10 Tools You Need for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

10 Tools You Need for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

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Here's your Thanksgiving checklist for all the pans, tools, and other cookware you'll need for a stress-free Turkey Day. Do you have everything you need?!

, Elise Bauer, and Coco Morante

The time is nigh. Thanksgiving just around the corner. Do you have everything you need?!

Thanksgiving is a food lover’s paradise — a time to gather and do nothing but eat. The key to a stress-free holiday is planning: A few weeks before Turkey Day, it’s wise to get your game together and figure out the state of affairs in your kitchen.

Here are ten tools, pans, and other essential cookware to dig out of the cupboard or put on your shopping list:

1 Roasting Pan and Rack: This seems like a no-brainer, but if this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving, you might forget! And if you already have a roasting pan, make sure your is clean and ready to go, including the metal roasting rack that rests inside the pan. That rack elevates the turkey, helps air circulate around it, and keeps it separate from the juices that will invariably hit the bottom of the pan.

2 Cheesecloth: I never roast a turkey without cheesecloth—I drench it in good butter and drape it over the top of the turkey, which helps retain some of the moisture. Cheesecloth is also useful for straining broth, steeping herbs, and lots of other meal prep tasks.

3 Turkey baster: If you don’t want to go the cheesecloth route, a baster is key to keeping the bird moist.

4 Butchers’ twine. You’ll want the wrangle the legs together of this one, so the bird keeps its shape in the oven.

5 A sharp carving knife: My grandfather always cut the turkey with an electric knife, which I used to think was goofy but now I kinda think is cool. In lieu of that, a good sharp knife is essential.

6 Covered casserole dishes: Covered dishes are essential for keeping sides like potatoes and stuffing nice and hot on the table. (Don’t have covers for your casserole dishes? Try these silicon lids!)

7 Lots and lots of aluminum foil: I’ve experienced way too many holidays wherein I run out of foil. You’ll need it to line pans, cover dishes, reheat bread, or wrap up random leftovers.

8 Fat separator with a built-in strainer: This handy device keeps the fat and other particulates from the pan away from the rest of the gravy when you want to pour it out.

9 Thermometer: Ideally you want an instant read thermometer, which tend to be the most fast and accurate. Barring that expense, one that you trust is important. Remember, we’re looking to get the bird to 165F at the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

10 Carving board with recessed edges, or an outer trench: A carving board might feel unnecessary when you already have a regular cutting board, but the juices from carving the turkey will inevitably run out and off the board, making a mess of your counter top. Besides you want those juices for the gravy, right?

What other tools do you consider essential for a stress-free Thanksgiving Day?

Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Planning Timeline

It is that time of year again – It is time to begin your Thanksgiving Dinner planning. Thanksgiving is the time to gather with your friends and family, turn on some football, and enjoy your Thanksgiving meal.

If you are planning to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, there is no need to stress. Follow our Thanksgiving Dinner Planning time table to help you get organized and prepared for a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner. The Thanksgiving meal is the one meal of the year that you usually know what to expect and what you will be eating.

Different areas of the United States have different thanksgiving traditions, plus family have their traditional dishes that must be prepared. Honor your family traditions and make the traditional foods expected. Then add a new dish that you would like to introduce. The Thanksgiving dinner is a simple meal to prepare. All it takes to pull it off is some advance Thanksgiving dinner planning. The best advice to reduce the stress, is to write down everything you need to do and then prioritize.

Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving:

Plan and Prepare Thanksgiving Dinner in Advance.

Prepare a list of your dinner guests. List how many are children. Ask about food allergies and alcohol preferences to save yourself some surprises or headaches.

Write out the menu and a shopping list (read over each recipe and make a grocery list). Check out my Thanksgiving Dinner Menu (includes recipes) for some great ideas.

Write out a cooking schedule and timetable. Indicate the dishes you can make ahead, those that can be frozen, and those that must be cooked at the last minute. This list will help to keep you organized.

Decide whether you want to ask people (family and friends) to help you, either by bringing parts of the meal (wine, dessert, appetizers, side dishes) or by coming early to help in the kitchen. Make sure everyone knows what they are bringing and what, if any, serving dishes and utensils they should also bring. Having some help will free up time for yourself AND oven space for your own cooking. In other words – Delegate!

Make sure your have all the kitchen equipment you will need, especially a large roasting pan if you are roasting the turkey. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, purchases one. Check out Using a Cooking or Meat Thermometer.

This is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world. To learn more about this excellent thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined: Thermapen Thermometer .

If you are making cheesecakes, make them now and freeze them for later use. This will save you lots of time and frustration. Check out How to Freeze Cheesecakes. Check out my favorite (It tastes like you are eating pumpkin pie).

