Thanksgiving Dinner

This is such a fun time for those of us who love to cook. Making a holiday meal is a treat, even if it is only served to us two. I promised last year to share the steps of my dressing recipe, and I have a new idea for you that I tried last year that worked beautifully. You have time to get to the store if you want to do the dressing recipe, but likely you will have most of what you need already. The recipe is pretty much dump, mix and go, add in what you like and leave out what you don’t. Sometimes I add in sausage instead of bacon, sometimes I leave out the wild rice, some years I add in leeks. I never use celery because I hate it.

The secret to an ‘effortless’ (LOL, yeah, right) holiday is make as much ahead as possible. So I do as much prep on Wednesday as I can. The dressing is an easy one to do ahead. For this one, I cooked some wild rice to add to the mix. It takes about 45 minutes to boil to tenderness.

While the rice boils, I take all the bits of breads I’ve been saving in the refrigerator and cut them into cubes. Well, that is what I haven’t fed to Oliver and Jack. This year will need a supplemental amount of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix.

So with the bread I have, I’ll cut it into cubes and spread on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350º for 15 to 20 minutes, until dry and browned. Stir and flip once or twice during the baking.

Place in a big bowl.

Fry several strips of bacon, then saute onions and garlic in the bacon fat. Drain well.

Using the same pan, wipe out the grease, then saute brown mushrooms in butter.

Add everything to the bread cubes and mix well. Add at least one can of low sodium chicken broth, and maybe a bit more if the bread is still dry.

Lightly pack into a baking dish. Cover and put in the refrigerator. It can hold for a couple of days at this point.

Take out of the refrigerator about an hour before you want to begin baking it so it comes up to room temperature. Place in a 350º oven for 30-45 minutes, until browned and heated through, with the internal temperature at least 150 degrees.

Another treat is homemade bread, and my Rustic Egg Bread is a yummy addition.

It has a delicate crumb and a crispy crust. It is easy to prepare, and the rising can be done while other kitchen prep is going on.

So, now the new way to cook turkey. In previous years I have brined the turkey, which makes a delicious and really moist turkey, but the drawback is you cannot use the juices as they are too salty. So, I thought about doing a slow cooked one. I didn’t want to do 24 hours at 200 degrees, it needed to be a bit faster than that. So I experimented last year with cooking the turkey at 250º, taking it out and testing the temperature frequently so I could get you the right timing. I rubbed the turkey with butter, then added a selection of herbs and spices, heavy on the sage and oregano.

I baked it at 250º for 20-25 minutes per pound. I planned on 3 hours for a nine pound turkey. If you have a 20 pound turkey, plan on 6 hours and 40 minutes minimum, about 7 hours is likely, and may take as much as 8 hours. Put the turkey in the oven with the legs towards the back of the oven if you can. If you can’t, be sure to turn it around halfway through the cooking time. You’ll need an instant read thermometer, and bake until the breast meat is 165º near the bone. Be sure to let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes, while the side dishes cook. Covered with foil it should stay hot for an hour or more.

This was a winner, with tender juicy meat, crispy skin and delicious flavor. Plus the juices could go into the gravy! I used those roasting bags for several years until I realized they were overcooking my meals. If you just swear by them, get an instant read thermometer and start checking your breast temperature at least 30 minutes before the chart says you’ll be done. You want no higher than 165 – 170 degrees, or your turkey will be dry as toast on the day after Thanksgiving. With this slow roast method, it is next to impossible to overcook, so the meat is moist and juicy not only Thanksgiving day, but days later for sandwiches and more nibbles.

I’m doing the Baked Spinach for our side dish.

Dessert for the holiday will be pie, I found a little berry pie for My Sweet Babboo that I’ll bake for him on Wednesday. For me, I have a slice of frozen French Silk pie that I’ll defrost on Thanksgiving morning. Yes, just one slice because I’ll get a little cake later as my birthday falls during the holiday weekend this year. My favorite is a dense vanilla cake with dark chocolate buttercream frosting. That will be plenty of sweets for one weekend! Of course, I highly recommend my Pumpkin Toffee Dump Cake as an alternative to the usual pumpkin pie.

Do you do a lot of prep cooking before the holiday? What’s your favorite side dish? What are you having for dessert?

19 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Dinner

  1. Looks delish, Carole, but I can’t believe you hate celery, lol. My mom’s recipe for dressing has been passed around my family of sisters and yes, it has celery. That dessert looks scrumptious! We will be going to my sister-in-law’s, but I actually make a really good brussels sprouts casserole (SL recipe). My daughter has taken on the recipe. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. My daughters have taken on the main cooking role, so I am relegated to some of the sides. I will be making fresh cranberry sauce, an apple pie, and cornbread. I use the Cosmopolitan Cranberry Sauce recipe from Epicurious . com for the “grown up” version of sauce. Making an effort to reduce the sugar in all of my recipes this year. All your items look delicious. GREAT tip on the slow roasting of the turkey.

