Thanksgiving By The Hour

Your step-by-step guide to a healthy Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner image via shutterstock

When you’re preparing the biggest meal of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with fitting all those little details into a marathon cooking session. That’s why we are presenting you with a comprehensive schedule of how to put together the perfect healthy Thanksgiving meal where you’ll get all the glory with very little stress.

In order to make Thanksgiving as stress-free as possible, try assembling the side dishes Wednesday so that Thanksgiving day is all about the turkey. The best part of this meal? All the recipes are healthy, so on top of being the ultimate host, you’ll be serving a feel good Thanksgiving dinner. The recipes included cover every major part of a meal, from the turkey to the veggies to the desserts, but feel free to substitute with your favorite dishes.

The Menu

Brined Lemon Turkey Breast with Sage Stuffing (via Foods of our Lives)

Sweet Potato Casserole (via Peaches Please)

“Creamed” Spinach Casserole (via Barbells and Bellinis)

Olive-Almond Green Beans (via Cooking Light)

Braised Red Cabbage  (via Homemade Levity)

Apple Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Ginger (via Spoonful of Flavor)

72 to 48 hours till Thanksgiving:

Finalize your menu and head to the grocery store. Going anywhere near a supermarket on Wednesday or Thursday is just setting yourself up for frustration. Take the time to plan ahead and get everything. Some things that are a good idea to stock up on are chicken and vegetable stock, dried herbs, and poultry seasoning. These ingredients are nonperishable and are usually what people are running to the grocery store for at the last minute.

36 hours till Thanksgiving:

Make dessert. Most desserts are easy to make ahead of time. If you’re doing a dessert that is served warm, like this whole grain cranberry apple crisp, then completely assemble, cool, cover, and refrigerate until an hour before dessert is served.

24 hours till Thanksgiving:

Most of the assembling can be done the day before. Thanksgiving Thursday should be mainly for monitoring the oven, cooking fresh vegetables, and celebrating with family and friends. First, make the stuffing. Healthy stuffing is hard to come by, but this version uses whole grain bread. Next put together the sweet potato casserole and then make the apple cranberry sauce. Finally, you can assemble the “Creamed” Spinach Casserole. Allow everything to cool, and then wrap and refrigerate.

6 hours:

Brine the turkey breasts. A brine is made of salt, a little sugar, dried herbs, and water and is a foolproof way of making a succulent and flavorful turkey. Before putting the turkey in the brine, be sure to thoroughly rinse and pat dry. The downside with brined turkeys is that the drippings cannot be used for gravy because of the salt content, but the flavorful and moist meat will make this the best turkey you’ve ever tasted. Everything that you assembled the day before should now be taken out of the fridge to allow the dishes to lose the chill.

90 minutes:

Time to roast the bird. Take the turkey breast out of the brine and rinse well and pat dry. The recipe suggests stuffing the turkey with the dressing, but try stuffing the bird with sliced lemons and sage instead. All the stuffing can be baked separately and will be just as delicious. The stuffing should take the same amount of cooking time, so put it in as well.

60 minutes:

Bake the sweet potato casserole. Start making the braised red cabbage and apples. The active cooking time on this is minimal but will continue to cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. When finished, turn the heat down to low to keep warm until everything else is ready.

15 minutes:

Prepare the green beans. Begin to check the turkey’s internal temperature. Turkey needs to be cooked to 165 degrees. Once finished, pull from the heat and cover with foil. Allow the meat to rest for at least 15 minutes.

5 minutes:

Open the wine and present your delicious Thanksgiving meal. Prepare for the oohs and ahhs. If you have any desserts that need to be baked, put them in the oven now while everyone is eating.

Happy Thanksgiving!