Thanksgiving is coming and now is the time to start thinking about your menu, shopping, and prep. Here is a handy shopping and prep guide along with recipes to help you plan it all out. I’ve omitted the bird but my preference is to brine. Be sure you buy your bird far enough in advance to thaw if not buying fresh. Add at least 12 hours of brining time to your prep. I usually do it in a garbage bag lined 5-gallon bucket and depending on where you live, if it’s cold out, like in the 40’s, you can keep the bucket outside overnight.


Roasted Caraway Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

8 Servings


  • 1/2 cup chopped bacon (about 3 oz.)
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced large (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • ½ teaspoon dry thyme (2 teaspoons fresh)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise (about 1 lb. trimmed)
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar


Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, sauté bacon and caraway seeds for 2 minutes until bacon begins to curl.  Add onion, thyme, salt and pepper and continue to cook about 8 minutes, stirring pan occasionally while allowing onions to brown and bacon to crisp.  Remove from heat and add vinegar, scraping off any cooked on bits.  Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, heat a medium pot with boiling water.  Have ready a large bowl with ice water.  Add prepared Brussels sprouts to boiling water and blanch 6-7 minutes until tender but still slightly crisp.  Immediately strain from boiling water and chill in iced water.  When completely cool, strain thoroughly from ice water and toss with cooled bacon mixture being sure the sprouts get covered with the bacon grease.  Spread sprouts in a single layer on a foil lined baking pan and bake for 10 minutes.  Change the oven temperature to broil and cook and 5 minutes.  Toss the sprouts and continue to cook an additional 5 minutes until sprouts have some charring.  Remove from oven and cool.  Place in an uncovered container and refrigerate.

THANKSGIVING DAY:  In large sauté pan over medium-high heat, reheat sprouts for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.


One-Dish Stuffing

8 Servings


  • 15 oz (about 3-5 oz bags)seasoned croutons
  • 8 Tablespoons salted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 cups 1-inch chunks yellow onion (about 1 large onion)
  • 2 cups 1-inch chunks sliced celery (about 4 ribs)
  • 2 Tablespoons dry parsley or ½ cup fresh
  • 1 Tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 4 cups unsalted or low sodium chicken stock

Optional ingredients:

  • 1 lb. diced smoked kielbasa or ham
  • 1 cup diced dried fruit such as apricots, apples, cherries, cranberries, peaches
  • 1 cup diced toasted nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans


In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Stir in onion & celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 6-7 minutes.

Transfer mixture to large bowl begin sure to NOT clean the sauté pan.  Add croutons and remaining ingredients including any optional ingredients to the sautéed mixture and very gently toss with stock.

Place stuffing back into cast iron pan or a buttered 3-quart casserole or 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place in refrigerator until cool then cover with aluminum foil.

THANKSGIVING DAY: Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking to take off the chill.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Topped with the aluminum foil, bake 30 minutes or until warmed through.  Remove foil and continue to bake until top is slightly crisp and golden, about 10 minutes longer. Serve immediately.


This basic stuffing can be customized to your liking.  The embellishments are endless and up to you  This recipe made in a cast iron pan reduces clean up by using one pan to prep and one pan to bake while producing a nice crust.


Romaine Salad with Pears and Cranberry Vinaigrette

8 Servings


  • ½ cup frozen cranberries
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ripe pears
  • 5 ounces precut and washed romaine (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese


In a small saucepan combine cranberries, honey, and vinegar.  Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until cranberry skins break, about 2-3 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Place cranberry mixture and Dijon in a blender and blend until smooth.  With the blender motor running, drizzle in oil then ½ cup water.  Once incorporated the mixture should look thick and glossy.  Season with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until needed.

THANKSGIVING DAY: Core and cut pears in half lengthwise then quarter and thinly slice.  Toss pears with romaine in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat. Divide among plates. Top with nuts and blue cheese crumbles and additional fresh pepper.

MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER:  When getting this recipe together place all the refrigerated components of the salad together in a container in or a bowl in your refrigerator so you don’t have to search around for the ingredients when you are ready to serve.


Roasted Squash with apples, Apricot Jam & Pecans

8 Servings


  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dry rubbed sage, 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped
  • 3/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 pounds (about 2 medium squashes) Delicata squash, peeled, halved and cut into large c-shaped wedges
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored and cut into1/2-inch wedges, or 1/16ths
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Mix together butter, sage, apricot jam and pumpkin pie spice and melt in microwave.

Toss mixture with squash and apple and place on foil lined baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour allowing mixture to caramelize and squash brown, tossing every 15 minutes or so.

Remove from oven and allow to cool uncovered.  When cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


THANKSGIVING DAY:  In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, toast pecans for 1 minute, swirling and shaking pan to prevent burning.  Add squash mixture and sauté and additional 4-5 minutes mixing occasionally until heated through and slightly caramelized.

