My grandmother passed away recently and I can’t help but look back on the years I spent as a child in her home on Thanksgiving day. It felt like we would wait around all day for the turkey to cook and then it was a mad dash to get it to all come together.
There were usually just six of us at dinner during those years but my grandma always scored a huge turkey enough for leftover sandwiches or homemade turkey soup. The sides were my favorite and never changed from year to year. Real mashed potatoes, stuffing, homemade gravy, ambrosia salad, canned cranberry sauce and grocery store rolls. Our Thanksgiving wasn’t Pinterest-worthy. Sometimes there were loud arguments during dinner and more than once the pumpkin pie burned while we hand washed pots and pans. Even with that, those Thanksgivings stand out as the most memorable because they were the most simple.
With that, I’m sharing my favorite Thanksgiving menu. There are a few Amazon affiliate links below. You click help supports this blog, however your shopping experience does not change.
Turkey – My go-to recipe for the most flavorful turkey is Sandra Lee’s Roasted Butter Herb Turkey. The herb butter is the star of this recipe. You really have to get the butter tucked under the skin of the turkey which can be tricky but butter makes everything better and this recipe is a knock out. Pro tip: Order the Knorr Garlic & Herb Sauce mix from Amazon. It’s the one thing I usually have to go to multiple stores to find.
My mom used to cook her turkey inside a paper bag. This method apparently peaked in the 50s and 60s and today is considered one of the worst ways to roast a turkey. Go figure. Megan turned me onto Reynolds Oven Bags last year and I was super impressed with the results. I wonder if we’ll laugh at the thought of using those in 30 years, too.
Stuffing – I make Rachel Ray’s Apple and Onion Stuffin’ which calls for Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned stuffing mix. I like this recipe mostly because I can prepare it the day before and I love the tartness of the McIntosh apples. I’ve never been able to successfully make the “stuffin’ muffins” but this recipe is great without the cuteness of an individual serving.
Mashed Potatoes – One year, I peeled so many potatoes that I clogged our garbage disposal. Rookie move. Put your potato peels in the trash, not the disposal. I usually just eyeball my potatoes but found this mashed potato recipe from Favorite Family Recipes that is identical to how I make mine. I like to keep mine warm in the crockpot until we sit down to eat.
Turkey Dripping Gravy – I’ve always used the Turkey Dripping Gravy recipe from Sandra Lee. The herb butter and roasted veggies make a flavorful broth and Wondra is the secret ingredient to making it the gravy the perfect consistency. I use this OXO Separator Cup to skim the fat from the drippings.
Ambrosia Salad – I love an orange, fluffy salad. My SIL makes one with cottage cheese and Jell-O that I die for at Christmas but Ambrosia Salad is what my grandma served and I like adding that vintage vibe to my dinner table. This is a long read about the history of Ambrosia Salad but fun, definitely if you’re from the south. Updated recipes replace sour cream with Greek yogurt but I’m a traditionalist and I like sour cream, lots of coconut and walnuts.
Canned Cranberry Sauce – Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce is where it’s at for me. Sliced.
Rolls – I’ve never had a roll I didn’t like. We usually buy King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls because they are delicious and make a great sandwich the next day.
Pumpkin Pie – Pie is the least exciting part of the meal, in my opinion. I’d rather have seconds of ambrosia salad than a piece of pumpkin pie. Unless it’s lemon meringue, then I’d choose pie. However, my husband loves the Pumpkin Harvest Pie from a local bakery and I’ll admit, it’s pretty damn good. It’s a layer of pumpkin pie topped with silky pumpkin chiffon and whipped cream. Paula Deen has a Pumpkin Chiffon pie recipe that looks decadent. I’d rather order one than make one, though.
I know everyone has their own favorite family recipes that they like to make on Thanksgiving. My menu certainly could stand a vegetable but this is what I grew up eating. Simple, accessible recipes.
Have a favorite family recipe made year after year? We want to hear what it is. Leave us a comment or find us on Facebook.
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