Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

Thanksgiving for most is a day of relaxing and eating yourself into a food coma but for those of us responsible for preparing that gust busting meal it can be anything but relaxing. For the home cook producing 5-7 dishes plus dessert in a single meal can be very overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is some planning, advanced preparation and some tips and tricks from the pros will not only make your meal preparation simple but also improve the quality of your dishes.

Where to start? I start at least a week before Thanksgiving by choosing what dishes and desserts I want to serve. Print those recipes out, I suggest writing them out on a recipe card so they are more convenient then a pile of papers while your cooking. Take those recipes and create a shopping list for yourself. Make sure you are meticulous with this because the last thing you want to do is have to run out to the store at the last minute when the stores are just insane. Once you have your menu selected you will need to analyse your selections and determine which of those dishes or parts of those dishes that you can prepare the day before and in what order they need to be prepared so that you have enough oven space and time to get everything done in time for the meal.

I unthaw my turkey the day before Thanksgiving by placing it in a sink filled with cold water and then leave the tap on a bare trickle. This keeps the water moving and cool which will unthaw the turkey faster than just a still body of water. Is this safe? Yes it is as long as the water stays cold and you move it to the refrigerator as soon as it feels flexible and pliable. I also brine my turkey because the flavor and moisture levels are markedly better than a non-brined turkey. I will put the turkey in the sink in the morning and by late afternoon it is ready to be placed in the brine and refrigerate overnight.

Another turkey tip is to make sure you pull your turkey out of the refrigerator about 2 hours before cooking. You need to let it come up close to room temperature and allow the skin to really dry so that it will cook evenly and the skin will be crispy. If you take your turkey directly from the the refrigerator to the oven or fryer it will increase the cook time and cause some parts of it to overcook while others struggle to reach temperature.

If you want your roasted turkey to have a rich mahogany color than you should dry the skin well and then brush or rub it wil melted butter. Basting while the turkey is cooking is good but make sure you stop basting about a half hour before the end of cooking time so that the skin can crisp back up again.

Most dressing and casseroles can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. Reserve any toppings for just before you place the dish in the oven so that they will brown properly. If you don’t want to make them the day before then you should cut up your ingredients and have them ready to prepare the finished dish without having to pull out your cutting board.

Desserts should be prepared the day before and their flavor will benefit from the chance to relax meld when they are covered and refrigerated overnight.

Your turkey stock should be made the day before because it takes 4 hours at least to make a good pot of basic stock. I feel this is one of the most important part of meal preparation because your gravy and stuffing or dressing require a really good stock for full flavor. I purchase turkey necks, wings and or legs and give them a light sear in the stock pot before adding water. See my Basic Stock recipe for the best professional technique for a good stock.

Finally if you make your own gravy then there are two ways to thicken them either with a rue of flour and fat or a cornstarch slurry. If you use a rue or flour to thicken your gravy make sure you give it at least 45 minutes to simmer because otherwise it will have a raw flour flavor. I can vouch that this really does make a big difference in the flavor. When you use a cornstarch slurry you need to make sure you don’t use to much because it will turn your beautiful gravy into a lump of brown jelly. Slowly drizzle in the slurry and stir and it will reach full thickness within a few seconds if the gravy is at a medium simmer. I suggest you add a bit and stir and give it a bit to see the thickness before you add anymore slurry. If you want to boost flavor you can use cool turkey stock as your liquid for the slurry.

If you have any questions or suggestions let me know! I will be posting suggestions while I cook today on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.




Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 0

Yield: 8

Pecan Pie

This recipe for pecan pie is very basic but absolutely decedent. I suggest serving it with a bit of whipped cream to cut the richness.


  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 unbaked 9" pie shell
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F,
  2. Beat eggs, vanilla, sugar & salt. Add butter & syrup & mix in pecans.
  3. Pour into crust
  4. Bake 40-45 minutes in pie shell.

