Thanksgiving Helps--a Timeline Plus All Our Favorite Recipes!

It's nearly time for that most wonderful of holidays ... Thanksgiving! Family, fall, and feasting all rolled up into one fantastic day.  And so in the spirit of everything in one place, here's my place for all my Thanksgiving planning!  First up, our Thanksgiving planning timeline (click for a pdf!)

Ready to have the best Thanksgiving? Here we go!!!

As you perhaps can imagine, I've tried multiple methods of turkey roasting over the years. Long before we got married, my husband's mama gave me this tip: "Cooking a turkey is easy.  You put it in a pan, put it in the oven, then take it out." Well, I've found there are a few more steps involved--and if you believe some people, MANNNNNYYYYY more steps involved! But it truly is *almost* that simple, so if you're this year's appointed turkey roaster, be not afraid. Several years ago in the midst of a particularly crazy season, we decided to make Thanksgiving as simple as possible. In the quest for simple I ran across this recipe for turkey cooked -- wait for it-- in a bag.  Now, I've brined turkeys in 5 gallon buckets, I've wrapped turkeys in bacon and doused them in maple syrup and cooked them upside down and even let someone else dunk one in a vat of hot oil in my backyard (pretty tasty, but I can't recommend the cleanup.)  This one, though, was the best we'd ever had, and I've made them this way every year since.

Celebration Turkey

  • 1 16 pound whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 3/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 apples, cored and halved
  • one or two whole sprigs of rosemary and thyme
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle champagne
  • 1 turkey bag
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
    2. Rinse turkey, and pat dry. Gently loosen turkey breast skin, and insert pieces of butter between the skin and breast. Place apples and herbs inside the turkey’s cavity. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Place turkey in a roasting bag, and pour champagne over the inside and outside of the bird. Close bag, and place turkey in a roasting pan.
    3. Bake turkey 31/2 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees F (85 degrees C) when measured in the meatiest part of the thigh. Remove turkey from bag, and let stand for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Recipe originally adapted (barely!) from this one:

I’ve used this recipe with larger turkeys–up to 24 lbs since we generally have guests, and it’s always wonderful–just add a touch more of everything and double check that cooking time! Your measurements needn’t be exact. This is quite easily the simplest turkey recipe I’ve ever used. The gravy is absolutely divine.  Of course, if you need even more turkey, you could always make two!

Next up … mashed potatoes.  Ahhh, I love mashed potatoes!

I mean really, I could probably live for a very long time on just mashed potatoes. Couldn’t you? The only problem is, they take a long time to make! And don’t reheat quickly. Which means they’re a challenge for Thanksgiving, when you have lots of people to feed and too many things that need to be reheated!

Not anymore. I give you … overnight crockpot mashed potatoes!

Well, you’re gonna have to make them for yourself unless you come to Nashville, so I suppose I’m not really giving them to you … but still.

Overnight Crockpot Mashed Potatoes

16 medium potatoes

2 cps sour cream

16 oz chive and onion cream cheese

8 Tb butter

1/2 cup chives

3 tsp salt

4 minced garlic cloves

1 tsp pepper

3 tsp onion powder

1 cup thinly sliced green onion

4 slices crumbled bacon


Boil potatoes 10 minutes or until tender. Beat cream cheese and sour cream in crockpot until smooth. Beat in potatoes, adding milk as needed. Add other ingredients through onion. Dot w butter, sprinkle with paprika. Place in refrigerator. To serve, heat 3-4 hours on low. Sprinkle with bacon before serving.

Also, this makes approximately nine zillion people. So if you have a more normal amount of people, like say under twelve, you might want to cut it in half!

Next up: sweet potato casserole. Here's mine ready to go into the oven last year ...

I didn’t think I liked sweet potatoes.

And then one day, we went to Boston Market (they’ve since left our area–sniff, sniff!) and I ordered my favorite … turkey dinner. I couldn’t decide what to get as sides, and then, unexpectedly, the sweet potatoes beckoned me with their brown sugar topping. One bite, and though we’d never been friends before, oh, my gracious, I was smitten. Yummo! So since I had family who liked them, I hunted down the how-to, and it’s now a favorite Thanksgiving recipe regular! Try them. I promise; they might be the ugliest “vegetable” in the produce section, but prepare them this way and you’ll be won over, too!

Boston Market(ish) Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Cut potatoes into chunks. Boil chunks until fork- tender, about 15-20 minutes (test with a fork). Drain and slip skin from chunks when cool. Place in large bowl, adding sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla. Whip until fluffy. Pour into greased casserole dish.

  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Combine these ingredients until crumbly; sprinkle over top of sweet potatoes. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving dinner without cranberry sauce!

Easy-Peasy Cranberry Sauce

1 bag cranberries (12 ounces)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

zest and juice from one orange

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until berries begin to burst and sauce thickens–about 15 minutes, then chill several hours or overnight. Bam!

Serious desserts are necessary. So here’s my favorite Thanksgiving pie:


Pecan pie

This is the pecan pie recipe we’ve used for several years. Simple, and a definite favorite … perfect with a scoop of ice cream!

  • 9″ unbaked pie shell
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 C. dark corn syrup
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 C. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat eggs slightly. Stir in corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, vanilla, salt, and pecans. Pour into shell.

Bake at 400 for 15 mins. Lower heat to 350 and continue baking 35 more minutes.

Here's to a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Molly's Yellow Rose Bundt Cake

Molly’s Yellow Rose Bundt Cake

After the loss of my father, my dear friend Molly dropped by with a basket full of lovely little individually wrapped cakes that were baked in the shape of roses and other blooms.  Each dainty cake had a tag that was carefully tied to it with a satin ribbon.  On the tags were Scriptures speaking healing and peace and comfort to our family.  The petite cakes were delicious; a melt in your mouth cross between angel food and pound cake, but also touched our soul. 


Your family is sure to love these petite delights, as will your friends and neighbors.


3/4 cup butter, softened

2 1/4 cups cake flour

 2 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup whipping cream

 4 eggs

3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Spray regular size bundt pan or mini bundt pans with non-stick cooking spray.

Cream butter with a mixer set on medium speed, gradually adding the sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and cream alternating between the two ingredients beginning and ending with flour. When well blended, stir in vanilla.

Slowly pour batter into pan and bake 1 hour for regular sized bundt pan or 18-22 minutes for mini bundt pans or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted near center. Cool 10-15 minutes before removing from pan.