Helpful tips for planning your Thanksgiving Menu

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 Early Holiday Menu Preparation

turkey dinner roasted

The one thing that I learned for sure over the years is that you can’t make the whole Thanksgiving meal the day off, way too much going on. You want to try and have as much of the meal as possible prepared days ahead of time to make it easier on yourself. If you plan and start the week before Thanksgiving everything should run smoothly. (Famous last words) At least you will be way ahead of yourself if something unexpected happens like trying to clear the driveway packed with snow piled high to go pick up the grandparents.

Here are a few suggestions to help keep the stress level low



Make your list and check it a couple of times to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Do all of your grocery shopping and pick up the items that you will need to get started with the exception of any salads or vegetables you may be serving. You want to purchase these at least two days before, the fresher the better.

If you haven’t ordered your Organic Turkey do it today. You can shop on line and order your turkey from Whole Foods.  In my opinion the best Turkeys available. Don’t’ forget to get extra turkey parts like legs, thighs and wings. There never seems to be enough of those to go around.



Start your stuffing. If you are making your own, cube up sour dough bread, spread out on a baking sheet and put into the oven at 325 degrees until the cubes are golden and crunchy. Let the cubes sit out over night to really dry out.

I’m including a recipe for stuffing.


5 days ahead


Make the cranberry sauce, cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator in an air -tight container. Will keep for up to two weeks.


Make your salad dressings and store in air- tight container in the refrigerator.

If you are using my marinade for the turkey make that as well.

Make your pie dough, wrap tightly and store in refrigerator until ready to make your pie. Finish making your pies the morning of Thanksgiving, freshly baked pies always tastes better.




Let this be your baking day for cookies, cakes, frosting etc. Bake cakes, cool them then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator and frost then the morning of Thanksgiving. Store you cookies in tins to keep them crispy.




Make your stuffing, creamed spinach (if serving) and sweet potatoes. Store in refrigerator. Bring up to room temperature before baking.

Now is a good time to check to see what you are low on or have run out of and make another grocery run. Try to do it as early as possible in the morning. You can find parking and there are not a lot of people in the store, the chances of you getting in and out with no hassles is pretty good.



Set and decorate your table including putting enough chairs out for every place setting. No last minute running from room to room looking for a chair for grandpa to sit on.



Wash your salad and spin dry. Roll in paper towels and store in the refrigerator. Don’t wait until the last minute to do this.

Blanch your green beans then dump them in ice water to cool. Drain and wrap in paper towel Store in refrigerator until ready to dress. If you want to serve them up hot just drop them in boiling water at the last minutes for 1 minute, drain.

Make your biscuit dough and keep wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.

Wash and clean out your turkey. Late afternoon start brining or marinating your turkey overnight.



Put your turkey in the oven and the make the mashed potatoes. Have a healthy breakfast a fantastic cup of coffee or tea then like a puzzle start to put all the pieces together and you will see how easily it all fits!


TO FIND MORE THANKSGIVING RECIPES INCLUDING THE TURKEY AND MARINADE PLEASE GO TO or go to com in search box punch in Cristina Ferrare Turkey recipes!

The recipe for pumpkin cheese cake is on my web site

Twitter @cristinacooks



1-1/2 pounds (24 ounces) sour dough bread, cut into 1″ inch cubes,
4 sweet Italian sausages
¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions , chopped into small chunks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 scallions, diced
3 large carrots, diced into small pieces
6 celery ribs, sliced into 3 long strips then chopped into 1/4″ inch pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 can (10 ) ounces cream of celery soup
3 cups chicken broth, home made or store bought organic chicken broth
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup italian parsley, chopped coarsely
2-½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 green apples, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2″ inch pieces
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
? cup chopped walnuts
cracked black peppercorns , from a peppermill 3 to 4 twists
Have all of your ingredients prepared ahead and lined up before you start to cook.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Slice the sourdough bread into 1″ inch cubes and spread evenly on to a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden on all sides. Make sure to turn the baking sheet around at least once during baking and use a metal spatula to turn over the cubes so the other side can bake.
Remove the bread cubes from the oven and let them rest uncovered for 24 hours to let them dry out. Store in an air tight container until ready to use. Will keep for 3 weeks.

Place the baked sour dough cubes in a large bowl. Make sure the bowl is large enough to hold all the stuffing once the rest of the ingredients are added, set aside

Place the sausages on a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until cooked through turning 3 to 4 time while baking to make sure all sides are brown. Remove from the oven and wait at least 10 minutes and chop into small bit size pieces. Set aside.

Heat a large heavy skillet on medium high heat for 2 minutes. Pour olive oil into the skillet and coat the bottom with the oil quickly, add the onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes until the onions start to release their juices, add butter, scallions, carrots, celery and salt. Saute for 8 to 10 minutes tuning gently. Pour into the bowl with the sour dough cubes and mix well. Add the cooked sausages, cream of celery soup, chicken broth, orange juice and lemon juice, mix well. Add the apples, raisins, cranberries, walnuts, parsley and mix well. Correct seasoning by adding more kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste. Pour into a baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. When ready to serve remove the stuffing from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake with the foil on for 30 to 40 minutes until hot in the middle. Test by dipping a spoon into the middle of the stuffing and pull out a small amount. Taste to see if it is hot enough.
Serves 12 to 15

1. Sour Dough bread is beast for this stuffing. You can make the cubes 1 week before and keep it in an airtight container in your pantry.
2. If you are making gluten-free just substitute the bread with One pound of gluten free bread and follow recipe

3. You can make the stuffing 1 to 2 weeks before Thanksgiving and freeze it. Make sure to bring it to room temperature before baking. It will take about 2 to 3 hours to thaw.

4. Or Make the stuffing two days before Thanksgiving and keep it covered in the refrigerator tightly with plastic wrap. Make sure to remove the plastic wrap BEFORE baking.

3. If you are vegetarian you can eliminate the sausage. 2 teaspoon of fennel seeds will give you the flavor of Italian sausages but without the meat.

4. You can purchase store bought bread cubes for stuffing but I highly suggest you take the extra 10 minutes it takes to cut and bake the cubes yourself!

5. This stuffing is great with chicken and cornish game hens too!
8 servings


This is everyone’s favorite and more kid friendly. It has just the right amount of sweet to please their palates!

Toast the walnuts first.
Place the walnuts in a small dry frying pan and turn the heat to medium high. Shake the pan like you would popcorn to keep them from burning. As they start to toast they will turn a deeper color and release their natural oils, about five minutes. Be careful and don’t burn them as they will taste bitter and you would have to start all over again!
Place the sugar, orange juice and cranberry’s in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil gently until you start to hear the cranberries pop then boil for 5 minutes more.
Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before you store in the refrigerator in an air tight container. Just before serving add the toasted walnuts and fresh mint.
Serve cold or at room temperature.
8 to 10 servings