Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Top 5 Thanksgiving Dinner Faves

My Thanksgiving dinner menu stays mostly the same from year to year. I usually choose one side dish to vary and often throw in a new dessert to try. But there are a few items that must be included every year - no exceptions {or make those exceptions rare - LOL}!

1.  The Turkey. Sometimes we add in other meats, like ham or tri-tip roast, but there must always be turkey. And now it must be a brined turkey. We started brining our turkey a few years ago and we've been believers ever since. Definitely makes the turkey more juicy and flavorful. And after years of trying different roasting methods, we've settled on one that we think is best. We follow the method that Alton Brown shows in these videos: Cooking Perfect Turkey, Part 1 and Cooking Perfect Turkey, Part 2. 

2.  Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. I think I would cry if we didn't have mashed potatoes and gravy. Seriously. We use plain old Russet potatoes, but golden potatoes are yummy as well. There are a few tips that we've learned over the years. After boiling and draining the potatoes, put the pot back on the warm burner so the rest of the moisture steams away. We like to add half 'n half and butter to the potatoes while we mash them. If you do that, the butter should be melted first and both the butter and the milk/cream should be warm when added to the potatoes. Above all, don't overmix! Otherwise you get a gummy consistency that is not pleasant. And I do my best to make homemade turkey gravy though I have yet to actually master that - mine never turns out quite right no matter what tips I follow - LOL!

3.  Slow Cooker Stuffing. It's a basic yummy stuffing recipe, but I LOVE that it cooks in the slow cooker. Not only do you avoid the risk of food poisoning from cooking it inside the turkey, but you also save on oven space if you were cooking it separately. You do have to do some cooking on the stove first before putting it in the slow cooker and it takes a few hours until it's ready so I'm always up really early getting it started. But after that, you do nothing until it's time to serve! And oh, those spices smell so good while it's cooking!

4.  Cranberry-Apple Sauce. I do enjoy traditional cranberry sauce, but most of the family does not. And hey, I do still like the jellied cranberry sauce from the can because that's what I grew up eating. :) But I love the flavor of this mixture of cranberry sauce and applesauce. That's really all there is to it - mixing whole-berry cranberry sauce with chunky applesauce and adding cinnamon. The nice thing is that you can use either homemade or store-bought ingredients, whatever you prefer or have on hand - keep it simple!

5.  Something Pumpkin. I'm not picky about what has the pumpkin in it - could be Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Dessert, No-Bake Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Pie Truffles, or Quick Pumpkin Pudding. {You can check my Pumpkin Perfection Pinterest board for ideas.} I do like a traditional baked pumpkin pie as well, though I have yet to make a really good one. My fave purchased one was from Whole Foods.

I do have other dishes that are regularly served at our Thanksgiving meal, but they're not necessarily must-haves like these 5! I have a Thanksgiving Menu Pinterest board that contains links to recipes that I've used in Thanksgiving dinners over the years - check it out for ideas!

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dinner recipes? What can't you live without in your Thanksgiving meal? Feel free to share links to recipes in the comments!

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Have a blessed day friends!


  1. Just so you know. I've put the stuffing in the bird for most of my 18 years of hosting Thanksgiving and have never had anyone come down with food poisoning. And my Mom put it in the bird 40 years prior to that with no ill effect. The only reason I'm telling you this is because I've had stuffing from in the bird and from out and if you've never had stuffing from inside the bird you are totally missing out. It's the best and totally worth the risk of food poisoning. LOL!
    With that said I did make your stuffing last year and it was delicious. I think I did it to save time since you have to cook the turkey longer if you stuff it.
    You still love me even though I stuff my bird? *smile*
    Big everyone gets stuffed at my house size hugs to you!

  2. I am going to brine my turkey this year. And Oh, I think I will try your stuffing!

  3. I'm bringing the stuffing to Thanksgiving this year as my husband is sick of his mother making Stove Top. I have turned my hubby into a foodie. :) His parents eat so plainly it is boring...and they like it that way. Do you think this stuffing would be plain enough for them but tasty enough for us?


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