Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My favorite hints and recipes for Thanksgiving

 (or for any holiday meal that involves a turkey dinner!  I know that my Canadian readers have already celebrated Thanksgiving, but perhaps you might like to try some of these ideas for your Christmas dinner.)

With Thanksgiving coming up soon in the U.S., I thought I would post this again.  In this post from a few years back,  I  shared a few links to some of my older posts which are filled with recipes and tips for Thanksgiving dinner.  If you are a new visitor to my kitchen table, you may want to check out these links.  Here goes!

I posted the following in 2012, and it includes a lot of the same links I'm sharing today, but it might be helpful to someone:  A Gathering of Thanksgiving Tips and Recipes.

For pies, which are the most intimidating part of the meal for many people, I offer these Helpful Tips for Thanksgiving Pies.  If pie crust intimidates you (as it does many others), then don't stress about it.  I give you a recipe for an easy oil pastry, but if you don't want to go that route, then the sheets of refrigerated pie crust one can buy (I've even seen them in store brands!) work very well.  You can even buy frozen pie shells that aren't half bad.  Or if you just don't want to make pies, you can buy some very nice pies from bakeries that specialize in them.
From my antique card collection
Some of our Favorite Thanksgiving Pie Recipes are included in this post.  Maybe you will find a new family favorite!

But what if you are avoiding wheat, or a family member who'll be at your table is eating gluten free?  No worries.  This Gluten Free Pie Crust is easy to make and very good.  It's a simple press-in-pan crust and so it really won't work for a double crust pie.  But anyone who has lived without wheat for any length of time will be so happy to have a pie they can eat that they won't care if it's just a single crust pie.  It works perfectly for pumpkin pie, for example.

Probably the next most intimidating part of the meal is the turkey itself.  If you have, or are buying a frozen turkey, the rule of thumb for thawing it is to allow 24 hours in the fridge for each 5 pounds of the turkey's weight.  I find this not quite enough, so allowing an extra day would be my advice.  Invariably if I follow that rule of thumb, the giblets are still frozen in place.  Last year I bought my frozen turkey (21 pounds) on the Thursday before Thanksgiving and put it right into the fridge to start thawing.

Cooking it in an oven bag is my best advice on roasting a turkey.  It shortens the time considerably and produces tender, juicy meat.
From my Autumn in the Air booklet (Cracker Barrel, 2001)
For years, I stressed about gravy.  People love it and expect it, but making it at the last minute can be very stressful.  Usually there are other people in the kitchen, helping out with other things, and that complicates matters (even though they are truly trying to help when they watch over your shoulder and give advice).  So for a few years I then turned to canned or jarred gravy, transferring it to a saucepan and removing the evidence of the cans and jars well ahead of the guests' arrival.  That was great, but I found the gravy packets made even better gravy.  And then finally, I found this recipe:  Easy Turkey Gravy.  It truly is easy and it makes lots and lots of gravy.  If you are feeding people who think there is never enough gravy, try this.  For once they will be satisfied and there may even be some gravy left to serve with the leftovers or to make hot turkey sandwiches.

Stuffing, too, can be a source of discouragement.  I usually use a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, prepare it with celery and onion as the package instructions suggest, and also add dried cranberries.  In my tips and recipes post ( the first link at top) I detail how I cook it in a slow cooker.  Just don't leave it in there for too long, as it will burn and dry out.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes are my go-to recipe for making mashed potatoes for a lot of people.  This year I was seriously thinking of using the Idahoan instant mashed potatoes, which are actually very good and are only $1 per packet, but my hubby won't let me because he loves the make-ahead mashed potatoes so much!

Sweet Potato Casserole is our family's favorite sweet potato recipe.  I've made it with canned sweet potatoes and it comes out just fine.

Broccoli Casserole is another great side dish that always goes over well.

I tend to skip serving rolls when there is so much other good food on the table, but if your family won't let you, then try these: Homemade Dinner Rolls.  They're a homemade crescent roll and are really delicious.

If your family insists on creamed onions (as mine does), here's the recipe I use:  Scalloped Onions.  It uses the frozen small onions.  Life is far too short to peel those little pearl onions.  I always buy the frozen (unsauced) ones and make my own sauce.

Cranberry sauce or relish can be purchased and is just fine.  If you want to make your own, try the Taste of Home site for some good recipes, or you may be able to find one here.

