Friday, November 11, 2011

What to Serve for Thanksgiving Dinner

The other day I shared with you some tips on getting ready for holiday guests, which you can read about here.  Today, per the request of a sweet reader from Europe, I'm going to share with you some ideas of what to serve for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Some of you may already have your menus figured out, and others have given your requests to someone else who's making your dinner.  However, I can only guess there may be a few who are still looking for that great side dish, delectable dessert, or best way to cook a turkey.  This is for you!

Here is my Thanksgiving Menu:

Roast Turkey
Sausage Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes
Sauteed Green Beans
Turkey Gravy
Sweet Potato Casserole
Green Pea Salad
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Pecan Pie
Key Lime Pie
Toll House Pie

Thankfully, I'll have some help, specifically with making all of those pies!  Below I'll provide what I believe are the most traditional and then a few non-traditional dishes for those who want to experiment beyond the norm.

1. Turkey.

Without a doubt, this is the most traditional portion of the meal.  In fact, I read in my Woman's Day magazine that somewhere around 46 million turkeys would be consumed this season.  That's a lot of fowl.  For those living overseas, turkey is not as easy to come by, and if you find it, most likely it is extremely expensive {I know this from experience}.  Chicken is a great substitute, as the other dishes that surround the turkey taste just as yummy with a smaller bird.

Here are some great links on how to prepare and cook a turkey:
How to Prepare a Turkey
How to Carve a Turkey
World's Simplest Thanksgiving Turkey
Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

2. Stuffing/Dressing.

Source: via Lauren on Pinterest

This just so happens to be one of my favorite parts of the meal, especially since I was introduced to a sausage stuffing recipe 2 years ago by my sister-in-law.  Traditionally, the turkey is stuffed with a bread and vegetable mixture, hence the name stuffing, that cooks inside of the bird.  The stuffing is then removed and enjoyed alongside the bird.  Stuffing the turkey is said to help keep the bird moist {as turkey can be rather dry} but there are other ways to have a moist bird, if you'd rather not mess with stuffing.  When you make the bread mixture without putting it inside of the bird, it's referred to as dressing.  The same basic ingredients are used, you just forego the hassle of sticking inside of the turkey.  There are countless ways to make stuffing/dressing, but here are a few favorite recipes that I found:

9 Turkey Stuffing Recipes
Maxine's Turkey Stuffing Recipe
Turkey: Stuffing 101

3. Mashed Potatoes.

 I'd really be curious to know what is estimated to be the number of pounds of potatoes consumed on Thanksgiving Day!  This is probably one of the easiest dishes to pull off, and again, it can be done in different ways.  Last year I was lazy and used red potatoes, so that I didn't have to peel the skins off. They tasted fine, but I did miss the smooth texture of 'the perfect mashed potato'.  Recently, I've discovered that gold potatoes work best for a smooth mashed potato.  Simply add some butter, milk, salt and pepper and you have an easy side to douse in gravy.  Here are some mashed potato recipes:

Step-by-Step Instructions to Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Paula Deen's Garlic Mashed Potatoes

4. Gravy.

I feel like I can't even really speak on this one because I have not yet mastered the art of cooking gravy.  I'm hopeful this year {as I'm sure my dad is} that I'll be able to produce a flavorful, non-lumpy gravy to accompany all of this delicious food.  Basically, you use the juices that cooked out of the turkey, add some flour and milk, and you somehow come out with an amazing liquid called gravy.  Since I can't tell how to do it, here are some great tips {which I will be reading and maybe even practicing before the big day}:

Step-by-Step Pictures for the Perfect Gravy
5 Great Gravy Recipes

5. Green Vegetable, such as Peas or Green Beans.

This is subjective, of course, but in my family, we traditionally had peas with Thanksgiving dinner.  As a kid I loved to mix my potatoes and peas as I thought that was one of the most wonderful food combinations.  I now have switched to sauteed green beans {with a bit of onion and garlic in them} to keep down the fat content, although many people serve green bean casserole, which is equally as yummy.  Here are some other vegetable sides to give some ideas:

5 Ways to Eat Brussels Sprouts
Green Bean Casserole
Scalloped Squash, Red Pepper and Corn Gratin with Cheddar Crust
Honey Glazed Carrots

6. Cranberry Sauce.

We always had jellied cranberry sauce from a can growing up, and that is still the preferred way for most of my family members.  I don't think I even knew that you could make it until a few years ago.  Ha!  If you're unable to purchase canned cranberries, fresh ones cooked with sugar and a bit of orange juice create a delicious sauce!

7 Tasty Takes on Cranberry Sauce

7. Rolls with Butter.

Homemade yeast rolls are my favorite, in fact, my aunt always made rolls when we had Thanksgiving at my grandparents' house, and I loved them!  Of course, now you can purchase frozen rolls that taste almost as good as the homemade kind.  I'm still debating about which version to use this year, mostly because I don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen kneading dough on Thanksgiving morning.

No Kneading Required Yeast Rolls
Thanksgiving Rolls
Thanksgiving Bread and Roll Recipes

8. Pie.

 The grand finale is most traditionally pumpkin pie.  However, any kind of pie will substitute just fine.  You'll see from my menu above that we will be serving 5 different kinds of pies this year!  And, I might add that those are the only desserts I'm making for the entire weekend!  It is nice to have two options, though, in case some people don't like one kind.  It may also be a good idea to have a small tray of cookies for those who don't like pie at all, or who want to eat both kinds of pie and a few cookies.

Thanksgiving Pie and Tart Recipes
30 Favorite Pie Recipes

9. Anything Goes.

Source: via Lauren on Pinterest

Thanksgiving dinner can be whatever you want it to be!  I had strict instructions from my brother-in-law not to make lasagna or soup, he definitely wanted turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing; but, these options I've given are certainly not the absolutes of Thanksgiving dinner!  The first time I ever cooked a turkey, it was just for me and my husband, and I went all out!  We had an herb crusted turkey, mashed potatoes, corn/squash gratin, dressing, cranberry cornbread, and I think asparagus.  It was delicious!  Be creative and just make sure that your guests are going to be happy with what you make and leave the table with a full tummy.

10. Be Thankful.

 Thanksgiving is about remembering to thank God for the many blessings He has given us!  Sure, we have a great meal together, but let's not forget to be ever mindful that everything we have comes from God and we should have a spirit of thanksgiving at all times!


  1. This is a great post! I'm glad we're having the traditional menu :) And I love that you've given away our family's secret - how much we're obsessed with desserts! haha 5 pies for 8 adults is RIDICULOUS! And I'm sure they will all get eaten!

  2. I would love to try your sausage stuffing recipe if it's something you can share! Sounds amazing=)

  3. Wow! This sounds delicious! Do you think you have room for 2 (and a half) more people at your table?? :) I hope that you and your family have a wonderful time together!

  4. Um HELLO I am at your house for Thanksgiving! You did just describe the perfect Turkey day meal! Dressing is my favorite---when it is done right!

  5. Yah! Thanks for this! It will help a lot!! What is a Toll House Pie? Sounds amazing ;)

  6. I agree, may we always remember and Thank God for all blessings! God bless you...


I would love to get your feedback on any post! Comments make my day, and I will do my best to get back with you as soon as I can. Thanks!