How to Have an Idiot Proof Thanksgiving

Let’s give thanks for a Thanksgiving that doesn’t need to totally stress us out.

I love Thanksgiving dinner with the big bird and all the sides. It reminds me of going to my grandma’s house in Kansas City where she would look at the table FULL of food and fret, “maybe I need to put out some creamed corn!”

Whether you’re cooking the whole dinner or taking side dishes to a friend or relative’s house, we’ve got you covered with some easy, delicious, and Idiot-proof  Thanksgiving favorites.

Click on the pictures or the links for step by step instructions for each dish. I’ll also put all of the links for printable recipes at the bottom of this post.

The Turkey!

Thanksgiving Turkey

As you can see, I cook my turkey in an oven cooking bag. It’s incredibly easy – no fussing or basting – just season up the bird, plop it in the bag and let the oven do it’s thing.

Click HERE for Thanksgiving Turkey made easy and idiot-proof!

A few hours later you have a golden and succulent bird with enough juice in the pan to make some delicious gravy.

Good Gravy

Gravy is one of those things that oddly stresses people out. Click HERE for simple and easy gravy instructions. And hey, if you have lumps, that’s what a strainer is for.

My sister makes this incredible Sweet Potato Casserole. Recipes like this are great  because these sweet potatoes can be prepared a day ahead so they’re all ready to go in the oven on Thanksgiving.

world's best sweet potato casserole

I was going to skip it this year in favor of mashed potatoes but I was told that Sweet Potato Casserole was required.

Okay, we’ll have both!

Also required for me, is my mom’s Bread & Sage Dressing.

Bread & Sage Stuffing

I like dressing baked in a pan that is crispy on top but if you prefer, you could also stuff it in the bird. Just be sure you add on to your cooking time if you have stuffing inside the turkey.

Like the Sweet Potato Casserole, I often get the dressing put together the day before, cover, and refrigerate it until you’re ready to start cooking on Thanksgiving.

Speaking of dishes that can be made ahead, if I were going to a Thanksgiving Pot Luck dinner, I would be very tempted to take this tasty Mushroom & Barley Casserole.

Not only is it a delicious, autumn flavored dish, it’s also vegetarian. You’ll be a hero to the Tofurkey crowd with this one.

Everyone needs cranberries. Why not make them boozy? These Drunken Cranberries are easy and don’t come out molded like a can!

Cranberry Salad

Brussels sprouts are all the rage these days. These are roasted with a hint of balsamic vinegar. Delicious!

For my green veg, I tend to alternate between good old green beans cooked “Grandma Style” with bacon and onions and these crisp and snappy Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots.

These beans are my “go to” side dish. We have them at least once a week.

As you can clearly see, I’m all for the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. However, if I were going to add ONE THING to Thanksgiving, it would be this incredible Squash with Chile Lime Vinaigrette.

acorn squash

Chile and Lime might not be considered normal Thanksgiving flavors, but this recipe is crazy good. And honestly, the magic of this dish is that no one flavor stands out.

Some folks like Cornbread and this is my basic recipe. If I’m serving it with chili, I make it as shown here with jalapenos and cheddar cheese. Omit those and add a little chopped onion and some frozen corn for a more traditional cornbread recipe.

Corn Bread with Jalapenos and Cheddar Cheese

And biscuits are ALWAYS good. These are shown with cheddar and chives but this is a good, basic buttery biscuit recipe.

Buttery Biscuits

What if you are asked to bring salad? Does anyone make a jello mold anymore? Certainly not me.

My salads need to be crunchy and definitely LACKING jello or mini marshmallows.  Of course, my favorite is Celery Salad

Crunchy Celery Salad

but Broccoli Slaw

and Carrot Ginger Salad would also be good options.

Have you made it all the way to the dessert recipes?

My Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie recipe is coming soon, but if you are pie-phobic, why not try these amazing Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

They are moist and SUPER pumpkiny!

Sometimes it’s nice to have something other than pie for dessert. My #1 recommendation would be the ever Famous Rum Cake!

Easy and delicious rum cake

No need to stress out about Thanksgiving. Pick a few things to try this year, ask friends and family to pitch in and help, and don’t forget to save the wish bone!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here are the printable recipes:

Idiot-Proof Turkey

Sweet Potato Casserole

Bread & Sage Dressing

Mushroom & Barley Casserole

Drunken Cranberries

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

Squash with Chile Lime Vinaigrette


Cheddar & Chive Biscuits

Celery Salad

Broccoli Slaw

Carrot Ginger Salad

Pumpkin Bars

Famous Rum Cake

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9 Responses

  1. GOOD GOLLY! Claudia!!!!!!!! Would there be KITTENS too? I mean, you have everything else 🙂 Here, at this vegan household? Looks like spinach calzones and pumpkin pie! AND BOOZE! Pinot grigio maybe? Or maybe just a bottle of bourbon 🙂

  2. Love Franciscan apple pattern–my “good” dishes! I have a large set and many serving pieces acquired by my sister in law when they were still being made in California. I also collect Watt pottery–a very Midwestern thing as it was given out by lumber yards, creameries etc as Christmas gifts in the 50s and 60s.

    1. My beloved Grandma had Apple Dishes but they went to my cousin so a couple of years ago I bought my own set by scouring ebay. I love them! I inherited grandma’s love of dishes (when she was younger, she worked in the china department of a big department store). I have a HUGE weakness for green depression glass and old “nesting” pyrex mixing bowl sets. I’ll have to look up Watt pottery. Not that I need any other things to collect….

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