  3. Julie

    Hmm, on my plate I often mixed some of the wild rice casserole (wild rice & mushrooms) with my turkey dressing but never thought of actually making it together in the same dish. Brilliant!

  4. Every thing sounds yummy! Just two of us also, this year we are doing two cornish game hens in an apricot glaze. I think I may try your spinach recipe – thank you 🙂

  5. karenfae

    I will be baking pumpkin pie and pecan pie at my daughter’s house tomorrow – she is handling the turkey and two of our son in law’s brother’s families are coming also and they are bringing some sides. this will be the first year in ages that I am not doing turkey. I do roast my turkey in the bag and have always loved the way it turns out and always find it still moist the next day for sandwiches or leftovers of some sort. Have a great day! (wild rice sounds like a nice addition – I use celery and onion in mine)

  6. Brenda @ Songbird Designs

    Looks yummy, Carole! We have our Thanksgiving and Christmas family dinner at Christmas since the kids go to my SIL’s family for Thanksgiving – and this year they are going to the beach, so we won’t have our usualy Thanksgiving night wiener roast and s’mores fun with the grands while the parents brave the crowds at the stores! They usually request the same dishes each year! LOL Corn casserole, my garlicky cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, my extra cheesy macaroni and cheese, and Gary’s fried cajun turkey breasts! Oh and for dessert either ooey gooey cake and/or his wonderful fudgy chocolate pies (his mom’s recipe!) We may eat out Thursday – or just have something easy! Nonetheless, we will celebrate and be THANKFUL!!

  7. We are hosting this year and using our new oven for the first time on turkey! We re-did our kitchen 2 years ago but because of COVID no cooking last year. Your slow cook method looks good.

  8. Sue H

    I think I’ll be trying your turkey-cooking tips this year. I’d love to try slow-cooking it. Thanks! I think my favorite side dish is the jalapeno cranberry relish. So good with a yummy turkey and on sandwiches. Probably would be good on a grilled cheese sandwich if there was any left. This year my anniversary falls right smack dab on Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday, Carole!

  9. Joan Sheppard

    I can almost smell the dressing! Pumpkin dump cake!!!!! Yes please!
    My grandsons and I made pinecones with bird seed for the birds. Oops – the squirrels got caught red-pawed stealing the entire cone, peanut butter and all. We’ll try again.
    Thanks for all the yummy recipes.

  10. Arlene R

    First who are you cooking this feast for ? How many are you expecting . Second who are Oliver and Jack? It all looks delicious. Have fun

  11. Your meal sounds marvelous. We like several sides –dressing, green bean casserole, frozen cranberry salad, and sweet potato casserole. We’ll have cranberry-mince pie and pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. Happy Thanksgiving and happy birthday!

  12. Robin

    We are all so different. I was surprised that you don’t cook with celery because of your dislike of it. To me, celery is one of the flavors in stuffing that can’t be left out. As I read on down in your post I was surprised to read that you put a generous amount of oregano on your turkey. Oregano is not one of my favorites. But we can agree that turkey and stuffing are important parts of the whole Thanksgiving celebration. Thank for sharing your recipes.

  13. We are only 3 but even so I start on Tuesday with the shopping and baking the sweet potatoes, They are simply mashed with a little dairy free margarine (son has an allergy). Tomorrow I do the cranberry sauce and apple pie, Thursday is the turkey, stuffing and broccoli, along with some simple apps (salmon, cheese and crackers). It keeps me out of trouble…that is for sure!

  14. What a wonderful dressing combo. YUM! This year we are eating with friends. Not being a big turkey fan, I’m thrilled she is making salmon and rice pilaf. I’m bringing cranberry sauce which I’m making today and a harvest salad; Rick’s baking bread. I will take the lemon pound cake we bought this summer and has been taking up real estate in the freezer since August but might also make some madeleines. I’ll do stuffing and we’ll do something with chicken later in the weekend!

  15. thedarlingdogwood

    Everything looks delicious!!! For the first time, I am not cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving (we’re going to a cousin’s later today) but will cook one on Saturday so we can have the leftovers 🙂 Enjoy your beautiful meal and Happy Birthday!

  16. Yum, you two will certainly enjoy your Thanksgiving! We had ours early with Girl #2, so today is just a very simple meal with baked sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts with apple cranberry crisp for dessert.

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