The holidays have always been about tradition for Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy—especially during Thanksgiving.
“On Thanksgiving, she does all the cooking and I run for cover,” says Wahlberg, 50.
“I’m like the chef on the Muppets,” says The Masked Singer cohost, 47. “I’m a little bit of a disaster, I make a mess. But I was telling Donnie last night, ‘Don’t forget, my Thanksgiving meals are the best.’ Really, truly, I can brag about that. All the every day stuff, it’s not so good. But my Thanksgiving feast is to-die-for.”
“Jenny is right, it really is delicious. She’ll be cooking and I’ll be coming into the kitchen to pick at the food all day,” he says. “She’ll then get mad because I’m eating all the food and chase me out.”
Amidst the day filled with family, football and hearty snacking, the couple tries to make time to remember what the holiday is about—being thankful. “We both grew up really poor, and Thanksgiving was the one time of year when we could eat this really big meal as a family and to be thankful and have gratitude,” says Wahlberg. “We’re not in that same predicament now, but this is now our opportunity to celebrate that tradition most of all—being grateful for all the blessings we have in our life.”
The couple, who split their time between New York City and the Chicago area, began hosting their family’s Thanksgiving when they moved into their St. Charles, Ill. home five years ago. Although, this year, they’ll be able to cook and celebrate the holiday in their recently renovated kitchen, which they shared with PEOPLE in October. “We’re taking that new kitchen out for a ride. Hopefully we don’t destroy it all in one day,” says McCarthy.
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On their menu: Roast turkey and a full spread of side dishes—including McCarthy’s mom’s “famous” homemade stuffing cooked with turkey necks and topped with crunchy bits of turkey skin (“I know sounds gross but, trust me, it’s just the best!” she says) and a classic green bean casserole with a few upgrades. “He likes it with way more [black] pepper than I would usually put in but I love him so much that I usually surrender,” she says. “And he lets me put in mushrooms because I like veggies. So there’s something in there for both of us.”
The celebrity couple has partnered with French’s Crispy Fried Onions during Thanksgiving season, and shared their favorite green bean casserole recipe with PEOPLE below.
“Jenny literally has to buy an extra box because l I love onion rings more than anything, and I’ll just eat them right out of the box like chips,” he says. “People don’t know this about me, and I’m not just saying this, but I really do love green beans. And the proof is that in every single dinner scene in Blue Bloods, I eat about 450 green beans during filming—that’s the only thing I’m eating.”
Music also plays a part in the family’s Thanksgiving meal. “My mother used to sing this funny Thanksgiving song about a turkey who sits on a backyard fence ever since we were little, so I still continue to sing it and I passed it down to my son,” says McCarthy, who also hosts The Jenny McCarthy Show on SiriusXM. “And as the wife of a famous singer, it feels fitting.” Adds the New Kids on the Block star: “The best part is that we have a karaoke machine that we use on holidays, and she sings the gobble-gobble parts of the song with the autotune—it’s just like T. Pain singing our Thanksgiving song.”
One tradition the couple will be breaking this year is their annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. McCarthy recently announced that she will not co-hosting New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest this year—and will be ringing in 2020 in St. Charles. “I’m so happy that I’ll be home with my family,” she says. “[My son] Evan asked me to please stay home this year, and everyone was so tired after almost 10 years of truckin’ it up to New York City—it was hectic. It was a dream job, and now I’m happy to just be cuddling in the warm with my family, watching it on TV like everyone else.”
Jokes Wahlberg: “And after last year when she hosted and the New Kids performed, I mean, where do you go from there?”
Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg’s Green Bean & Mushroom Casserole
1 can (10.5 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 cans (14.5 oz.) any style green beans or 2 lbs. fresh green beans
1 1/3 cup crispy fried onions, divided (like French’s)
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix soup, milk and pepper in a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup crispy fried onions.
2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté sliced mushrooms until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add cooked mushrooms to bean mixture; stir to combine.
3. Bake green bean casserole in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove from oven and stir. Sprinkle top of casserole with remaining 2/3 cup crispy onions. Return to oven and bake for 5 minutes until onions are golden brown.