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How To Cook An Old Fashioned Midwest Thanksgiving Dinner!

Updated on August 23, 2017
SheilaSchnauzies profile image

SheilaSchnauzies is a Miniature Schnauzer rescuer, writer, crochet designer, gardener, crafter, wife, mom & friend living in Omaha, NE.

Fix Thanksgiving Dinner With "Opal Ruth's" Advice!

Who IS this "Opal Ruth" person, anyway? Well, she's one of my "alter-egos," a nickname bestowed on me by my beloved sister Celia (a/k/a "Prissy Lynn") on a chick trip through the winding backroads of Arkansas, many years ago. Opal Ruth is into homestyle cooking, in a very major way. She loves to cook up a "messa-something" and never missed an episode of Martha Stewart. Opal Ruth is only allowed out to play on very special occasions, like Thanksgiving. The rest of the time she hides within her otherwise-normal host, SheilaSchnauzies!

So not to worry - Opal Ruth has been at this Thanksgiving feast thing a long time, and you can rest assured your dinner crowd will drift off to happy turkey naps!

Tie on that apron, and let's get to cooking!

NOTE: The cartoon below is intended as HUMOR. I would never feed, nor should anyone, this menu to real dogs! However, my crew of Miniature Schnauzers DOES know what the word "Turkey!" means, and they definitely know it's a big special day with all the yummy smells filling the house! After we eat our dinner, each dog is treated to some plain turkey.

Illustration and content SheilaSchnauzies. Please do not copy or post online, thank you! You are welcome to provide a link to this page of course!

Happy Thanksgiving To You & Yours! - From All Of Us Here At Sheila's Schnauzies!

The Menu

The family will be enjoying:

-Roast Turkey with Baked Dressing

- Baked Ham With Glaze

-Candied Sweet Potatoes

-Green Bean Casserole

-Killer Mashed Potatoes

-Turkey Gravy

-Deviled Eggs

-Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish

- Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

-Homemade Dinner Rolls

-Pumpkin Pie

To Market We Go! - The Biggest Job Of The Whole Dinner!

Shopping List By Recipe

Thanksgiving used to be a running contest of how many times I would have to send the Dear Husband to the store for yet another forgotten item! Finally I got smart and started making my list by recipe, and things started running a lot smoother! SO... that being said, here is the all-inclusive list to put dinner on the table for about 6-8 people. If you have more, plan accordingly and do the math. If you try to actually shop by this list in the store, you'll be running all over the place many times! So do yourself a favor. Once you have your final list, sort it by its location in the store. Much faster.

Whole Cranberry Sauce

(put in fridge when you get home)

Devilled Eggs

6 Extra Large Eggs

Mustard

Mayonnaise

Paprika

Salt/Pepper

Ham & Glaze

Your choice of ham

Whole Cloves

Mustard

Pancake Syrup

Honey

Brown Sugar

Turkey

Mr. Turkey

(Choose a turkey in the weight you want. Plan on a pound per person and you will have a nice amount of leftover turkey. If you don't want leftovers, buy half a pound per person.))

1 Apple

1 Stalk Celery

1 Yellow Onion

Salt/Pepper

Green Bean Casserole

2 cans regular or french cut green beans

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

Small amount milk

Real butter or margarine, your preference

French Fried Onions, regular size can

Baked Dressing

One yellow onion

1 stalk celery OR enough celery sticks to make 2 cups chopped celery

5 eggs

1 large bag of dressing cubes OR a large loaf of your choice of bread, left out for a day or so to dry out, and cut up

Poultry seasoning

Salt, Pepper

Chicken Broth 2 Cans (unless you plan to use turkey broth)

Baking Soda

Candied Sweet Potatoes

1 large can yams

1 bag marshmallows

1 bottle pancake syrup (real or sugar free)

Small amount cinnamon

Real butter or margarine

Killer Mashed Potatoes

5# potatoes your choice (I like Yukon Gold)

Heavy cream

Real butter

Homemade Rolls

5 lb. all purpose flour

Small amount salt

Crisco shortening regular or butter flavor fine

Vegetable Oil

2 Eggs

2 pkg. rapid rise yeast

Sugar

Real Butter or Margarine

Pumpkin Pies (2)

2 small cans or one large can pumpkin

2 cans sweetened condensed milk

Eggs

Pumpkin Pie Spice (get 2 small or 1 large container)

