Traditional Thanksgiving Menu Ideas Updated For 2121


Our Thanksgiving will be small this year, with just 9 immediate family members instead of the usual 20.  We will miss our special family members and friends who won’t be able to attend due to Covid-19. They will get zoom calls from us.  I know that it’s been a tough year.  Hopefully, you are all OK.  I’m going to be upbeat and make it as festive as possible.  I’ll have to try really hard to cut the menu down, though. So hard for me.

Note:  Even though Covid-19 is not over now in 2121, we feel safer now that we are all vaccinated.  We’ll have more people around our table, but I’ve decided to keep it simple, just the same.  

I Am Going To Keep It Simple Even If It Kills Me


Look how cute this is!  The kids will love it.  I found it at  She is such a clever girl.  I have to hold myself back or I’d make all of the turkey ideas on her post.

My family members are basic eaters so I have to resist my urge to jazz up the menu.  Just the basics will make my group very happy.  Keeping it simple will be my mantra this year.  Here is the menu:


  • For decades I have used the cheesecloth (aka sacrificial dish towel) soaked in butter method that my grandmother taught me, and have always had a wonderful, juicy turkey.  It didn’t matter what kind of bird I used either; fresh, frozen, brined, dry rubbed…..they all came out the same fantastic way. 


  • But last year I did something different, I used a roasting bag!  I had always considered this the lazy way to roast a turkey, but I have been converted!  It was just as juicy and it cooked faster, giving me oven space to keep the veggies warm.  Bonus!  I used the directions from and highly recommend it.  See below.

How To Cook A Turkey In A Roasting Bag


  • 1 oven roasting bag, 19×23 ½-inch
  • 1 turkey (8 to 24-pounds), thawed, giblets and neck removed, rinsed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, ground ginger, and dried thyme until well combined. Set aside.
  3. Shake flour inside the roasting bag. Place bag in a large 2-inch deep roasting pan.
  4. Place onion wedges, garlic cloves, and carrot pieces in the bottom of the roasting bag.
  5. Rub turkey with melted butter. Evenly spread and rub seasoning mix around the whole turkey.
  6. Place the turkey into the bag, resting on top of onions and carrots. The roasting bag opening should face one end of the roasting pan and not open upwards.
  7. Close and seal with cooking twine. Cut 4-6 slits in the top of the roasting bag.
  8. Transfer roasting pan to oven and bake according to the weight of the turkey. (See weight and cooking times below)
  9. When the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180°F in at the thickest part of the turkey thigh, remove it from the oven and rest in the oven bag for 15 minutes to allow juices to settle back into the turkey.
  10. Use a carving fork to lift the turkey from the bag and transfer it to a carving board. Carve and enjoy!

Approximate Turkey Cooking Times (But please go by the nifty meat thermometer)

  • 1.5-2 hours for 8-12 lb turkeys
  • 2-2.5 hours for 12-16 lb turkeys
  • 2.5-3 hours for 16-20 lb turkeys
  • 3-3.5 hours for 20-24 lb turkey


  • The one thing I will add is that I always use a meat thermometer.  Not the little pop-up that comes in the turkey, you can throw that away.  This is the one I use and it is awesome.  It will call you on your phone when your meat is done!  Well, almost.  It has Bluetooth connectivity.  I absolutely love this thing and use it for the grill outside and the oven inside.  Best gift ever.
A picture of iGrill2, the meat thermometer I use for everything
Best meat thermometer ever! Use in oven, grill, or smoker. Great gift.



  • My family loves stuffing!  As long as I don’t sneak any meat or fruit into it, (which I love but they do not) they are happy with Pepperidge Farm Stuffing out of the bag.  I make it according to the package directions, adding the onion and celery, and cook it in the bird.  This year, for the first time, I’m going to make homemade stuffing.  I still can’t add any fun stuff, but it will be homemade.  This is the recipe I am going to use, courtesy of Buzzfeed.  It will definitely still be cooked in the bird.  I can save my Pepperidge Farm for day 2 if I need it.

Cranberry Sauce 

  • My family likes cranberry sauce, not the kind I make, with fresh cranberries, but the gelatinous blob that comes out of the can, complete with ridges.  Oh, they are so easy.  So I serve them what they like, but I slice it up and try to arrange it in a pretty way in a cut crystal dish.  Haha, look what I got this year to replace the crystal dish!  I love it!  The perfect dish to put the gelatinous blob in!!!  You can grab it below…

A Picture of My New Cranberry Sauce Dish Featuring The Can Design With RidgesI also serve my homemade version because it is Thanksgiving and because I like it.  Hopefully someday one of the grandchildren will try it.