Sweet Potato Casserole With Praline Topping

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole With Praline Topping

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6

If you make this Sweet Potato Casserole for a family dinner make sure you take a couple copies of your recipe because people will ask for it.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (5-ounce) can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup stick margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring to form a streusel. Set aside.
  3. Mash your sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Stir in 1 cup streusel, granulated sugar, vanilla, egg white, and milk. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray; top with remaining streusel. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

How to make Thanksgiving Dinner without breaking a sweat


I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my extended family for almost 20 years. Not all of those dinners went smoothly. Like the year I forgot to make the mashed potatoes or the year I forgot the rolls in the oven and turned them into bricks. I have picked up so many tips and tricks over the years that now making Thanksgiving is simple and easy. With just a little prep a day or two before Thanksgiving you can actually enjoy the holiday alongside everyone else.

First thing I do every year is look at my menu for the day. Mine was based on what my family served when I was a kid and updated slightly with a deep fried turkey and my own spins on the old recipes. You don’t cook this menu more than twice (Thanksgiving & Christmas) so it is ok to have the exact same thing because your family will not get tired of it. I admit my Thanksgiving dinner is lacking in vegetables but my family gets at least one or two servings of vegetables with every normal meal so I don’t feel bad about not serving them on this special occasion.

My traditional Thanksgiving menu consists of –

Deep Fried Turkey – This is a must and this recipe can also be used on a hardwood smoked turkey for more juicy results.

Giblet Cream Gravy – I actually withhold the giblets from this recipe and use them in my dressing recipe.

Sage Turkey Dressing – This recipe is one that has been in my family for as long as I can remember and is my favorite. My dirty little after Thanksgiving treat is to take cold slices of this and make sandwiches out of it.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Topping – If you make this Sweet Potato Casserole for a family dinner make sure you take a couple copies of your recipe because people will ask for it.

Decadent Mashed Potatoes – These are the best mashed potatoes ever. Being part Irish they make me proud.

Lion House Rolls – These tender buttery Lion House rolls are like the combination of a croissant and the standard parker house dinner roll.

Cranberry & Mandarin Orange blend – A can of whole cranberries and a can of Mandarin oranges mixed together and chilled.

Pecan Pie – This recipe was the most sought after pecan pie recipe on the web for years.

Sour Cream Apple Pie – Some people are prejudiced against sour cream so just say its apple pie until after they have taken their first bite and then they will be in love.

Hot Mulled Cider – Family members show up and look for this first thing because it is so good.

First thing to do while planning out your meal preparation is to go down the list of ingredients you need for each dish and make sure you either have them or they get on your shopping list. Double check the items you think you have because half the time I think I have them but I really don’t because one of my kids have done away with them recently. Make sure you get extra turkey parts like wings or legs to make your turkey broth because I find you don’t get enough flavor from just a neck and giblets and once in a while those are missing from your turkey. This was a tough lesson learned one year when the turkey was missing its giblets and my local grocery stores were all either closed or out of turkey parts.

The nice thing about this menu is that you can either make ahead or have most of the preparation done the day before Thanksgiving that way you are mostly just waiting on things to cook. This lets me actually enjoy some time with my family instead of rushing around the kitchen. The first thing I do each year is get my turkey in its brine. They can set in the brine for up to 48 hours but I prefer right around 24 hours. This lets me get my giblets out of the turkey also so I can make my turkey broth. You can either use a pressure cooker to make your turkey broth or you can cook it low and slow so you can all the flavor and gelatin out of the bones. I like to brown my turkey bits before boiling them so that the flavor is richer. I also like to include a half an onion, celery, a carrot and a clove of garlic along with some herbs like thyme, sage and a tiny bit of rosemary. Don’t waste fresh herbs on this. The dry stuff will turn out just as well. Once your broth is done strain it well and save all the meat and giblets for either your gravy or your dressing. Refrigerate and remember to remove the solidified fat from the top before you use.

I will usually make my pies one or two days ahead of time that way they get proper time to cool. Make sure you hide them well because hungry children are known to steal entire pies. I also put my cans of mandarin oranges and cranberries in the refrigerator at least a day ahead of time that way I can just throw them together at the last minute without worrying about chill time.

While I am waiting on the broth I will throw my sweet potatoes in the oven on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or throw them in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes. Make sure you peel them right away after you take them out of the oven because they will just slide out of their skins. It will be much harder after they cool. I just throw them in the refrigerator until I am ready to put together the casserole. While I am waiting on the potatoes to bake I chop my onions, carrots and celery for my dressing.  If you are making rolls you should have your dough made and refrigerator proof it overnight. This makes it quick to get them done the next day and it also improves the flavor.

