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Thanksgiving is a holiday that we anticipate not only for what it represents, an expression of our gratitude to our families and friends for what we’ve achieved the past year, but also for what it represents to the US by virtue of the opening of the Christmas season, with its hustle and bustle and the glitz and glitter that the holidays bring about.

Thanksgiving dinner is the high point of the day, with succulent roast turkey or duck and a veritable smorgasbord of desserts and side dishes.

My own first turkey was when I was a young wife of 18. I was immensely proud of the turkey and the delightful aroma of the stuffing. My first big meal where I did the cooking and invited my parents, instead of the other way around. It was absolutely delicious and I was inordinately proud, until we, my mother and I, who had volunteered to help, began to debone after the meal, and I heard her begin to chuckle.. although the stuffing had filled the cavity, still inside the neck flap of the turkey, was the paper sack containing the giblets. I had cooked them, paper and all.

My husband and I divorced fifteen years later, but today, as friends, that episode is something he will still never let me forget. If its your first Thanksgiving living alone, or cooking a turkey, well we’ve all been there let me tell you.

Sitting down a day or so before to decide on the final menu and then beginning the afternoon and evening before, to cook those things you can make ahead such as your pie crusts, some of the fruit desserts or salads, will save you immense time and headaches tomorrow.

My own menu, and some tips on timing, will perhaps give you some ideas on whats going to rest on your own plate on Thursday.

If you have a menu item you’d like to share, please add it to the comments below. New recipes and new ideas are always welcome.

Since we are a small household, our menu will be a turkey breast, rather than the entire turkey but of the variety that keeps the breast whole with a cavity to hold the stuffing. I know, that you aren’t supposed to stuff the turkey, and as a nurse, I know why, but the simple truth is that I’ve always done so, and its always been done, to meat thermometer temperature, and I’ve not yet made anyone ill, so, we stuff the turkey rather than to cook them apart from each other.

Where its applicable, I’ve linked the items with the recipes that are already on site and tried to provide those that aren’t on site here in this article.

Our menu for Thanksgiving goes the path of the Pennsylvania Dutch(although we are Native Americans) and we try to include, as the old order did, seven sweets and seven savories, although that’s not a hard and fast rule. Generally we eat our larger meal earlier in the day, about two in the afternoon and then all get together later in the afternoon and share our leftovers while we visit and plan a shopping trip so we try to cook a bit extra so that the evening meal will be well taken care of..

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving to all of you from How Did I Do It

This years menu includes:

Herb Roasted Turkey and Sage Stuffing.

Peppered Mashed potatoes and turkey gravy

Pretzel Salad.

Mandarin Orange Fluff Salad

Green Bean Casserole

Corn on the Cob

Cranberry Conserve(a sort of fruity relish)

Hot Rolls

Corn Muffins

Coconut Cream Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie.

Relish tray and nibbling foods prior to the meal such veggies and dip, cheese cubes etc.

Mandarin Orange Fluff Salad:
Make the jello, orange flavored, as directed and split it in half. Put in the refrigerator to set, about an hour . When it is half set, stir in one 8 ounce can of mandarin oranges into half of the jello.

In the other half, combine cool whip , about half an 8 ounce tub and whip til it is thick and fluffy. In a glass trifle bowl, take half the regular jello and then half the fluff, layering them, so that you end up with four layers. On the top, decorate with mandarin oranges and maraschino cherries.

Pretzel Salad Recipe

* 2 cups coarsely crushed pretzels
* 3/4 cup melted margarine
* 3 tablespoons sugar


* 1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 cups whipped topping (small container)


* 1 lg pkg (6 ounces) strawberry flavored gelatin
* 2 cups boiling water
* 1 (10oz) boxes frozen strawberries

Preheat oven to 400°. Put first layer in a 9x13x2-inch pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove to cool.
Second Layer – Beat sugar into cheese, stir in whipped topping. Spread over cooled pretzels.
Third Layer – Mix gelatin, boiling water and strawberries together and set aside 10 minutes. Pour over cheese mixture; chill thoroughly.

Cranberry Conserve
* 2 cups water
* 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
* 6 cups fresh cranberries (2 12 oz. packages)
* 2 tablespoons orange peel, grated
* 4 oranges, peeled and chopped
* 2 apples, cored, pared and chopped
* 1 cup nuts, chopped


Mix the water with the brown sugar in a Dutch oven and heat to boiling. Boil for 1 minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients except
the nuts and heat to boiling. Boil rapidly until the cranberries pop and mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir in the nuts.
Immediately pour into sterilized jars or glasses or freezer containers and cover tightly.

Coconut Cream Pie

* 2 cups canned milk, 1 cup water
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup flaked coconut, toasted
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked
Reserve the egg whites and add about three tablespoons of sugar for meringue.


In a medium saucepan, combine half-and-half, eggs yolks, sugar, flour and salt. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the coconut and the vanilla extract. Pour into pie shell and beat the egg whites with the extra sugar, a tablespoon at a time until they form stiff peaks.

Spoon over the hot pudding and seal the edges, sprinkle with coconut replacing the pie in the oven for about 8 minutes, until the coconut is lightly browned and so is the meringue.

Timing Tips:

One of the secrets I think of a good cook is timing. Try to time your foods so they are done no more than ten minutes apart so that one does not need reheating while waiting for the rest.

I set the table and set up the centerpieces and so on first, while I am cooking, so that everything is in place before the guests actually arrive.

On the counter I sit out the bowls, spoons and lids etc that will be needed for serving while the meal is cooking. Primarily we eat buffet style so having everything out and getting the right layout for the buffet and counter ahead of time helps to cut down on confusion.

Do the pie crusts the night before, do the puddings the morning of.. as the turkey is done, set your potatoes on to boil and begin the water for the corn.

Potatoes take about 40 minutes when done as we do them, in about 5 pound batches.

Your turkey will take approximately 15 minutes per pound to cook.

If you begin the potatoes about half hour before the turkey is done, you can expect them to be done in a close enough succession that dinner will flow fairly smoothly.

Vegetables take less time, of course, so begin them about twenty minutes before the turkey is done.


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