Forever Freckled is hosting a showdown of "Cheat" vs "From Scratch" recipes for our traditional Thanksgiving Feast

FF Cooking Club- What’s On The Menu Thanksgiving Day Feast “From Scratch” vs “Cheat”

Hi Everyone!  We’re gearing up for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Katie and Matt’s house  and I cannot wait.  For us, Thanksgiving means hanging out at the Friedman’s all day while Katie’s husband, Matt and I are cooking and hosting, doing fun activities with the kids, watching football, and of course the Macy’s Day parade which is so fun and we all love it.   We like to dust off the kid’s bounce house that is stored away in our garage, and do some cute art projects with them throughout the day. Dinner is served around 6pm and after the kids go down, the adults enjoy some cocktails and cigars to end the day. Although I normally stick to the same recipes every year, this year I wanted to try out some new ones.  Plus I thought it would be fun to give all our readers some options for Thanksgiving Day recipes.  I am going to suggest all the traditional Thanksgiving recipes, but one will be a “from scratch” one and the other will be a “cheat” one. Happy cooking everyone!

So what’s on the menu for Thanksgiving?


  • We make 2 turkeys on Thanksgiving one fried turkey and one traditional.  Matt and my husband, Rob have mastered the fried turkey.  I have been making my mom’s traditional turkey for years and it’s so simple and so delicious. Everyone always thinks making a whole turkey is difficult, but really it’s so simple. The hard part is carving it and thankfully my hubby has mastered that skill.

 Here’s how it goes:

  • Mix 1 to 2 cups of canola oil with paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, poultry seasoning
  • Cover the outside of the turkey with the seasoned oil
  • Chop up onions, carrots, and celery
  • Salt the cavity and fill with vegetables
  • Cover the cavity with bread
  • Tuck wings
  • Place more chopped vegetables on the bottom of the pan
  • Add chicken broth to bottom of pan
  • Place in oven uncovered 350 Degrees Faharenheit
  • Baste every 30- 45 minutes
  • If the turkey appears to be getting too dark, go ahead and place foil on top

 Here are my top turkey cooking tips:

  • A general guideline for how big of a turkey to cook- 1 pound per person
  • The rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is 13 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. That is a only a rule of thumb and factors like brining the bird, cooking with an empty (un-stuffed) cavity, and leaving the legs un-trussed will change cooking times.  Make sure to check the temperature of the turkey through the cooking process in three places: the breast, outer thigh, and inside thigh. In every case, the meat should be at least 165°F when the turkey has finished cooking. If the temperature is not high enough, put the turkey back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
  • Baste the turkey every 30 to 45 minutes while cooking (my favorite part)
  • After the turkey is cooked, make sure to let it rest for at least 30 minutes before carving

The Battle in On……”From Scratch” vs “Cheat”

From Scratch Mashed Potatoes

  • My mashed potatoes have become famous in our family. They are always the perfect texture and flavor.  I have gone to the ends of the earth and back to make sure this recipe is perfect.
  • Use Yukon gold mashed potatoes ALWAYS
  • Use a potato ricer to mix the potatoes
  • Stir with warm milk
  • For more tips read my blog on how to make the perfect mashed potatoes.

Cheat Mashed Potatoes

  • I am not going to lie, this year I will be sticking to the “from scratch” ones!
  • However, my mom is the queen of “cheat” mashed potatoes and they are really yummy
  • This is a GREAT recipe- and you can add any extra ingredients you love to it.

“From Scratch” Stuffing

  • It’s the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe- you can’t go wrong.
  • If your guests are vegetarians you can swap out the sausage for TOFU
  • I have made this and it is amazing but I like the “cheat” stuffing better:) Shhhhhhh Don’t tell:)

“Cheat” Stuffing

  • My mom’s FAMOUS stuffing and YES she uses the pre-made Pepperidge farm herbed stuffing base.  She has been making this recipes since we were kids and I have NEVER tasted a better stuffing recipe.
  • Believe it or not she uses Pepperidge Farm Traditional Herbed CUBBED Stuffing as the base and adds all her own stuff. (I always thought we were cheating by not using home made bread, but recently I just watched a Barefoot Contessa Thanksgiving episode where she advised to use the store bought stuffing and I feel so much better about myself!)

“From Scratch” Green Bean Casserole

  • This is the one I am doing this year
  • First off, it has bacon in it…..ENOUGH SAID
  • Secondly, it’s a bit over the top kind of recipe and if you are going to cook from scratch, you should make it a wowzer
  • Thirdly, it’s the Pioneer Woman!  I don’t think I need to say much more.

 “Cheat” Green Bean Casserole

  • This is what I usually make for Thanksgiving…and it’s great. But, out with the old and in with the new this year
  • I like to make this the night before and just pop it in the oven the day of
  • It is do easy and just your traditional green bean “can’t go wrong” casserole
  • I love how the recipe calls to boil the green beans in chicken broth. I think it adds and extra layer of flavor

“Cheat” Gravy

  • We use a shortcut for this one as well.
  • At our local butcher where we get our turkeys, they make homemade gravy.
  • We will buy their gravy, heat it up, and add spices (onion powder, poultry seasoning, pepper, and salt if needed) and turkey juices….YUM!!!!

“From Scratch” Gravy Recipe

  • One year we (my mom) screwed up the gravy so I made a traditional homemade one using this recipe
  • It was awesome and I was the big Thanksgiving Day Hero, or maybe the Barefoot Contessa was the hero!

Other recipes we make for the big day are:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemony Herb Breadcrumbs

  • Brussels sprouts get a bad name. The right recipe will change your mind if you are not a fan.
  • I make Brussels sprouts all the time but this recipe takes it up a few notches for Thanksgiving.

Carrot Ginger Soup

  • This is one of my favorites.
  • Make it the night or 2 before and heat it up on Thanksgiving.
  • I like to serve this soup in a slow cooker with small coffee mugs.
  • Yummy!!

Rolls– we use Pillsbury traditional crescent dinner rolls– a little shortcut but come on, you just can’t beat that amazing flaky soft roll!!!  Serve with honey, butter, and sometimes we will make flavored butters.

Cranberry sauce– Matt’s mom, Patti always brings her traditional recipe.  This CRANBERRY SAUCE RECIPE is also amazing!

Desserts– This is what we have everyone bring to the dinner.  Some people home bake their desserts and others buy store bought.  The desserts are always great and yummy and let’s be honest, by the time we are done with a day of drinking, apps and dinner, desserts are just the icing on the cake!  My aunt Joy always hosts an awesome Thanksgiving and she was telling me she has everyone bring dessert and turns it into a competition.  All desserts are judged on different things (taste, presentation, originality, etc.). I thought this was such a great idea and a fun tradition.  When it’s a competition everyone brings their best and wants to impress.

I hope everyone has an amazing fun holiday with family and friends and I hope these recipes inspire some awesome cooking.  However, I have to say that although the food, hosting, and parties are a huge part of the holidays, Thanksgiving is truly about spending quality time with your family and making the moments unforgettable.  Whether you decide to “cheat”, make “from scratch”, cater, or even go our for dinner, I hope it’s an amazing time with your family and friends. I am grateful everyday for my family and friends which is truly what gives my life meaning and happiness.  Hug them and remember how lucky we are to have them.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone and hope you have an amazing holiday!


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