Thanksgiving Dinner |

Kid-Friendly Thanksgiving Dinner

posted in: Home Economics | 0

Over the years, I’ve gathered and tossed and refined recipes for my family.  Some have been handed down from generation to generation and others are new.  These are my kids’ favorites and all are easy for children to make.

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Candied Acorn Squash

Acorn squash only comes out around the fall holidays.  I prefer the taste of acorn squash to pumpkin and so do my children.  This recipe is fun for kids because they get to pull the seeds from the squash, rinse them, and bake them for later.  They also get to sprinkle brown sugar over the top of each acorn squash half.  Squash tastes incredible when baked and adding a little bit of brown sugar entices even the pickiest of eaters to join in.


  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp oil (for toasting seeds)
  • salt


  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Cut the acorn squash in half (adults should do this).
  3. Scrape the seeds out of each half of squash with a spoon and set aside for toasting later.
  4. Place both halves flesh side up in a 9″ x 9″ baking pan (preferably Pyrex glass).
  5. Coat the flesh of each half with melted butter.  (Basting brushes work great for this.)
  6. Sprinkle each half with brown sugar.
  7. Bake 45 minutes uncovered.  The flesh should peel right off the skin.
  8. Let cook 15 minutes before serving.

This tastes incredible with a side of vanilla ice cream.

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Directions (seeds)

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Rinse seeds thoroughly and remove strings of squash.
  3. In a bowl, coat the seeds with the oil and salt and stir.
  4. Spread onto baking stone.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp (careful not to burn).

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Apple Crumble

Most of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes include apples.  This one is easily modified to include fresh cranberries if that floats your boat.  The original recipe had slightly different spices.  I have a low tolerance for cinnamon so I lowered the amount and removed some of the sugar.  Kids love helping with the mixing, spreading, and sprinkling.


  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c oat bran
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp margarine or butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spread the apples across the bottom of a pie pan (preferably Pyrex glass).
  3. Mix the oats, bran, sugar, cinnamon, and margarine in a bowl to make the crumble.
  4. Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the apples.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

This tastes awesome served with a side of vanilla ice cream.  If bran is not for you, then increase the amount of oats by 1/2 cup and remove the bran.  You can also increase or decrease the amounts of sugar and margarine to make sweeter and juicier crumble.

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Ginger Apple Pie Crisp

Apple crisp is one of my favorite desserts.  I have eight recipes for apple crisp.  This is one of my two favorites.  It has ginger in it and helps you digest a large turkey dinner.  If you like, you can cut up some crystallized ginger into tiny pieces and include it in the recipe.  It makes a wonderful and healthy dessert.


  • 6 c apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 c lemon juice
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a pie plate (preferably a Pyrex glass pie plate).
  3. Simmer the apples and lemon juice in a saucepan for 15 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 c of the brown sugar, the cinnamon, and the ginger and cook 5 minutes.
  5. Dissolve the cornstarch and water in a separate bowl and add to the mixture.  (This is the thickener.)
  6. Pour into the pie plate.
  7. Mix the remaining brown sugar, salt, butter, and oats to make the crisp.  Sprinkle on top.
  8. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Tastes awesome with french vanilla or pumpkin ice cream.  😉

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Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of our family favorites.  It goes quickly.  Make sure the banana is over-ripe so it mushes well and tastes sweet.  It’s okay if there are a few dark spots.


  • 1 3/4 c unsifted flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c mashed banana
  • 1/4 c chopped walnuts (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan (preferably glass Pyrex).
  3. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, oil, and eggs until fluffy.
  5. Mix the banana into the egg mixture.
  6. Add the flour mixture slowly into the egg mixture and blend well.
  7. Fold in the walnuts (optional).
  8. Pour into the loaf pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  9. Cool 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from pan.

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Basic Pan Gravy

There are many items well suited to making healthy gravy.  One is called Kitchen Bouquet and substitutes for meat drippings.  Another is bouillon made from vegetables, chicken, or beef.  Gravy makes everything taste better (okay, I’m partial).  If you don’t have meat drippings, Kitchen Bouquet, or bouillon, then try broth.  This recipe includes onions and mushrooms which make a very tasty gravy.


  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp chopped onion
  • 4 mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 c beef, chicken, or vegetable broth (can be made from bouillon)


  1. Saute the onion and mushrooms in butter for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the flour and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the broth slowly.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute.

Makes about 1 cup of gravy.  If you want a larger amount, double the recipe, but don’t triple it.  It doesn’t thicken well if you triple it.

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Onion Gravy

I love onion gravy as much as mushroom gravy.  Some years we make regular gravy (with mushrooms) and others we make onion.  They’re both family favorites.