Pie crust - 2 rolled, prepared pie crusts OR 2 frozen regular (not deep dish) pie crusts

(Or ingredients to prepare recipe of your choice for pie crust)

Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish

Fresh Cranberries

2 Large Oranges

Splenda or Sugar

Fresh Fruit Salad

Fresh and/or frozen fruit of your choice to fill a large mixing bowl prepared - about 6-8 cups

1 pint whipping cream (OR prepared whipped cream in can OR 1 medium carton Cool Whip)

Incidental Stuff You'll Need

LOTS of real butter and margarine

Worcestershire Sauce

Mustard

Pancake Syrup

Cinnamon

And as I learned the hard way by running out.. lots of EGGS!

What Do You Think Of This Menu? - Come On, You Can Tell Me!

Shown clockwise - Green Bean Casserole, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Deviled Eggs, Mashed Potatoes, Turkey

"Opal Ruth" In Her Element!

Wrapping up Thanksgiving Dinner
Wrapping up Thanksgiving Dinner

Your Thoughts?

Do you like the menu for our Thanksgiving Dinner?

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A Fabulous Gravy Separator

I just found it, and it'll be in my kitchen for Thanksgiving!

You might ask, "Why do I need a gravy separator?" Well, you don't want all the fat in the broth going into your tummy. Eww. When you let broth cool, it will separate on its own into two distinct layers, broth and fat. Trouble is, when everything's going mission critical you don't have time to cool off the broth with ice water or some such other foolishness (all of which I have done!) to cool it down in a hurry. You want to be able to grab your gravy separator, pour the broth into it, let it do its thing and move on!

A Word About Turkey Selection...

My philosophy is changed. Nobody here likes dark meat, I don't do stock out of the leftovers, I just throw it out... so why have them at all? We changed and started buying the mostly-white turkeys a few years back. But if you like dark, go for the big bird! The point is, make what YOU want.

No Frozen Turkey For Dinner Please!

You want your turkey to be DONE. In order for it to arrive on the table on time, you have to start thawing your frozen bird on time! If you want to put it on the table at 5 pm Thursday, take it out of the freezer and put in the refrigerator on Tuesday at 5 pm.

My Secrets To A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner! - Hints To Make It All Go Smooth As Silk!

You want to get up (or better yet, have somebody else get up!) around 6 or 7 am to put Mr. Turkey in the oven, if you are going to serve dinner about 2 pm. I slow-cook Mr. Turkey for hours and he is always wonderful, juicy, and falling apart. People rave about my turkey. It's really very simple. You put him in the roaster, you give him a shower every hour, and you otherwise forget about him until about an hour before dinnertime. Directions to follow. Relax! You can do this!!

If I have a secret, it's do all you can beforehand (like, a day before or even more). I do my pies Wednesday evening. Thanksgiving Day is busy enough. Hint learned hard way: If you have a 90# dog visiting you, make sure you lock UP the pies!

i have had to learn to spread out my time and energy because I can't stand for long periods like I used to. So doing things ahead of time is even more important now. I prep my side dishes up to the point where they're ready to pop in the oven, and put them in the fridge the day before. These particular dishes that I serve all work great that way, except for the mashed potatoes. Those, I do the day of.

When I start prepping my side dishes, I clear off all my counters and sort the groceries out in the dish they'll be prepared in (except for refrigerated stuff of course). Example, I'll put a casserole dish on the counter with canned green beans, french fried onions, mushroom soup in it. That way I'm not running around like a chicken - no, make that a turkey - with my head cut off, once I go to start working.

I always run a sink full of hot dishwater and everything I use pops right in there to presoak for easy dishwasher loading later. Clean counter space is always at a premium doing a big dinner, and that's a big help.

OK... tie on your aprons... here we go!

How To Cook Mr. Turkey - How I Make Him So Tasty!

Getting Mr. Turkey Prepared Is Important!

My own Mr. Turkey is right where he should be on Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving -sitting in the fridge thawing happily away with a pan under him in case he makes a mess! (Admittedly I will have to grab a bigger pan before he really starts thawing in earnest!) But seriously, you want to thaw him in the fridge starting Tuesday night. If you're reading this Wednesday morning, you're still ok. Get him in the fridge NOW. Before you leave for work! Don't ever leave the turkey out to thaw at room temp. Dangerous.