If you are baking pies for dessert, make the dough for the crust, roll it out, lay it into the pie plates, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. NOTE: The recommended storage time for unbaked pastry is two months. Pie Recipes – All your favorite pie recipes plus lots more!

Decide how you are going to cook your turkey. If you choose to barbecue, deep fry, or smoke your turkey, you will not be able to stuff it. Stuffing or dressing will have to be made as a side dish.

How To Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey:

Oven-Roasted Turkey
Do you know that a “frozen” turkey is fresher than a “fresh” turkey?

Turkey Basics
How to purchase a turkey.
Choosing a fresh or frozen turkey.
How to thaw a frozen turkey.
How to prepare turkey for stuffing.

Guidelines For Roasting a Whole Turkey
Learn how to safely and easily prepare and roast your turkey.

Turkey Variations:

How about substituting your oven-roasted turkey for:

Barbecued or Grilled Whole Turkey – This is a very easy and efficient way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. No mess in your oven or the kitchen. A whole turkey may be prepared on either a gas grill or a charcoal grill. This method requires a covered barbecue grill and heavy duty aluminum foil. Your turkey will be crisp outside and juicy inside.

Cajun Fried Turkey – This is the best way of cooking a turkey I have ever tasted. The turkey is anything but greasy as the deep-frying process seals the outside and the turkey remains incredibly juicy, while the skin gets wonderfully crispy.

Smoked Turkey – Learn how to smoke a whole turkey.how to smoke a whole turkey.

Turducken – This regional delight has become one of the latest food fads. From the outside it looks like a turkey, but when you cut through it, you see a series of rings making up the three birds and three stuffings.

Tofurky (Torfurkey) – Vegetarian/Vegan Thanksgiving:
For your vegetarian and vegan family and friends.

One Week Before Thanksgiving:

Clean out the refrigerator to make room for the Thanksgiving dinner groceries and prepared dishes. I know you probably do not want to do this, but you will thank me later.

Do your shopping now and purchase all non-perishables. Buy all the ingredients listed for your Thanksgiving dinner recipes. Wait until the day before Thanksgiving to buy salad greens, fresh breads, or seafood.

Purchase your frozen turkey. Learn about the different types of turkey that can be purchased: Turkey Terminology – Types of Turkeys. Put the frozen turkey in the coldest part of your freezer. To figure out how big of a turkey you need, estimate that each guest will eat about 1.3 pounds, and then round up:

8 guests: 8 x 1.3 = 10.4 – Your turkey should weigh at least 11 pounds.

13 guests: 13 x 1.3 = 16.9 – So the bird should weigh at least 17 pounds.

Cooking Equipment: At this point, you should also make sure that you have all the necessary cooking equipment. Besides the usual assortment of pots and pans, you should get your hands on a cheese grater, a strainer, an electric mixer, and various sized mixing bowls and baking dishes.

4 Days Before Thanksgiving – Start Thawing The Turkey Now:

Thawing the Turkey: If you have purchased a frozen turkey, you will need to start thawing it NOW.

Every 5 pounds of turkey will require 24 hours of thaw time in the refrigerator (i.e., a 15-pound bird will take 3 full days). Start defrosting the frozen turkey in the coldest part of the refrigerator, in the back. A slow thaw equals a juicy and moist turkey.

NEVER DEFROST TURKEY AT ROOM TEMPERATURE – since bacteria multiplies and breeds at room temperature.

Refrigerator Turkey Thawing Time (40 degrees F) by Turkey Weight
Following information on thawing turkeys from the National Turkey Federation

8 to 12 pounds – 2 to 2.5 days

12 to 16 pounds – 2.5 to 4 days

16 to 20 pounds – 4 to 5 days

20 to 24 pounds – 5 to 6 days

Emergency Thawing Only: If you need to thaw the turkey more quickly, you may thaw the bird in COLD water, in the original wrapping. The cold water must be changed every 30 minutes. Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound using this method. This is not my favorite method as it is a last-minute hassle and does dry out the turkey.

COLD Water Turkey Thawing Time by Turkey Weight

8 to 12 pounds – 4 to 6 hours

12 to 16 pounds – 6 to 8 hours

16 to 20 pounds – 8 to 10 hours

20 to 24 pounds – 10 to 12 hours

3 Days Before Thanksgiving:

Prepare Table Settings: iron table linens, designate serving platters, and make sure your glassware and silver sparkles.

Make cranberry sauce and refrigerate.

Prepare other sauces, jellies, and dressings store in the refrigerator.

2 Days Before Thanksgiving:

Clean your house. The most important areas are the kitchen and bathrooms the guests will be using. Resist the temptation to redecorate or rearrange, as this will only stress you!

