I know that cans of highly processed cream of mushroom soup and packets of powdery mixes are rampant this time of year—but let’s break the (jello) mold because, even when it comes to Thanksgiving, a complete real food spread is totally possible! And today’s new post is a guide to help you do just that.
As with any aspect of real food, planning ahead is KEY! With only 2 weeks+ to go, now is a great time to figure out where you’ll get your non-factory farmed turkey and also start collecting recipes to make on the big day. I personally love to do a practice run when it comes to any new complicated recipes I’ve never made before because …a house full of guests + a recipe flop = no fun!
How to Make the Most of Thanksgiving Week
Most of this can be done in the evenings if you have to work!
- Sunday: Finalize Recipe Selections + Make Grocery List
If you’re the host I would NOT recommend starting Thanksgiving week without a finalized plan! Oh and when it comes to making out your grocery list be sure to use my free template organized by store department.
- Monday: Set the Table
Anytime I’m hosting guests in our dining room (holiday or not) I love to set the table a couple days in advance—or at a minimum the day/night before. This allows me to take my time without the stress of guests arriving soon because, unlike the food prep, it’s never too early to put out the tablecloth and dishes!
- Tuesday: Buy the Food
Our Farmers’ Market usually has a special market the week of Thanksgiving, which I love, but no matter where you shop I do not recommend waiting until the day before to get all the fixings. It’s a big undertaking, and won’t it be so nice to have it out of the way a little early?
- Wednesday: Prep Cook
There is sooo much you can do the day/night before hosting a big event—chop veggies, assemble casseroles, brine the turkey, make soup, bake pies (that you can reheat later), and the list goes on and on. Definitely get ahead as much as you can!
- Thursday: Turkey Time!
Hopefully by the time Thanksgiving rolls around you’ll feel prepared enough to somewhat enjoy the day with family and friends. Obviously there will still be lots of cooking to do, but hopefully the pace will feel more manageable and you’ll have willing helpers when it comes to the finishing touches.
Starters and Salads
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Kale and Apple Salad
- Pesto Cream Cheese Turnovers
- Potato and Cauliflower Chowder
- Creamy Kale Caesar Salad
- Melt in your Mouth Kale Salad (from Food Babe)
- Thanksgiving Salad with Wild Rice and Lemon Dressing (from Pinch of Yum)
- Green Bean Casserole (with French Fried Onions)
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Kale and Bacon Stuffed Potatoes
- Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate (from Super Healthy Kids)
- Roasted Acorn Squash (from Deliciously Organic)
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (from Nom Nom Paleo)
- Whole-Wheat Biscuits (there’s also a Buttermilk Cheese version)
- Whole Grain Cornbread
- Whole-Wheat Popovers
- Whole-Wheat Cheddar Garlic Drop Biscuits
- Whole-Grain Pumpkin Muffins
Other Sides, Sauces, Etc.
- Gravy (includes quick video with 3 easy steps!)
- Classic Whole-Wheat Bread Stuffing
- Chestnut and Prosciutto Bread Stuffing
- Cheesy Potato Casserole
- Brown Rice Risotto
- Persimmon Cranberry Sauce (from Deliciously Organic)
- Cream of Something Soup (from Once a Month Meals)
The Turkey, of Course!
Smoked Turkey Recipe
While there’s definitely something to be said for a traditional baked turkey, my family really enjoys this smoked turkey recipe my husband created. It’s sooo delicious and only takes about 3.5 hours of cook time for a 12 pound turkey.
Where We Buy our Turkey
I love to buy my turkey from a local organic farm called New Town Farms, but I must admit my jaw dropped the first year I went to pick it up and was told the price—cha ching! I will say though it was truthfully the best turkey I’ve ever had. It was somehow missing the funky underlying turkey flavor that’s usually there and that I don’t like. And it was also fabulous left over—I’m a fair weather fan when it comes to leftover meat, especially if it’s been more than a day or two.
So in the end it was worth it, PLUS I would have missed out on Farmer Sammy’s funny email updates showing us pics (below) of our happy birds running amok on their grassy fields. Some like these updates and some are borderline offended, but there’s something to be said about knowing where your food comes from! This is how it’s done whether you see things at this stage or not.
- Shortcut Chocolate Pecan Pie YUM
- Homemade Maple Pecan Ice Cream
- Cinnamon Apple Crisp
- Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Chocolate Souffle
- Pumpkin Fluff Dessert Dip
Recipes from my (first) Cookbook
If you have my first cookbook (the white one), here are some more recipes that would be great with Thanksgiving Dinner:
- Onion Dip with Veggies (page 189)
- Cinnamon Apple Chips (page 198)
- Spiced Nut Mix (page 202)
- Goat Cheese, Pear and Pecan Salad (page 213)
- Carrots with Rosemary (page 225)
- Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole (page 230)
- Carrot Cake with Whipped Cream-Cheese Frosting (page 308).
What to Do with Leftover Turkey
Check out my 5 Uses for Leftover Turkey … there are also some good ideas from readers in the comments :)
Please share links to your favorite Thanksgiving dishes with us in the comments below!