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 c boiling water


  1. Cook the onions in the oil for 5 minutes.
  2. Mix the soy sauce and cornstarch in a separate bowl.
  3. Add the soy sauce mixture and boiling water to the onions.
  4. Cook until thickened.

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Basic Meat Marinade #1

Every year there are more and more people who don’t want a turkey for Thanksgiving.  I’m in that crowd.  Tryptophan is like an extreme muscle relaxer.  It puts you to sleep.  And every turkey’s got it.  Turkey also tends to be dry, even if you’re the best chef.  Alternatives are beef roast, pork roast, roasted chicken, pork chops, steak, and chicken drumsticks (popular with kids).  This is one of two meat marinades we use often.


  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp parsley


  1. Mix the ingredients in a glass jar with tight lid (I save old mayonnaise jars).
  2. Pour the marinade into a sealable container and add meat.
  3. Place in refrigerator and marinade for at least one hour, preferably overnight.
  4. Cook meat as usual and discard marinade.

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Basic Meat Marinade #2

This is my favorite meat marinade and super easy.  I always keep at least two bottles of Kraft fat-free Italian dressing for this very reason.


  • Kraft fat-free Italian dressing
  • Meat


  1. Place marinade and meat in sealable container.
  2. Shake to distribute marinade over meat.
  3. Refrigerate for at least half an hour, preferably overnight.
  4. Cook meat as usual; discard marinade.

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Basic Vinaigrette Dressing

Vinaigrette dressing is wonderful for salad.  You can add different spices, miniature shrimp, and cheeses to it, creating a variety of vinaigrettes.


  • 1 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt to taste


  1. Mix well in a glass jar with tight lid (I keep old mayonnaise jars).
  2. Add optional spices (parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, chives) or cheese or cooked shrimp.
  3. Serve over salad or on the side.

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Bisquick Cheddar Biscuits

If you’ve ever eaten dinner at Red Lobster than you’ve tasted cheddar biscuits.  They’re yummy and a kid favorite.  They’re also very easy to make if you use the biscuit mix Bisquick.


  • 2 c Bisquick
  • 2/3 c milk
  • 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Mix Bisquick, milk, and cheddar.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking stone or cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Mix butter and garlic.
  6. Using a pastry brush, brush over the warm biscuits.
  7. Let cool before serving.

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Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a staple at every Thanksgiving dinner.  I have yet to find the kid who doesn’t love mashed potatoes.


  • 1 1/2 lbs Yukon gold or red new potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and cubed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter


  1. Place potatoes in a Dutch oven or large pot.
  2. Cover with water and add 1 Tbsp salt (salted water boils faster).
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes.
  5. Drain.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and mash with potato masher.
  7. You can make the potatoes fluffier by mixing with a hand mixer for two minutes (adults only).
  8. Serve alone or with gravy.

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Crunchy Onion Chicken

If you’re one of those families that doesn’t have turkey on Thanksgiving, then consider this yummy recipe.  It’s one of our favorites and a sure kid pleaser.


  • 1 1/3 c French fried onions (French’s canned)
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 egg or fake egg (egg-beaters)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Crush onions in a Ziploc bag.
  3. Dip chicken in egg, then onions.
  4. Place on baking stone or cookie sheet.
  5. Bake 20 minutes or until cooked completely.
  6. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

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Candied Sweet Potatoes

Candied sweet potatoes or yams is a staple for Thanksgiving dinner. Kids love putting on the marshmallows.


  • 6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/2 inch slices
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c butter, melted
  • 1/2 to 1 c mini marshmallows


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Boil potatoes until cooked.
  3. In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter.
  4. Add in potatoes and toss to coat well.
  5. Place potatoes in a buttered 9″ x 9″ pan (preferably glass Pyrex).
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Top with miniature marshmallows.
  8. Bake another 5 minutes.

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Carmelized Apples and Cranberries

This is the perfect sauce for any meat–turkey, chicken, pork, beef, or lamb.  It’s not too sweet and a little tangy.  Kids love it; men love it.  I can’t think of a single person in my family who doesn’t love it.  It also makes a great sauce for french vanilla ice cream.  This is the one Thanksgiving recipe I get asked for more than any other.


  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c apple juice
  • 6 medium apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 c cranberries
  • the grated peel of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp diced crystallized ginger (optional)


  1. In a skillet, mix the butter and sugar and cook 3 minutes.
  2. Add the apple juice and cook until the liquid thickens.
  3. Add the apples and cook 10 minutes.
  4. Add the spices, cranberries, and lemon peel.
  5. Once the cranberries begin to pop, add the ginger and cook another 2 minutes (optional).
  6. Remove from heat and serve over meat.