To brine or not to brine – The secret to juicy poultry is simple – brine them before grilling or baking! This is the secret that chefs never tell you about. It is very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware. Brining is like a marinade as it keeps food moist and tender. If you choose to brine your turkey, check out Guidelines for Brining Poultry. Sometimes I brine my turkey and sometimes I don’t. It is your choice.

Frozen Desserts: Remove frozen cheesecakes or frozen pie crust from freezer and let thaw in the refrigerator.

Gelatin Dishes: If you are making a gelatin dish, make it now and store in the refrigerator.

1 Day Before Thanksgiving:

Pies: Finish preparing any pies that you are making.

Shopping Day – Purchase perishable items such as salad greens, fresh breads, or seafood.

Mise en Place – This is a French term for preparing all the ingredients for a dish in advance, such as washing, trimming, chopping vegetables, setting out your spices and herbs, etc.

Salad Greens – Clean and dry salad greens, and store in re-sealable plastic bag.

I also make the Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes at this time. See recipe here: Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Set your table now – Set the table as far in advance as you can. Use your best dishes for special occasions. Having your family together for Thanksgiving is a very special occasion. You will have plenty of things to do on Thanksgiving Day without worrying about setting the table.

Thanksgiving Dinner Day:

9:30 a.m. – Remove the turkey from the refrigerator, allowing it to sit for 90 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature. Depending on the size of your turkey, you are going to need to start working on it about 5 to 7 hours before dinner is served. Make sure that you take the giblets and neck out of the inside of the turkey. Rinse the turkey in cool water, pat dry, season, and dress it according to your taste and traditions.

Turkey Stuffing – Check out Linda’s Favorite Turkey Stuffing. Prepare stuffing and stuff the turkey. Also check out Advice on Stuffing a Turkey Safely. It takes about 45 minutes to clean and stuff a turkey. NOTE: Never stuff the turkey with stuffing and then refrigerate it overnight or hours in advance this is not safe and very dangerous food poisoning can be a result.

Prepare the turkey according to your recipe. Roast the turkey. Check out my Guidelines For Roasting a Whole Turkey.

Check the turkey temperature using an instant read cooking thermometer. Always use a cooking thermometer. Check out Using a Cooking or Meat Thermometer. Cooking time will vary with different ovens and whether or not the turkey is stuffed. Remember to leave time for the turkey to stand before carving.

Make the gravy – Remove the turkey from oven and make the gravy according to recipe. Check out Making Perfect Turkey Gravy and Gravy Making Tips.

Complete the vegetable dishes. Reheat before the meal.

Make the mashed potatoes or reheat Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes in the oven or microwave. I like to put my mashed potatoes in the crock pot to reheat. Saves oven space!

Warm breads or rolls.

Garnish desserts.

Before Dinner

Serve a small appetizer (I like to serve fresh cut-up vegetables with a dip. Also maybe some cold cuts). You do not want your guests to fill up on the appetizers, just whet their appetite. Check out my Thanksgiving Dinner Menu (includes recipes) for some great ideas.

1 of 5

Problem: 1 turkey + 5 side dishes + 2 desserts ÷ 1 stove = complete and total chaos.

Solution: To keep organized, create what caterers call a prep list, which lays out, in order, all the tasks that need to be done in the two days prior to your Thanksgiving dinner.

  • First, figure out which recipes can be made at least one day in advance. Things like pies, blanched vegetables, and gratins can all be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. Find make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes.
  • Second, identify which of the dishes to be made on Thanksgiving Day will take the longest. Work backward from the time you want to eat, allowing 10 extra minutes per recipe.
  • Third, look at cooking temperatures and see what can go in the oven at the same time. Use multiple timers to keep track of what&rsquos in the oven and on the stovetop. Put a Post-it note on each timer so you won&rsquot forget which dish it&rsquos for.

Problem: You have six cookbooks open and you still can&rsquot find that recipe for sweet potatoes.

Solution: Cut through the clutter and make copies of recipes or print them out from the Web.

  • Tape them to cabinets at eye level. (This will save precious counter space, too.)
  • You can also use a magnet and stick them to the hood above the range.
  • Slip the recipe sheets into plastic sleeves and file them in a binder so they&rsquoll be ready next year.

