Hosting My First Thanksgiving

November 28, 2008

I’m back and just in time for a Thanksgiving post. This was my first year hosting Thanksgiving and let me tell you, I was so excited. I’ve always wanted to host turkey day at our house, but we normally go to my in-law’s. But this year, they were out of town and we weren’t able to go to my parents’ so they decided to come here. So my first Thanksgiving was a small one; just me, my husband, and my parents.

My family likes pretty traditional foods for Thanksgiving so I decided I’d play it safe and just make everyone’s favorite foods so there would be no misses. After browsing through lots of recipes I finally settled on the ones I would use. After a lengthy (and expensive) trip to the grocery store I was finally ready to get started. Thankfully, I got off work early on Wednesday so I could get a head start on the prep work. My parents came in Wednesday night so my mom helped me a lot on the actual day. And the verdict? Everything turned out great! But if I learned one thing from hosting my first Thanksgiving it would be that it’s a lot of work! I am so much more appreciative of my great-grandmothers, grandmother, my mom and mother-in-law who have planned and hosted Thanksgiving for many more people than I did for many years now. I would love to host again, but I think I might have to go into training beforehand next time. ; )

On the menu this year:

Garlic and Citrus Brined Turkey

For the brine
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
3 bay leaves
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 gallon water

For the turkey

1 8-10 lb turkey
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Dissolve the salt and brown sugar in 1 gallon of water. Place the turkey in a large stock pot or brining bag. Pour the brining solution over the turkey. Add the sliced oranges, lemons, garlic and bay leaves to the brine solution. Refrigerate over night or place in a cooler with ice. Before cooking the turkey, rinse it well inside and out and pat dry with papertowels. Rub the turkey inside and out with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook as desired.


And yes, that is canned cranberry sauce…the only kind my family and I like!


2 cups prepared cornbread, crumbled
2 cups Pepperidge Farm herbed stuffing mix
8-10 crumbled crackers (saltine or club will work)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
chicken broth (about 3-4 cups, enough to make the bread mixture moist)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Begin my sauteing the onions and celery in a little olive oil until soft, about 8 minutes. In a large bowl, combine cornbread, stuffing mix, celery, onion, butter, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Add chicken broth until the mixture is very moist. It will be just slightly soupy but the bread will absorb the liquid. Place in a greased 9×13 baking dish and bake 35-40 min.


Sweet Potato Casserole
(my mother-in-law’s recipe)

3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked until tender (should be easy to mash) about 4 med potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a baking dish.

For the topping:

1 cup pecans
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup), melted
1/2 cup flour

Mix all dry ingredients and sprinkle over casserole. Pour melted butter over the top. Bake at 350 for 30-35 min. The top should be bubbly and have a golden crust.


Jiffy Apple Pie

3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 box Jiffy yellow cake mix
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place chopped apples in an 8×8 baking dish. In a bowl, mix dry cake mix, cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples. Slice the stick of butter into thin slices and place all over the top of the cake mixture. Bake for 35 min or until the top is golden and bubbly.



This apple pie is obviously not a traditional apple pie. It’s best served warm as a dessert topping for vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Classic Pecan Pie

  • 1 cup Karo® Light OR Dark Corn Syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon Spice Islands® Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecans
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked or frozen** deep-dish pie crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pie crust.
  3. Bake on center rack of oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool for 2 hours on wire rack before serving.
  4. **To use prepared frozen pie crust: Place cookie sheet in oven and preheat oven as directed. Pour filling into frozen crust and bake on preheated cookie sheet.
  5. RECIPE TIPS: Pie is done when center reaches 200°F. Tap center surface of pie lightly – it should spring back when done. For easy clean up, spray pie pan with cooking spray before placing pie crust in pan. If pie crust is overbrowning, cover edges with foil.
  6. NUTRITION TIP: To reduce calories, substitute new Karo® Lite Syrup for the Karo® Light or Dark Corn Syrup.
  7. High Altitude Adjustments: Reduce sugar to 2/3 cup and increase butter to 3 tablespoons. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.


My only complaint from the whole Thanksgiving dinner was that my pecan pie didn’t set. It’s the first one I’ve ever made and I followed the directions exactly, and it just didn’t set in the middle. I’m not sure why, but I’ll definitely be making another one in the future and hopefully will have better luck with that one.

Along with this we also had green beans and rolls.


I’ve never admitted this to anyone but I could eat chicken salad nearly every day, preferably on a flaky buttery croissant. I’ll eat it on whole wheat too, but there’s just something that the croissant adds to it that makes it even more irresistable to me. It’s one of my guilty pleasure foods. Not sure what the allure is but I adore it. My favorite chicken salad is from a little place downtown called Cottage Cafe. But at over $6.00 a plate for some chicken salad, a croissant and a few pieces of fruit, I just can’t justify fulfilling my craving every single day. For those times when I feel a craving coming on, I like to make my own to keep on hand for lunches. I had a partial bag of dried cranberries and some pecans in the freezer so I decided to concoct this chicken salad yesterday. It turned out really well. I think next time I might add some sliced grapes or apples as well to give it a little sweeter flavor. Overall it was delicious though.

Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Pecans

2 chicken breasts, cooked

1/2 cup mayo (plus more to get to the consistencey you desire)

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Begin by placing the chicken in a food processor and pulse until the chicken chunks are the size you want. (I prefer mine finely chopped. Alternatively, you can chop the chicken with a knife or shred with your hands.) Place the chopped chicken in a bowl and add mayo, cranberries, pecans, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Add additional mayo to reach desired consistency and additional salt to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 2 cups.

*red grapes or chopped apples would be a great addition to this recipe