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Covid Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. (That means I make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.)

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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Copyright © 2020 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.








Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. (That means I make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.)

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has made chocolate chip cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking -- but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Virginia is a chef instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen and author of Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South, Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence. 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, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, 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 and approachable spirit. Learn more about Virginia and follow her traveling exploits at

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. evan bernstein

    love the photos!

  2. lyndaweaver

    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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