I Hosted An Early Thanksgiving This Year — Here Are The Recipes That Turned Out Best (And Worst)
·11 min read
Can you believe it's already almost Thanksgiving? On one hand, we wait all year for the best food holiday out there. On the other hand, planning, cooking, and hosting the big day can be really stressful.
I wanted to share my family's Thanksgiving menu this year — the recipes, grocery list, prep plan, and the even things I wish I'd done differently in hindsight. Cooking for the holidays is tough! Hopefully this can help make it easier for some.
Similar to my typical week of meal planning on a $100 budget, I wanted to also keep the big Thanksgiving meal under that price point. This year, in addition to my own family of five, we were also hosting some guests for Thanksgiving — so I knew it would be a challenge.
I cooked everything solo — so know that these time estimates can definitely be decreased if you have help. But for me, cooking things the night before took about 2 ½ hours, and the day of took about 4 ½ hours. (Though for both, a lot of that was just waiting — for the rolls to rise, the turkey to roast, the oven to free up, etc.)
Here's a more detailed rundown of everything. Spoiler: Not everything went perfectly (and TBH, not every recipe landed), but hey — that's the holidays for you! Here we go...
I added the dough ingredients to the mixer and let it proof until things had doubled in size.
I did double this recipe so I cut out 16 pieces of dough and made them into a rolled shape. I did this by pinching bits of the dough from underneath my ball and pulling it to the top to create a "perfect" circle.
The cranberry sauce takes 20 minutes or less to complete — so it really couldn't be easier.
Once the honey and juices were boiling, I added cranberries. It's very important that you do not cook the cranberries for more than 15 minutes. Once cooled, you can put the cranberry sauce in a mold and place in the fridge for the next day.
The first step in this recipe is to dry out the bread in the oven on very low heat. I cut my bread into cubes and spread them out onto sheet pans.
While the bread was in the oven, I chopped all the herbs and veggies. I sautéed the veggies in butter then added all the components together in a bowl with the bread.
The final item I prepared the night before was my prepping the potatoes. I clean, peel, and cut them the night before, then save the day of for boiling. I find that you can save a lot of time and stress by having this step completed! Just soak the peeled potatoes in water overnight and you'll be set up for success.
On to the big day! I know everyone has their favorite method when it comes to cooking their turkey. However, I always go with a classic roasting method. This Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe has been my go-to for years now.
I love the way this recipe puts fresh produce and herbs inside the turkey to use aromatics to develop the turkey's flavor.
Once you take the turkey out of the oven, make sure to let it rest. During one of my first years making my own Thanksgiving meal, I lightly covered my turkey with foil to try and keep it warm. Rookie mistake! The turkey got dried out and it wasn't necessary at all.
Once my turkey rested and I was able to move it to the cutting board, I started the gravy. I kind of go with the flow with my gravy, but this gravy recipe is an excellent guide.
The steps for this recipe were very simple. Boil the noodles, then combine cheddar, eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and Colby Jack. More Colby Jack then goes on top!
Things with this dish were going miraculously. Then... [insert scene in "The Santa Clause" where Tim Allen is putting out a fire from his Thanksgiving turkey and they end up at Denny's.]
At this point, my track record thus far for my new recipes was 0 for 2. That's most likely due to user error, but thankfully, it was time I went back to my basics to turn out a recipe I knew would impress.
This recipe comes together in about 30 minutes and I save it as one of the last things I do prior to serving dinner.
In my opinion, Thanksgiving is all about the pie. I always grew up eating apple and pumpkin pie. But given that I'm still in the process of trying to perfect my grandmother's famous apple pie, I went with something easier this year: pumpkin.
All the legwork for this recipe is done on the stovetop. Just mix all the ingredients together until you have a nice, smooth consistency. Then pour it into a premade or homemade crust. (I went with the former to save time and effort!)
I hope this was helpful as you plan your Thankgiving menu this year! If you have family favorites you make every holiday, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.
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