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Covid Thanksgiving and Gratitude

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Lordy day, 2020 has been a lot to manage and take in. And, here we are at the holidays. There’s an active call from the CDC for smaller holiday celebrations. We’re tired. We’re overwrought. We’re scared of COVID and what it might do or scared of the people that aren’t scared enough….. Thanksgiving is normally a time of joy and gratitude. Is this really a time to be thankful? Yes, yes it is. In fact, now more than ever. Let’s talk about active gratitude. Read on for more.

Active Gratitude

I am not Pollyanna. We’re in a hot mess. People have lost their jobs, businesses, and most importantly, loved ones. What is there to be thankful for?! Hear me out. An active practice of gratitude you feel more closely connected to your community and with our current limitations, the connection is more important than ever. If you make an active practice of gratitude a regular, consistent practice, it will change your life. Gratitude makes us feel good. The benefits of an active practice of gratitude extend far beyond ourselves. When you share your own gratitude with members of your community, you help them feel seen, valued, elevated, and more closely connected.

Giving Thanks for Friendship

When I am having a bad day, I try to think of something that makes me grateful and not like pitiful Pearl. Last week I had a few intense days of work, long hours on my feet shopping, cooking and washing dishes, and more dishes. At one point I felt myself getting sour. So, I said out loud to myself, “Be grateful for this work.” My attitude nearly instantly changed. I am so fortunate to get to do what I love.

Another major blessing is the love and support of my friends.  My dear friend and colleague Cynthia Graubart and I had quite the year last year. We planned and produced the 80th birthday celebration at the James Beard House for our mutual friend and colleague, Nathalie Dupree. Cynthia also did one of the kindest acts of loving I could ever imagine and helped excise me from a deeply emotional and incredibly difficult personal situation. I lost my job, my love, and my home. I couldn’t see straight and needed a guide. She was there for both me and my ex, helping us navigate out of the sad mire. My joke is that I owe her a kidney, but the reality is there is no way I could ever repay her for her immense kindness and generosity.

Active Gratitude

Find the Helpers

Some folks are built this way. They are guides. It’s their natural state to help people. When faced with a problem, they want to fix it. So, when the news started coming in that the COVID numbers are rising and we need to reconsider how we celebrate Thanksgiving, my problem-solving friend got busy!

Cynthia has written a new E-book and paperback, Thanksgiving for Two (or Four): Downsized Recipes for Today’s Smaller Thanksgiving Dinner. As Southern Living reports, “A downsized Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be any less fun or delicious.” The Thanksgiving dinner table may be smaller this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip the traditions you love.

Virginia Willis on

Cookbooks with Virginia

Join me on Sunday 15 November at 1:00 pm EST for a special edition of Cookbooks with Virginia, my weekly Facebook Live show all about cookbooks. Cynthia and I will be talking tips and techniques on how to scale down — and the secret to perfect Thanksgiving Gravy. I know you are going to love it!

Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoy Cynthia’s recipe for Boneless Turkey Breast. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow! Need a reminder to buy this book!? Check it out right here! Thanksgiving for Two (or Four): Downsized Recipes for Today’s Smaller Thanksgiving Dinner

Bon Appétit, Y’all

Virginia Willis

PS need more info on Thanksgiving? Check this out. 

Boneless Turkey Breast with Bourbon-Orange Glaze

Preparation Time: 10 minutes Start to Finish Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes Serves: 2 with leftovers, or 4 for main course
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 approx. 2 pound boneless turkey breast
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For the sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 medium orange zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • ½ cup turkey or chicken stock or broth


  • Dry turkey breast and move to rack. Coat breast evenly all over with butter. Season roast all over with salt and pepper. Boneless breasts come dressed in a string bag. Leave it in place until after cooking.
  • Roast breast 90 minutes. Test internal temperature and keep roasting until the interior temperature reaches 165°F on an instant read thermometer. Allow breast to rest 10 minutes before carving. Gently snip the string bag open to carefully remove it, leaving as much skin in place as possible. Slice as desired.
  • While the breast is roasting, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic in the hot butter 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook until starting to turn light brown and all the white flour is incorporated. Zest and juice a medium orange and pour the juice slowly into the flour, stirring constantly. Whisk in brown sugar, bourbon, and stock, and stir until thickened. Stir zest into remaining gravy and keep warm. If gravy is too thick, adjust with additional stock.
  • If drippings have collected, add to any gravy made for serving.


If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or a book signing, let me know! Send an email to and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. evan bernstein

    love the photos!

  2. Thanks for this post! We do have a lot to be grateful for! Sometimes we just need a reminder. Hope all is well with you!
    Lynda Weaver

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