Lisa Erickson mug

I’m not going to have any expectations this Thanksgiving. There are a lot of unknowns with the rise of COVID cases in the Midwest. That makes it very hard to plan anything. 

Usually, by now I have the meal planned out, groceries bought, and maybe even part of the dining room table set. This year I’ve done nothing except ordered a turkey.

How do you plan when you don’t even know if your extended family is going to come? 

There are options. 

The reality is Thanksgiving is not about the food. It’s about being thankful and grateful for family, friends, and what you DO have. 

I’m going to plan on having a good attitude. It’s a choice. No one, but I get to decide how I feel. Unless the house burns down or war breaks out, I’ll find more than one thing to be thankful for. 

Life doesn’t always go as planned—and come to think of it, most of the time it doesn’t. I’ll be ready for whatever COVID wants to toss my way.

I’ll wear a mask, clean and sterilize everything, sit across the room and walk a tightrope if necessary. What are you willing to do?

I’m planning on making the basics such as green bean casserole, corn souffle, and mashed potatoes. I may even swap out my turkey for a chicken and save it for another day when everyone can come. 

There may not be sweet potatoes or homemade fresh baked rolls or five different desserts—but there will be love and peace.

Making less also means I might have a little more time than usual to spend playing a game or reminiscing about Thanksgivings past. 

Making less and smaller amounts means I can focus on making the basics even better. Mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving is like the canvas of a Leonardo Davinci painting. Without it, there would be no Mona Lisa. 

Mashed potatoes can be as basic as you want, or you can make them shine with a few extra steps to ensure they will be the perfect backdrop for your turkey.


Perfect Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes

1 tbsp kosher salt

½ cup butter, melted 

1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

½ to 1 cup half and half, warm

1 tsp garlic salt

Pepper to taste 

¼ cup chopped fresh chives 


Fill a large pot with cold water. Add potatoes, salt, and cook over high heat until pot comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender but still firm; about 25 minutes. Drain and return to stove over low heat to dry potatoes for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

With a potato masher, mash until half of the potatoes are smooth. Add the butter, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, ½ cup warm half & and half, garlic, salt, and pepper. Continue to mash until smooth and there are no lumps. Add more half & half if needed. Serve or keep warm at 170 degrees until ready to serve.


Lisa Erickson is a food columnist who loves adventure and food. You can find more recipes by emailing her at

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