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usually start planning our Thanksgiving meal about a month in advance,

not because I’m preparing complicated food, but because I’m excited to cook.

Thanksgiving is a foodie’s dream holiday. 

Does it get any better than cooking a tasty meal for family and friends? Wait. What if some family members are not there? Is it still fun? 

This year is different for me. This year we will be going to someone else’s home. I don’t know what I was thinking back in July when I accepted the invitation—actually I do. I was overwhelmed and sad about the passing of my beloved dad. The thought of having a holiday without him sounded painful and very…unfun. I miss my Pops. 

Pops always made the stuffing, baked apple pies, and carved the turkey. My dad was a genius in the kitchen. He was not a formally trained chef, he just loved to cook, and cooked for everyone he loved.

Growing up, we’d go out to eat at some restaurant, and he would spend the next few weeks trying to master whatever he ordered. It didn’t matter if it was French fries or filet —he was game. He’d bake cookies and send us around the neighborhood delivering them door-to-door. He wanted to share his love of cooking and baking with everyone he knew. 

He’s the reason I can cook or bake at all. He was a great example. If you’re feeling the same way I am, I understand. Loss is painful and change is hard—especially when someone you love will not be sitting with you this Thanksgiving. 

I keep thinking, what would he want me to do? I know he would not want me to be sad. He’d say something like, “Lisa, chin up. What did I teach you? You only get one life. Don’t spend it thinking about what has been, but what will be.” He’s right. 

I will focus on other family members who will be present. I will be grateful for each and every one of them. I will do what my dad did. I will pour my heart into lovingly cooking for others. 

Thank you, Pops!

Pops’ Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies to Share

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda 

2 Tbsp. milk, warm

1 tsp. salt

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; add the vanilla. In another bowl combine flour, soda, and salt. Add to the creamed butter. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Drop by large spoonfuls onto prepared pans. Bake for 9 minutes. The edges will be light brown. Do not over bake. Cool on a wire rack.

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

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