This post has been edited from the original which was published on November 17, 2011.

I am going to admit this right off the bat — I am behind on my Thanksgiving planning!   The irony!  I think we’re going to be 31 people this year, including my two daughters who will be home from college.  I am so excited to have all my kids in the kitchen this year prepping and cooking with me.  I had a stroke of genius five years ago, which was to tack my Thanksgiving to-do list on the refrigerator and have everyone sign up for three tasks.  Even my husband helps out!

My last class is today, and then our exchange students (yes, I picked up another one last weekend LOL) go back to South Korea on Saturday morning. So I’ll be getting busy on Sunday when I start making applesauce and cranberry sauce.  I always plan Thanksgiving day down to the last detail because I don’t like forgetting things and a schedule makes me feel more relaxed, which equals more fun for me! But just because Thanksgiving is the star of the show this week doesn’t mean that I can forget about normal life on very other day. So I think about regular meals and activities, too. Here’s what my schedule will look like from Sunday until we eat on Thursday at 4:00 pm (-ish). This shouldn’t make you feel exhausted, but merely show you what you can do ahead for your own Thanksgiving!  The Chalkboard Mag published a really great blogpost this week with tons of tips from lots of food experts (including me!)  I highly recommend giving it a quick read.


Here’s my menu for Thursday and after that is my timeline so you can see how everything can get done.


Struesel coffee cake (I’ve been making this for 20 years, but it’s from an old, out-of-print book.)



Butternut squash soup

Mini Cornbread Muffins



Crispy cauliflower

Zucchini cheese tart

Small cheese board



2 Whole Roast Turkeys and Gravy (18 pounds each)

Cranberry Sauce (x2)

Applesauce (x1)

Mashed yukon gold potatoes (10 pounds)

Sweet potato casserole (x 1 1/2)

Stuffing (mushroom and leek) (x1)

Stuffing (sourdough, chicken sausage, apple, fennel)(x1) – recipe coming tomorrow

Delicata Squash Salad with Roasted Apples (x3)

Brussels Sprout Hash (x4)

Green Bean Casserole (x4)

Spinach Gratin (x1) (although I’m thinking about bringing back Maple-Mustard Roasted Vegetables)



2 Apple pies

2 Pumpkin pies

2 Pecan pies

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Homemade vanilla ice cream

Whipped Cream

Apple-Caramel Sauce

Fresh Fruit Platter


butternut squash soup and mini corn muffins



Grocery shop for everything other than turkeys and produce

Arrange tables & chairs

Make cranberry sauce and applesauce

Write placecards



Parent-Teacher Conferences at Mr. Picky’s school

Make salad vinaigrette for salad

Make 2 qts. ice cream

Dry mix for sweet potato casserole with a note about adding butter

Make pumpkin bread

Make pastry dough for all pies (watch this how-to video)

Dinner: naan pizzas, salad


Pick up turkeys and produce

Buy and arrange flowers (last year I made arrangements with white hydrangeas, flowering kale, roses, and snapdragons)

Brine turkey for 24 hours

Set tables

Wash and dry greens

Shred cheese for tart, salad

Toast pumpkin seeds for salad

Dry bread cubes for stuffing

Chop onions for soup, stuffings, gratin

Defrost spinach for gratin

Make apple caramel sauce

Dinner:  beef tacos, cilantro-lime slaw


Make butternut squash soup

Steam cauliflower; bread and refrigerate

Make sweet potato casserole
Clean mushrooms and slice for bean casserole

Make stuffings

Prep Brussels sprouts
Prep zucchini

Blind bake tart crust

Defrost turkey stock and chicken stocks

Prep delicata squash for salad

Blanche green beans

Make pumpkin pies

Make pecan pies

Make spinach gratin

Assemble bread pudding

Set up coffee and tea service

Check powder room

Uncover turkeys

Leave butter, eggs and sour cream out for cake

Dinner: spice-rubbed salmon, brown rice, broccoli with garlic and chili

Before bed: make sure garage refrigerator door is closed! (Sixyears ago, I left the door open to my extra fridge in the garage all night long. OMG. Disaster! Needed to buy two new turkeys on Thanksgiving morning!)

