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The Essential Stress-Free Thanksgiving Guide

Creating the perfect Thanksgiving dinner can be intimidating, so we created a guide so anyone can pull off a delicious Thanksgiving.

Whether you are a seasoned cook or a Thanksgiving newbie, we’ve got you covered!

Tips for Successful Planning

Read this guide in its entirety two weeks prior to the big day so that you are best prepared. Making dishes ahead of time not only allows you to not be rushed, but your cleanup time and the amount of dishes to clean on Thanksgiving Day will be significantly reduced!

Determine your headcount. Knowing the number of guests will help you determine how much food is needed, and how big of a turkey to purchase. Our guide is designed for 6-8 so you can double for more or enjoy leftovers if you are serving less.

Check your inventory. Make sure you have the necessary dishes, pots/pans and utensils needed for your preparation and serving. Review the tools list included in this document as a reminder of what you may need. An easy tip is to write each recipe title on sticky notes and attach them to the dish or pan that you plan to serve them in. Make sure your knife is sharpened!

Check your oven size! While you will be prepping a number of items weeks and days beforehand, you will need the oven in at least two stages on Thanksgiving day. First, to cook the turkey and the Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer simultaneously, and second to finish the casseroles once the turkey has been removed. If you have a toaster oven, consider using it for the Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer or a smaller casserole dish. Note: We offer two appetizer options in this menu in case you do not have oven space for the Stuffed Mushrooms.

Check your dinnerware for the right quantity. If you decide to use cloth napkins and a tablecloth, make sure that they are laundered, pressed and ready to adorn your table.

Don’t forget the beverages. This guide focuses on the food but make sure you plan refreshments for your meal.

Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving

Clean out the fridge and freezer.

Buy your groceries and your turkey. You can find the complete two-week grocery list of items needed for this menu below. Before you leave for the store, check to make sure you have all of your staple items like salt, pepper and spices.

Determine the thaw time needed for your turkey. The preferred way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator. Here is a handy guide to thaw times:

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

If you forget to thaw your turkey, don't panic. You can thaw it in cold water. A 14-pound turkey takes 8 hours to thaw in water. Make sure the water stays cool, changing it often. Once thawed, place it back in the refrigerator until needed.

Pre-make any items that can be frozen, which include:

  • Gravy. For a fresh turkey flavor, you can add the turkey drippings from your roasting pan once your turkey comes out of the oven. Make the Gravy according to make-ahead directions in the recipe.
  • Pie Dough. Make your pie crust dough in advance using our recipe. Form the dough into a disk and place in a labeled freezer-safe bag. Consider making extra pie crusts to create a Turkey Pot Pie after Thanksgiving using the leftovers.
  • Sweet Potato Soufflé. Make the Soufflé portion as directed in the recipe. You will be making the Butter Pecan topping on Thanksgiving Day. Follow the directions in the recipe to properly freeze.

Plan Thanksgiving decorations and how you would like to set the table and kitchen. Choose between fresh flowers or fall decor like gourds and pumpkins. Consider get- ting the kids involved with the planning and decorating as well. Kids can write out the menus and place cards. Teens can create the tablescape, even arrange the flowers! Decorating together can make this a fun family event where everyone is proud of their contribution.

Thanksgiving Week

Saturday

  • Pick up your house.
  • Make sure to check that oven. If you need to clean it, today is a good day!
  • Make room in refrigerator and freezer for more groceries.

Sunday

  • Set up the dining area.
  • Arrange tables and chairs, put on tablecloth(s).
  • Get the kids involved too! Younger children can do simple things like placing the napkins and silverware.

Monday

  • Pick up fresh groceries or order via an app or online.
  • Cut shallots for the Green Beans and onions for the Stuffed Mushrooms and place into airtight containers.
  • Place frozen Pie Crust in the refrigerator to thaw.

Tuesday

Total Cooking Time: 2 ½ Hours

  • Prepare Green Beans. Prepare the green beans according to the recipe in step 1. You will finish the beans on Thanksgiving. Once the beans have been drained and have cooled slightly, store them in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator until needed.
  • Make the Pecan Pie. Shape pie dough into pie pan and return to the fridge. Prepare the Pecan Pie filling. Once made, add to the chilled pie crust and bake.
  • Prepare the Sun-dried Tomato Torte following the recipe. Place it on the serving tray you wish to use. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Double check your groceries to ensure that you have everything you need.

