How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner…

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How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner…

What makes the perfect Thanksgiving Dinner?  Well, the fact is that  it really doesn't have to be too difficult.  My definition of a perfect Thanksgiving is good friends and family to visit with, favorite dishes that taste great but don’t take all day to prepare and most of all a thankful heart towards God for all of our blessings.  These things make the holiday fun and special ...   Print all of the information below minus the photos by clicking HERE.

Here is our Thanksgiving Day Menu…
(Recipes and instructions below)
Roast Turkey
Whipped Potatoes
Turkey Gravy (broth and cornstarch)
Green Bean Casserole
Oven Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Bread Stuffing
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Hot Buttered Rolls
Lime Jello Salad
Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie
Whipped Cream


Our Family's Simple Thanksgiving Dinner Shopping List 

  • one defrosted turkey and a roasting bag
  • a few cans of green beans
  • a family size can cream of mushroom soup, or cheese sauce
  • 1 large can of french fried onions
  • 2-3 large cans of sweet potatoes
  • 5-10 lbs white potatoes
  • 1 bag of cranberries or sauce
  • a couple of pies  (or fruit dump cake: 1 can pie filling and 1 box of white cake mix)
  • whip cream 
  • 1 can or bottle cranberry juice
  • 1-2 bottles ginger ale (mix the two together for sparkling juice)
  • instant stuffing 
  • rolls  
  • pecans or walnuts
  • brown sugar
  • white sugar

Optional : Ingredients for Lime Jello Salad
  • 2 -3oz boxes lime jello
  • 1 8oz pk. cream cheese
  • 12-20 oz whip cream
  • 2 - 13oz cans crushed pineapple  
  • 1 cup nuts (optional)
Have pantry ingredients on hand:  butter, coffee, creamer, pumpkin spice for coffee, nuts, foil or roasting bag.
Our dinner hasn't changed in 20 years. It’s not that we don’t want to try other things..we just love our traditional dishes.  We experiment at Easter. :o)  We have taken a cooked turkey and the cans of vegetables, cream soup and some French fried onions to have Thanksgiving while camping.  We bake the potatoes in the coals.  Even my 19yr old cooked Thanksgiving dinner once  Too bad we all had the stomach flu that day.  I must say, he has a new appreciation for the art of cooking a huge meal like this. It requires careful timing.


Cooking The Turkey

I start early..I get up at 6 or maybe as late as 7am and get the turkey in the oven. That way it will be cooked by 1-2pm.  I do give the turkey a bath the night before--it's a family ritual. :o)  We put him in a tub of cold water to defrost overnight.  Then in the morning, I take off the plastic, rinse the turkey, pat it dry, rub it with oil and salt and also rub a little salt inside.  Then I put the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan.  I coverit loosely with foil and turn the oven on 325.  My cookbook says about 6-7 hours for 25 lbs. The turkey was well done today when I took it out and the meat was falling off the bone. (It’s easier to just use a roasting bag of course.) Click here for roasting times per pound of turkey 

Frankly, when we can all smell the turkey, it's probably time to take it out.  I cover it with foil ASAP and don't carve it until we all sit down for dinner. That keeps the meat nice and juicy.(Poor Turkey..He gave the ultimate sacrifice and we appreciate it. :o).    

I suck all the fat off of the broth surface with a cooking syringe (or spoon it off) and  then pour the fat into a can to discard later and save the broth for gravy.     Once the turkey is in the oven, the time critical element is over.  I jump back into bed for another hour of snoozing.  Ahh....Nice!

The Whole Cooking Schedule for the Day

Cooking dinner for a holiday is like cooking any other except that it's more important to cook the things that take the longest or need to cool, first.
7am TURKEY: Start turkey. See above instructions. Go back to bed for a while!

9am CRANBERRY SAUCE: Cook Cranberry sauce...1 cup sugar, 1cup water, 3 cups frozen cranberries. Bring to boil, simmer for 10 minutes, let cool on the deck. Cover with towel so the local wildlife doesn’t get to taste test it and the honeybees will leave it alone. :o)

9:30am JELLO SALAD:  Make lime jello salad. (Optional: Great idea to do the day before.) 
Boil 4 c. water in hot pot, stir in 3 3oz pks lime jello till dissolved. Stir in 8oz package of cream cheese until melted.  Stir in leftover juice from two 20oz cans crushed pineapple.  Let the jello set in the refrigerator until it starts to thicken.  Then stir in a medium size container of whipped cream and the pineapple and let set until firm..just in time for dinner.


10:00 am Whipped Potatoes
Peel and cut the potatoes in chunks.  I usually cook all five pounds! (I don't want to cook the day after Thanksgiving!).  Put about a teaspoon of salt in the pot and leave it sitting in water on the stove to cook later.

dining 2

Set the table nicely. Make iced tea early so it can cool and you won't need so much ice or you could make homemade lemonade (1c. lemon juice, 1c. sugar, 2qts water). Get the coffee ready so you only have to push a button. Put butter on a plate to soften and put sugar in the sugar bowl.  (Ask the kids to help!)  For a festive drink, you can stir together carbonated water and frozen juice.


11:00am STUFFING 
Set bags or boxes of stuffing near stove until ready to make. (Takes 5 min. or less). Stir pineapple and whip cream into jello to set the rest of the way.  Put cranberry sauce in fridge to cool.

11:15 GREENBEAN CASSEROLE  Stir togeth er 2-4 cans green beans, 1-2cans mushrooms soup, salt, pepper, 1/2-1 c. milk and 1/2 a container French fried onions if you have them. (Substitute any soup you like or make white sauce and stir in grated cheese).  Pour in 8x11 pan to wait until turkey is out of oven. (Top with crackers or corn flakes or potato chips and butter if you don't have French fried onions about 5 min. before you take it out of oven.


