Our Thanksgiving Menu

Happy Thanksgiving from the Chachalacas in South Texas!

I do not consider myself being anything close to a cook. I don’t have that natural feeling for how things work in the kitchen. I survived undergrad because my best friend and roommate Ashley was (and still is) an amazing cook. Her parents make the best food in the world. I survived grad school on fast food and frozen entrees. But now that I’m all married and adult-ish I’ve been trying to learn from my husband and try new things. And one thing I’ve learned is that I can follow directions if they are explicit! So I’ve put together our Thanksgiving menu and recipes in case you are like me and need fool-proof instructions. I think life is too short NOT to share recipes. Why wouldn’t you want someone else to enjoy a delicious meal? Have a good Thanksgiving and hopefully you won’t be ordering pizza because you burned everything!

On the Menu:
Brown Bag Turkey
Turkey Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Honey-baked Ham
Crescent Rolls
Salad with homemade dressing and crispies
Pumpkin Pie
Lemon Icebox Pie


Brown Bag Turkey (adapted from Kidd Kraddick’s recipe)
18-20lb Whole Turkey
Celery Stalks, roughly copped
Carrot, roughly chopped
1 Onion, peeled and quartered
3-4 Cloves crushed Garlic (we used the minced garlic in a jar)
Olive Oil

Directions- Thawing Frozen Turkey
Refrigerator Note: place still-wrapped frozen turkey on rimmed baking sheet to catch juices
Cool Water Note: Place still-wrapped frozen turkey in a sink of cool water and change water every 1-2 hours.

10-14 pounds: Refrigerator- 2-3 days; Cool Water- 5-8 hours
14-18 pounds: Refrigerator- 3-4 days; Cool Water- 8-10 hours
18-22 pounds: Refrigerator- 4-5 days; Cool Water- 10-12 hours

Directions- Cooking Turkey
Pre-heat oven to 375F.

Take turkey bits (organs, giblets, etc) out of the turkey cavity and save for gravy. Add celery, carrot, onion and garlic to turkey cavity (they will be thrown away at the end of cooking).

Put turkey in roasting pan and rub all over with olive oil. DO NOT USE BUTTER OR SALT which will dry out the turkey. The brown bag turkey recipe does not require basting as long as all you use is olive oil.

Cover the entire turkey and roasting pan with 2 brown paper bags on each end. Staple the bags to each other to seal the turkey shut. Sprinkle/rub the whole bag with water.  Why a brown paper bag?  It seals in moisture but allows heat to circulate.  Don’t use those Reynold’s cooking bags- they will STEAM your turkey, you want it BAKED.  Seriously, this brown bag turkey comes out amazing and moist.

Put bagged turkey in the oven making sure there is no way for the paper to touch the heating elements!! The paper will not catch on fire as long as it doesn’t touch the heating element and the temperature does not reach 451F (the temperature at which paper burns).

Roast for 13-15 minutes PER POUND.  Set it and forget it, no need to baste!  Turkey is done when internal temperature reaches between 163-170 degrees (poke a thermometer right through the bag but don’t let it touch bone inside).  When the turkey is finished cooking, remove it CAREFULLY from the oven (the roasting pan will be full of hot juices).  Cut bag off of turkey.  Remove and dispose of the veggies from inside the cavity.

Turkey Gravy (Adapted from Ashley’s Mom’s Recipe)
Saved turkey bits- neck, gibblets, etc
Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper
Worcestershire suace
Bay leaves
Leftovers from veggies- onion skins, chopped carrots, celery bottoms
5 cans gravy

In a large stock pot fill up with about 5 cups of liquid (including the chicken broth, beer, and water).  Add turkey bits.  Season with salt, pepper, Worcestershire, skin of onions, carrots, celery bottoms, and bay leaves.  Cook 45 minutes-1 hour.

Drain in colander: SAVE LIQUID, DISCARD VEGGIES.  Return liquid to stock pot.

Add cans of gravy, one at a time until desired thickness.  Cook down on low while turkey cooks.  Add a little salt and pepper before serving if desired.

Stove-Top Stuffing (on the side)
From the box! Found on the soup isle of my grocery store.  I personally don’t like stuffing but D loves it so we just do it on the side instead of in the turkey.

Mashed Potatoes (adapted from Ashley’s mom’s recipe)
10 medium/small Potatoes
1 cup Half-and-Half
½ stick Butter
Salt and Pepper

Rinse and peel potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks.

Place in large pot with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and cold water, enough to cover.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, 20-25 minutes.  Drain and return potatoes to the pot to keep them warm.

Add butter and ½ cup half-and-half to pot.  Mash with potato masher.  Mix in remaining half-and-half slowly until desired texture is reached.  Add salt and pepper.  If heating, use medium/low heat.  High heat will cause runniness and ruin creaminess.

Honey-Baked Ham
Ordered by my mom from the greatest place ever- Honeybaked!

Crescent Rolls
Pillsbury, refrigerated canned rolls, yum!

Cathy’s Homemade Salad Dressing
1 cup Vegetable Oil (not good for you but tastes amazing; you could replace with heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil)
½ cup Vinegar
1 cup Sugar (can replace with Splenda)
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce

Combine everything.  Refridgerate and shake well before using.

Cathy’s Homemade Salad Crispies
Ingredients (portions aren’t exact, use what you like)
1 pack raw Ramen Noodles, crushed (don’t use the seasoning)
Bag of slivered Almonds
Bag of Sunflower Seeds
4 Tbsp butter

Combine all in a fry pan and cook until crispy!

Pumpkin Pies
Follow the recipe on the can of Pumpkin Pie Filling (on the soup isle at my grocery store)- One can makes 2 pies, frozen pie crusts come in two’s!

Lemon Icebox Pie (Adapted from Ashley’s mom’s recipe)
Crust Ingredients
1 ¾ cup crushed Graham Crackers
3 TBSP sugar
6 TBSP melted butter
Egg White to brush

Crust Directions
Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix all ingredients except egg white and press into a pie pan. Brush the crust gently with egg white.

Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown. Let cool completely.

Filling Ingredients
2 cans of Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 cup real Lemon Juice
¼ tsp Almond Extract

Filling Directions
Mix all ingredients and pour into cooled Crust. Let let in the refrigerator. Top with whipped cream or Cool Whip.

Sweet Red and Riesling Wines (I know, you’re supposed to have white wine with poultry, but these are too yummy!)


8 thoughts on “Our Thanksgiving Menu

  1. OK..I gotta try this! but my cuz says to baste it with beer as she does? Why I ask if it will turn out so yummy without it? Have you ever heard of anyone basting a brown bag turkey with beer?? OK and the two bag thing..is the turkey in the bag or the whole roasting pan and turkey in the bags?? Hope you get back to me before Monday when I am cooking the 18.5 lb birdie!!!!


    • I put both the turkey and the roasting pan in the bag that way the juices are all in there. I haven’t basted in beer but I bet putting some in the bottom of the roasting pan would be yummy!

    • I just did this on monday and only wet the bag on the outside once just as the recipe says. I wet it completly on the outside…spray bottle works well….then put it in the oven for 4 hours. The bag was dry but not burnt at all….and the turkey was great….tender and juicy and falling off the bone!

      • Nope, no need to keep putting water on the bag! I wet it completely as well, put it in the oven, then didn’t open the oven again until it was done, about 4-5 hours later! This is the second year we’ve done the Brown Bag Turkey recipe for Thanksgiving and we haven’t had a problem yet!

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