It’s that special time of the year as we gather with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Are you planning to host Thanksgiving dinner this year and not sure where to start? Once you know how many people will be there, it’s time to decide on the menu. Keep things simple and try not go overboard!
Pick the turkey: At least two weeks in advance, order a fresh turkey or buy frozen and keep in the freezer. Depending on the guest list size, you may need to include another meat. Ham always goes well with turkey. Secure the ham at the same time as the turkey. Smoked ham on the grill is simple and always a hit.
Plan the menu: Pick your favorite turkey recipe and plan the side dishes. We suggest serving 1-2 appetizers, 3-4 sides and 2-3 dessert options. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, people will be happy to bring a side dish, rolls, or dessert. This will take away some of the stress as you host the big day. Just be sure everyone doesn’t show up with sweet potato casseroles!
Prepare the meal: If your turkey or ham is frozen, start the thawing process at least 24 hours in advance. The turkey and ham can be cooked in the oven or smoked on the grill.
Casseroles and side dishes can be assembled the day before. Desserts should be prepared ahead of time as well. Bake casseroles and reheat sides while turkey is cooking and resting. Remember, your outdoor grill is an extension of your indoor oven, be sure to utilize this extra cooking capacity for baking and reheating. Enlist help from your guest so that things come together smoothly.
Here’s a few recipes to consider as you start planning the menu. Get ready to host Thanksgiving dinner like a pro!
Pimento Cheese Pecan Pull-Apart BreadRecipe and image courtesy of Adrianna Arame, A Cozy Kitchen and AmericanPecan.com
"Spicy, flavorful pimentos amid melted cheddar and sweet pecans makes for a warm, comforting appetizer and game-day starter. To save time, use store-bought dough instead of homemade."
1 cup whole milk, warmed slightly
2 teaspoons instant yeast
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon sea salt
5 cups all-purpose flour + more for rolling out
1 teaspoon pecan oil or olive oil or cooking spray
for the filling/assembly:
1/3 cup pecan pieces, divided
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 4-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained, and patted dry with paper towel, divided
To a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk and instant yeast. Allow to stand for 5 to 7 minutes, until foamy.
To the bowl of a stand-up mixer, with the hook attachment, add the yeast/milk mixture, melted butter, eggs, salt, and flour. Turn the mixer on medium speed and knead for 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough has formed a smooth ball.
Rub the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil or coat with cooking spray and transfer the dough to the bowl. Grease the top of the ball of dough and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.
Spray or oil a 9-inch round cake pan or baking dish. Liberally flour the work surface and roll the dough into a 12×12-inch square that’s about 1/2-inch thick. Cut that into 36 squares. Roll the squares into balls.
Place half of the balls into the prepared pan and top with half of the cheese, pecans, and pimentos. Add the other half of dough balls and top with the remaining cheese, pecans, and pimentos. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 20–30 minutes, until top is golden brown and puffed.
Bacon-wrapped PretzelsRecipe and photo: Courtesy of Creative Culinary (creative-culinary.com)
"Your guests will not be able to resist the sweet and spicy flavor of Bacon Wrapped Pretzels, So, go ahead and make a double batch."
1 package pretzel rods
1 pound bacon (not thick cut)
2 cups brown sugar
3–4 tablespoons red chili powder (or more, if you want it really spicy)
1–2 dashes (or three!) cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Break the pretzels in half. I have the best luck if I cut them with a very sharp knife. Cut the bacon slices in half.
Mix the brown sugar, chili powder and cayenne in a medium-size bowl and spread the mixture out in a large flat dish.
Coat each strip of bacon on both sides with the brown-sugar mixture, pressing firmly to make sure a lot of it adheres.
Wrap a bacon piece around each piece of pretzel. Place it on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet or roasting pan. Try to make sure the tail end of the bacon is on the bottom to avoid it unwrapping during baking.
Bake 10–15 minutes or until bacon cooks and appears crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool on the wire rack, rearranging occasionally while cooling so they don’t stick to the rack. Do not put these on paper towels or they stick.
Note: For easy clean up, line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. After baking, pitch the foil, fill the pan with hot water, and put the wire rack the water upside down to soak. The caramel bacon yucky stuff will melt away.
Buttermilk Brined TurkeyCourtesy of the National Turkey Federation
"A nod to the age-old and delicious holiday tradition for those craving that gorgeous, juicy centerpiece. Try spatchcocking the turkey for a quicker, more even cook on the grill."
2 quarts cold water
½ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 large bay leaf
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 small fresh garlic clove, lightly smashed
12–14 pound whole turkey, fresh or thawed if frozen
4 quarts cold buttermilk
For Savory Brine Mixture: Combine all the ingredients, except the buttermilk and turkey, in a large (3-quart or more) saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool completely before proceeding.
For brining turkey: Remove giblets and neck from the turkey cavities.
In a large container, such as a sealable brine bag or 5-gallon, food-safe bucket with lid, pour in the cold Savory Brine Mixture and buttermilk. Stir well. Add the turkey to the brine and submerge it. If using a bucket, place an ice-filled bowl on top of the turkey to keep the turkey submerged.
Brine the turkey no longer than 24 hours, always keeping it below 40°F. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Discard brine.
For grilling: Prepare the grill for indirect medium-high heat. Place the turkey on the grill and cook for 1½ –2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. The outside should be crisp and golden brown. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and let it sit for 15–20 minutes before carving.
For oven roasting: Preheat oven to 325°F. Place the turkey on a V-shaped rack in a 2-inch-deep roasting pan and roast about 3½ –3 3/4 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. The outside should be crisp and golden brown. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and let it sit for 15–20 minutes before carving.
