Perfect Thanksgiving Plan



Stressed about planning a family Thanksgiving dinner? Overwhelmed at the prospect of planning a menu? Stuck trying to choose the perfect green vegetable for the big dinner?

Take the guesswork out of your Thanksgiving planning and follow this step-by-step plan for dinner, complete with a timeline. We even have you covered with the perfect just-like-homemade dessert.

The menu:

  • turkey
  • gravy
  • cranberry sauce
  • stuffing (baked separately)
  • sweet potatoes on the side
  • broccoli, boiled or steamed
  • bumpkin pie
The timeline:
Six to seven hours before serving:
  • Take turkey out of refrigerator.
  • Preheat ove.
  • Make pie.
  • Make stuffing to bake separately.
  • Trim broccoli, wrap and save in refrigerator.
  • Make cranberry sauce.
  • Make sweet potatoes, will go in oven with turkey.
Three hours before serving:
  • Season turkey and put in oven.
  • Put big pot of salted water on stove with steamer basket.
  • Set up coffeemaker.
  • Clean up kitchen, take a shower and get dressed for company.
One hour before serving:
[guests begin to arrive]
  • Turkey’s done, can sit one hour.
  • Pour juices off turkey, let fat rise in refrigerator.
  • Make gravy.
  • Stuffing and sweet potatoes done, will stay hot 30 minutes.
  • Put wine and other drinks on buffet or table.
  • Bring broccoli water to a boil.
  • Carve turkey.
  • Put cranberry sauce on table.
  • Put baked stuffing and sweet potatoes on table.
Five minutes left:
  • Cook broccoli.
  • Bring broccoli to table.
  • Meal time.
  • Enjoy meal.
  • Flick on coffeemaker.
  • Serve pies.

Bumpkin Pie

The biggest surprise to new cooks is that canned foods usually avoided by purists aren’t across-the-board offenses. One of the most reliable canned products is pumpkin pulp (often labeled as solid-pack pumpkin). Without a real pumpkin to peel, boil or roast, seed and mash, these pies come together quickly. You don’t even need a mixer, only a whisk.

Here’s a shortcut sure to horrify culinary elites: Go buy a package of pre-made pie shells. You can get good quality, even whole wheat pastry. Thaw them slightly. They’ll be just soft enough to re-crimp the edges with your fingers so they look homemade.


2 9-inch frozen pie shells, somewhat defrosted
1-pound can solid pack pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
14 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg


  1. Take crusts out of freezer to partially thaw. Preheat oven to 400 F. Set rack on lowest notch.
  2. Get out a big mixing bowl. Whisk pumpkin, cream and milk. Whisk in eggs one by one. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Whisk in sugar and spices.
  4. Re-form pie dough edges with thumb and forefinger to remove tell-tale stamped-out fork imprints, so they look homemade. Place pie plates on a cookie sheet (to catch any drips).
  5. Fill shells with pumpkin filling (each will hold about 2 cups)
  6. Bake at 400 F for 8 minutes. Set a timer! Reduce heat to 350 F and bake 35 minutes more. Pies are done when a knife inserted into center comes out clean.


Zester Daily contributor Elaine Corn is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and food editor. A former editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Sacramento Bee, Corn has written six cookbooks and contributed food stories to National Public Radio.

Photo: Bumpkin pie, on Grandmother Shirley Siegel’s china inherited by the author.

Credit: Elaine Corn





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