Ellie’s Simple Cranberry Sauce

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained (save juice)

2 (12 oz.) packages of fresh cranberries

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Add water to saved pineapple juice to make 2 cups liquid.  

Place liquid, cranberries, and sugar in a saucepan and heat and stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil.  Boil for about 10 minutes until most of the cranberries have burst and the mixture is thick.

Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, cloves, and drained pineapple.  Stir to combine.  Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours.


 Mashed Potatoes 

  • Everybody eats mashed potatoes!  Luckily I have one of these, which I don’t believe is sold anymore.  Westinghouse steamer/masher.  Apparently, there were issues.  Too bad because I love mine, and I (actually my son does this job) use it every year.  It does everything but peel the potatoes. So simple! If you find it somewhere, (like the Amazon reviewer who said he found it at Christmas Tree Shop) pick it up.  This is the recipe I use:

  • I double or triple it on Thanksgiving.  Of course, without the steamer/masher, you’ll have to do it the regular way; cook the potatoes in water for 30 minutes or until done, drain, mash and mix in other ingredients.  I generally use a ricer instead of a masher to get all the lumps out.  Remember, though… a lump or two makes it real.


  •  My daughter picks this up at a local turkey farm.  Thank you!!!  It’s delicious and frees me from this last-minute job.  


  •  This is always a problem.  My grandchildren just don’t like them.  William said he’d prefer frozen peas this year, as in still frozen.  Enough said.  So this is what I’m serving this year:



Crust Mixture:

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Sweet Potato Mixture:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (3 medium)
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter


  1. Combine Crust Mixture in mixing bowl and put to one side.
  2. Mix Sweet Potato Mixture ingredients in a mixing bowl in the order listed. Combine thoroughly.
  3. Pour Sweet Potato Mixture into buttered baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle Crust Mixture evenly onto the surface of Sweet Potato Mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots

  • Preheat oven to 425F
  • Cut carrots diagonally into 2” lengths. Cut the thicker ends in half so they are all about the same width.
  • Toss in a bowl with:
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Spread on a cookie sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Toss, then roast 10 minutes more until soft and caramelized on the edges.
  • Toss carrots in the glaze.

Neither of the above recipes is difficult.  I am hoping that the added sweetness will tempt the grandkids.  However, I’ll still serve assorted frozen vegetables for them, with plenty of butter.

Star of The Meal (not me, The Rolls)

a picture of me making cinnamon rolls

In most families, the star of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey.  Not so in my family.  In my family, it’s the cinnamon rolls

A picture of a synonym rolls sweatshirt
I actually like this one better. The white one is really hard to keep clean while I am baking.

Do you like my sweatshirt?  You may find a similar one here. 

The recipe was passed down through my husband’s family and has been always referred to as “Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls.” I make enough so that each family may take some home.  This is what the bare-bones recipe looked like when I got it:



Huh???  I was 19 and clueless in the kitchen, but I figured it out.  Over the years I have realized that I needed to make a larger batch (makes about 42) so this is how I make them now:

Grandma Hill’s Delicious Cinnamon Rolls

Large Batch Ingredients:

  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, to prove the yeast
  • 6 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 9 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (more if the dough is sticky, up to 10 cups)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup softened butter, divided
  • 2 cups brown sugar (about)
  • ground cinnamon

Smaller Batch Ingredients:

Divide everything in half EXCEPT the shortening:

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar, to prove the yeast
  • 6 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (more if the dough is sticky)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup softened butter, divided
  • 1 cup brown sugar (about), enough to make a quarter-inch layer
  • ground cinnamon

Vegan Cinnamon Rolls Ingredients:

I just tried this recently and they turned out perfectly! Just make the following 2 substitutions:

  • For each egg, substitute 1/3 cup applesauce.
  • For the butter, use a butter substitute like I CAN”T BELIEVE IT’S NOT BUTTER or similar.


Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.  Add the sugar to “proof” the yeast.  After 5 or 10 minutes, the yeast should start to foam up.  This proves that the yeast is active.  Do not skip this step!  Always have extra yeast.  If the yeast doesn’t foam up, throw it out and start again with fresh yeast.  

