The Thanksgiving Game Plan: 6 Days Out

Today, we discuss one of my very favorite parts of the holiday party season: Planning the menu. The first year we hosted Thanksgiving, I completely geeked out on the research. (Full disclosure: I have a slight obsession with buying cookbooks from the 1940s & 50s that introduced the ‘modern housewife’ to planning a menu for new-fangled nutritional needs.) All that to say, I thought I’d offer a simple set of things I’ve learned along the way from vintage cookbooks, Williams-Sonoma, and Martha Stewart. (You can also find some other favorite links and recipes on my Pinterest board: The Belle’s Thanksgiving Game Plan.)

The Cardinal Rule of Dinner Parties: Always make enough for 3 extra guests. No hostess ever regrets having too much.

Well, she may if no one shows up, but for holiday parties, guests are usually kind enough to RSVP.

Before Dinner

Have something for your guests to snack on while they chat. The traditional choice is, of course, wine & cheese. But not too much.

The Turkey


A good rule is 1.5 pounds per guest. (Of note: For smaller birds, try 2 pounds per guest. The smaller the bird, the smaller the bone to meat ratio.)

Cook Time:

It doesn’t take nearly as much time to roast a turkey as some people think.

Start with the turkey, breast down, at 400°F for 45 minutes. Then, flip the bird and roast at 325°F until it your thermometer reads 180° when inserted into the deepest part of the thigh. (Be careful not to let the thermometer touch the bone.) The juices should be clear, not pink.

The basic idea is you want to seal in the juices in the beginning and then slow roast it the rest of the way.

A good estimate of cook time is: 2.5 hours for a 10 pound bird and add 15 minutes for every 2 pounds after that. (Here’s a really helpful

2 Secrets to Be Sure It Doesn’t Dry Out:

  1. Baste the bird every 15-30 minutes.
  2. Trust your meat thermometer.

A Couple Other Things:

  1. I use beer along with chicken stock to roast any poultry including turkey.
  2. I love bundling fresh herbs in cooking twine and using them when roasting the bird as well as in the stuffing.

The Sides

The Traditionals…

A Couple Others…

  • I *love* serving squash this time of year.
  • Always have 2-3 other veggies. (I know it’s unbelievable but these brussels sprouts are always a hit!)
  • My mother-in-law makes the best pretzel salad. (Think this, minus the pineapples.) I also eat it for my Thanksgiving midnight-snack and Black Friday breakfast.
  • Sides are the easiest thing to have guests bring. Just be sure you’ve made at least one or two yourself in case your guests forget. (Yes, this has happened before.)

The Desserts

2 Words: Pumpkin. Pie. (My *award-winning* recipe to follow!)

Also, might I recommend another choice for those (like Husband) that hate pumpkin. How about these little Caramel Apple Bundles?

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