MY THANKSGIVING DINNER MENU AND RECIPE LINKS

Every year, I start working on my Thanksgiving menu – a few weeks before the big day.  (Check out my Thanksgiving timeline).  While all of my main staples remain the same (I am all for a traditional dinner)….I do play around with the sides just to add something different to the menu.  For example, this year – green beans didn’t make the cut…nor did my glazed carrots.  I find that I always have way too much leftover so that’s a sign its time for a switch…so I’m replacing those two items with loaded cauliflower casserole and roasted butternut squash.

Below is my menu for this year….I’m including links to the recipes that I use.  To note – I always look at 2-3 different recipes of the same item to see how different people make it..and then decide how I want to proceed with a version of my own.

APPETIZERS:
I haven’t mastered the fancy apps for the pre-meal because its wayyyy too much cooking.  But I do offer a meat and cheese platter and pumpkin soup.  I found this Pumpkin Soup recipe from Rachel Ray and it is always a huge hit.  I make it on Wednesday night and its usually halfway gone by the time it makes it to the table the next day – so I usually double the ingredients.
Thanksgiving Menu; One Balanced Mama
Simple cheese platter for the appetizer.

MEAT:

Traditional Roasted Turkey:  I started to brine my turkey a few years ago and it’s been a game changer!  I started with Alton Brown’s brine recipe – but there are so many out there.  You can find one that works best for you.  Brining your turkey ensures that it comes out super moist and it allows it to season on the inside and out.  I also use this roaster oven…because it allows me to use my ovens for other items while the turkey roasts for several hours.
Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving; One Balanced Mama Blog
Fried Turkey:  Because fried turkey is awesome! I’ll either fry a whole turkey or get a turkey cut up and fry the pieces.
Thanksgiving Menu; One Balanced Mama
Glazed Ham:  For my ham, I keep it simple by using the glaze that comes with the ham.  But if you feel like venturing out…here is a good recipe that I’ve used in the past.

Thanksgiving Menu; One Balanced Mama

VEGGIES:

Collard Greens:  Everyone has a different take on their greens.  I start off with sauteed onions and garlic and throw in smoked turkey neck and wings to steam for a little bit. I add chicken broth halfway thru the pot and let the wings boil for a bit more.  Then I throw in the greens.  I’ve used pre-cut collard greens and when I was feeling fancy – I would get bushels to clean and cut myself…but ain’t nobody got time for that anymore – so pre-cut pre-washed greens are my easy way out.  I also will throw in a scotch bonnet to give it a kick – along with salt. pepper and my go-to seasoning…Tony Chachere’s.
Thanksgiving Menu; One Balanced Mama
Basalmic Glazed Brussel Sprouts:  If you love the roasted and crunchy-style Brussel sprouts that they serve at restaurants..then this is the recipe for you…so easy to make and so good!  You can add cranberries and bacon to jazz it up.

TIMELINE AND TIPS TO HOSTING A STRESS-FREE THANKSGIVING DINNER

The countdown is on….And I am super hyped!!!  Thanksgiving is a BIG DEAL in my home.  I love everything about it…looking for new recipes, planning the menu and hosting for friends and family.  Last year, I hosted close to 35 people at my house and did most of the cooking.  Yes, that’s nuts.  And yes, my feet are usually on fire for the rest of the weekend…but I would not trade it for the world…at least not now.

My goal is to share some of my staple go-to recipes in the next few days…but first, I wanted to share some of my quick tips on prepping for the big day.  If you haven’t started yet – you still have time!

Recipe Search:  A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I start to look for different recipes that I may want to try out.  My menu generally stays the same with all the key staples – but every year I try to add 1-2 new side dishes or new variations of a dish just for fun.  Its best to test out the new dish BEFORE Thanksgiving…but sometimes – I just take a shot to see how it turns out and if its worthy to make it on the dinner table.  By the way – we’re 5 days away from the big day – so if you’re going to try something new – today is the day.

Saturday:  Finalize your menu and make your grocery list.  You DO NOT want to wait until the last minute to start figuring out what you need. This year, I’m relying on Instacart to get as much as I can off of my list early. Note: Instacart is great for some things – but not everything.  Save the fresh produce, herbs, and meats for your own choosing for a day or two before.

Monday:    Clean out your refrigerator to make space for things you will need to keep cold while prepping…as well as leftovers.  If you’re hosting…this is also a good time to pull out all of your serving dishes and any décor you will need to use.  Don’t wait until the last minute to search for that perfect serving dish you haven’t used in the last 364 days…or worse – realize that it’s missing.  Also, take inventory of all the tools you need to cook and have them readily available – and working!  Nothing worse than finding out the day of that your thermometer konked out.

Make sure you have plenty of glass containers on hand for any leftovers.  I also like to have these containers handy for guests who like to make a to-go plate…so they’re not walking out with my good containers – cause they will.

Tuesday:  Start food prep.  I usually use this day to buy my fresh turkey from Delaware Chicken Farm early in the morning and keep it in the fridge until its brine time.  I also use this time to start cutting up any ingredients that I’ll be using:  onions, peppers, etc…chop them up and pop them in ziplock bags so they’re ready to go when its time to cook.

Wednesday:  First thing…brine your turkey in the morning so that it will have a full 24 hours to soak.  Trust me – its a game changer.  More on that later.

Make your cranberry sauce and desserts.  I try to knock these out in the morning so that I have the rest of the day to get any last-last minute items needed. Promise…it doesn’t matter how much I prep – there’s a moment of “Damn. I forgot to get the sour cream! BOB. I NEED YOU!!!!!!”

A SUPER HERO TURNS 3!

AJ turned 3 this past August….and as every year before – it was time to capture my new little 3-year old – in all of his glory.  I also wanted to capture a reflection of what he loves and is into at this moment…and right now, its all about superheroes and being a “big boy.” He will even tell you… “I’m the Man.”

In similar fashion to Bobbi’s 4th Princess Diaries Shoot, we incorporated his favorite superheroes (a mix between the Incredible Hulk and Super Man.)  And we got him all dressed up looking like a mini GQ model in his light blue suit.  Here are a few of my faves from the day.  Thanks to Erica Rodriquez for always being down for my ideas…even shooting him in full costume in the middle of the day at the metro mover.  And Toni Lowe definitely nailed the looks.

Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog

TRUNKS AND TREATS…HALLOWEEN DEETS!

2015…I had no clue what a “trunk-or-treat” was…I just knew that I got a notice from my kids school – and I was to show up with my car and hand out treats.  Welp – I was in for a rude awakening. Parents had their trunks decked out with Halloween decor…you can tell they put some thought into it.  And you can tell…I didn’t.  Exhibit A below:

one balanced mama; trunk or treat
This was my attempt at trunk or treat decorations a few years ago. Sad indeed.

Came a long way in 2017….this year I went with a Super Heroes theme for our costumes and trunk decorations.  I used superhero capes that I already had in AJ’s toy bin from his birthday party.  These are great because they come with masks and they also have a girls set.  Got them on Amazon.

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Presenting…Super Woman, Bat Girl, Incredible Hulk…and The Black Panther…We got ALL the superpowers!!
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The first year I showed up in yoga pants…this is pretty impressive.  Thanks Party City!
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Found some of these gems at Home Goods, Michael’s and Target a few years ago…and they will be used for the next 15 years…
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