For a memory of my childhood Thanksgivings, you might like to read A Thanksgiving Memory for a little nostalgia.  By the way, that's my grandmother in the photo at top, and the recipe is for my great-grandmother's Date Cake, which was somewhat of a tradition at our holiday dinners.  It was served thickly frosted with white frosting and with walnut or pecan halves pressed into the frosting.

And if you enjoy vintage things, you might like to take a peek at this Children's Book of Thanksgiving Prayers.  This was actually sold as a greeting card, I believe. 

For more Thanksgiving posts, click on the "Thanksgiving" label in the word cloud of labels in the right sidebar.  You may find some surprises I've forgotten about!

Today I am linking up with Sandi's No Place Like Home at Rose Chintz Cottage. And I am also linking to Gooseberry Patch's Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup.


  1. I hid my jars of gravy too Mrs T. I will have to try your Easy Turkey Gravy. I can make white milk gravy in a snap...it is eaten over biscuits down here in the South..some add crumbled sausage to theirs! But turkey gravy has eluded me. I love the picture of your grandma. When I think about all the good meals turned out from tiny kitchens and now days women have big kitchens and they do not even cook!!

  2. What a wonderfully informative post, Mrs. T. A girl friend, whose mother was French, taught me how to make gravy when I was first married and so I have always made my own. But I agree, it's unnerving making it at the last minute. Nice to see a photo of your grandmother. Boy, those ladies sure knew how to cook, didn't they? My Granny was the best cook ever. Thanks for sharing and joining me this week. Have a lovely day.

    Autumn blessings,

  3. Thank you so much for these useful tips. They sure come in handy for the holidays....Christine

  4. What a terrific post, filled with wonderful ideas. I generally make my own gravy as I prefer the taste but still keep some jars on hand for emergencies.

  5. Oh my! I'll be back to do some reading later. Lots of resources here!

  6. Ladies, I can't tell you how nice it is to see you all here! As you can no doubt tell by reading this post, one is never too old to learn new tricks about Thanksgiving and ways to make the meal easier. I'm so blessed to see you all at my kitchen table!

    Arlene, I hope you try the easy turkey gravy. We love it! It has never failed me. Glad you enjoyed the pic of my grandmother. She hated having her picture taken almost as much as I do, and those that she did have taken were carefully posed with her looking rather grim. So I was thrilled to find, in a box of old photos, this snapshot of her in the kitchen where she so often was. This was her old kitchen; in the 1960s she had it remodeled and was so proud of it.

    Sandi -- what a blessing to have learned gravy making early on! It's always a delight to see you here and I am so enjoying your new link-up!

    Beth -- glad you enjoyed the post! I enjoyed my visit to your blog as well and will be back at some point to read more!

    Vee -- hope you find some useful ideas here! I know you had mentioned mashed potatoes and stuffing in particular; I do have some good ideas concerning them (at least they work for us!).

  7. I always enjoy reading about your family traditions etc. :) I feel hungry when I leave after reading about all those yummy things.

  8. What a lovely treasure of recipes! I don't cook Thanksgiving dinner (sadly, because I love to do it), because we always travel a long distance to be with family over Thanksgiving. However, I do usually have Christmas at my house, and I will be bookmarking your site to come back and peruse the lovely store of recipes you have shared! I agree that pie making can be a difficult chore but, I like to make my pie crusts in advance and have them in the freezer ready to fill. Much less stress! And gravy has always been easy for me after my dear mother-in-love showed me how. Yum! Looking forward to all the good food coming up in a few days! :) Hope you are having a lovely day!

  9. Hi Mrs. T! :)
    I loved reading this post and the recipes that you have are all really good ones!
    I love to cook and bake, I love any excuse to make something for someone really!
    Gravy is the one thing I have never been great at, I am still working on it! ;)
    Have a wonderful Wednesday!
    Hugs, Kimberley

  10. Christine -- my apologies for not responding to your comment sooner! With comment moderation, comments usually go to my email. I happened to just go to my dashboard and, for whatever reason, there were a half dozen comments there that had never come to my email. I am so sorry! Hope you found some helpful tips you could use for Thanksgiving or Christmas, anyway, and that you had a nice Thanksgiving.

  11. Kimberley -- finally getting around to reply to this. Your comment was also in my "awaiting moderation" list, but oddly, yours had come to my email and had already published. So when I published it just now, it was in there twice. Blogger is acting rather oddly these days!

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that your gravy turned out well!


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