Preparing a Thanksgiving Meal

Updated on October 24, 2007
A.B. asks from Plainview, TX
10 answers

Hi Moms--

I need your help and I know that you will come through as you always do. I know its kinda early to think about Thanksgiving since we are not even through Halloween yet but I want to make sure this is perfect. This year my entire family is coming to my house for Thanksgiving, since they are all teachers and I am the only one who lives far away and has to work Friday after Thanskgiving. I need some ideas about how to prepare a full Thanksgiving meal, I really enjoy cooking but I have never done anything on this scale before. But I am hoping it will be very helpful since I just signed up to selling Pampered Chef. Any input will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again

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answers from Dallas on

The only time I've ever done an entire meal myself was in college, so I'm not an expert by any means.

However, I would suggest making as much as you can ahead of time. Bake your pies the day before. For your dressing, have everything chopped and ready to cook the day before. You can also prepare other sides the day before and just pop them in the oven before the meal.

I've found that the best way to ensure you get a good, juicy, tender turkey is to cook it on an oven bag. You just add your spices for flavor, and you can't go wrong! Just make sure you put it in the fridge to thaw the week before Thanksgiving.

And, above all, enlist your houseguests to help out! Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

A few tips... one year we got a "Diestel" fresh, not frozen, turkey from Whole Foods- we had to order it ahead, but it was awesome and worth it!
This is one of the best turkey recipes we've found- very juicy and tasty- would recommend definitely getting the probe thermometer- we use it all the time- makes your food just right... here's the recipe...,,FOOD_99...

For stuffing- I made this one year and had compliments galore- one guy said it was "better than his momma's", which I guess was huge...,,FOOD_99...
(the sage and poultry seasoning really make it good- don't leave those out).

That's about it. Hope this helps- don't forget to tell us how it went. If anyone else uses these recipes, please let me know how they turned out. Paula Deen and Alton Brown are our favorites!



answers from Austin on

Check online recipe sites like, and for menus. Sometimes they also have recommended schedules to let you know what you can prepare 2 weeks ahead, 1 week ahead, etc.

Have fun and don't forget you can ask your guests for help :)


answers from Dallas on

I'm no expert but the Thanksgiving meal is a favorite of mine to prepare. Most of the time, it is just my hubby, daughter and me for dinner. Last year I had 10 people!!

My ultimate compliment was 2 years ago after getting on a plane to leave my mom's house from the Thanksgiving weekend, my daughter looked at me and asked "When we get home, will you please make our Thanksgiving dinner". I realized then that my little traditions were special to her. She now helps with the preparation and we declared to always have "our" Thanksgiving dinner.

Make as much as possible ahead. Most guests are eager to help you. I put my stuffed turkey in the oven early in the morning, on a very low temp and just let it go. We love to spend the day preparaing with the aroma of the stuffed turkey roasting. My main thing to remember is to make sure the turkey is thawed in the fridge! Last year, mine was too big for my fridge (25#) so I just put it in an ice chest inside my laundry room and it was fine.

Good luck and don't forget to sit back and enjoy!



answers from Dallas on

I have always loved preparing Thanksgiving dinner. I cook the pies two days in advance and then cook most of the sides the night before after the kids go to bed. Some sides that I make are
Sweet Potatoes with brown sugar, butter, walnuts and topped with marshmallows
Butternut Squash
Turnips(yuck but my husband and mom love them)
Prepare the bread stuffing
Celery with cream cheese in the middle and drizzled with italian dressing
Then I have a glass of wine and go to bed (ha ha)
Thanksgiving morning I stick the turkey in, have the kids help me set the table open the cranberry sauce from a can and make the mashed potatoes right before dinner is ready. The hectic part is getting everything on the table! Good Luck, you'll do great!
Another thing that we do,which may sound corny, but always makes my day is when we go around the table and say what we are all thankful for. The kids come up with the best things!



answers from Dallas on

There are lots of good recipes for turkey and sides at, and the food network website of course. My best advice, however, is to ask your guests to each bring a side, dessert, condiment (i.e., cranberry sauce), rolls, or appetizer so you'll only have to concentrate on the main entree(s). We did that for our last get together and I was so relaxed. I hardly had to do a thing. It was the least stressful get together at our house we've ever had and also the first time I had ever asked others to bring anything. It was a lot of fun and everything tasted so great. All you really have to do is coordinate who's bringing what so there aren't 3 people bringing mashed potatoes and no one bringing stuffing/dressing. Everyone gets a great meal and no one had to stay up all night preparing it.