Optional: Add your favorite glaze or baste to the turkey during the cooking process. Either way, you’ll have a tender, juicy turkey.
Cornbread DressingAdapted from Allrecipes, allrecipes.com
"Cornbread dressing is a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner delight. It’s also perfect for friend and family gatherings throughout the year."
3 cups crumbled cornbread
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
½ cup chopped celery
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon dried sage, or more to taste
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Use a cornbread mix or your favorite recipe to make a batch of cornbread. This can be done a day or two before making the dressing.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 7×11-inch baking dish. Place crumbled cornbread in a large bowl.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery and sauté until soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add sautéed onion and celery to the crumbled cornbread. Stir in chicken stock, eggs, sage, salt, and pepper until well combined. Pour dressing into the prepared baking dish.
Bake in the preheated oven until dressing just starts to turn golden brown around the edges, about 30 minutes.
Cheesy Scalloped PotatoesAdapted from All Recipes, allrecipes.com
"Cheesy scalloped potatoes smothered in a classic creamy sauce then topped with extra cheese and baked to bubbly perfection. A simple side dish for the holidays or for a weeknight family meal."
8 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 ½ shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika, optional for garnish
Chopped chives, optional for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 13″x 9″ baking dish.
For the cheese sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour until a paste forms. Gradually pour in milk, stirring constantly, until a thick white sauce forms. Stir in 2 cups of cheese and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.
In the casserole dish, arrange ½ of the sliced potatoes in a single layer, season with salt and pepper. Pour ½ of the cheese sauce over the potatoes. Repeat the second layer with remaining potatoes and cheese sauce. Sprinkle ½ cup cheese and paprika on top.
Bake in the preheated oven until potatoes are cooked through and tops are lightly browned, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Top with chopped chives if desired.
Note: for an added kick, add a little cayenne pepper!
Green Bean Casserole
"Everyone expects a Green Bean Casserole on the holiday menu. An easy side dish that is simple to throw together for any occasion!"
1 can Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 French’s® French Fried Onions (amount divided in recipe steps below)
Heat the oven to 350°F. Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 ½ -quart casserole. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
Bake for 25 minutes or until hot. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 2/3 cup onions.
Bake for another 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Brûlée ToppingCourtesy of Chef Tony Matassa, BBQ Guys Grill Master
"A Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole is always a comforting and familiar side. How about topped with praline brûlée? This sweet potato casserole recipe can fit in a large serving pan for family-style feasting as well as multiple smaller pans for individual portions. It’s all about making holiday dinner work for you!"
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
7 T unsalted butter, diced
3/4 tsp coarse salt
3 T water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 + 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 1/2 heavy cream
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
8 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Combine sweet potatoes, 2 T unsalted butter, 1/4 tsp salt and 2 T water in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 8 minutes. Stir well and then microwave another 5 minutes.
Prepare Pecan Topping: Heat 1 T water, ½ cup brown sugar and ¼ granulated sugar in a small pan. Stir just until the sugar completely dissolves. Pulse pecans in a food processor a few times. Add to the pan with sugar mixture. Stir well to combine, then add 2 T unsalted butter. Spread the mixture out on some parchment paper and let it dry.
Lightly spread butter over the surface the baking pans of your choice. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the butter and shake it around to coat well.
Remove sweet potatoes from the microwave and drain off excess water. Pour the bowl into a food processor or high speed blender. Add 3 T unsalted butter and 1/4 tsp salt. Puree the mixture until smooth.
Pour the heavy cream, dark brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar into a saucepan and set to medium-low. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and turn off the burner. Remove about 3/4 cup of the mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and slowly drizzle in the ¾ cup of hot cream while constantly whisking.
Add the egg/cream mixture back into the saucepan, drizzling it in while constantly whisking again. Next, add the sweet potato puree to the pan. Smash it out a little and add vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp coarse salt, cinnamon, ginger and fresh nutmeg. Whisk until smooth.
Place your baking dishes in a larger pan, then pour the mixture into your sugar-coated baking dishes. Level the tops using a spatula or spoon. Place the pans into an oven preheated to 325°F. Carefully add hot water to the bottom pan until it’s about halfway up the sides of the casserole dishes.
Bake for 25-35 minutes until they’re just set. Carefully remove and allow them to cool completely, which should take 3-4 hours. After they’ve cooled, spread out the pecan topping thinly over each dish. Followed by an even coating of sugar (2:1 mixture of brown & granulated sugar). Smooth it out with the back of a spoon, lightly packing it.
Brûlée the topping with an electric torch or the oven broiler. Let the topping harden for about 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Salted Hazelnut Chocolate Chunk CookiesCourtesy Oregon Hazelnuts
"These cookies offer the ultimate sweet and savory flavors by combining chunks of dark chocolate with chopped hazelnuts. Cookies are finished with a crunchy sprinkle of flaked sea salt."
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 3-ounce bars Moonstruck Dark Chocolate 68% Cacao, chopped
2 tablespoons Jacobsen Pure Flake Finishing Salt
Preheat the oven to 375°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Add the sugars and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low and then increase to medium-high. Mix for about two minutes until pale yellow in color and smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add the vanilla and then mix in the egg. Mix in the baking soda and salt. Next add the flour and mix on medium until a cookie dough forms, about 1 minute. Add the hazelnuts and the chocolate and mix on low for about 20 seconds to combine all ingredients.
Transfer the cookies in generous tablespoon-size portions to the baking sheets with no more than 12 cookies per tray. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with flaked sea salt.
Bake each tray for about 10 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges and are firm in the center.
Let cool for 3 minutes on the tray, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.