Back by popular demand, part 3 – Deb’s Stress-free Thanksgiving Feast

Deb Boogaard


Last but not least, is home chef,’s own Deb ‘aka Resume Lady’ Boogaard.

Deb is owner of Tailored Resume Service, and has lived in Folsom for over 22 years.

Deb’s passion is good food and great times with family and friends. She’s been cooking Thanksgiving dinners for over 35 years, and has become an expert at planning great, (relatively) stress-free Thanksgiving dinners.

Deb’s Best Thanksgiving

I love to cook and Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. The air is crisp, our loved ones surround us, and we’re going to eat all of our favorite foods. Aside from our children, most of our family is too far away to get together, but we always enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving with our FWAFs (friends who are family). Our FWAFs have standing invitations to come to Thanksgiving dinner, which is always at our home. In fact, I’ve probably prepared over 35 Thanksgiving dinners… an interesting feat for someone who is only 29! With few exceptions, the menu is essentially the same every year because these are the treats that everyone loves and wants. I aim to please.

I make most of my dishes ahead of time and freeze them – with excellent results. I start a few weeks in advance and defrost the food the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I even roast my turkey before Thanksgiving; I sacrifice the wow factor of bringing a whole bird to the table in exchange for an easy, stress-free day in which I can enjoy my guests, the ability to make stock ahead of time (which I use for corn bread dressing), and the ability to make fat-free gravy (I refrigerate the drippings, scrape off all of the fat, and freeze it in measured portions for the recipe). The dishes I make ahead and freeze are: turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and sometimes the corn bread dressing.

Brined, Roasted Turkey

Tips/Procedures for Brining:

Buy the biggest bird you can find. Why go through all of this work and not have oodles of leftovers? My bird is 25 lb.
Don’t buy turkeys that have stuff injected in them. That stuff has an off-putting taste and will yield turkey meat and gravy that is off-putting. If you brine your turkey, you are going to have wonderfully moist meat and great flavor.
Brine the bird for 24 – 48 hours (I always go 48 hours). Be sure to note the weight of the bird before you throw away the wrapper, as that will impact roasting time.

A lot of recipes online use roughly double the salt I use; I followed one of those recipes the first time I brined my turkey and it was terrible.

Place a large cooler on your kitchen counter with the sealed spigot facing the sink. Add some ice.
Place one 13-gallon roasting bag inside another (for double lining) and place this on the ice in the cooler.
Place the turkey in the double-lined bag. Have a rubber band handy!

Add to the bag: one large onion cut in half; one orange cut in half; one lemon cut in half; one apple cut in half, one whole head of garlic cut in half; a dozen peppercorns; and fresh or dried sage and thyme (I don’t measure; just eyeball this).

Brine: Mix one gallon of water with ½ cup kosher salt and ½ cup brown sugar; stir until salt and sugar is dissolved and pour it over the turkey. Loosely seal the bag with the rubber band while you prepare more brine. Make enough batches of brine to completely submerse the turkey when the bag is cinched up. I think I usually need three gallons.
When I am ready to roast my turkey, I slide the cooler so the spigot is over the sink and drain off the water from the ice. Then I puncture the bags and drain off all the brine. The weight of a 25-lb. bird and all of that brine is too much for me to lift, so this works great. Just remember to scrub the cooler out with hot water and bleach when you’re done!
Lift the turkey out of the bag, discard the items added for flavor, and pat the bird dry.

Roasting the Turkey

If you do not own a reusable, solid roasting pan, I highly recommend you go get one. The disposable aluminum ones are flimsy and are easy to tear, causing leaks. If you follow my method for roasting, that bird is going to be in and out of the oven several times, increasing the possibility of damaging those flimsy disposable pans. If you must buy a disposable one, get the kind with the reinforced wire and handles.