10 Steps to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a little bit of kitchen chaos. There are so many dishes, so many people, and so many cherished family traditions that must be upheld it would be pretty strange if the day didn’t have its fair share of drama. But with a little advance planning you can avoid enough of the crises to actually enjoy the meal and your guests. Here’s my 10-step sanity plan:

  1. Clear out your fridge. You’re going to be filling it up again pretty soon, so now is a good time to eat the best leftovers and toss the rest.
  2. Start thawing your turkey: The safest place to do this is in the fridge—aren’t you glad you’ve already cleared it out?
  3. Make your pie crusts. Roll them out and freeze them flat between sheets of parchment paper in resealable plastic bags until needed. They’ll defrost quickly.
  4. Check your recipes. Make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment needed. Make a list of what you still need.
  5. Go shopping. The crowds will be insane the day before Thanksgiving, so get as much as you possibly can now.
  6. Stock up on wine, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks—and make sure you have plenty of ice.
  7. Check your serving pieces. Do you have enough platters, bowls, and serving spoons and forks?
  8. Do as much prep work as you can: Make salad dressings chop onions and celery and store in resealable plastic bags in the fridge top and tail green beans make stock for gravy with purchased turkey wings.
  9. Make the cranberry sauce. Hint: The recipe on the back of the bag is great. Just add a pinch of salt to bring out the cranberries’ full tangy flavor. A splash of port isn’t too bad, either.
  10. If you have guests who are bringing food, call them now and find out exactly what they’re bringing, whether they’ll need counter space and tools to finish prepping, and how much oven time their dish requires. You may need to make a few minor alterations to the menu at this point so you don’t have complete and total kitchen chaos right before the big meal.

Food is one of the hottest topics there is—gone are the days when food news was relegated to the “women’s section” of the newspaper. Now what we eat and drink can affect…

Food is one of the hottest topics there is—gone are the days when food news was relegated to the “women’s section” of the newspaper. Now what we eat and drink can affect our health, our happiness, our wallets, and our environment. I’ve been interested—ok, obsessed—with food since I was seven and was presented with a flambéed baked Alaska at the captain’s table of a ship traveling from New York to New Zealand (let’s face it, if you’re under 10, ice cream that’s been set on fire is pretty freaking awesome). I like to think that my tastes have become a little more sophisticated in the intervening years and I’ve been lucky enough to explore the world of food during the 13 years that I worked at Bon Appetit magazine as managing editor and executive editor. Now I cover what’s new in food, drink, restaurants, food-related travel, and whatever else gets me hungry. Follow me at SmartFood1 on Twitter and let me know what you’re eating, drinking, and drooling over.

6 Last-Minute Hacks for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

When Thanksgiving is just days away, all those "how am I going to get this all done?" anxieties inevitably start to kick in. But before you start agonizing over a dozen things at once, we might have a few solutions right here for you:

1. No rack? No problem.

Use large carrots and celery sticks as a makeshift rack on which to cook your turkey. This is especially helpful if you're using one of those aluminum disposable pans, which don't come with a rack. Fun fact: We discovered this tip in our November 1986 issue while researching fun tidbits for our 130th birthday issue!

2. Get a head start on those spuds.

Peel potatoes for mashed potatoes hours ahead of time (or even the night before) and leave them in a mixture of lemon slices and water in a salad spinner with the cover on. When it's time to boil the potatoes, just pull up on the inner basket and they drain themselves. Toss the lemon, add the potatoes to a pot of water and you're good to go.

3. Kitchen shears are your secret weapon.

Use them for more than cutting butchers' twine and opening bags of pecans. You can quickly cut green beans, snip herbs, and trim excess fat off of the raw turkey.

4. You don't need a food processor to make pie dough.

Place flour in a pie plate and, using a box grater, grate frozen butter into the flour. You get the perfect little "pea-sized" crumbs that every recipe is talking about, no pastry cutter, butter knives, food processor, or sweating necessary.

5. Put your melon baller to work on apples.

Yep, you can use a melon baller to core apples for pie. You won't mangle the fruit and even little kids could help. It also works for pears, which are often too soft to core with a corer.

6. Salt is the key to chilling wine faster.

Put a handful of salt in a bucket of water and ice to chill wine in a fraction of the time. The salt allows the mixture of ice and water to be colder than just ice and water alone, plus the water is a more efficient conductor of cold than just ice.


"Clean out the fridge the week before so you have plenty of room once you do your grocery shop," Dalkin says.

Yes, that&aposs right, start cleaning for an easier holiday. There is nothing worse than seeing an ingredient you need in your refrigerator, not buying it, then realizing it&aposs gone bad on the big day. Avoid any storage or ingredient mishaps by cleaning and clearing out one week ahead of time.

"Plan your menu well in advance and read all the recipes start to finish so there are no surprises like random resting times that are going to put a crimp in your game plan," Dalkin shares.

Now is the time to start organizing all the saved recipes on Pinterest and dog-eared pages of cookbooks. Make a list of what you need (and when), and create an outline of Thanksgiving Day to streamline the entire process from start to finish. Stuck on sides? Gaby&aposs guide to Thanksgiving side dishes to the rescue!

"Speaking of grocery shopping, get it done early. I&aposm talking like 4-5 days ahead of time for everything except the produce. And make a list so you can go in and get everything efficiently," Dalkin says.