Now let's fast forward... it's at OMG-it's-Early o'clock in the morning Thursday, let's say around 6 or 7. Mr. Turkey should be all nice and thawed. If he isn't, proceed calmly to the 911 section! Turn your oven on to 350.

You want to scrub Mr. Turkey all over, give him a nice bathie and remove any pinfeathers you see. (Yes, turkeys come with feathers and sometimes they don't all get cleaned off!). Pat him dry. Remove the bag that has the giblets and God knows what else from his cavity. (That would be... his rear end. Sort of). You can throw that away, or cook it if you want to... I throw it out. Chop up 1 whole apple, 1 stalk of celery into about 1-2" pieces, and toss those into the cavity. Shake a bit of salt and pepper in there. Smear margarine over Mr. Turkey - think of it as sunblock! Salt and pepper the outside. Now, wash your hands with antibacterial so you don't drop that slippery little sucker putting it in the oven!

Place Mr. Turkey into a big metal roaster (if you use a disposable, you're inviting disaster, and that's all I'm gonna say about it!). Add a big pitcher of water - let's say 2 quarts. That will turn into gravy later on, believe it or not! Shut the door, and promise to visit again in a couple hours. Go back to bed! Or have a coffee...

Baked Turkey Dressing - Prep Day Before; Start Baking 1.5 Hours Before Dinnertime

The dressing, I think, is what really "smells up the house" and makes Thanksgiving wonderfulness. My mom Izzy made the world's best dressing and I probably can never duplicate it exactly, but here goes nothing.

The Day Before

Chop up the whole stalk of celery into itty-bitty pieces, about 1/4" - a food processor comes in real handy here. Do the same with one whole yellow onion. Put them in a huge ziploc bag or other sealed container (you'll be adding more stuff). Put your bag of bread cubes, or your whole loaf of dry bread cut up in there. Mix. Sprinkle in 1 tbsp of dry sage, 1 tsp sale, and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Mix again. Now sniff - does it smell like dressing the way you envision it? I know that sounds silly, but I gave you a minimum amount of sage here - you might want more. If it doesn't smell strong enough, add a little more until it does. When you have it seasoned to taste, seal it up and toss it in the fridge. You're done for today.

The Day Of, Two Hours Before Dinner

Remove Mr. Turkey from the oven and carefully dip out a big pan of the broth. (Dip, don't pour - Mr. Turkey can make a big splash!) Put him back in the oven, adding more water first if needed). Now get out your seasoned bread/veggie mix. Sprinkle 2 tsp of baking soda into bag and shake.

Rub Crisco (Pam will do, but it won't be as good) all over the inside of a 13 X 9 baking dish. Empty out the dressing into the pan. Put in 6 tbsp of margarine or butter. Beat 4 eggs slightly and pour over it. Stir up thoroughly until mixed well.

Pour 4 cups of hot broth over the whole thing. Mix again. Your kitchen should now officially smell like Thanksgiving! This is where it gets tricky - the mixture should be soggy. Not dripping wet, but soggy. Place on bottom rack of oven, bake for one hour at 350.

Ham With Dad's Glaze

Prep Glaze Day Ahead/Bake 2 Hours Before Dinnertime

If you're having a big crowd, it's so nice to have both turkey and ham. Choice is beautiful. Or eat both:)

My late father in law Glen was a chef at John Francis Restaurant in Kansas City after a long career as an Army cook. He shared his secret ham glaze with me and I've never baked a ham without it since. So here it is, my gift to you!

Stick a few whole cloves in the top of the ham. Then you'll want to baste on this glaze at the beginning, halfway thru baking time, and just before taking out of the oven. Bake the ham for 1 hour at 350 or 1.5 hours at 300 depending on where oven needs to be for other stuff.

In small bowl combine:

- 1 cup brown sugar

- a 6" long squirt of mustard

- 2 tbsp honey

- 1/4 cup pancake syrup

- dash of ground cloves (optional)

Mix well, keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Candied Yams (Sweet Potatoes) - Prep Day Ahead/Bake 1 Hour Before Dinnertime

The Day Before

Drain the sweet potatoes and place in 1.5 quart buttered baking dish. Combine 1 cup of white sugar with 2 tsp Cinnamon, add. Dot with 4 tbsp butter or margarine. Pour in 3/4 cup pancake syrup. Stir gently until just combined.Cover top of dish with marshmallows. Cover tightly and place in fridge.

Day Of

Remove covering and bake at 300 for one hour, making sure marshmallows don't burn. Remove from oven if they start to brown too much.