Spray your roasting pan with Pam. Place a V-rack inside your roasting pan and spray it with Pam as well. Pour 2 cups of water and ½ cup of dry white wine into the bottom of the pan; this will prevent your drippings from drying out and burning and will help generate a delicious gravy. Quarter an onion, slice 2 medium carrots, 1 head of garlic, cut in half, and slice 2 stalks of celery and place the cut-up vegetables in the turkey. Truss the turkey, brush it with vegetable oil, and season it as you prefer. I like to use garlic powder (not garlic salt), celery salt, paprika, poultry seasoning, and smidgen of white pepper.

Place the turkey breast side down in the V-rack and place the roasting pan in a 325 degree oven. Try to angle the pan so the dark meat is closest to the back of the oven (since dark meat takes longer and the back is the hottest spot). Baste the turkey from time to time with the liquid from the bottom of the pan, adding a little more water if too much evaporates. Keep an eye on the color of the turkey. When it browns on the back (usually after a few hours), remove the pan from the oven and VERY CAREFULLY (using thick pads or gloves) flip the turkey over. Use caution that you do not tilt the turkey sideways such that hot juices from the inside of the bird spill out on your hands. Return the turkey to the oven, basting occasionally. When the breast meat is browned, fashion an aluminum foil tent and loosely place it over the turkey. Continue basting periodically.

Begin checking the temperature of the turkey one half hour before your estimated completion time (or sooner if there’s a change your oven isn’t calibrated correctly). The turkey is fully cooked when the thigh’s internal temperature is 180° F and the thickest part of the breast is 170° F. You can also make a small cut into the thigh; pink juices indicate the bird is not yet thoroughly cooked. When the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven. (If you are roasting your turkey on Thanksgiving, let it stand 20 – 30 minutes before carving.)

If you find the white meat is done before the dark meat, slice off the wings and slice along the breast bone to remove the whole breasts. Return the dark meat to the oven, covered with foil, until it is done. This will prevent the white meat from drying out.

Place the drippings in a bowl in the refrigerator so the fat will rise to the top. Remove it for fat-free gravy.

Do-ahead tips:

When I roast my turkey ahead of time I carve off and freeze whole breasts. I lay them cut side up on plastic wrap, drizzle a little bit of water or drippings over the meat to seal in moisture, and wrap it tightly in the plastic wrap and then in foil. I slice off the thighs and legs and debone them, retaining the meat in as much of whole pieces as possible. I freeze it the same way. Then I pick larger scraps of turkey off the carcass and freeze it in measured portions for Turkey Tetrazzini and Turkey Salad and freeze that. I make my turkey stock the next day and freeze it in portions for corn bread dressing, for soup, and for drizzling over the turkey when I reheat it. On Thanksgiving I slice the meat and lay it in the roasting pan, drizzle a little turkey stock over it, wrap it in foil, and reheat it. It is always perfectly moist.

Fat-Free Turkey Gravy

Serving Size: 12 Preparation Time: 0:15

2 cups turkey drippings, fat removed*
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water
Dash poultry seasoning
Dash garlic powder
Dash pepper
2 tbl. chopped parsley

1. Put turkey drippings in a small pot.

2. Add flour to the water in a plastic container with a lid and shake until well blended.

3. Pour flour mixture and seasonings into drippings. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in chopped parsley.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Serving Size: 24 Preparation Time: 1:00

10 lb. red potatoes, NOT PEELED
4 lg. cloves garlic (approx. 2 tsp.), lightly smashed
16 tbl. butter (NOT margarine)
1 cup light sour cream
1 cup 1% milk
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt

Dice potatoes in even-sized pieces; leave skins on. Add to large pot of water with lightly smashed garlic. Boil with a little bit of salt until cooked. DO NOT OVERCOOK.

Drain potatoes and place in mixer IN TWO BATCHES with HALF the remaining ingredients in each batch! Beat with paddle, not the wire whip (which will make glue out of your potatoes) until blended. Don’t try to remove all lumps; small lumps add interesting texture to the potatoes. Don’t overbeat! Adjust seasoning as desired.

