Thanksgiving made easy

Published 9:01 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

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If it’s November, that means it’s time to think about Thanksgiving dinner. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that after encouragement from Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, an American writer and author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. Thanksgiving has been held on the fourth Thursday in November since 1941. The earliest date that Thanksgiving can occur is November 22; the latest, November 28. This year we’ll gather around the table for the big feast on November 24.


Linda: Each year we offer ways to make preparing the meal less stressful by offering “Make Ahead Thanksgiving” suggestions. Several parts of the dinner can be done days before the turkey goes in the oven leaving time to be with our guests, knowing a lot of the work is done.

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Lucy: Every year I dig out our past columns and plan my dinner. We’ve had so many comments from people telling us it “saved” their Thanksgiving, let’s remind our readers again with some of our tips plus add a couple new recipes to brighten up the table.


Linda: I always start the month with “Southern Living’s Make Ahead Gravy” recipe. Gravy is one of the most difficult parts of preparing the meal. Waiting for the turkey juices, trying to figure out whether I add cold or hot water to the flour, is always a last-minute complication. Every year we have printed the make-ahead gravy recipe, so it’s now a tradition.


Lucy: About three weeks ahead I make my favorite dressing or stuffing recipe and freeze the unbaked mixture in ziptop bags. Press out all the excess air. Thaw in refrigerator four days before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving day, place in greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 50 to 60 minutes or until done and the top is light brown.


Linda: Two to three days ahead make your favorite mashed potato recipe. Place in greased casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Thanksgiving day, remove the casserole from the fridge, uncover, and bake it in the oven along with the dressing. 


Lucy: And of course, your favorite pies can be made a day or two ahead. Pumpkin or custard pies should be refrigerated until serving.I found a new mashed potato recipe using some McCormick spices and sour cream. It’s easy and is a delicious twist on the usual mashed potatoes.


Linda: The Green Bean Casserole has been around since 1955 when it was created by Campbell Soups. I know it’s well-loved and very traditional but this year I plan to make southern green beans. I discovered how delicious these green beans are when traveling on Amtrak from NYC to Spartanburg. We enjoyed dinner in the dining car and these tasty green beans were served with a steak. Railroad fare is far superior to airline food. A chef prepares it all from scratch right on the train. I came home and found a recipe for Southern Green Beans. 


Lucy: I think our ideas will be welcomed by anyone planning a holiday dinner. Remember when we entertained family when I lived in Tampa? We welcomed at least ten diners at the table. We had everything but the turkey done a few days ahead. Entertaining that year was easy for us. I want to encourage our readers to try our suggestions and recipes and make Thanksgiving a stress-free holiday.


Southern Living’s Make Ahead Gravy Recipe: 

½ cup butter

½ cup chopped yellow onion

½ cup all-purpose flour

4 to 5 cups chicken stock (homemade or store bought)

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. While stirring, sprinkle flour over onions. Cook stirring constantly, two minutes or until flour is golden brown. Gradually whisk in four cups stock. Cook, stirring often, five minutes or just until mixture comes to a boil and is smooth and thick. If too thick add up to one more cup of stock.

To freeze: Season with salt and pepper. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Pour cooled gravy into quart-size ziptop freezer bags. Seal and lay bags flat on a baking sheet. Place in freezer. Once frozen, bags can be stacked. Thaw in the refrigerator three to four days before the dinner. Reheat on stovetop.

Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole

This rich, creamy mashed potato casserole can be made ahead of time. 

12 Servings


5 1/2 cups mashed potatoes

1/2 cup milk

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons McCormick® Parsley Flakes

1 teaspoon McCormick® Garlic Salt

1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Nutmeg

3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

12 slices bacon, crispy cooked and crumbled (about 1/2 cup)



  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place all ingredients, except cheese and bacon, in large bowl. Beat with electric mixer on medium-high speed until potatoes are smooth and creamy.
  2. Spoon mixture into lightly greased 13×9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and bacon. If you prefer extra crispy bacon, reserve bacon and sprinkle at the end of cooking. Cover.
  3. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through.

Can be prepared one or two days ahead of time. Save bacon sprinkles and crumble on top just before baking. Keep casserole in the refrigerator and bake Thanksgiving Day. Can be in 350-degree oven along with the stuffing but bake about 45 minutes or until hot for serving.

Amtrak Southern Style Green Beans

Green beans cooked low and slow in bacon are a Southern tradition.

Servings: 4


3 slices bacon – cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 1/2 pounds washed and trimmed green beans -snap into about 2″ lengths  

1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper (increase if you like more spice)


  1. Cook bacon pieces in a heavy bottom pan until done. Remove bacon from pan and place on a paper towel to drain. Set aside.
  2. Add green beans to pan and cook on medium-high heat. Toss beans in bacon drippings to coat. Continue to cook until beans turn bright green.
  3. Carefully pour in stock and add garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate. Add bacon pieces back to pot with beans.
  4. Turn burner to low, cover beans with lid – slightly off center and cook for about 1 hour until beans are tender, stirring every 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately. (Beans can be prepared a day before and heated in microwave before serving)



What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

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