My Make Ahead Thanksgiving

AUTHOR: | POSTED: November 19, 2013 | COMMENTS: 2 Comments
CATEGORIES: 1015 The River, Glass City Parent, Holidays,

Carolyn Savage

The end of November is right around the corner and to most of us Americans that means two things…turkey and relatives.  For our family this  year’s Thanksgiving is going to require a monumental amount of work.  Oh wait…did I write “for our family”?  Oh…silly me.  I meant for ME.  Who am I kidding?

Why so much more work this year than last?

We are hosting.  Of course, anyone who’s ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner you know hosting is a lot of work.  The food, the turkey, the sides, the dishes, the cooking, the planning but our Thanksgiving tradition takes the whole thing up a notch.  You see, my family is spread out all across the country and Thanksgiving is our command performance.  Which means…houseguests…for five nights….which means I’m not just cooking and planning for one dinner.  I’m cooking and planning for ten meals…for fifteen people.

Please pass the wine.

Of course, I’m not complaining.  I absolutely love Thanksgiving with my family.  We don’t get to all be under one roof that often so when the rare occasion happens upon us we members of the Higgins/Shafer/Savage brood suck every last morsel of fun out of every single second.  Which requires food and drink…and lots of both.

In order not to spend every waking moment in my kitchen cooking, serving and cleaning up from one meal to only rinse and repeat for the next I’ve been meal planning, cooking and freezing ahead of time.  Several of the “make-aheads” are sides for the big dinner and really take the stress out of Thanksgiving day.

So, realizing I’m not the only overwhelmed Thanksgiving cruise director out there I’d thought I’d share my recipes.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got stuffing to make eight days ahead of time.  And yes…it’s amazing.


One Week Ahead of Time (or more)

Make Ahead Sausage and Sage Stuffing  (see recipe here)

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy  (see recipe here)

Make Ahead Cranberry Orange Sauce (see recipe here)

Make Ahead Sweet Potatoe Casserole (recipe below)

Make Ahead Green Bean Bundles (recipe below)


One Day Ahead of Time

Creamy Mashed Potatoes (recipe here)

Turkey Brining (recipe here)


Thanksgiving Day

Pumpkin Pie  (recipe below)

Toll House pie (recipe here)


Make Ahead Sweet Potatoe Casserole  


Make Ahead Portion of Recipe…

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs. butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Day of Thanksgiving

  • 1 cup brown sugar (I ALWAYS use dark brown sugar)
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 tbs. butter sofened
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


Make Ahead…

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place potatoes on baking sheet and bake for 1 1/4 hours.
  2. Cut potatoes in half and scoop out insides into food processor.   Add sugar, eggs, salt, butter, condensed milk and vanilla to processor and blend.  Pour into 9X13 baking dish, cover with foil and freeze.

Thanksgiving Day

  1. Four hours before dinner remove potatoes from freezer and thaw.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

Make Ahead Green Bean Bundles


The Make Ahead Part

  • 2.5 pounds of fresh green beans – trimmed
  • 1 pound of bacon

Thanksgiving Day

  • 1/2 cup butter – melted
  • 1 cup brown suger (I use dark but it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1 tsp garlic salt


The Make Ahead Part…

  1. Cut bacon strips in half and fry until just starting to crisp up but still very flexible.  Drain and cool on paper towels.
  2. Bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil.  Once boiling blanche green beans by immersing them in boiling water for four minutes.  After four minutes drain beans into a collander or strainer and then lay them out on a towel to air dry (or pat dry).
  3. Use 1/2 bacon strip to bundle five-seven green beans.  Secure with toothpick.
  4. Place bundles on cookie sheet/plate/platter and place in freezer.  Once they are frozen solid you can transfer them to a storage container or freezer safe Ziploc.

Thanksgiving Day…

  1. Remove frozen bundles from freezer 3-4 hours before baking time and place them in a buttered baking dish.  Allow them to thaw at room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix brown sugar with melted butter and pour over green bean bundles.
  4. Sprinkle garlic salt over top of bundles and cover with foil.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie 


  • 1     15 oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 nine inch prepared pie crust  (unbaked)  (Remember…I use a pillsbury already made pie crust.  If you want to make your own, go for it!)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare your unbaked pie crust.
  2. Mix pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg together in a sauce pan.  Heat until steaming over medium heat stirring constantly.  (Heating the puree and spices takes the “canned” taste out of the pumpkin.  It makes a difference and only takes a few minutes.)
  3. Allow pumpkin puree mixture to cool completely.  (If you don’t wait, you’ll scramble your eggs.)
  4. Mix eggs and milk in with puree and pour into nine inch unbaked pie crust.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Turn off oven and place pie on top to cool slowly.  (Cooling a pumpkin pie slowly helps prevent the filling from cracking on top.)

Cover and refrigerate until Thanksgiving dinner.  About 3 hours before dinner place pie on counter so it will warm to room temperature.

2 Comments on “ My Make Ahead Thanksgiving ”

  • Jen | November 20th, 2013 8:17 am

    I am making my stuffing and gravy this week as well. The bean bundles sound fantastic! I am determined to relax and enjoy the actual feat this year. Thanks for the tips.

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  • Teri | November 20th, 2013 3:23 pm

    I made your stuffing last year and it was a HUGE success! Definitely making it again this year. Thanks for all of the other recipes too, Carolyn!!

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