Grocery stores will be crowded the week of Thanksgiving, so have a complete list of ingredients at-the-ready to get in and out easily.

"THAW YOUR TURKEY. It takes a while to thaw one of those suckers, so thaw it on Monday so you&aposll be safe come Thursday," Dalkin explained.

Be sure the big bird gets thawed safely and don&apost forget a tasty brine!

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu and Recipes

Planning a Thanksgiving dinner menu can be overwhelming, especially if you are hosting and cooking your first holiday dinner.

Even if this is your traditional annual family meal, you can freshen up your dinner with some new recipes.

I have gathered many of my family’s favorite recipes to celebrate with on Thanksgiving. Although there are many recipes here, they are options, you do not have to make them all, just chose the course option(s) that sound good to you.

Have fun mixing and matching for a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner menu.

Before planning this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner menu, please read Thanksgiving Planning – Stress-Free Thanksgiving (How to plan and prepare your Thanksgiving dinner in advance without stress).

Appetizers Ideas:

Appetizer ideas to serve your guests while waiting for the Thanksgiving dinner menu to be served. Serve light appetizers before your dinner, as you don’t want to fill up your guests. Also serve appetizers that can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Many, many more Appetizer Ideas.

Pimento Cheese Spread or Topping – This is a variation on the very popular Southern Pimento Cheese Spread. This Pimento Spread has a slight kick without being too much.

Tarragon-Rice Stuffed Mushrooms -This is a great low fat and low calorie appetizer to serve your guests.

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese or Cranberry Holiday Spread – An interesting and delicious way to serve cranberries on Thanksgiving.
Platter of assorted cut-up fresh vegetables, cheeses, and meats plus Dill Dip and/or Roasted Jalapeno Dip. This is so easy to make and everyone likes to “munch” on these.

Cheese Fondue
Fondue, an ancient Swiss dish, is very easy to prepare, fun to serve, and enjoyable to eat. It is the perfect dish to gather your friends and family to create a sense of intimacy that is informal and memorable.

Cheese Boards – Cheese Plates – Cheese Platters
Entertaining frequently includes some kind of cheese tray, often with fruit or vegetables or meat or a combination of these foods. This is an opportunity to be creative and introduce your guests to some new cheeses. It is great fun!

Soup Course Ideas – Optional Course:

Next on the Thanksgiving dinner menu, I like to serve a soup course to start the dinner off. Serve a light soup and serve small amounts (more appetizer size). Just enough to delight the taste palates of your guests and family. Lots of delicious Soup, Stew, Chili and Chowder Recipes.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup – This is one of my family’s favorite soup recipes. I have also served this delightful and interesting soup for dinner parties.

Troppo’s Squash Bomb Soup – This delicious squash soup is like a dessert before dinner.

Tomato-Basil Crab Bisque – This soup is so good! This is one of the best bisques that I have tasted.

Carrot Vichyssoise – This recipe originally was made at the Four Season’s restaurant in New York. So good!

Main Dish:

Turn off the TV during your Thanksgiving dinner. Remember, Thanksgiving only comes once a year. Focus your attention where it belongs on the delicious food and your family and friends. When the dishes are done, EVERYONE can enjoy the games (or the chat in the other room).

Oven Roasted Turkey
America’s traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner meat. Learn how to safely and easily prepare and roast your turkey.

Brining Poultry
The secret to juicy chicken breast is simple – brine them before grilling or baking! It is very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware. This is the secret that chefs never tell you about.

Side Dishes:

Stuffing or Dressing Choices:

Stuffing or Dressing choices are usually made according to the region you live in and also family favorites. Advice on Stuffing a Turkey Safely

Turkey Stuffing – This is my family’s favorite Turkey Dressing/Stuffing recipe that I make every year.
Whether you call it “stuffing” or “dressing,” what’s not to love about turkey stuffing? It is often one of the best parts of a turkey dinner. It is so easy to prepare. Also be creative and add your family’s favorite ingredients.

Sweet Onion Cornbread Stuffing – This wonderful cornbread stuffing will delight your family and friends. It is easy-to-make and so delicious! Use it as a great stuffing alongside of your poultry dishes.

Grandma’s Oyster Dressing – This oyster dressing must be served as a side dish and not as a turkey stuffing in the turkey.

Scalloped Oysters – Scalloped oysters are fantastic served as a special side dish, first course, or an appetizer with crackers. For many families, this dish is a Thanksgiving and Christmas tradition.

Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Figs, Morels, and Foie Gras – If you really want to be fancy and step up your Thanksgiving dinner, try this unusual and wonderful dressing. – Learn about Foie Gras.