If not serving right away, spray a large casserole dish with Pam and spoon in the potatoes. Reheat in 350° oven for 1 – 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. IF YOU FROZE the potatoes, they will have taken on some moisture in the freezer and will appear a little watery; just stir them periodically and the excess moisture will evaporate for a perfect texture.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Or…. I Yam What I Yam

Serving Size: 16 Preparation Time: 1:00

Okay, I call this Sweet Potato Casserole, but I never use sweet potatoes; I prefer yams, which are typically sweeter and moister than sweet potatoes. But Yam Casserole sounds funny! Whatever you call this you’ll love it. My friends say it should be a dessert. 

8 lb. yams
8 tbl. butter
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar

1. Peel yams, cut into cubes, and boil until tender.

2. Transfer cooked yams to a mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients, and mix. If you are using an electric standing mixer, do not use the whisk or you may end up with glue. Small lumps are okay.

3. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with Pam and spoon cooked yams into the pan.


If you MUST use mini marshmallows, have at it, but add them toward the end of baking. But, if you want to bump it up a notch, try this yummy pecan topping. IF YOU ARE FREEZING THIS AHEAD OF TIME, do not put the topping on yet! Add it Thanksgiving day just before you bake it.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over the yams. Bake in a 350° oven 45 minutes or until hot and browned.

Corn Bread Dressing

Serving Size: 24 Preparation Time: 1:00

12 oz. Jimmy Dean’s Sage Sausage —
cooked, drained, and crumbled
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
4 lg. cloves garlic
1 cup grated carrots
2 med. apples, peeled and grated
2 12-oz. boxes Mrs. Cubbison’s seasoned cornbread
4 cups homemade or low salt chicken or
turkey stock (DO NOT USE BOUILLON!)
4 lg. eggs, beaten
2 tbl. poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp. pepper
butter (optional)

1. Sauté onions and celery in a minimum of olive oil until tender. Add garlic and sauté a few seconds.

2. Combine crumbled sausage, onions and celery, and all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3. Place dressing into a large casserole dish that has been sprayed with Pam. Dot with butter, if desired.

4. Bake covered in preheated 350 degree oven 45 minutes to an hour; uncover last 5 minutes to brown.

NOTES: It’s okay to make ahead of time. In fact, you can cover it with plastic wrap and then foil and freeze it until the day before you want to bake it.

Optional: Dot with butter before baking.

Cranberry Jell-O Salad

Servings: 15 Preparation Time: 1:00

This recipe calls for a can of whole cranberry sauce. I prefer to make mine from scratch, so I make one recipe – but I drain off a lot of the extra liquid so it has the texture of canned.)

1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple in its own juice
1 large package raspberry Jell-O
water (see instructions for amount)
1 can whole cranberry sauce or 1 recipe home made
1 cup port wine
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup light sour cream
1 8 oz. pkg. 1/3 less fat Philadelphia
brand cream cheese
2/3 cup powdered sugar

1. Place colander over a large bowl and drain/squeeze the pineapple with your hands to squish out as much juice as possible. Measure the juice in a 2 cup measure, and add water to total 2 cups.

2. Heat juice/water mixture to boiling. Pour water in large glass bowl. Add Jell-O and stir several minutes until it is completely dissolved.

3. Refrigerate 45 – 50 minutes or until gelatin is soft set.

4. Remove from refrigerator and place in large mixing bowl. Add drained crushed pineapple, cranberry sauce, port wine and nuts and mix well.

5. Pour gelatin into a large clear glass or crystal serving bowl (this is gorgeous — use a clear bowl so you can see it). Return to the refrigerator an hour or so until set.

6. Place sour cream, cream cheese and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl and mix well until smooth. Pour over Jell-O salad and smooth out with the back of a spoon.

Spinach Salad and Goat Cheese with Warm Andouille Dressing
Slightly Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Servings: 4 Preparation Time: 0:30

This recipe serves four. Double, tripe, or quadruple as needed.

4 cups fresh spinach, rinsed and stemmed
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
Warm Andouille Dressing (recipe follows)
½ cup crumbled Montrachet goat cheese

Andouille Dressing

4 oz. finely chopped Andouille sausage
(approximately 1 1/3 sausages)
1 tbl. minced shallot
1 tbl. minced garlic
¾ cup Bertoli olive oil
2 tbl. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
4 turns freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse spinach salad well. Toss with purple onions and either place in a large platter or prepare individual servings with small blobs (this is an official cooking term) of goat cheese on top (roughly 2 tbl. per serving).