Wednesday

Total Cooking Time: 2 Hours

  • Prepare Stuffed Mushrooms per recipe. Slightly cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Make and assemble the Stuffing, but do not bake it. Cover it tightly and place in the refrigerator. (You will bake it on Thanksgiving Day.)
  • Remove Sweet Potato Soufflé and the gravy from the freezer and place in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
  • Tidy the kitchen and run the dishwasher.

Thanksgiving Day

Note: All cook times are based around the size of the turkey that you are roast- ing. Our time frame is based upon roasting a 14-pound turkey for the Herb Butter Roasted Turkey recipe. If you have a different size turkey, adjust the timing accordingly. The general rule for cooking a turkey is 20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature in the thigh reaches 180 degrees, and the breast reaches 170 degrees. Remember, you need to let the turkey rest after roasting for at least 30-45 minutes. Our timeline allows for an hour of rest time. Once you calculate the roast time, you will know what time your bird needs to be in the oven. If you plan on an early dinner, you just might need to set an alarm and get up early in the morning to start cooking.

5 ½ Hours Before Dinner

  • Remove 1 cup of salted Challenge Butter (2 sticks) from the fridge and set on the counter to bring to room temperature or soften (do not melt) in the microwave.
  • Mince herbs for Turkey, Gravy and Potatoes.
    • Turkey: 1 Tbsp. each of fresh thyme, sage, chives; 2 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley; 1 tsp fresh rosemary
    • Gravy: 1 Tbsp. each of fresh thyme, sage, parsley, chives and 1 tsp fresh rosemary
    • Mashed Potatoes: 1 Tbsp. fresh chives + a bit more for garnish
  • Arrange your oven racks before preheating the oven. You will need a top rack present if making the Stuffed Mushrooms in the same oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare turkey as directed in the Herb Roasted Turkey recipe.

4 ½ Hours Before Dinner

  • Place the turkey in the oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  • Fry sage for the Mashed Potatoes.
  • Cut potatoes and place in cool water in a pot and place in the refrigerator.
  • Chill drinks.

3 ½ Hours Before Dinner

  • Tidy kitchen and set up area for appetizer and drinks. Get coffee ready to brew so all you need to do is push a button when it’s time for dessert.

3 Hours Before Dinner

  • Remove plastic wrap from mushrooms, and place in the oven. Since the tem- perature for the turkey differs from the mushroom recipe, plan on baking for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and mushrooms have cooked through. If using a toaster oven, follow the directions for baking on the recipe.
  • Slice baguette. Remove your Cream Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato Torte from the refrigerator and set it out with baguette slices. Add the reserved toasted nuts and basil garnish to the top of the Torte.

2 Hours Before Dinner

  • Remove stuffing and Sweet Potato soufflé from fridge and bring to room tem- perature.
  • Make the Butter Pecan topping for the Sweet Potato Soufflé recipe and put it on top of the sweet potato mixture. Cover with foil.

1 Hour 45 Minutes Before Dinner

  • Check turkey temperature with an accurate thermometer. (Do not rely on that pop-up timer if included. They often are incorrect.) Due to different oven temperatures, the turkey can cook quicker or slower than expected so it is a good idea to get a quick check at this point.
  • Baste your Turkey as directed in the Herb Roasted Turkey recipe.

1 Hour Before Dinner

  • Check the turkey temperature and ensure it is at least 180 degrees in the thigh, and 170 in the breast. If so, remove from the oven. Place it on your cutting board, tent with foil and let it rest.
  • Rearrange your oven shelves to accommodate the casseroles and adjust oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  • Place the stuffing and Sweet Potato Soufflé in the oven with the foil on them.
  • Let bake for 20 minutes to start the reheating process. Then, remove foil from Sweet Potatoes.
  • Continuing baking for 20-25 minutes or until the Sweet Potatoes are warmed through and the top is golden brown and bubbling.
  • Remove the Sweet Potatoes from the oven.
  • Remove foil from the Stuffing and continue baking for 10 additional minutes.
  • Once items are removed from the oven, tent loosely with foil to keep warm.
  • Make Mashed Potatoes and leave in the pot. Cover with a lid.
  • Prepare the brown butter and shallots as directed in step 2 in the Green Beans with Brown Butter and Shallots recipe.