Potato Choices plus Gravy:

Making Perfect Turkey Gravy – Homemade turkey gravy, made using the turkey giblet stock, pan drippings, and meat juices from the roast turkey, is an essential part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Hints and tips for making that perfect turkey gravy.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes – This easy-to-make mashed potato recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This recipe is classic and simple.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes – Save your valuable kitchen time on Thanksgiving day by using this easy-to-make mashed potato dish. This recipe is especially great when serving a crowd as it eliminates the mess and last-minute hassle of whipping potatoes.

Browned Butter Smashed Potatoes with Butternut Squash – Try something new and impress your family and guests with this delicious combination of potatoes and butternut squash.

Asiago and Sage Scalloped Potatoes – This is my family’s favorite scalloped potato recipe. I especially like to make it during the holidays. This can be made ahead of time.

Perfect Baked Potato – The perfect baked potato has crisp golden skin on the outside and is pure white and fluffy on the inside. It is very easy to bake the perfect potato. If you follow the easy guidelines, you will always have perfect baked potatoes!

Slow Cooker Garlic Roasted Baby Potatoes – Least amount of effort to dump and roast these delicious garlic baby potatoes. No peeling or mashing required!

Cranberries and Gelatin Salads:

It is up to you to decide how many side dishes you serve with your dinner. The more family and/or friends invited to dinner, the more side dishes. Our tradition is that each family invited will bring a side dishes to the dinner to help out with all the preparation involved in preparing the dinner. If you also do this, be sure and decided in advance what you want everyone to bring, so you do not end up the 3 or 4 versions of the same dish!

Cranberry Relish – My son-in-law makes this wonderful family recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner every year.

Cranberry Sauce with Raspberry Vinaigrette – This traditional sauce is enhanced by raspberry vinegar. Very delicious!

Tomato Aspic Gelatin Salad is a favorite old-fashion family comfort food. If you think of tomato aspic as a congealed Bloody Mary cocktail drink, you kind of know what it tastes like.

Blueberry JELL-O Salad – You will find this dessert commonly served at holiday gatherings and special occasions. Even people that do not typically like Jell-O dishes love the texture of this dessert and ask for seconds!

Fiesta Carrot Pineapple JELL-O Salad – This Fiesta Carrot Pineapple JELL-O Salad is a classic JELL-O recipe that is light and refreshing! The whole family devours this JELL-O salad. While the pineapple-carrot flavor combination is unique, they work very well together.

Red Hot Applesauce JELL-O Salad – Another classic holiday JELL-O salad recipe from the 1950’s. Red Hot candies are used to add a tasty cinnamon flavor. Also apple sauce and citrus soda add a nice thicker consistency and texture to to this dish.


Green Beans Supreme – Green Bean Casserole – This green bean dish is considered the ultimate comfort food with some America families. Most holiday meals (especially Thanksgiving and Christmas) would not be complete without this green bean dish. Add this classic to your family’s Thanksgiving dinner menu.

German Creamed Spinach – This dish is absolutely wonderful! It is a family favorite at our house for all holidays and special occasions. Even children like this spinach dish!

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds and Lemon – This simple recipe has converted lots of sworn Brussels-sprout haters into devoted connoisseurs. They have turned the sprouts into comfort food by ‘hashing’ and stir-frying them with poppy seeds.

Roasted Cauliflower – This method of preparing cauliflower is very simple and extremely delicious. If you have never roasted cauliflower, try it now!

Relish Plate (pickles, olives, etc.) – A Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without a relish plate to nibble on.

Corn au Gratin – Creamy and cheesy baked corn casserole side dish.

Southern Style Creamed Corn – A hearty creamed corn that incorporates the flavors of bacon, butter and cheese.


Kale Harvest Salad – A perfect combination of autumn fruits and vegetables. Featuring kale as the star ingredient, along with roasted squash, dried cranberries, apples, nuts, and seeds to create a bowlful of goodness.

Caesar Salad – My all-time favorite salad is the Caesar Salad. To many, including myself, this is the King of salads. Caesar salads are very easy to make and can be prepared in advance. This salad will definitely impress your dinner guests.

Following is my delicious low-fat version of Caesar Salad. I promise you that your guests will never know the difference! I make this low-fat and easy-to-make version all the time. I serve this salad with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Low Fat Caesar Salad Recipe

Kale Caesar Salad – For an unusual salad that is delicious and is considered very healthy. For your vegan family or friends, take out the anchovies and toss the salad with a vegan salad dressing.

Fresh Fruit Salad with 1-2-3 Fruit Dressing – This is very refreshing and delicious fruit salad. I use whatever fresh fruit is in season when making this salad. The combination of citrus fruits in the dressing gives the salad a wonderful delicious flavor!

