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Thanksgiving Dinner ADVICE NEEDED!

The biggest dinner of the year is upon us, and guess who is in charge this year?


(Insert big eyes emoticon here, about 800 times.)

Do you guys remember the last time I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner?  If you've forgotten, read it about it here. There's like a whole week of freak-out posts, so go ahead ... read it, reminisce, and ... laugh.  At me, with me, whatever.

It all went off without a hitch, so I left the holiday feeling like a total pro.  But, here we go again! Am I ever so lucky to have two good Thanksgiving dinners?  Surely there is some sort of culinary disaster in my near future ... burnt pies? underdone turkeys? 

Turkey!  Crud.  We didn't have turkey the last time I hosted.  We had ham.  And I didn't make it.

I have zero idea how to make a turkey.  ZERO.

I'm trying to get ahead of the game so that I don't have another freak-out week, so here is where you - my ever so beautiful and lovely friends and bloggy readers come in.  To help me, encourage me, and save the day.

I have a hundred questions, so please.  Enlighten me and help make my life easy.

First - what is your must have side dish at Thanksgiving? (I feel like I'm going to forget the most important thing.)

Second - how many sides do you typically have? (We are having 12 people.)

Third - what can I make ahead, and HOW FAR ahead can I make it?  

Fourth - I have one oven.  Advice appreciated on how to maneuver around that dilemma.


Once again, I'll take you all along for the ride.  Wish me luck and hold on tight .... !

I am a modern day homemaker with a passion for family, cooking, celebrating, decorating, travel, and memory making! The Lord has blessed me with the desires of my heart in my husband and our two sons. We recently built our dream home and cultivating a loving and happy haven for my family is where I find so much joy.


  1. Buy the bags that you can roast the turkey in. Perfect turkey every time!

    And have your guests bring a dish to help you out. No reason why you should knock yourself out to do everything! Good luck and have a good time with it.

  2. Butterball turkeys are pretty much no-fail! And mine always turn out perfectly-even without a cooking bag! I would (unfortunately) get up really early and put your turkey in. Make sure it is totally thawed (you need to buy it about a week early and keep it in your fridge until it thaws). That way you can free your oven up for your sides. Turkey can be quickly re-warmed after it is carved. And strawberry-pretzel salad and green bean bundles are two of my must-haves at Thanksgiving. The green bean bundles are wrapped in bacon and very elegant, but so easy and yummy too. Good luck!!

  3. I always do turkey in a bag! Easy and no fail! Plus it usually takes 4 hours max or something. Also I think turkey is good at room temperature, so I would cook turkey early and use last 2 hours in oven for casseroles or something. Also maybe find a side dish that can be made or heated in crockpot (green beans or mashed potatoes?) my favorite sides are sweet potato casserole and stuffing/dressing. Happy to share a recipe if you need it. Maybe you can find at least 1 yummy side at trader joes! (Just try it out first) I think you'll need 4-5 sides for your group of 12. And remember that they are all just excited to see y'all and would be happy eating anything! You're going to do great! Can't wait to read the post about it.

  4. A few things I've learned after hosting a few times now. :)

    Make sure you give yourself enough time to thaw the turkey. We made that mistake our first year. We've found that in our fridge a 15-18 lb bird needs about 5 days to fully thaw. We use this recipe for our turkey (and have for 5 years now!): . It gets rave reviews every. single. time. We don't always make the gravy, and we always add garlic, onions, and apples to the cavity as well as the citrus. If you can't find Herbs de Provence, you can mix your own pretty quickly - it's just a combo of herbs. I do NOT recommend stuffing your turkey with a bread based product. You have to cook it to a higher temp if it is stuffed and it's also more likely to dry out. We also leave foil on top longer than needed.

    The turkey also needs to stand for about 30-40 mins to let the juices redistibute after it comes out of the oven, which should give you plenty of time to pop some other stuff in (for us, it's holiday potato casserole and rolls at that point).

    Use your other appliances as well - crockpots work wonderfully for dressing (we always do a cornbread based one), and other casseroles or potato dishes. We do green beans with bacon on the stove top. And I always have a cranberry salad chilling in the fridge. If you have a toaster over, that works well for rolls (we don't have one, so we either bake ahead and rewarm or put in the oven after the turkey). Desserts can easily be done ahead!

    Good luck! It's not as hard as it seems!

  5. We've started doing turkey (bought in pieces -- we just like white meat so we just buy two breasts) in a crockpot and that has changed the game for us! It frees up the oven and it just tastes delish and soooooo moist and tender! We just throw some french onion soup in there with it and it's good to go!

  6. I am no culinary genius. I have never cooked for a crowd by myself. Just needed to get that out there. I am doing a Christmas dinner party this year and I am getting a Boston butt CATERED. Not trying it myself. We typically have a LOT of sides. I like dressing, cream corn, cranberry sauce (Pioneer Woman's...not canned), brown rice, macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes. Basically anything white and calorie filled. I would suggest CROCKPOTS. Buy or borrow. That way your sides can heat or warm and don't take up your oven space.

  7. Pioneer Woman's POMEGRANATE cranberry sauce is easy and the best cranberry sauce my family has ever had. My advice...don't bother cooking a turkey if it stresses you out (and you only have one oven.) Get a turkey breast and a ham from Honey Baked. I absolutely agree that green bean bundles are "must haves" and I always do Martha Stewart's mac and chesse since it pleases picky kids...and adults! You'll be fine!