2. Heat a medium skillet over a high heat. Add chopped Andouille and sauté 1 ½ minutes (or longer if you double or triple the recipe) until the sausage is caramelized.

3. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add oil and vinegar and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add sugar, salt, and pepper.

Serve immediately. Let guests spoon their own dressing.

* NOTE: You can make the dressing a day ahead of time and warm over a low heat (don’t boil) just before serving.

Garlic Green Beans

Servings: 16 – 20 Preparation Time: 1:00

4 lb. Fresh, French green beans (only use thin, tender beans and NOT frozen)
4 tbl. Bertoli olive oil
4 lg. cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse beans well and place them in a large pot with a steaming rack. Steam until just fork tender (please don’t overcook).

2. Remove beans from pot and dispose of water. Return pot to stove over a low heat. Add olive oil and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly (do not burn the garlic!). Remove from heat, toss green beans with garlic oil, and add salt and pepper to taste (do not over salt).

Whole Cranberry Sauce

Follow the instructions on the bag.

Pineapple Glaze for Ham

I never, ever use the bag of glaze that comes with hams. Sometimes I buy spiral cut hams. I’ve recently discovered Kirkland Applewood Smoked Master Carve Ham at Costco. It is lean, easy to carve, and is very good.

1 cup brown sugar

1 tbl. corn starch

8 1/2 oz. crushed pineapple in its own juice

2 tbl. lemon juice

1 tbl. Grey Poupon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a small pot, and cook over medium heat — stirring constantly — until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Boil and stir one minute. You can make this a few days ahead of time and refrigerate it.

Slice ham and layer it in a roasting pan. Brush glaze onto the ham periodically while roasting it. It is not necessary to serve the ham hot, so you can do that first, cover it with foil, and let it sit for a bit while you heat potatoes and other things.

Corn Bread

Serving Size: 16 Preparation Time: 0:15
(Make additional batches as necessary.)

3/4 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup light sour cream or nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1 lg. egg, beaten
2 tbl. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

1. Mix corn meal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a medium bowl.

2. In a different bowl, combine remaining ingredients and then add to dry ingredients. Mix with fork, stirring only until all ingredients are moistened.

3. Spray and flour an 8 X 8 inch baking pan. Pour in batter and spread evenly.

Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes or until top is slightly golden brown. Let sit 5 – 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 16 pieces

Pecan Bars

Serving Size: 35 Preparation Time: 0:30

1 cup butter — cold
1 cup brown sugar — packed
2 cups flour
5 lg. eggs — slightly beaten
1 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla
dash salt

1. Cut butter into flour and brown sugar with a pastry knife and pat it into a 9 X 13 inch pan that has been sprayed with Pam and dusted with flour. Bake for 10 minutes in a preheated 350 oven. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325.

2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the warm, baked crust. Bake for 45 minutes or until center is no longer mushy when you insert a knife.

3. Cool well before cutting into bars.

NOTES: Please use real butter and real vanilla.

Harvest Pie
Blackberry Apple Sour Cream Pie

I put these two pies together because the instructions are the same.

1. Get in your car.

2. Drive to Apple Hill.

3. Go to Bodhaine Ranch.

4. Buy these pies frozen.

5. Bake the pies Wednesday night before Thanksgiving or Thursday.

The Blackberry Apple Sour Cream pie is self-explanatory. The Harvest pie is a pumpkin and cream cheese pie. HEAVEN!


We’re not wine connoisseurs, but we do have a few favorites from Terra d’Oro Winery/Montevina in Amador County. We prefer their TDO wines to their Montevina label. Favorites include:
TDO Barbera
TDO Aglianico
TDO Sangiovese
TDO Teroldego
TDO Deaver Vineyards Zinfandel (from 125-year-old vines)
Since my husband and I are not big fans of white wine, we let our FWAFs bring their favorites when they ask if there is something they can bring.