Your 2015 Thanksgiving Playbook (November 2015 issue)
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The main event, circa 2011.

2015 Thanksgiving Playbook.
You're Welcome.

November 2015  

Gobble gobble, friends!

Just one week until the big day.

This is my second year in a row hosting in our current home, so I'm getting into a good routine. Being responsible for the whole shebang isn't exactly easy, but it is definitely manageable. I've done it enough times that I have it down to a science. Just call me the Turkey Whisperer, like my friends do.

Check out my full menu below, and also my printable Turkey Timeline and Shopping List. Print them off, head to the store and get cooking!

Looking for something smaller-scale? Maybe you're just bringing a side dish or a dessert to share. Or maybe you just need a celebratory dinner to feed a family of four without ending up with leftovers for a week. I have lots of ideas on my website!

If you have any questions between now and next Thursday, feel free to shoot me an email, tweet or smoke signal.

- Michelle
The Menu


Plan on at least 1 pound of raw bird per person, which will also give you some leftovers. (We like lots of turkey leftovers for a few days worth of sandwiches.) In the past I have followed Martha Stewart’s method with great success, but last year I switched it up and spatchcocked the bird. I'm going back to my traditional method this year--roasting whole, intact in a roasting pan. No matter the roasting method, I always brine the turkey. In my opinion, it is the best way to prepare a turkey for roasting. Because you’re seasoning from the inside out, you get the juiciest and most flavorful bird possible.  


I have to say, I make a killer from-scratch turkey stock and gravy. It always impresses guests ("the best gravy I've ever had"). I make it two days ahead of time. The day before, I reduce the turkey stock until it's very concentrated and on the day of, add it to the pan drippings with white wine and a bit of roux.  


Yes, I totally stuff that bird. Just be sure not too pack it in too densely, and definitely take the internal temperature before digging in. You want it to be 165 degrees F to be sure you’ve killed any potentially harmful bacteria. I follow my husband’s grandma’s classic family recipe with white bread cubes and [reduced-fat] Jimmy Dean sausage from the tube.


Last year I bough pre-made mashed potatoes from a gourmet store to save on time and pot washing. Not up to my standards. This year I'm making it from scratch. I have an extra set of hands helping, too. Yay. If you want to go the from-scratch method, try my skinny smashed potato recipe with Greek yogurt. 

For the sweet potato casserole, I just throw together boiled yams with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, Brandy, brown sugar, and top with some marshmallows, of course.

Or, try something totally new with my Sweet & Sour Smashed Potatoes. Spiced pumpkin puree mashes up with savory sour cream and chive potatoes. Kind of like getting the best of both potato worlds in one dish. (I specified purple potatoes for a fun Halloween presentation, but Yukon Golds would be just as a delicious!)

Green bean casserole

Usually I just doctor up a recipe I find online. This year I might get crazy and do something with coconut milk. Or if you're looking for something fancy, try this recipe for Green Beans with Crispy Shallots and Cheddar that I created for Sargento a few years back. Delicious, indeed.


I play around with a new recipe every year, but the one on the back of the cranberry package really is perfect. Orange is a classic accent flavor. This dish you can fully tackle a day or two in advance.


I pick up some soft squishy dinner rolls or crusty baguette and some butter.  


I am totally in love with True Food Kitchen’s squash pie. It is 100% vegan, and 100% delish. And lucky me, they are available for order! All I have to do is stop in and pick it up a few days before the holiday. If you’re feeling ambitious, they have included the recipe on their ordering page. I make my own whipped cream with fresh whipping cream and good vanilla. If you want to keep it a vegan dessert, my whipped coconut cream is the perfect alternative! And I ordered a cherry pie and pumpkin pie from my friend who runs a pie business out of her home.


I keep appetizers simple. That way I avoid the extra work, and your guests aren’t stuffed before the main event. Last year, I prepared appetizers as our lunch, and we had the big meal late afternoon/early evening. We all loved this timing.

Shrimp cocktail: You can buy it precooked or poach it yourself. If you purchase it frozen, you can get it out of the way early, then just thaw in the fridge the day before. (I don't recommend letting fresh shrimp sit around in your fridge for more than a day or two at most.) Here is my homemade version with Creamy Dijon Sauce, like the one from Joe's Stone Crab. It's a snap to throw together.

Charcuterie and cheese board is good, classy and easy. Get the best quality that you can comfortably afford, and serve with some nuts and a bit of fruit.

Raid your grocery store’s olive bar. Olives are a no-brainer, but bonuses like stuffed grape leaves or peppadew peppers stuffed with goat cheese are an unexpected treat. 

And I love my new tradition of starting the day off at this time with a cold glass of bubbly. My motto is "burn it." As in, pull the nicest bottle of champs you have and enjoy it with your guests. It is Thanksgiving, after all.


Lots of it. Sauvignon Blanc (Chardonnay for my father-in-law) and a good red—I leave that to hubs to figure out.

Bonus: Breakfast

Out-of-town family staying in the house? As much as you’d like to hunker down in the kitchen until dinner time, they’ve gotta eat too. Set out good artisanal bread (I’m loving the stuff from Noble Bakery in Phoenix), my Maple Pumpkin-Apple Butter, in-season grapes and kiwi and whip up some All-Natural Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Last  year I kept it super simple with my Overnight Oats. People loved it.

Looking for a savory option? Put together my Spinach and Bell Pepper Breakfast Casserole the night before, then just pop it in the oven as soon as you wake up. Use whatever bread ends you have around the house, and any vegetable you wish. Done and done.

Printable Grocery List
This is it! Print off my grocery store checklist, fill in any extras you may need, and head out before the crowds. Big thank you to Meleyna, my content manager, for making this list look so cute. 
Printable Turkey-Day Timeline
Ok, your fridge is stocked, now what do you do with all of that stuff? My Turkey Day Timeline lays it all out for you, from cleaning out your fridge the week before to remembering to shower between roasting turkeys and mashing potatoes.

The Michelle File: My Latest Recipes

I created these 5-Ingredient Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce for Food Network's Healthy Eats blog. Perfect weekday meal or holiday appetizer!
Creamy Butternut Squash & Apple Soup with Pepitas for Men's JournalThis pretty soup has vibrant color and sweet creaminess and is sure to be a hit with your family. I've fed it to the pickiest children and they loved it. 
Michelle in the News
Processed Meat Alternatives on Arizona Midday: After the WHO's report on processed meat, is it still safe to eat? I share my thoughts, plus my recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Sardines.
7 New Convenient Clean Eating Products as seen on Arizona MiddayLast month I went to Nashville for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) where the leading food companies reveal their new products for the first time. I shared some of my favorite finds with Arizona Midday.
More in the News:
11 Healthy Ways to Upgrade Your PB&J for Yahoo Health
If You’re Going to Make One Change to Improve Your Health, It Should Be One of These for The Washington Post
Don't have my cookbook yet? You're missing out on over 110 mouth-watering, quick-fix meals filled with clean ingredients that everyone will love! Available at Amazon and wherever fine books are sold. It's also a great gift for the parent who enjoys cooking. And this month, the Kindle version is only $2.99!
Eat Like Me, Shop Like Me: Check out my new Amazon store. I get a small commission off of anything you buy through my store or link, which helps pay for my IT guy, improving the way I communicate with you online. Check out my aStore here!
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