I think the holidays should be about enjoying your friends and family, not slaving in a kitchen all day. :-)



answers from El Paso on

I remember making my first Thanksgiving meal!! It was stressful- but I planned ahead and it turned out just fine. And was not as horrible as I imagined! I figured out my menu making sure I had things I could put together in advance (mashed potatoes, the dessert, etc) and bake/warm up on the big day. Then I wrote out an agenda for the two days before and the day of the event- writing out everything that I had to do and when to do it. I made a ham instead of a turkey because I was worried that I would turn out a dry turkey (I'm not such a fabulous cook!). I have since made turkey with no problems!

Here are some good Make-Ahead OR Put-Together-Ahead dishes:
Potato Casserole OR Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Casserole
Stuffing (I put it together the night before OR I just use the Pepperidge Farm kind and doctor it up a bit!)
Any kind of pie and most desserts
Dinner Rolls (just heat up in the oven for a few minutes OR use the already made ones and warm them up.)
Add a couple of steamed vegetables and you have a complete Thanksgiving meal!

I would imagine that people will ask what they can bring. Don't hesitate to enlist help from them for dessert, bread, snacks, anything!

Good Luck!



answers from Houston on

There are loads of good books out there to help prepare a T meal. Also, check the magazines coming out. They always have great recipes and "gameplans" on how to get everything out at the same time and how to prepare dishes in advance. I love visiting Williams Sonoma this time of year. Every Thanksgiving season, they give out a small, free Thanksgiving booklet that has recipes in it. For a perfect Turkey, I use their brining bags and brining seasonings. Follow their directions and you'll get an incredibly juicy turkey. (I also make a paste of room temp butter, rosemary, thyme, a little sage, salt & pepper and rub it all over the turkey and underneath the skin. You can do most of the sides and even the dressing they day before; pop them in the oven to warm once the turkey is out of the oven and cooling. Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

What do you want to cook. Will your family be bringing food also. I have cooked a meal before and it was fun. Turkey's are pretty easy. I like to make cornbread dressing from scratch. Then add some veggies and pumpkin pie, my great-grandma's recipe, and you are good to go.
Just do what you can, I am sure it will be just fine.



answers from Dallas on

I highly recommend a fried turkey. They cook in about an hour, and they are so moist. It frees up the oven, and reduces a lot of stress! You do have to buy the turkey fryer, or borrow one. our neighbor borrows ours. We are both able to fry a turkey on Thanksgiving.

I also recommend keeping sides to a minimum. It's easy to go crazy, but who needs that much food.

I also make a pumpkin soup in the crock pot, which is super easy. You can serve that as an appetizer so that folks don't get too hungry if timing is a little behind.

Jalapeno Pumpkin Soup

1 medium onion chopped
1 (16oz) can pumpkin
1/4 cup mild jalapeno chopped finely
3T butter
2t cumin
1 1/2 t salt
2 cups half & half
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 dashes chili powder
1 squeeze of lemon juice
cayenne pepper to taste
1 small granny smith apple sliced thin
cilantro to garnish
sour cream if desired

Melt butter and saute onion till limp. Add cumin, jalapeno, salt and cook for 2 minutes. Place onion mixture in food processor and add pumpkin. Add cream in stream and process until smooth. Put in pot, add chicken broth and heat. Add chile powder,cayenne and salt to taste.

Garnish with apples that have been tossed in chili powder. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and dollop of sour cream if desired.
*Toasted pumpkin seeds are delicious sprinkled.

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