Beginners Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner

Frustrated girl cooking

Is anyone else panicking that Thanksgiving is only a week away? If it’s your first time hosting like me, you probably are. If not, please send your good vibes my way! Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big “planner.” I’ve been stressing about my menu for weeks now, which has probably added more stress than necessary. But, the good news is that you get to benefit from my high-stressed planning strategies! In this blog I’ll share my entire Thanksgiving Day menu and tips I’ve gathered from family and anxiety-fueled research.


First, What’s For Dinner?

Obviously no Thanksgiving meal is complete without a turkey, but how big does it need to be? Everywhere I’ve read and everyone I ask has a different answer, but I found the happy medium is 1.5 lbs. per person is a good estimate. If you’re counting on leftover turkey for sandwiches and soups, I suggest going with a larger turkey. But remember that the larger the turkey, the longer it will take to thaw and cook. If you’re looking for an easy and delicious recipe to follow, use this one from the YellowBlissRoad recipe blog here.

Next thing you’ll need for dinner is a good selection of side dishes. Depending on the size of your guest list, you may need more or less than I have. You can also swap out any sides you may like better. I love brussel sprouts but know that’s not a common opinion. The sides I will have are pretty traditional: baked carrots, creamy mashed potatoes, crispy bacon brussel sprouts, stuffing, dinner rolls (I just buy mine from the store!), gravy, and cranberry sauce. You can find all of the simple and tasty recipes I use by clicking on the links embedded in the list of sides. I like to have a variety of sides to make sure even the pickiest of eaters find something yummy at the table.


Did Someone Say Munchies?

Depending on the time you plan to eat your main turkey meal, you may want to make some appetizers to satisfy any munchies your guests may have. I’m serving my turkey at 1pm and plan to make these for later in the evening after the inventible turkey-induced nap. Everyone usually wakes up hungry and ready for more snacks. I like to keep it simple with appetizers after dinner since typically by this time I’m maxed out on my cooking energy and space in the kitchen. The appetizers I chose are easy to make ahead, which is a HUGE bonus. Make your life easy with a cheese, meat and cracker platter. It’s a classic that everyone will enjoy. My family loves artichoke dip so I found a quick fifteen minute artichoke dip recipe that can be made in a crockpot! How neat is that!? Another favorite is bacon wrapped water chestnuts. You can find a great recipe for those here from AllRecipes.


Don’t Forget About Desert!

Another staple of Thanksgiving is the pie. Mainly in my house pumpkin and pecan pie are the big winners. As much as I love to bake, nothing beats a pre-made pie crust and a simple pie filling recipe to follow. There’s also nothing wrong with a store bought pie! But, if you’re feeling extra ambitious, here are two of my favorite pie recipes that are great even for first time pie bakers! You can find the pumpkin pie recipe here, and the pecan pie recipe here.


Lastly, Some Tips & Tricks.

Before you jump right into the chaos of meal prep, take some pressure off with these tips I’ve gathered.

  • Peel and cut your potatoes the night before! It will save you a lot of time the day of, and doesn’t affect the end result of the mashed potatoes if you keep them in a sealable container in your fridge overnight.
  • Cut and dry the stuffing bread the night before, instead of doing it the day of. Store it in a gallon ziplock baggie overnight.
  • You can make the pies the weekend before Thanksgiving!
  • The cranberry sauce can also be made before the big day.
  • Prepare the cheese and meat platter the night before so it is easily available to put out right away to avoid “hangry” guests! (We have a few of those in the family, including myself!)

Hopefully this blog has helped give you some ideas and ease your nerves. I’ll be thinking of all of you while I’m tackling my own turkey. Good luck to all you first time hosts out there! Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and enjoy the special day!

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