30 Minutes Before Dinner

  • Place butter on a plate with a butter knife to serve with rolls.
  • Place cranberry sauce in serving dish.
  • Combine the cooked green beans with the shallot and butter mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté briefly to warm through. Sprinkle with lemon juice and zest. Place beans in serving dish and tent with foil.
  • Warm gravy in pan. Strain turkey drippings, and, if desired, stir into gravy. If not using drippings, add additional broth to achieve the desired consistency. Stir in fresh herbs.

15 Minutes Before Dinner

  • Warm rolls in the oven or microwave and place them in a basket or serving dish lined with a cloth napkin to keep them warm.
  • Reheat mashed potatoes. Place in a serving bowl and garnish chives and fried sage.
  • Combine the cooked green beans with the shallot and butter mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté briefly to warm through. Sprinkle with lemon juice and zest. Place beans in serving dish and tent with foil.
  • Carve turkey and place on a serving platter. Set out side dishes with serving utensils.

YOU DID IT! Now say what you are grateful for, pass those buttery mashed potatoes and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving

Grocery List
Two Weeks Before Thanksgiving

Dairy

  • 2 one-pound packages Unsalted Challenge Butter (7 ½ sticks needed)
  • 3 one-pound packages Salted Challenge Butter
  • 1 half-pound package Challenge European Style Unsalted Butter (1 stick needed)
  • 8 ounce bar Challenge Cream Cheese
  • 8 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
  • grated parmesan cheese (1 Tablespoon needed)
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 16 ounces heavy cream
  • milk (1 Tablespoon needed)

Baking

  • 4 ounces walnuts
  • 2 ounces pine nuts
  • 16 ounces chopped pecans
  • all-purpose flour (2 cups needed)
  • baking powder
  • brown sugar (3 cups needed)
  • sugar (¼ cup needed)
  • vanilla extract
  • 1 can evaporated milk (4 ounces needed)

Produce

  • 3 ½ pounds of russet potatoes
  • 3 sweet potatoes (enough to make 4 cups)
  • 1 large head of garlic
  • 1 large shallot (enough to make ½ cup when sliced)
  • 2 yellow medium-sized onions

Miscellaneous

  • 1 box of traditional stuffing, like Mrs. Cubbison's®
  • 56 ounces low-sodium stock or broth (chicken or turkey)
  • 8 ounces dried cranberries
  • panko bread crumbs (½ cup needed)
  • 2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
  • cranberry sauce

Meat

  • 1 (14 pound or desired size) fresh or frozen turkey
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage

Seasonings

  • ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper

Grocery List
Week of Thanksgiving

Fresh Groceries

  • 1 package fresh thyme
  • 3 packages fresh sage
  • 1 package fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 2 packages fresh chives
  • 1 package fresh basil
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 package fresh rosemary
  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen green beans
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 1 pound of fresh white button mushrooms
  • 1 apple
  • 1 lemon
  • 1-2 French baguettes
  • Bakery fresh rolls

Other Items to Consider

  • pumpkin pie
  • whipped cream
  • ice cream
  • drinks
  • turkey aromatics such as onion, apple, celery, carrots, bay leaves, herbs and/or oranges and lemons to place in the cavity

Tool List
Day of Thanksgiving

For Prep

  • Pie pan
  • Roasting pan with roasting rack
  • Turkey thermometer
  • Cotton twine for turkey
  • Potato ricer or masher
  • Mixing bowls
  • Citrus zester
  • Cookie sheet
  • 3 - 9”x13” or similar size casserole dishes
  • Saucepan for reheating gravy
  • Large pot to boil potatoes
  • Sharp kitchen knife
  • Small pan for cooking shallots and butter and frying sage
  • Cutting board for vegetables and herbs
  • Large cutting board (for turkey)

For Serving

  • Cheese knife
  • Bread knife
  • Serving plate for Stuffed Mushrooms and Sun Dried Tomato Torte
  • Turkey platter
  • Meat fork
  • Turkey carving knife
  • Serving dish for Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy bowl or boat and ladle
  • 4 serving utensils
  • Pie server
  • Serving utensil and plate for cranberry sauce
  • Plate or basket for rolls
  • Butter dish and butter knife

For Storage

  • Aluminum foil
  • Parchment paper
  • Resealable bags
  • Plastic wrap
  • Storage containers
  • Freezer containers