EDITORIAL NOTE: An easy and safer Squash peeling tip…cut the ends off of the squash, stand on end and using a peeler, work in a downward motion from the center of the squash to remove the skin until you see orange.  Flip the squash to the other end and do the same.


Make-Ahead Cheddar Mashed Potatoes with Fried Leeks

8 Servings


  • 6 large russet potatoes about 4 lbs., peeled and quartered
  • ½ cup salted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 small leek (white and pale green parts only), cut lengthwise, thinly sliced, then washed (about 2 cups)
  • ¼ cup flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying


Place potatoes in a large pot; cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender and drain.

Warm buttermilk with butter, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a small pan or in the microwave.

Return drained potatoes to pot and mash. Add warm buttermilk mixture and cream cheese and mash until smooth.

Spread in a 9 x 13-inch glass or microwave safe baking dish & refrigerate uncovered until cool.  Cover with foil until ready to serve.

Toss together flour and remaining ½ teaspoon of both salt and pepper.  Toss leeks in flour mixture to lightly coat.

Pour vegetable oil into a small fryer or small heavy bottomed saucepan to depth of about 1 inch.  Using a thermometer, heat oil to 350°F. Fry leeks in ½ cup batches until crisp and beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fried leeks to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with a little salt.   Store in an airtight container.


THANKSGIVING DAY: Preheat oven to 375°F.  Remove potatoes from refrigerator and fold in 1 cup cheddar.  Replace foil and place in oven.  Bake 15 minutes then stir.  Replace foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheddar.  Bake an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted and potatoes are heated through.

Sprinkle with fried leeks and serve immediately.

MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER:  To reduce cooking time and help the potatoes cook evenly cut the potatoes in similar shapes and sizes and always be sure to start your potatoes off in very cold water.

Another quick tip…save your butter wrapper to grease the casserole pan.


Twice Baked Yams


8 Servings


  • 4 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 oz bacon roughly chopped into small pieces (about ½ cup)
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh minced rosemary
  • ½ cup fat-free cream cheese (4 oz)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts


Place oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Rub sweet potatoes with oil and place cut side down.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until fork tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat cook bacon for 2 minutes.  Add onion and continue cooking 2 minutes until onion becomes translucent.  Add rosemary, toss to incorporate and remove from heat.

When yams are cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out flesh leaving a little to create a shell about 1/8-inch think.  Place in a bowl and mash until smooth.

Add the sautéed bacon mixture, cream cheese and pepper.

Spoon mixture into yam skins and sprinkle with chopped walnuts..  Place in a covered container and refrigerate.


THANKSGIVING DAY: When ready to serve, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. place on foil lined baking sheet and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.

EDITORIAL NOTE:  Unlike usual yam dishes, these twice baked yams are rich and savory with bacon, the essence of rosemary and the nutty crunch of roasted walnuts.


Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 bag cranberries
  • Juice & zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup sugar, sugar in the raw or brown sugar

Put all but zest in pot and bring to a simmer until cranberries pop.  Turn off heat and add zest.  Boom done!  You can add a cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp. ground clove or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger or 1 tbsp. fresh ginger.  Play it up!


Thanksgiving Meal Planning Schedule

DAYMondayTuesdayWednesdayThanksgiving day
Step 1Read all the recipes including the directions and make a shopping list.Make Salad dressing & toast walnutsCut potatoes and continue with recipeTake stuffing out of refrigerator to take off chill 30 minutes before heating.
Step 2Shop or better yet, have it delivered!Trim Brussels SproutsWash out potato pot, refill with water and continue with Brussels Sprouts recipeTake potatoes out of the refrigerator and fold in cheese.
Step 3If purchasing a frozen turkey be sure to get the turkey defrosting in the refrigerator.  Rule of thumb 1 day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey.Peel and cut squashMake squash recipeRemove Turkey from oven and allow to rest, covered, for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375
Step 4Cut and wash leeks & peel potatoes, leaving whole and place in a container and cover with cold water, refrigerateWhile squash is roasting make stuffing.Put potatoes and stuffing in oven.
Step 5Pre-measure ingredients for all the recipes such as seasonings, butter and other dry ingredientsTake out Squash and Brussels Sprouts from the refrigerator and get out a large sauté pan.  Begin reheating Squash as per recipe instructions
Step 6Take potatoes out of the oven a give a stir, return as per instructions
Step 7Place squash in serving dish, and cover. Begin heating Brussels sprouts as per instructions.
Step 8Remove foil from potatoes and top with cheese, return to oven to melt.  Remove foil from stuffing and allow to brown.
Step 8Place Brussels sprouts in serving dish, and cover. Toss together salad.
Step 9Remove potatoes and stuffing from oven and serve everything!

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