Once all that preparation is done you are ready to relax and rest up for Thanksgiving morning. Some key tips for Thanksgiving morning is to have a prep list for yourself so you don’t forget anything. Mine looks something like this.

1. Remove these items from refrigerator

  • Dough
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Turkey Broth – Remove the fat right away
  • Turkey – 1 to 1 1/2 hours before you plan to cook the turkey

2. Make Sweet Potato Casserole

3. Make Dressing

4. Prep Turkey for Frying then fry – Dry well and rub with olive oil, salt and spices

5. Form Rolls and let rise

6. Make Mashed Potatoes

7. Make Gravy

8. Bake Rolls

9. Make cranberry and mandarin mix

Tips for the turkey which are true for both a roasted or fried turkey. Make sure you take your turkey out of the refrigerator early enough so that it comes up to close to room temperature before you bake it. This will help it to cook more evenly and will make it more juicy. The key to the juiciest turkey is the brine ahead of time which imparts the moisture and flavor throughout the bird and not just where you injected it. The last thing to remember is to always let your bird rest tented in foil for about 10 minutes after you remove it from the oven or fryer. This lets the moisture redistribute and will keep it from gushing out everywhere when you cut it instead of remaining in the meat. Turkeys that are brined and rested properly will be moist and juicy even as a leftover.

I hope these tips and tricks will help you to not only have a more delicious dinner but one you can enjoy from beginning to end!



Thanksgiving Menu Favorites


Here we are 3 days to Thanksgiving and I most of you have followed my lead and analyzed all the local sales so you could make your dinner without breaking the bank. I was disappointed by this years price on Turkeys but I was able to find some really good sales on the other items I needed for sides. I use almost the identical menu each year which not only makes purchasing for dinner easy but I know that my recipes are tried and true and will be loved by all. This is my traditional Thanksgiving menu and the recipes that make it so special.

Deep Fried Turkey
Deep Fried Smoked Turkey – This is the same as my regular fried turkey recipe just using a smoked turkey.

Sage Turkey Dressing – This is the most popular side.
Sweet Potato Casserole With Praline Topping – I don’t need pie after eating this! Yumm

Mashed Potatoes
Giblet Cream Gravy
Buttered Corn – Frozen from my garden
Cranberry & Mandarin Orange blend – A can of whole cranberries and a can of Mandarin oranges mixed together and chilled.

Pecan Pie
Sour Cream Apple Pie

Hot Mulled Cider – This is a must for all my holiday get-togethers

I have the preparation of this meal down to a science after making it for 10 years. I bake all the pies the day before and I also make my turkey stock the day before. The turkeys need to be placed in their brine the day before also so that gives me access to my giblets for the stock. Once the stock is made I separate out the meat and giblets and refrigerate everything. I almost forgot about baking my sweet potatoes. I have tried boiling them and I don’t think the end recipe has the same flavor or texture. I bake the sweet potatoes then skin them and throw them in the refrigerator until the next day. That leaves throwing together the sides on Thanksgiving morning and popping them in the oven just before you fry your turkeys. I can almost relax as long as I have my recipe check list on hand to see what has been done and what needs to be done. If I don’t keep my checklist with my silly things like forgetting the rolls or mashed potatoes tend to happen.

My suggests to make Thanksgiving a no stress day for you is –
1. Plan your menu well in advance
2. Use tried and true recipes
3. Make a list of what needs to be done
4. Start the day before and do all the preparation you can
5. Sit back and enjoy your dinner

Enjoy Life!

Sage Turkey Dressing

Sage Turkey Dressing

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 0

Yield: 8

This recipe for Sage Turkey Dressing is a family tradition. A must have dish for serving along side the traditional turkey.


  • 1 1/2 loaves of white bread
  • 3 carrots -- chopped
  • 1 medium onion -- chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
  • 6 eggs, well-beaten
  • 1 cup turkey meat, bits and pieces from giblets and wings from making turkey stock
  • 4 cups turkey stock
  • 3 tbsp rubbed sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Tear bread into small chunks no bigger than a silver dollar. Mix bread with chopped vegetables, stock, eggs and turkey meat. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Pour into a greased baking dish.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an 1 hour. The middle will puff a bit when done.