Green Pea Salad – This is a family favorite that I enjoyed when I was young, and still do today. It is a very easy-to-make vegetable salad. Great for taking to a potluck or even Thanksgiving dinner. Your family will love this recipe!

Bread or Roll Choices:

Homemade rolls and breads are always preferred, but it you do not have the time to make your own, purchase top-quality rolls and breads at a local bakery.

Honey Butter – Honey Butter is a must when serving cornbread and biscuits for our family.

Make Ahead Butter Rolls – This is one my favorite roll recipe to use for holiday dinners, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Very easy to make ahead and bake at the last minutes.

Perfect Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits – Homemade biscuits are so easy to make, and if you follow a few simple rules, they will always turn out fluffy and delicious.

Northwest Cornbread – My family loves cornbread! It is easy to make and so good. Cornbread made in the Northwest is a little sweeter and lighter than the traditional southern cornbread.

Various Yeast Breads – In order not to have to heat rolls in my oven, I sometimes make various homemade breads the day before Thanksgiving. This saves me a lot of time on Thanksgiving day and pleases my guests.

Thanksgiving Desserts (lots of great ideas and choices):

Most families serve at least two (2) dessert choices.

Pumpkin Pie – Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie – How about making this very easy and traditional pumpkin pie for your Thanksgiving dinner?

Pumpkin Swirl Gingersnap Cheesecake – Here is a fun twist for your pumpkin cheesecake. The delicate swirling of the pumpkin in the cheesecake makes a beautifully festive holiday dessert. I usually make this cheesecake ahead of time and freeze it. See .

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie – This very light pumpkin chiffon pie will be a big hit at your Thanksgiving dinner. People who are not a big fan of the traditional pumpkin pie, like this version.

Pumpkin Empanadas – Pumpkin empanadas are made both on Thanksgiving and Christmas for some Mexican-style Thanksgiving Dinners.

Devonshire Cream or creme fraiche or sweetened whipped cream to top your pies.

Pecan Praline Pie – There is the plain pecan pie and there is this “souped-up” version that the Southern people make for their Thanksgiving dinner menus. This is a delicious alternate to the classic pecan pie.

Pecan Pie – The only way this pie could be better tasting is to serve it warm and topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Buttermilk Pie – This is a delicious, old-fashion Buttermilk Pie. Do not be put off by the buttermilk – this is a sweet and flavorful pie. My aunt made five pies for a family reunion, and this pie was definitely my favorite!

Old-Fashioned Mincemeat Pie – This has been my favorite holiday pie since I was a little girl. My mother and grandmother used to make her own homemade mincemeat.

Mom’s Apple Pie – This is my Mother’s apple pie recipe. You can never do wrong serving this pie. It is so good!

Lighter Dessert Ideas:

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Trifle – How about a light dessert? Wouldn’t this be an excellent dessert for your Thanksgiving Dinner?

Pumpkin Parfait – A light alternative to pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner.


Your Thanksgiving dinner menu has all been served and the whole family is satisfied, now it is time to sit back and relax. Forget about the mess in the kitchen and just relax and enjoy your family and/or friends. Just relax and visit!

Coffee – How to make a perfect cup of coffee?

How To Use a French Press – coffee press, plunger press and/or press coffee

Main Dish Alternatives

If you do not desire turkey on your Thanksgiving dinner menu, how about substituting for one of the following:

Prime Rib Dinner I – (7-course dinner)

Prime Rib Dinner II – (Christmas or Thanksgiving Dinner)

Ham 101 – Learn all about the different types of ham and how to cook them.

Roasted Crown of Pork Loin – Truly one of the most magnificent of all holiday entrees! Impress your guest with this attractive Roasted Crown Loin of Pork. It is a real show stopper!

Vegetarian/Vegan Thanksgiving:
Tofurky/Tofurkey Recipe with Vegan Gravy – For your vegetarian and vegan family and friends.

Turkey Variations:

How about substituting your traditional oven-roasted turkey for:

Barbecued or Grilled Whole Turkey – This is a very easy and efficient way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. No mess in your oven or the kitchen. A whole turkey may be prepared on either a gas grill or a charcoal grill. This method requires a covered barbecue grill and heavy duty aluminum foil. Your turkey will be crisp outside and juicy inside.

Cajun Fried Turkey – This is the best way of cooking a turkey I have ever tasted. The turkey is anything but greasy as the deep-frying process seals the outside and the turkey remains incredibly juicy, while the skin gets wonderfully crispy.

Smoked Turkey – Learn how to smoke a whole turkey.how to smoke a whole turkey.

Turducken – This regional delight has become one of the latest food fads. From the outside it looks like a turkey, but when you cut through it, you see a series of rings making up the three birds and three stuffings.

