Thanksgiving Basics

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Next week I will be sharing some recipes for you to use up all of your Thanksgiving leftovers.  It occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to share my spin on a few of the Thanksgiving standards before next week, just in case you’re still looking for good options.  I’m sharing 3 simple Thanksgiving staples: cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, and dressing.

So let’s get to it!

Cranberry Sauce– The first time I made cranberry sauce, I was flabbergasted at how easy it was!  This recipe is basic with no extra flavorings, since I knew I would be using it in other things later.  Common flavorings you can add are orange zest and juice, cinnamon and clove.

Put all of the ingredients in a sauté pan and simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.


The mixture will start to bubble and once the sugar has dissolved, the cranberries have burst, and the mixture has thickened it’s done.  This should take about 15 minutes.

Stir in any flavorings you want and chill.  This will last in the fridge up to a week.


12 ounces fresh cranberries

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cup water

pinch of salt

Turkey gravy– Anytime I show people how to make gravy they are always surprised it has so few ingredients.  When I was growing up my dad always made gravy from scratch so it never even occurred to me that people didn’t make it that way. Homemade gravy is one of those things that is totally worth the extra effort.  If you’ve never made it before, I encourage you to try it this Thanksgiving- you’ll never go back!

In a sauté pan, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour  until there are no lumps and the mixture has turned golden.  This is the roux (or thickening agent).

Now slowly start pouring in your stock, whisking as you go.


Continue adding stock until it is your desired thickness.  Keep in mind it will continue to thicken if kept over low heat.  I usually make our gravy when the turkey is out of the oven resting.


Now add salt to taste.  I didn’t put an amount here because that can vary quite a bit based on how salty your stock is.


You can also use this method for other gravies (beef, chicken, etc.) by swapping the stock flavor for a different kind.

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter or other fat

turkey stock

salt to taste


Dressing- Dressing or stuffing always caused a tiny bit of friction in our house when I was growing up.  My mom made the dressing (or stuffing in this case, since she cooked it in the bird) and every year she wanted me to try it….and every year I didn’t like it.  I don’t know why. I liked it fine before it was “cooked” but after that the flavors just never sat well with me.  It wasn’t her fault….my dad and other relatives always raved about it. I just never liked it (sorry mom).  It’s funny, though, how every family has their own way of making dressing/stuffing.  Now that my husband and I have our own Thanksgiving, I’ve developed a recipe that I like.  The great thing about dressing, though, is that you can make it whatever you want. You don’t like mushrooms?  Take them out.  You want different herbs?  Go for it.  Put in whatever things you like!

You’ll start by toasting the bread in a 325° oven for about 15 minutes.  An alternative is leaving it out the night before to get stale. Then put the bread cubes in a large bowl.


Now melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan and add the onions, celery, mushrooms, thyme, poultry seasoning and celery seed (other possible taste herbs in this would be sage, garlic, and/or marjoram).  Sauté until the onions are tender.

Pour the onion mixture in the bowl on top of the cubes of bread and add the stock. Stir this until the bread has been moistened.  If you like a really sticky stuffing, add more stock.


Pour in an oven-safe dish and brush on the remaining butter (melted).


Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is crispy and all of the liquid has been absorbed by the bread.


8 cups French bread cut into inch cubes

5 tablespoons butter, divided

8 ounces cremini mushrooms sliced

1 1/2 cups diced onion, about 1/2 of 1 large onion

1 1/2 cups celery, about 4 trimmed stalks

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups turkey or chicken stock


What are you favorite Thanksgiving favorites?  Is there anything new you’re adding to your Thanksgiving for the first time this year.  I’d love to hear about it!

Stay tuned next week for some ideas on how to use up all of your Thanksgiving leftovers!  This year I’ll be sharing uses for leftover cranberry sauce, dressing, white wine, and, of course, turkey.




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