Killer Mashed Potatoes

Day Of

Deciding how many potatoes is easy. Just pile them in the pan you want to be filled with mashed potatoes.

Wash and peel potatoes. Cut into pieces and cover with water, adding about 1/4 tsp salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to slow boil (3-4 on my electric stove). Cook for 20-30 minutes until fork tender. Drain, cover and set aside. Drop in 2-3 tbsp. real butter or margarine, allow to start melting. Salt/pepper to taste, Add 1/2 cup heavy cream, beat until fluffy with electric mixer. Serve immediately. (NOTE: You can also use milk, half-and-half or canned milk and any will give good results - the richer the milk, the richer the potatoes will be).

Your Perspective On Thanksgiving Dinner Menu Planning

When planning your Thanksgiving menu, is your focus more on "wicked good" or "wicked healthy?"

Green Bean Casserole - Prep Day Ahead/Bake One Hour Before Dinner

Day Ahead

Put 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 2 tbsp. margarine in buttered 1.5 quart casserole dish. Add 1/2 can french fried onions, stir. Add 2 cans drained green beans, stir to combine. Salt/pepper to taste. Cover tightly and place in fridge.

Day Of

Remove covering, bake at 300 for 30 minutes. 5 minutes before time is up, sprinkle remaining 1/2 can onions on top and return to oven.

Now, this picture is admittedly 70 pounds ago but it's still a fun memory... me, picking green beans planted in a flowerbed at our old farm in '09. And yes, they're a whole lot better than canned... sigh...

I am so thankful for all the many blessings in my life. Thanks, God.

Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish

Day Before

Chop up fine 1 orange and 1 bag washed fresh cranberries in food processor. Add either 3 tsp Splenda or white sugar. Mix to combine well, cover and refrigerate.

Turkey Gravy

Day Of, Last Thing

In measuring cup, mix 3/4 cup absolutely cold turkey broth with 2 tbsp flour or cornstarch. Whisk this mixture along with 1 tbsp butter or margarine and 1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce into 4 cups of cooled turkey broth on stove. Slowly bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Salt and pepper to taste. NOTE Gravy will thicken more as it cools. Too much thickening, you'll have Jello.

One Of My Happiest Thanksgiving Days - Spent With My Natural Family

I was blessed to enjoy two families - my natural one, as an adult and the adoptive one I grew up with. This Thanksgiving was spent with my natural family for the very first time and it is a memory I highly treasure. From left - sister in law Teresa, my late mom Norma, my brother Paul, me, and my baby sister Celia.

Aren't You Glad...

I will definitely be buying those new parchment paper pan liner sheets they just came out with - they are a Godsend for Thanksgiving casseroles! Zero cleanup!

Fresh Fruit Salad

Day Before

Chop up a big bowl of fruit, your choice - grapes, raisins, drained mandarin oranges, apples, oranges, pineapple, bananas, pears, etc. Toss with 1 tbsp lemon juice to prevent browning of fruit. Add fresh whipped cream OR 1 carton Cool Whip along with zest of one orange and chopped pecans or walnuts if desired. Cover tightly and put in fridge.

Tell Us What You Think!

What's Your Feeling On Thanksgiving Menu Items? Tried and True... or New?

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Deviled Eggs

Day Before

Boil 6 extra large eggs. Peel and cool. Cut eggs in half lengthwise, place halves on egg tray or serving dish. Put egg yolks in bowl, mash with fork. Add a 2 tbsp of mayonnaise and a good squirt of mustard (probably 2 tsp). Mix thoroughly. Spoon into egg halves, sprinkle lightly with Paprika. Cover tightly and put in fridge.

The Cooking Timetable for a 2 PM Dinnertime - Adjust your Timetable According To Dinnertime Planned

Cooking Timetable

6 Hours Before - Turkey in Oven

5 Hours Before -

Check and Baste Turkey, turn down to 300

4 Hours Before -

Put rolls in covered greased pan to rise

Baste Mr. Turkey again

3 Hours Before -

Peel Potatoes, put in pan of salted water

Baste Mr. Turkey, dip out big pan (at least 8 cups) of turkey broth to cool

2 Hours Before -

Take Mr. Turkey out of oven, baste, cover

Turn oven up to 400

When heated, bake rolls

When rolls are done, turn oven to 350

Dressing goes in oven for one hour

15 minutes into that baking time, put sweet potatoes in oven

30 minutes into baking time of dressing, put green bean casserole in oven

When all sides come out, Mr. Turkey goes back into oven for last half hour or so

Put mashed potatoes on to boil.

