This year’s “Guide to Turkey Day Tranquility” is better than ever! Katie and I have put together a list of three protein options, five side dishes, and three desserts. You can use the formattable grocery list to select from these and make your Thanksgiving experience easy.

We also have a step-by-step guide to tackle Turkey Day in three cooking sessions. By Thursday afternoon, you’ll have everything on auto-pilot and can sip cider while you recruit relatives to do the dishes.

Have a great Thanksgiving and remember that relationships are what life is really all about! Whether getting together with friends or family, make the most of the situation by limiting your cell phone use and being as present as possible.


The meal cost for this plan will depend on which recipes you decide to make for you Thanksgiving Day Feast.

The amount you will spend will depend on your geographic location and how much you rely on bulk purchases. As an example, you can get 1 quart of extra light olive oil at Kroger for $19.99 or you can get 4 quarts at Costco for $16.50. You follow? Meat and produce will also be less at the warehouse stores, but might require you purchase more than you’ll need for this plan.

Customize Your Plan and Shop It Up!

I have created a customize-able grocery list in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Even if you’re not good with Excel, I’ve set it up in a foolproof way that even “The Jo!” could handle. Follow these instructions:

  1. Open the document and click on the tab at the bottom that says “Menu item & Ingredient Brkdown”.
  2. At the top, you’ll see the number “1” in bold just below each menu item. You can change this number to delete the ingredients you won’t be needing for this meal plan. Choose the recipes you would like to incorporate into you Thanksgiving Feast and change the “1” below the recipes you do not want to use to “0.” This will delete the unneeded ingredients from the grocery list.
  3. Click back to the tab that says “Thanksgiving Grocery List” and your quantities will be updated.
  4. Print out the grocery list from the first tab only.
  5. Compare what you need to what you have on hand and finalize your list. Then, head to the grocery store and make your purchases swiftly and efficiently.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

I want you to knock this out in one shopping session, one prepping  session, and one cooking session. I’ll explain these now, but want you to scroll down to read my notes on each meal below. They are listed under each picture.

In prepping session one (Monday night or Tuesday morning):

  1. Brine your turkey first thing! We brined ours from frozen in a cooler last year on Tuesday morning and it turned out perfectly for smoking on Thursday.
  2. If choosing the Pumpkin Tart or the Chocolate Decadence. You can cook both of them today and freeze them. However, with Chocolate Decadence, do not cover the cake with ganache. Freeze the cake portion only and then add the Ganache on Thursday after you’ve thawed the cake.
  3. Prepare the cranberry compote and refrigerate.
  4. Prepare the raspberry coulis and refrigerate if making Chocolate Decadence.

In cooking session two (Wednesday):

  1. For the twice baked sweets, prepare them today, pipe them and place them on a sheet pan. Stick toothpicks in the potatoes and drape the top with plastic wrap to keep them covered, but not so tightly as to damage your killer piping design. You’ll cook these the second time just before serving your Thanksgiving meal.
  2. For the Zucchini Entomatada, prepare and bake completely today. You’ll reheat this tomorrow and the flavor will be better than if prepared fresh.
  3. For the Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes, prep your garlic, rosemary and potatoes, but do not roast them until tomorrow. You can even toss them and let them marinate in a Ziploc bag or mixing bowl. If you do this, do not add the salt. It will be added at the time of roasting.
  4. For Maple Mushroom Medley, slice the mushrooms and store them in a bowl wrapped in plastic in your refrigerator.
  5. For the Tarte Tatin, peel and slice apples and place them in a bowl with water and the juice of 1 lemon (if you will be doing this, add 1 lemon to your grocery list).

In finishing session (Thanksgiving Day):

  1. For the Pumpkin Tart or Chocolate Decadence, remove from the freezer first thing today.
  2. For the turkey, remove the turkey from the brine. Rib it down with the rib rub if you are smoking or roasting. This cooking style will take about 3-4 hours, depending on the turkey size. Ultimately cooking the thickest part of the breast reaches a temperature of 165°F.
  3. When turkey is done, remove from oven/smoker, cover with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
  4. Get your twice baked sweets/rosemary roasted sweets into the oven about an hour before meal time.
  5. For Zucchini Entomatada, reheat in oven now. This take about 45 minutes.
  6. For Maple Mushroom Medley, finish prepping this recipe and cook. This will take about 30-45 minutes.
  7. Carve your turkey in the time while the above dishes are reheating.
  8. Serve and enjoy your meal now.
  9. For Tarte Tatin, I recommend preparing this after your meal has been served, because it is best served fresh and hot from the oven. The apples you will need should already be prepped, so go ahead and through this dish together and in the oven.
  10. For the Chocolate Decadence, make your ganache now. Whip up the whipped cream now for Chocolate Decadence/Pumpkin Tart.

Garlic-Herb-Mulling Spice Turkey Brine

Notes: You will need to allow your turkey to sit in the brine for 12-24 hours in a 5 gallon bucket or something similar.

Hickory Smoked Turkey or Deep Fried Turkey

Notes: You have two options of how to cook your turkey here. Choose to smoke or deep fry your bird this year. The oil for frying and wood chips for smoking are marked as optional on your grocery list. Make your choice and buy one or the other. If you will be smoking, be sure to soak your wood chips for 2-3 days prior. The Super Radical Rib Rub recipe can be found here. Be sure to check your cupboards and add needed items to the grocery list if you plan to make your own.

Roast Beef Tenderloin

Notes: Look for a whole tenderloin approximately 7 pounds and don’t forget your Butcher’s twine.

Lamb Lollipops with Mint Chili Sauce

Maple Mushroom Medley

Notes: You have an option on this recipe of using 2 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat. If you are frying bacon for the sweet potatoes, save the fat!

Zucchini “Entomatada”

Notes: Layering of this dish can be tricky, so be sure to watch the video for a visual of “how to.”

Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Notes: Be sure to follow the preparation instructions and turn your oven up to 400F for the second half of cooking time to achieve a nice crunch.

Citrus Ginger Cranberry Compote

Bacon & Green Chile Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Notes:  To make these pretty, use a pastry bag with a “closed star” tip. The brown sugar is also optional.

Paleo Pumpkin Tart

Notes: This recipe requires two fluted tart pans (preferably with a removable bottom). It also calls for almond meal, but almond flour will also work.

Chocolate Decadence

Notes:  This recipe calls for a Springform pan. It also says you can use Belgian Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Tarte Tatin

Notes: You will need to have on hand enough flour to prevent the puff pastry from sticking with this recipe. Flour for this is not listed on the grocery list, so make sure you have some before going to the store or borrow some from a neighbor.

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