Let's eat!


6 am Wake and shower

Make coffee cake

Make decaf coffee

Make cornbread

Make apple pies – All pies must be out by 10:45AM

9:00 Take turkey out of refrigerator

Roast delicata squash and apples for salad

Prep turkeys

11:00 Put turkeys in oven

Get dressed and do hair

Make crispy onions for bean casserole

Prep coffee machine for after dinner

12:00 Reheat soup

Bake bread pudding in small oven

Herb oil for tart

Prep gravy ingredients

Remove salad dressing from refrigerator

Add melted butter to sweet potato topping

Assemble fruit platter

2:00 Peel potatoes; make mashed potatoes; keep in bowl over simmering water

Prep tart

2:15 Bake tart in small oven

2:30 make cauliflower and serve hot

3:00 sweet potato casserole in small oven

start green bean casserole

3:15 Take turkey out to rest, oven to 350

Reheat stuffings at 450

Make gravy

3:30 remove foil and add topping to sweet potatoes

Add green bean casserole to oven

Bake gratin for 20 minutes at 425

Saute Brussels sprouts and complete hash

Light candles, water, butter, cranberry sauce, applesauce, assemble salad

3:45/4:00 Carve turkeys

After dinner: whip cream, coffee and tea, sparkling water

After everyone leaves, write notes for next year!

apple pies


Make turkey stock

Start holiday shopping!



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  1. Hi Pamela and happy Thanksgiving! Your recipes are all hits with our household and your photos, explanations and timelines have made cooking much more manageable (and enjoyable, even!). We are all looking forward to your book in 2017! When things have calmed down after the holiday, would you mind sharing your coffee cake recipe? I have an old standby as well, but am always open to something new. Thx!

    • Thanks, Angela! Just emailed you. 🙂

  2. Can I make the sweet potato casserole the day before and the day of let it reheat for 40 min and add the topping then ?

    • May I also have the recipe for the coffee cake?

    • I don’t see why not.

  3. Happy Cooking and Happy Thanksgiving beautiful Pamela. Is it possible to send the coffee cake recipe to me as well? Many Thanks, Andree

  4. Hi would also love the recipe for the coffee cake.

  5. Menu sounds delicious. May I have the recipe for the streuel coffee cake? Thsnks. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Thanks for this! Regarding the mashed potatoes: after making them, when you, “keep in bowl over simmering water.” Is this in the serving bowl or do transfer to a serving bowl last minute? My serving bowl is ceramic & doesn’t have a lid.

    • Sorry the directions aren’t clear. Take the completed mashed potatoes and transfer them to a heat-proof serving bowl. Ceramic is fine. Cover the serving bowl with aluminum foil or a pot lid and place over a pot of simmering water to keep them warm until dinner time. These instructions are for keeping the mashed potatoes warm if you want to make them up to 2 hours in advance of serving them. I hope that makes sense!

  7. I’d love your recipe for the streusel coffee cake if you don’t mind sharing it. My family would be very happy. Thanks so much for all your delicious recipes and incredible planning

  8. Thanks for all the recipes and tips. Can I please have your streusel coffee cake recipe?

    • Yes, but just a heads up that it’s not a “healthy” coffee cake ;).

  9. Cannot thank you enough for this fantastically (is that a word?) detailed time line, this helps immensely! Have a happy and Blessed Thanksgiving! I love your blog and appreciate all that you do!


    • Thank you so much, Kelly! That means a lot to me. I hope you and yours have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving as well!

  10. Do you have a recipe for the streusel coffee cake that you could share please?
    Thanks for all your lists, tips and recipes!!!

    • Just sent it to you!

      • May I have the recipe as well? Thanks for the post. It makes Thanksgiving seem manageable, and dare I say not overwhelming.

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