Start getting out refrigerated side items, condiments, etc., set table if not done

Make turkey gravy

Remove turkey to serving platter

Mash the potatoes

EAT!!!!

Whole Cranberry Sauce, Other Condiments...

Remove the can of whole cranberry sauce from fridge just before dinner. Slice into 1/2" pieces onto serving tray. Return to fridge if you do awhile ahead of time. (Hint: nick the other end of can to release vacuum and allow cranberry sauce to pop right out)

It's really pretty (I did it ONCE) to mold butter in candy molds for serving. Fancy, fancy!

You'll want some preserves or jellies out for the rolls.

Goes without saying, salt and pepper shakers... and drinks...

Now ENJOY yourself!

Mishaps make great Thanksgiving memories! Back a few years ago, I had baked all the pumpkin pies, my son's favorite. He sneaked a piece early, didn't comment on it, and later I served the pie to everyone... only to discover to my horror, I had left the sugar out of the pies!! They were TERRIBLE! And bless my son's heart, he had suffered in silence. Love that boy!

Rolls & Pies - Where To Find Those

My Lazarus Rolls are a secret guarded family recipe but I am sure you can find a great hot roll recipe online or elsewhere if you want to bake your own. For the pumpkin pies, I can't possibly improve on the Eagle Brand Condensed Milk recipe which is provided here.

What Do You Say? - C'Mon, You Can Tell Us!

What's more important to you at Thanksgiving? D├ęcor or Food?

My Mom & Sis Fixed One Mean Dinner!

The Bizarre 7-Layer Leftovers Casserole

This is NOT A Joke! If You Can Get Past The Thought Of It, It's Amazing!!

Somewhere in our travels in southeast Missouri to various diners, we ran across this casserole on the menu shortly after Thanksgiving as the Special of the Day. Well, I kind of gasped in disbelief at the idea, and ordered it anyway. Oh my GOSH it was wonderful!! So hey... give it a try. It is now a post-Thanksgiving standard in this house. In fact, when I am putting away the leftovers from Thanksgiving Dinner nowadays, I prep this casserole and tuck it in the fridge for later!

You kind of eat it in layers... each flavor blends superbly with the next. I don't know about eating each layer together - I've never tried it! If you make this, please come back and vote in the poll so I know how you liked it! I don't have a photo of one, so I'll have to take a picture of this year's and add it here later on. Without further ado, here's the recipe!

Spray a 2 quart casserole with Pam. (It is quite pretty if you do this in a clear glass casserole so you can see the layers!)

Layer 1 (Starting at Bottom) : Dressing

Layer 2: Mashed Potatoes

Layer 3: Gravy

Layer 4: Turkey

Layer 5: Green Bean Casserole

Layer 6: Candied Sweet Potatoes

Layer 7: Dinner Rolls, Torn in Half, Tops Up

Your Thoughts On The 7-Layer Leftover Casserole! - C'Mon, You Can Tell Me!

What is your feeling about the 7-Layer Leftover Casserole?

See results

Pass The Sweet Potatoes and Sign My Guestbook, Please! - Nice To Meet You!

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    • Melissa Sewell profile image

      Melissa Sewell 2 years ago from North Carolina

      That is awesome! I love how you put that all together. It sounds awesome. We're going to be cooking all day today and tomorrow (me and my boyfriend are starting a Black Friday tradition (: ) Thanks for the advice, it really helped us out!

      :)

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image
      Author

      Sheila 5 years ago from Omaha, NE

      @Elsie Hagley: Thanks very much Kiwinana71 for the Thanksgiving Blessing! And yes of course you are invited... We are all in post-dinner NAP zone right now! But I'm sure you'll be in time for the 7-Layer Casserole tomorrow! And you are right, luckyone924... if they go away hungry it's not 'cause there wasn't enough!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 5 years ago from New Zealand

      You have a very interesting meal, I am invited? I enjoyed reading this lens I feel I have already eaten your dinner. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanks-giving.

      Here's a special Thanksgiving Day Blessing from me to you.

    • profile image

      luckyone924 5 years ago

      Nice lens! If someone goes away hungry at your dinner its there fault it all sounds yummy!