11:30pm SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE   I don’t use a recipe..I just stir together chunks of canned sweet potatoes, generous amount of brown sugar and 1/2to 1c. walnuts or other nuts (if you have them and like them).  Top with dollops of butter all over. Cover in foil and set aside to cook later.

12:00pm  LIGHT LUNCH Break  Have a little snack like fruit, applesauce, eggs, or toast for lunch,  if you plan to eat by 2-3pm. Take a break!

12:30pm. BREAD/POTATOES Put rolls or french bread etc on cookies sheet and brush with butter to cook right before dinner.  Start white potatoes boiling.

1:00pm  Take Turkey out and START CASSEROLES Take turkey out of oven and put sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole in oven at 350 to cook for 30 min.


1:15pm. GRAVY:  Pour broth out into a cup to make turkey gravy with.  Cover the turkey in the pan completely so that the  juices can't get out. Don't slice it until ready to serve.

Let the broth cool a bit.  Make gravy.  Remember, if you need to add more flour, stir it into cool water in a small bowl or cup, then whisk that into the hot gravy to avoid lumps; never add dry cornstarch or flour to hot gravy.)


1:30pm Cook Stuffing  Follow package directions for stuffing.  (A hot pot heats the water quickly.)  Usually, you heat the water and butter (I substitute turkey drippings) to boiling, remove from heat, stir in dry stuffing mix, cover, set aside for 5 min. fluff and then bake for a little while in you want.

1:45pm FINISH POTATOES Take out casseroles and set aside. Drain water from potatoes, mash, add butter, whip with beaters. Salt and pepper to taste. (keep warm)

2:00pm SERVE DINNER/HEAT ROLLS  Put food into serving bowls or on platters and add serving utensils. Fill glasses with ice. Bake the rolls in the oven.

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Congratulations! You’re done! 

Printable Menu List, Schedule, (no photos)

This schedule leaves plenty of time for breaks, washing and drying dishes so you don't have to do them later, and visiting.  Don't make this complicated! And say yes if anyone offers to help. If no one does, ask them to.  After twenty years of doing the same dinner, I can now do this ‘in my sleep’.  I'm all for easy cooking, great taste and lots of visiting and thankfully, my family loves this dinner. It never seems to get old for some reason. 
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I always feel that holidays are for fellowship and simple but great tasting dishes that you don't eat every day.  So what if they aren't super healthy? It's time for feasting not fasting!  Eat healthy the rest of the year, and the pies and whipped cream won't hurt you. :o)    

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Pray before dinner and thank the Lord for all your blessings. 

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Take a walk after dinner--save the dessert and coffee for later.  Play games…visit... play with the babies… and take lots of pictures to preserve the special memories.  

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And remember..No dessert until everyone has helped you with the dishes.  

Have a great Thanksgiving  and….Happy Homemaking!


BONUS: Cornbread Dressing from my dear friend..Millicent...
She felt sorry for me and offered me this recipe which she says is fantastic. :o) She and her husband are fantastic cooks, so I'm sure this will be great.

So, I'm going to TRY this for Christmas dinner. (My MOTHER is making dinner for Thanksgiving. I feel so weird not running around shopping today!)


1 c. Onions, chopped
1 c. Celery, chopped
½ pan cornbread, crumbled
1 pkg. Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix
Chicken broth
Sauté onions and celery in bacon drippings. Add cornbread & stuffing mix. If you like Poultry Seasoning, you can add it to taste. Mix with broth until moist. You want it very moist, so it doesn’t dry out.
Bake at 350˚ until done, usually 30-45 minutes.

Here is the cornbread recipe I always use.
Sift together 1 c. flour, 1 T. baking powder, 2 T. (heaping) sugar, 1 t. salt.
Stir in 1 c. corn meal. Add 2 eggs, 1 c. milk, and ½ c. oil.
Pour into greased 8X8 pan, and bake at 450˚ for 20 minutes.

These are both recipes from my daddy who loved to cook. The year he told my grandmother that he thought his dressing was better than hers, was the last year she made it for him. From then on, he always did the dressing.


Jill said...

So yummy! Thanks for sharing Donna! Have a lovely evening!!

Dee said...

Hi Donna,
I couldn't work out how to find the email feature on your blog so I am contacting you via the comments.
I was recently awarded a versatile blogger award and would like to pass it onto you. Please come by my blog to collect your award.

GlorV1 said...

That's very nice of you to provide this for beginners. Everything looks good. Have a great weekend.

nannykim said...

Well, it does take time! I am often surprised at how much time it does take and then it is eaten so quickly!! I sometimes make things ahead the day before and just reheat them (ie the veggies and stuffing)--then I just have to do turkey and gravy and some more veggies on the day of Thanksgiving.

Debby said...

How sweet of you to map this all out. You make it look easy. We have almost the same dishes. Our dinner on Sunday will be a little different....Honey Baked Ham instead of turkey as we will have other dinners to go to on Thanksgiving. I am headed West so that's why my dinner is Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Tina said...

Yummy!I have never tried homemade cranberries. Can't wait to try it. Thanks for the delish recipes!
Have a happy Thanksgiving!!!


Grace on the Narrow Path said...

Can I just come to your house for Thanksgiving? It looks so inviting and I can fellowship with you. Yep no cooking for me this year. LOL I will see you at 2:00.

Hills N Valleys said...

MMMMMMMM! I may need to try some of these. I love homemade cranberry sauce. For the liquid/sweet we use apple cider...that way we need very little "sugar". Plus orange zest.

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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