Thanksgiving Menu for Beginners

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Tips for planning a stress free Thanksgiving dinner. Complete with a Thanksgiving meal planner and recipes.

The trickiest part of preparing a holiday meal for a crowd is the timing.  Getting everything done at just the right time.  Well, I am writing this post to hopefully help you with all the planning and organization for the big day.

The first thing I want to say…..this post is just a guideline.  Feel free to change/deviate from anything written here to suit your needs.  And I also realize my timeline is already off.  I had planned on publishing this 2 weeks ago but life happened, sorry.  Better late than never!

Second, DON’T STRESS out!!  So what if dinner is 30 minutes behind schedule, it will still taste good.  Just stay calm and don’t sweat it.  I know when I was first hosting I would get super worried about not getting everything done at the time I said we were going to eat.  But you know what, it always turns out fine even if I am running behind.  That’s what appetizers are for anyways, right?!

Third, DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP!!  Most of the time your guests will be more than happy to bring a side dish, dessert, appetizer, drinks or dinner rolls.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask to borrow a slow cooker if you don’t have one or just assign that dish out to one of your guests.  See, we are already lightening up the load!  But if you are wanting to cook most of the meal yourself I will guide you with these tips and tricks.

Thanksgiving Menu for Beginners: (This menu will serve 10-12 guests)

Butterflied Roasted Herb Turkey

This Butterflied Roasted Herb Turkey (spatchcocked) is the best way to roast a bird! It produces crispier skin and juicier meat in a lot less time than the traditional way!

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

Large bowl of slow cooker mashed potatoes with pools of melted butter and chopped parsley for garnish.

Homemade Herb Stuffing

Top down view of freshly baked homemade herb stuffing garnished with fresh sage leaves.

Homemade Turkey Gravy

Homemade turkey gravy in a gravy boat. Fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds scattered around as decoration.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Streusel Topping

This Sweet Potato Casserole with Streusel Topping is a classic Thanksgiving side dish! It's also great with marshmallows!

Skillet Garlic Green Beans

**Double this recipe and cook in 2 batches otherwise it will crowd the pan.**

These Skillet Garlic Green Beans are a quick and easy side dish. They go great with many meals plus, they are healthy!

Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce

This easy Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce is a simple recipe made in about 15 minutes! |

Choose one for dessert: Easy Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Turtle Pumpkin Cake, or Traditional Pumpkin Pie

Appetizers, Rolls, and Drinks assign to your guests.  Also, remember if this menu is overwhelming feel free to assign something to your guests to bring.  Dessert is another good one to assign.

Thanksgiving Menu for Beginners Game Plan:

    • Thanksgiving or event, make your guest list and please write it down. Count adults as 1, obvi, and count young kids (under 10) as a 1/2.  I do this because most kids are too anxious to eat.  But if you are counting on leftovers just be on the safe side and overestimate.
    • Plan out your menu and make your shopping list.  Print out all of your recipes and keep them handy.
    • Go ahead and purchase anything that is not perishable or can be frozen.
    • Also, plan out your tablescape and purchase any items you may need for it.  How many tables and chairs, plates, cups, silverware will be needed?  Can you borrow from a friend or family member if you don’t have enough?
  • 4-5 DAYS BEFORE:
    • Place your turkey in the refrigerator to thaw.
    • Purchase anything remaining on your shopping list.
    • Make the Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce and store in the refrigerator.
    • Prepare Sweet Potato Casserole cover and store in the refrigerator.  Keep the topping separate.
    • Choose your dessert and bake.
    • Prepare Homemade Herb Stuffing, cover and store in the refrigerator.
    • Wash and trim the green beans.  Mince garlic for the green beans and store covered in the refrigerator.
    • Set your table and get out all of your serving dishes.
    • Label your serving dishes with a sticky note so you aren’t scrambling to find the right dish at the last minute.  It just makes things go smoother, trust me.
    • Prep the Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes and let them begin cooking.
    • Take out your turkey to let it start to come to room temperature. (takes about 1 hour)
    • Start preparing turkey and roast.  Check your turkey with a meat thermometer and when the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 degrees F remove from oven.  Let stand 30 minutes before carving.
    • Take out Sweet Potato Casserole with Streusel Topping and Homemade Herb Stuffing to allow them to come to room temperature.
    • Pour juices off of turkey pan into a measuring cup and proceed with making the Homemade Turkey Gravy.  Keep a lid on the gravy and at the back of the stove to keep warm.  Stir well before serving.
    • Top sweet potato casserole with topping and bake along with the stuffing.
    • Mash the slow cooker mashed potatoes.
    • Cook Skillet Garlic Green Beans.  *Remember to double the recipe and cook in two batches so it doesn’t crowd the pan.*
    • Carve turkey and arrange on serving platter.
    • Transfer food to designated serving platters/ bowls.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help with a dish.  I promise they won’t mind and if they are like my family they would probably rather be helping than just watch you do everything yourself.

12 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Menu for Beginners”

  1. Great job, Malinda. Instructions are so well written and should be easy to follow. I know your dinner will be delicious. Wish we could join you but will have to be another time. My love to all of you.

  2. So… I’ll be over next week, yeah? This all looks lovely and tasty, and I love how you’ve broken this down so everyone can take a deep breath and have a WONDERFUL meal!

  3. What a great guide! This is so helpful! Although, I must say that it always takes my turkey way longer than three days to thaw out! I must get fat turkeys 🙂

  4. What a great how to!!! So many people get so much anxiety before hosting their first holiday!! This makes it so simple to follow.


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