Tofurky (Torfurkey) – Vegetarian/Vegan Thanksgiving:
For your vegetarian and vegan family and friends.

Southwest/Mexican Thanksgiving:

Mexican Americans and others have put their own twist on the Thanksgiving dinner menu. These are not “tradition,” nor are they found at all Thanksgiving celebrations, which include Latin American foods, but they are the foods many consider a Thanksgiving meal in the Southwest.

Turkey in Mole Sauce (Mole Poblano de Guajolote) – A Southwest and Mexican Thanksgiving favorite.

Turkey Hints and Tips:

Turkey Basics – How to purchase, stuff, and roast a turkey. Choosing a fresh or frozen turkey. How to thaw a frozen turkey. How to prepare turkey for stuffing.

Thanksgiving Planning – Stress-Free Thanksgiving – How to plan and prepare your Thanksgiving dinner in advance without stress.

Guidelines for Brining Poultry – The secret to juicy chicken breast is simple – brine them before grilling or baking! It is very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware.

Guidelines For Roasting a Whole Turkey – Learn how to safely and easily prepare and roast your turkey.

Advice on Stuffing a Turkey Safely – As the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday draws near, learn how to safely stuff your turkey.

Using a Cooking or Meat Thermometer – Have you ever cut into a turkey to see if it has finished cooking?
Cooking thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking, as they measures the internal temperature of your cooked meat and poultry to assure that a safe temperature has been reached, harmful bacteria have been destroyed, and your turkey is cook perfectly.

Making Perfect Turkey Gravy – Hints and tips for making that perfect turkey gravy.

Handling Leftovers Safely – Leftover” foods are cooked foods that you or your family do not eat within 2 hours after they are cooked. Improper handling or storing cooked food is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the home.

Let’s Make Turkey Stock – My favorite thing to do the morning after Thanksgiving is to make homemade turkey stock from the turkey carcass. It is so easy to do and so delicious! The turkey stock can be used for a delicious soup or frozen for future use.

Food Safety Pages:

Buffet and Party Safety – Also includes what to do if your guests have been delayed at least an hour

Golden Rules of Food Safety – IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! If you have any question in your mind about the freshness or safety of eating a food product, throw it out. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Etiquette, Entertaining, and Party Planning Help

Dining Etiquette Guide – Restaurant and Dinner Party Manners and Etiquette

What is a Recipe? – Learn how to follow a recipe, why some recipes do not work, and about Mise en Place

Appetizer Hints – How many appetizers to make for your party

Etiquette Faux Pas and Other Misconceptions About Afternoon Tea – Due to the new popularity of Afternoon Tea, many people have jumped on the bandwagon, including hotels, caterers, party planners, and protocol and etiquette “experts.” While their enthusiasm is well intended, unfortunately a great deal of misinformation is being perpetuated by these.

Invitation to Afternoon Tea – The invitation has just arrived in the mail. What do you do next? When one is invited to an afternoon tea.

Thanksgiving Countdown: A Stress-Free Guide to Hosting for the First Time

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time or need a quick refresher? Our Thanksgiving planning guide is here to save your holiday!

Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time can seem like a daunting task, but don&apost panic just yet! We&aposve put together the ultimate week-by-week checklist to help you stay organized and get dinner on the table—stress-free! While this year may look a little different (theꃎnters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shared your safest bet is to celebrate with members of your household), you can still make the holiday special. Preparing for the big feast is simple when you have a pre-planned shopping list and a classic holiday menu. Our tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving include an easy-to-follow timeline and guides to a traditional Thanksgiving menu. By starting your meal planning in early November, you can secure the perfect ingredients for holiday appetizers, cocktails, and side dishes.

Plus, putting up early Thanksgiving decorations and arranging make-ahead side dishes can cut your Thanksgiving work in half. Guests will be convinced you pulled off the impossible𠅋ut all it takes is a little holiday planning. So whether you&aposre hosting for the first time or just looking for a better way to plan, our day-to-day Thanksgiving dinner checklist will help you host a fabulous meal with ease.

Here&aposs your timeline to success with all your Thanksgiving preparations.

Best Casserole Dish: Rachael Ray Cucina Casserole Dish Set with Lid, 3 Piece

Great for casual family Thanksgiving dinners, the color of this set is reminiscent of well-loved denim. The set includes one 1 1/2-quart casserole, one 2-quart casserole, and one lid that fits either dish. These are made from durable stoneware that feels sturdy and looks homey.

They’re oven-safe to 500 degrees so they can handle green bean casserole, dressing, or even homemade dinner rolls. They’re also microwave safe, so it’s easy to re-warm food or reheat leftovers, and they’re dishwasher safe so cleaning is easy. They’re also freezer safe and pretty enough to use for serving dishes, even if they weren’t used for cooking.

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