I know holidays can be stressful. If you are planning to cook and host Thanksgiving, this post is for you. If you’ll be the one eating pie and watching football, we still love you but this post is not for you.
Here’s what to expect:
- My favorite, unique menu suggestions for Thanksgiving breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve prepared a Pinterest board with specific recipes for reference. I’ve also included suggestions for what to cook and what to buy that’s simple.
- Ideas for when to prep each recipe.
- How to structure the week of Thanksgiving.
…and all of this is so that your Thanksgiving is easy, doable, and leaves space for family. I hope to relieve your stress, not add to it.
You might be a really confident hostess or new at it, so in order to level the playing field I’ll assume you know nothing. Don’t let it bother you if it’s overly detailed- that’s for the newer hostesses that need encouragement and instructions.
*Note: I’m going to suggest items that are store bought in addition to homemade so that you have options.
Breakfast: Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon, Agave Whipped Cream, Crockpot Wassail
Thanksgiving Lunch: Pear and Candied Walnut Salad, Apple Cider Roasted Turkey, Olive Oil Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Mashed Savory Sweet Potatoes with Thyme, Herbed Cheddar Biscuits
Dinner: Charcuterie Board featuring: left-over Turkey, Rosemary Raisin Crisps, Pumpkin Seeds, Bacon-wrapped Dates and an assortment of cheeses and raw veggies.
Dessert: Classic Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon, Agave Whipped Cream
I’m going to break down what I make, what I buy pre-made and when I begin to prepare the food.
I’m going to do a tad bit of rambling, bear with me or jump ahead to the timeline.
Breakfast Menu Notes:
I buy a pumpkin pancake mix from Trader Joe’s. They have a classic and a gluten free option. TJ Whipping Cream comes two ways: one that has to be refrigerated and one that can be in your pantry (this is the one I love!). I’ve pinned it for you in case you want to see what it looks like.
Make the pancakes as directed. For the whipping cream, I pinned a tutorial if you haven’t made it before.
Whipped Cream of my favorite things to make myself.
1. Because it is sooo delicious and versatile.
2. Because you can control how much sugar to add to it or none at all!
3. Because it’s very easy to make.
Chill a mixing bowl for at least a half-hour, longer if you have the time.
Pour the whipping cream into a chilled mixing bowl.
Sweeten to taste with Cinnamon, Sugar (any kind) or Agave. I add a lot of cinnamon because it’s particularly yummy with these pumpkin pancakes and you’ll make enough for pie later. I don’t use sugar, but add in agave and taste as I’m going.
Begin to whip it with a hand mixer on the highest setting until the white liquid forms peaks. Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
I make the pancakes the day before and refrigerate. They are easily reheated Thanksgiving morning in the toaster. Yes, the toaster! Not the microwave. This is a fun tip I learned from my mother-in-law. It’s extra yummy because the toaster crisps the outside of the pancakes. The whipped cream is one of the few things that have to be made the morning of. But, it’s worth it.
(I’ll list out a timeline so you can have these “when notes” in one list later.)
Here’s how breakfast typically goes:
Scott and I are up early putting the Turkey in the oven, while all our kiddos wake up whenever on their own. They come strolling in with PJs and blankies. We put them in front of the TV watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and have toaster pancakes in pjs on the couch.
As for the crockpot Wassail. Ooh, guys. This smells amazing and is so delicious. In your crockpot, you’re going to put in the juices and the spices and let it steep. Keep it on warm all day and set out some mugs. It’s nice because it’s light. It’s similar to apple cider but tangy and citrusy, a little spicy.
I’m calling it lunch, but we prefer for it to be late around 2pm.
The turkey you’ve already put in early in the morning, so that just has to keep on cooking. As for the rest of the menu, if you only have one oven like me you’ll have to decide what can be done in advance. Hint: it can all be done in advance. I roast the brussel sprouts the day before. I peel and cube the sweet potatoes and put them on the stove. Mash them and season them, the day before or the day of. They can be reheated. The salad will only take you less than 15 minutes to assemble.
If you can do 90% the day before and just worry about the turkey, that’s the best way to handle this meal. I enjoy a slow morning and take time to sit on the couch, love on my kiddos, cheering on the big Macy’s Day Parade floats on television.
Since today has had plenty of food already, dinner can be snack. In fact, pick up some paper plates so that leftovers and dinner snacks don’t use up dishes.
I use the leftover turkey and create a Charcuterie board. That’s a fancy word for a platter of meats, cheeses, crackers and whatever else you want to throw on there. By this time, we are watching football, waking up from afternoon naps so a snack is all we want. The bacon wrapped dates and toasted pumpkin seeds should be made in advance. I can’t tell you how much our guests love the dates, so it’s a little labor intensive but very yummy.