  8. 1st - Before you even cook the turkey. buy a large trash bag - unscented. Place defrosted turkey in bag with water and Kosher Salt (you are creating a brine). let sit in bag in fridge for 24 hours. then rinse. Cooking turkey in a bag is a must must must. I have one in the oven right now. I don't stuff it. Instead in the cavity I stuff celery leaves, sliced garlic cloves, fresh sage, rosemary and thyme and I cut 2 lemons in half, squeeze them and toss them in too. I loosen the skin on the breast and between skin and meet place sliced butter and more sage, rosemary and thyme (makes it SO yummy). Rub the skin down with poultry seasoning and Kosher salt. BEFORE you put the turkey in the bag, place about 2 tsp of flour in bag and shake it up. after putting turkey in bag, add a little water (no more than 1/2 cup). tie of bag, put 5 small slits or it will explode. bake per the directions on the insert.
    2. A must have side for me is sweet potatoes. Boil them, slice them (at least 1.5" thick). In pan - layer maple syrup, sweet potato slices, butter and brown sugar on top of slices. add a second layer. 10 min before done cooking add white sugar and put back in oven with no cover. that white sugar will caramelize and oh my goodness. - 400 F for 35 min covered then 10 min with white sugar.
    3. Carrot Souffle - here is hoping you have heard of it but if not...
    it is AMAZING
    4. I make my own cranberry jelly. VERY EASY just follow directions on bag and have a good mesh strainer. ( i make this 2 days before usually)
    5. Make mashed potatoes early and throw them in the crock pot!
    6. Make Green beans the day before and then throw them in a crock pot! ( l love our crock pots if you can't tell)
    7. I also make my own dressing. get 3 loaves of bread from the store (whatever kind you like). let them air out on counter to get stale the night before and follow whatever seasoning recipe you like. MY cousin makes one with pineapple and I love it (yay internet)

    love sides. I have tons and tons of sides. When I was dating my husband I went to Easter dinner (first holiday together) at his moms. On the table was ham, canned peas, canned corn and rolls. I was like no way dude. I also try to have at least one or two cold sides - cole slaw, garden salad, etc... Good Luck Whitney! <3 Beth

  9. Thanksgiving is "our" holiday to host each year -- and I love it! We use Alton Brown's Good Eats turkey recipe and it is soooo good. If you're concerned with oven space, though, you could always deep fry one. Also delicious! To save time (and my sanity!), I always purchase frozen Rhodes dinner rolls and let them rise overnight. They taste just as good as homemade, without the effort. I also always make my stuffing in the crock pot ( The recipe is delicious and fool-proof. My only other suggestion is to make one of your sides roasted vegetables. Easy and they're quick to bake at the last minute. Can't wait to read your recap afterwards!

  10. We got a Turkey Roaster (sorta of a crockpot for Turkeys and can be found at Walmart or Target) and cooked the turkey in that to free up our oven (it was super easy no basting needed and came out very moist). We use a crockpot to make Apple Sage Sausage Stuffing (easily found on all Then make the green bean casserole and sweet potatoes (we make that the day before and reheat it) in the oven. We also found a recipe for bacon and brussel sprouts which is very good. Don't forget to make pies (those you can do a day or two before). Most side dishes can be made the day before and reheated. Just remember that its not about the food, its about you qualitity time with family and if things go wrong no fret, it makes a great story.

  11. First and foremost, when prepping for my Thanksgiving feast, I took Wednesday off of work, watched every Thanksgiving episode of FRIENDS while I prepared all the side dishes that could be refrigerated overnight so that all I had to do was pop them in the oven on Thanksgiving day. I also started the turkey that day since it takes so long to cook and I didnt want it hogging the oven all day. It helped tremendously. Oh and I also had my sister bring the pies so that was one less thing for me to cook. The turkey was much easier than I thought it would be. Don't forget to clean out the innards (they're shoved in the cavity, so just clean those out - gag!) and stick it in a roasting dish covered with foil...remember to keep on basting the turkey so that it doesn't dry out. I also rubbed butter and olive oil on the outside and a little under the skin of the turkey to help it not dry out. I'm a huge fan of simple, standard, easy recipes so that you're not going nuts the day before and/or day of trying to make something you've never made before. Plus, simple is usually delicious.
    The menu was:
    Cornbread dressing
    Green bean casserole
    Squash casserole
    Cranberry sauce
    Pies (Apple, pecan, pumpkin)

    Good luck! I know you can do it :)

  12. Mashed potatoes, you cant forget mashed potatoes!

  13. Mashed potatoes/green beans/cranberry sauce/cornbread/ buttery carrots/pecan pie/pumkin pie/chocolate pie

    I miss your regular updates. Hope all is well!

  14. Make a list of all your dishes and how far in advance they can be made to help give yourself ebough time.

    If you brine the turkey (giant eagle carries a good brine - I think it's Perfect something-or-other), do NOT stuff it, as the stuffing will be so salty it will be inedible.

  15. My favorite side dish for Thanksgiving is Pretzel Salad & Hashbrown Casserole. (=

  16. I didn't have time to read the comments so this might be a duplicate suggestion, but any dish you can find to make in your crock pot is one less dish in the oven! Hope it goes great! :-)

  17. Agree with letting it fully defrost. I usually forget and have to let it sit in a sink of cold water the day before and my hands are freezing from trying to get out the giblets.
    The night before I get out all the gunk, rinse and dry it. I put it in the roasting pan. I sprinkle LIBERALLY with salt. Then cover with foil and put in the fridge. (Technical name for this is called a dry brine. It keeps it juicy.) The next morning I preheat to 425 then roast according to size, usually I think less than 3 hrs. If it starts to get too brown I cover with foil and/or turn the temp down. It's juicy and the high heat seals the heat in.
    I don't baste or stuff or put anything else in there & it turns out great.

    1. I meant to say, the high heat seals the juices in.


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