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Cranberry Sauce

When I was little, my family served that canned cranberry sauce that looks like jell-o.  Yuk.  I came up with this recipe as an adult and my family has always loved it.  It’s fun to watch the cranberries pop and it fills the house with a heavenly scent.


  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 1 c sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries


  1. Mix the water, sugar, orange zest, and orange juice in a saucepan.
  2. Cook until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Add the cranberries and cook until they pop.
  4. Let cool.  (This thickens as it cools.)
  5. Serve over meat.

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Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is the one Thanksgiving dish that I can eat any time of year.  Even in the middle of summer when it’s so hot I stick to the chair at my computer desk, I still mix up a batch of green bean casserole.  It’s classic.  It’s mouth-watering.  It’s healthy.


  • 2 cans of Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 c milk (preferably skim)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 8 c green beans (canned or frozen and then thawed)
  • 6 oz French fried onions


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans, and half the onions.
  3. Pour into covered casserole dish.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Stir and top with the remaining onions.
  6. Bake an additional 5 minutes.
  7. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

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Stuffing #1

No Thanksgiving is complete without stuffing.  In case you haven’t heard, it’s very dangerous to mix your stuffing and put it inside of the turkey to cook.  Do your family a favor, save them from a trip to ER this Thanksgiving and cook it separately.  This recipe is the closest to Stove Top Stuffing.


  • 1 3/4 c chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 c herb seasoned stuffing


  1. In a large pot, heat the broth, pepper, celery, and onion to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the stuffing.
  4. Serve.

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Stuffing #2

This recipe includes cranberries and tastes very fruity.


  • 1 c chopped celery
  • 3/4 c chopped onion
  • 16 oz corn bread stuffing
  • 2 1/4 c water
  • 1 c dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c butter, melted
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Pour into a covered casserole dish.
  4. Bake covered for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove lid and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Thanksgiving Dinner |
Thanksgiving Dinner |

How to Cook a Turkey

If you’re a traditionalist and love the idea of turkey on Thanksgiving, and  you’ve never cooked one before, here’s the way to do it.

Thaw the Turkey

A common mistake among first-time Thanksgiving cooks is not allowing enough time for the turkey to thaw.  Turkeys are huge.  Even if you got a small 12 pounder, it needs two days to thaw.  Here’s a nifty little table to give you an idea of how long it takes for your bird to thaw.

  • 8 to 12 lbs : 2 to 3 days
  • 13 to 16 lbs: 3 to 4 days
  • 17 to 20 lbs : 4 to 5 days
  • 21 to 24 lbs : 5 to 6 days

For each additional 4 lbs of turkey, allow an extra day.

Prepare the Oven and Kitchen

The next step is to make sure you have everything you need to cook this bird.  A large pan, a roomy oven, a meat thermometer, and a baster are the bare necessities.  If you have a turkey rack, that’s even better.  A turkey rack holds the turkey above the liquid in the pan and forces you to continually baste the bird.  It keeps the bottom of the bird from becoming soggy.

A basic basting sauce would be melted butter with some herbs mixed in.  You can find other recipes online, but that’s what I use.  I soak the bird in melted butter and sprinkle on thyme and other herbs each time I baste.

Cooking on Turkey Day

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
  2. If you have a small oven, you might want to cover the edges of the bird with aluminum foil so they don’t burn.  If you have a large oven, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  3. If you haven’t removed the packet of organs from inside the bird, do it now.
  4. Rinse the bird once, inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels.
  5. Place the turkey in a roasting pan or 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
  6. Baste with melted butter and sprinkle with herbs.
  7. Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the skin is tight and sealing in the juices of the turkey.
  8. Lower the oven temperature to 250 to 275 degrees F.  This varies by location, humidity, and altitude.  The point is that the turkey has to reach 165 degrees F to be cooked.  How it gets there is not so black and white.
  9. Cook the turkey 20 minutes for every pound of turkey.  Baste every hour.  Each time you open the oven, you lose heat and it alters the cooking time, so basting more often will result in a longer cooking time.
  10. During the last hour of cooking, begin putting the thermometer in one of the thighs each time you baste to check the temperature.  It should reach 165 degrees F by the time it’s done.  Don’t stop cooking your bird until it reaches this temperature because it will be unsafe to eat.
  11. Let cook for 15 minutes before slicing.

Although the minimum temperature of the bird is recommended to be 165 degrees F, thermometers aren’t always that accurate.  I’d wait until it’s at least 170 degrees F and I always check the thigh, the breast, and the other thick parts of the turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Originally published November 27, 2013.






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