My notes are a brief overview. For detailed recipes, you can see my Pinterest board. Thanksgiving menu inspiration board on Pinterest
WHEN TO FOOD PREP FOR THANKSGIVING DAY
This is hands down 100%, your key to success. Grocery shop over the weekend or Monday before at the latest. Do a little bit each day. The day before, yes, you’ll spend half a day in the kitchen. However, I think you’ll find that Thursday goes so much smoother when it’s spread out over time. Remember, this is just my idea of how to relieve your stress.
Over one week in advance you can do these preparations:
- Buy a turkey. Freeze it. But, be careful. Know when you have to take it out to thaw and how long. (This depends on the turkey size. This is the detail that trips up most amateur chefs. I know we all have stories. Ha!)
- Purchase pantry items.
- Buy festive paper plates and napkins for breakfast, dinner, and leftovers.
Weekend before you can do these preparations:
- Set your dining room table. True! Use just your kitchen table, your stools or stand around the kitchen the days leading up to Thanksgiving. I added table setting ideas to the Pinterest board.
- Make any centerpieces or place-cards.
- Stock up on saran wrap or tupperware so you’re ready to store leftovers.
- Clean out the fridge and empty old stuff so you can fill it.
- Do a 15 minute quick tidy of your pantry. See what you already have that can be used especially for your salad or Charcuterie board.
- Grocery shop.
Two days before Thanksgiving, do this:
- Toast pumpkin seeds
- Carmelize walnuts for the salad (see pinned recipe)
- Brine Turkey (I do this in a clean cooler so that my refrigerator stays emptier.)
Day before Thanksgiving, do this:
- Peel sweet potatoes
- Trim and halve brussels sprouts. Dice bacon. Go ahead and make completely.
- Make pancakes
- Slice oranges for wassail
- Bake biscuits (Under bake them just a tad so you can warm them in the oven tomorrow.)
- Make bacon wrapped dates.
The day of Thanksgiving:
- Put the turkey in the oven.
- Start the Crockpot Wassail.
- Make whipped cream.
- Snuggle hubby and kiddos and pop pancakes in the toaster. Eat with a dollop of whipped cream on paper plates. Sip wassail on the couch.
- Get ready for the day around 11 am.
- By noon, boil water for sweet potatoes. Put those in the pot. (Another option is to do this recipe the day before.)
- Assemble salad. Put saran wrap on. Leave out.
- By 1:30, take turkey out of oven to rest.
- At 1:40, start warming up: brussels sprouts, biscuits.
- Have your hubby carve the turkey while you’re warming everything.
- Have a kiddo pour water into glasses on the table.
- You should be ready to go…….! Yum!
- Enjoy every minute. Be so very thankful for everything.
- Put away leftovers.
- Then, after football and naps when everyone gets hungry, set out the paper plates.
- Start assembling your board with crackers, leftover turkey, cheeses, pumpkin seeds, dates, raw veggies, grapes, or anything else you want!
- All the while, pie is being eaten whenever and don’t forget the whipped cream you already made this morning.
If you use my menu, here’s the grocery list broken into pantry items and fresh foods.
GROCERY LIST (PANTRY ITEMS AND FROZEN):
Pumpkin pancake mix
Whipping cream (Trader Joe’s shelf staple)
Canned Pineapple Juice
Olive Oil or similar substitute
Turkey Brine (I use a seasoning packet from World Market.)
Crackers (Rosemary Raisin Crisps from Trader Joe’s are my favorite.)
Balsamic Salad Dressing (You can make your own easily, but you may want to buy it ready made this time.)
Biscuit mix (I like the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Mix from Costco.)
GROCERY LIST (FRESH):
Whipping cream (if not bought as shelf staple from Trader Joes)
Cheeses: goat cheese for dates, other cheeses for Charcuterie board
Raw carrots and cucumber
Pumpkin Pie (Personally, I’m 100% cool with Costco’s pumpkin pie. It’s pretty yummy.)
Before I wrap up this post I want to give you one last tool. Thanksgiving is one of the biggest days for food waste in our country. The EPA estimates that 35% of turkey alone (equating to 204 million pounds) is discarded after the holiday, which is certainly a cause for concern.
To help combat this issue, Personal Creations has put together an easy-to-use Thanksgiving Food Planning Calculator that helps not only with reducing food waste and meal cost, but also alleviates stress leading up to the big day. Allowing for everything from the number of guests to type of food served, this guide will help you plan a perfect, waste-free feast. Food Calculator
You’re well on your way to a successful Thanksgiving at home, sharing yummy food and enjoying your day. As always, be present with the ones you love- they just want you!