Thanksgiving – Spectacular and Stress-free: Post 2 of 3

As I shared last week (in the first of three posts with the Thanksgiving theme – link here), the upcoming holiday next Thursday is my family’s favorite. I’m particularly excited for this week’s post, as I’m finally getting the recipes for my mother’s fantastic meal all in one place. A couple of weeks ago my mom gave me her collection of Cook’s Illustrated magazines … and it gave me a fair amount of anxiety. How and where to start with these things? If you feel the same, particularly about hosting a holiday meal, I hope that you find a few things to try in this list of savory and sweet Thanksgiving options (full recipes below). Recall from last week’s post, all of these recipes are geared toward being able to prepare the food the day or two before, to help ease the stress on the day you are hosting.

Dressed Up Dressing




Corn Pudding



Pumpkin Pie Trifle





Dressed Up Dressing

12 to 14 ounce package toasted, herb seasoned bread cubes
8 ounces bulk pork sausage
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried sage (1 teaspoon chopped fresh)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 cups chicken broth
5 tablespoons butter

Put bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large sauce pan. Add sausage and cook for 5 minutes. While browning sausage, break up into small pieces. Add onion, celery and seasonings. Cook 5 minutes more. Stir in apricots and cranberries and 1/2 cup of the broth. Heat remaining broth and remaining butter in a sauce pan until butter has melted. Combine bread cubes and sausage mixture.  Add hot broth to mixture and toss until well combined. Place in a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. This dressing can be made, baked and reheated (covered) in a 300 degree oven before serving.

Note: My family likes the dressing a little more old-school for the Thanksgiving meal, so for that version my mom eliminates the apricots, cranberries and brown sugar. The version with the apricots and cranberries is a nice change, however, and it’s great if you are hosting people that aren’t wed to a particular recipe that they have had year over year. Another option for the dressing is to saute 1 pound baby portebello mushrooms and add to the mixture before the final baking.

Corn Pudding

1, 12 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
2, 15 ounce cans cream style corn
5 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons corn starch
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon instant minced onion
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled to room temperature

Mix corn starch in milk and whisk until corn starch is dissolved.  Mix with all other ingredients.  Pour into a well greased 3 quart casserole dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Can also be baked at 350 degrees for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Stir once, halfway through the baking time.

Broccoli with Walnuts

2 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoons instant chicken broth granules
2 cups whole milk

2/3 cup hot water
6 tablespoons butter
2 cups Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix (crumbs, not cubes) or Stove Top Stuffing mix
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 can French fried onions

Cut broccoli into bite size pieces. Bring salted water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Cook broccoli for just 1 minute and then put in a bowl of ice water. This blanching will begin the cooking process and give the broccoli a bright green color. Remove the broccoli from the ice bath and drain on paper towels to remove all the excess water.  (If you put the strainer in a bowl of ice water, it will keep the ice cubes away from the broccoli and making draining much easier.)  Arrange the blanched broccoli in a buttered 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.  Melt one stick of butter in small saucepan. Add flour and broth granules. Cook a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk gradually and stir until smooth and thick. Pour the white sauce over broccoli. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in hot water, add stuffing mix and toss thoroughly.  Add walnuts and mix. Spoon on top of broccoli and bake in a 400 degree oven about 30 minutes.  After 20 minutes baking time, sprinkle onions over the top of the broccoli.

Note: Since both the Corn Pudding and the Broccoli with Walnuts bakes at 400 degrees, you can bake in the oven at the same time.  Although these can be made ahead of time, vegetables are best done just before serving the Thanksgiving dinner.

Company Mashed Potatoes

4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 8 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
1 8 ounce sour cream
1 teaspoon salt

Peel potatoes. Uniform size potatoes will cook more evenly. Place in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then switch to medium to low heat and simmer until potatoes are just tender, but not falling apart (about 30 minutes). Drain. Put potatoes back into hot pot for a few minutes to allow the heat of the pot to remove excess moisture. Mash potatoes with a potato masher. Add melted butter, cream cheese and sour cream. Whip with a hand mixer to smooth consistency. Do not over mix or use a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a buttered, 9 x 13 inch casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If made ahead of time, bring to room temperature and reheat at 350 for 20 minutes.

*Perfectly fine to substitute frozen mashed potatoes in this recipe. Cook according to the package and add other ingredients as noted above.


4 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
8 cloves of garlic
4 stems fresh sage
4 stems fresh thyme
4 stems fresh parsley
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

Toss vegetables in oil. Place in a large roasting pan. Roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until vegetables start to caramelize. Add flour to vegetables; stir until distributed among the vegetables. Add broth,2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of instant chicken bouillon granules and continue roasting until sauce is thick. Remove from oven and strain.  Adjust seasoning. Keep warm in a crock pot.  Serves 8-10. (I normally make another 1/2 of this recipe to have enough for leftovers).  Thin with hot chicken broth if necessary.

Roasted Turkey Breast

2, 3 pound fresh bone-in turkey breast halves (have butcher cut them in half)
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
salt and pepper

Place turkey on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Dry skin of turkey with a paper towel. Rub half of butter over the top of each of the breasts. Season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour at 375 degrees or until internal temperature reads 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.  (Cover with foil if getting too brown towards the end of the roasting time.) Cover with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.  If making ahead of time, slice and pour drippings over the turkey and cover tightly.  Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie Trifle

1 pumpkin pie (bakery section at super market)
1, 8 ounce container whipped cream cheese
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons white sugar

Cut pie into 1″ cubes. Whip cream to soft peak stage. Blend in sugar, vanilla and cream cheese. Starting with a small amount of cream mixture in the bottom of a 9″ diameter bowl, layer pumpkin pie cubes alternately with the cream mixture, ending with cream mixture on top. Garnish with a few pie cubes. Chill until ready to use. Dessert can be made 24 hours in advance.

This recipe can easily be doubled. Use a glass bowl to show off the layers and make this easy dessert look special. This dessert always gets rave reviews. Serve in martini glasses for extra flair.

Reality Check. Last week I said in the post that I hadn’t brought items to the Thanksgiving dinner in years past. I forgot that a couple of years ago I did volunteer to bring the mashed potatoes (using the frozen potatoes of course, as I note in the recipe above). I remembered because upon reading the recipe to input into the post I recalled ignoring the warning about not over-mixing. Is it a well-known fact that potatoes turn to glue if blended too long? Like, actual paste.


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