese Poppers
Assorted Cheeses, Crackers, Genoa Salami and Prosciutto
Trio of Assorted Olives

Sage Butter Turkey with Cider Gravy
Herb, Mushroom & Andouille Sausage Stuffing
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Buttermilk Ranch Mashed Potatoes
Emeril’s Green Bean Casserole
Chipotle Cranberry Sauce
Bacon Crusted Corn Bread

Aunt Rita’s Chocolate Cake
Pumpkin Cheese Cake
Banana Coconut Cream Pie

A tangle of golden brown crispy fried onion strings draining on white paper towels

Homemade Crispy Onions. Move over French’s can!

Golden Brown turkey o a wood cutting board

Our Picture Perfect Turkey

Most of the recipes that I used were from Bon Appetit Magazine, November 2009.  I totally trust recipes from this publication because I have been preparing food from this magazine for 31 years!  In fact my very first issue was also the Editor in Chief, Barbara Fairchilds first issue that she worked on November 1978 and I have every single copy from that issue on.  I have a fantasy to be featured in one of the issues some day.  Anyway getting back to the food.  Each day I made components of the meal including the desserts.  Monday I made the Cream of Mushroom Soup that went into the Green Bean Casserole.  The recipe from Emeril Lagasse made enough soup that Steve and I had it for dinner with a salad and some really good sour dough bread.  It was yummy.  Wednesday I fried the crispy onion strings for the casserole and now I am so spoiled.  I can never eat the ones from a can again.  The onion strings are so easy to make and look how good they are.  The green bean casserole was the best ever.

I also took a couple of short cuts with the potatoes.  For the candied sweets I use a drained can of Sweet Potato Chunks, butter, dark brown sugar and a pinch of salt.  Mix it all up in an ovenproof serving dish and bake for 30 minutes at 350F.  And for the Buttermilk Ranch Mashed Potatoes I made the fresh Ranch Dressing on Monday and used Ore-Ida Steam and Mash plain Russet potatoes instead of peeling, chunking and boiling.  All you do is steam then for 10 minutes in the microwave and then proceed as if you did all of the work.

Devil's food bundt cake with a serving cut out sitting on a platter

Aunt Rita’s Chocolate Cake

A generous wedge of banana coconut cream pie on a white plate with striped metallic gold rim and the remaining pie showing the slice cut out

Banana Coconut Cream Pie

Of course of everything I made the desserts had to be my favorite.  It has taken me many years to get my girlfriend Jackie’s Aunt Rita to part with her fabulous chocolate cake recipe but it was worth the wait.  The pumpkin cheese cake recipe is from the Food Network Web Site.  It’s a Paula Deen recipe.  But the coconut pie is from a couple of recipes that I combined to make a pie that could rival the one we had in Mazatlan, Mexico last year.


Aunt Rita’s Chocolate Cake

  • Author: Sandy Axelrod
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Sweets
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


1 pkg. Duncan Hines Devils Food Mix

1 small pkg. Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding

1 cup whole milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

8 oz. sour cream

4 lg. eggs

12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chips)

Optional Ganache:

8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chips)

1 cup heavy cream

3 tbps. unsalted butter

1 tbsp. instant espresso powder


Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a tube pan and dust with dark cocoa powder.  Mix all ingredients except chips in large bowl with beater until thoroughly blended.  About 2 minutes.  Fold in chips by hand with spatula.  Spoon batter into tube pan and bake for at least 1 hour until toothpick  or cake test inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 15 minutes and then remove from pan and cool completely.  This cake is so good it needs no icing. But if you choose to take it over the top drizzle the chocolate ganache over it!

For the ganache:

Place the chocolate chips, instant espresso and butter in a medium sized heat proof bowl. Heat the cream until tiny bubbles begin to form. Pour over the ingredients in the bowl and let sit for a couple of minutes. Then begin stirring with a spatula starting with small circles in the center of the bowl and working outward until the melted and a homogeneous dark rich chocolatey brown.


Keywords: Chocolate Cake, ganache, sweets, dessert, Duncan Hines