In a large bowl, mix 6 tablespoons shortening (I use Crisco), the sugar, salt, and very hot water.  Stir to dissolve.  Set aside to cool a bit.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg(s).  When the water mixture is lukewarm, add egg(s) and yeast to it.  Then add the flour, a bit at a time, until it is no longer sticky.  You can do this by hand or with your mixer with a dough hook.  Of course, I use the mixer.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface (pastry cloth or counter) and let rest for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, soften the butter.  I use the microwave.  

Cut dough in half if making the large batch.  With a floured rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough into a large rectangle, about 12 by 18 inches.  Spread the softened butter over each rectangle. 

Next spread a lot of brown sugar over the butter.  A lot.  I wing the amount, but the end result is about 1/4 inch thick or a bit more.  Sprinkle cinnamon over this.  Now roll them up from the wide side so that you have 2 rolls, each approximately 18 inches long.  

Cut the rolls with a serrated knife into 1 inch wide slices and place them into greased muffin tins.  Some fancy bakers use unflavored dental floss for this, but I find the knife works just fine.

Cover with clean dish towels and let rise until double. How long does this take?  There are a few factors involved in having breads rise: the temperate of your home, the type of yeast you used, the flours, your elevation. It all matters. So you may have to experiment a bit to find what works best for your situation but I’ll share what works for me.

If your kitchen is cool, preheat your oven to 100 degrees and turn it off.  This is my go-to method as my house is always cool.  Put the rolls in the oven to rise.  Check frequently.  You want them to be double, not hanging over the edge of the muffin tins.  

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.  I always start checking a few minutes early so they don’t overcook.  You want them to be just slightly brown on top.  


Would you like icing on your cinnamon rolls?  I don’t put it on mine as I believe they are perfectly sweet enough without it.  However, for those of you who want icing, here is the recipe for it:

Best Icing for Cinnamon Rolls


  • 4 ounces softened  cream cheese
  • 14 ounces softened butter (1 and 3/4 sticks)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 3 cups confectionery sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For vegan icing, use non-dairy substitutes for the cream cheese, milk and butter, all of which are readily available.


Beat together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer in a large bowl until creamy. Mix in the vanilla and milk, then gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar and salt until smooth and fluffy.

Spread on rolls.


These scrumptious cinnamon rolls are great reheated the next day.  Simply butter the top of each roll and reheat in the microwave or oven.  Just enough to warm them.  

Sometimes when I take these rolls to dinner somewhere, they are mistaken for dessert.  That’s how good they are.  However, serve them with dinner and have Grandma’s Apple Pie for dessert.


Grandma’s Apple Pie 

I always make 2



In a large bowl, put 4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt.  

Add 1 and 3/4 cup Crisco shortening and mix with a fork until crumbly.

In a separate small bowl, beat together 1 large egg, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1/2 cup water. Combine the 2 mixtures until well mixed.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions (makes 2 pies) and shape each into a flat round patty ready for rolling.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1/2 hour.  Or freeze.

When ready to roll out, lightly flour both sides of the patty and put on a lightly floured pastry cloth.  Keeping pastry round, roll from the center until 2 inches larger than the inverted pie pan.

Apple Pie Filling For Each Pie:

Peel, core, and slice 7 cups of apples (2.5 to 3 pounds)This is what I use and it is an awesome time-saver.  I’ve been using it for decades.



Mix apples with 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Mix in 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

Fill pie crust with apple filling.  Dot with 2 tablespoons butter, cut up.  Top with remaining crust.  Try to make pretty edges.  I cover the edges with foil so they don’t over-brown.

Bake in preheated 425F oven for 45 to 50 minutes until the apples test fork tender.  It’s a good idea to place a cookie sheet under the pie to catch drips.  You don’t want a smoky kitchen.  

I always make the pies a few days ahead and warm them in the oven while we eat our dinner. 

I have never had a failure with this pie.  It’s not always pretty, but it’s always delicious!



From my family to yours…Have a wonderful, safe, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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15 thoughts on “Traditional Thanksgiving Menu Ideas Updated For 2121”

  1. Oh we are sooooooooo disappointed that we won’t be with you this year. Your Thanksgiving dinners are always something we look forward to – especially as we are “adopted” grandparents!!! Your meal selections look yummy – especially the Cinammon Rolls – thanks for the recipe (although I think Bill still has his copy that you gave him years ago). We will miss all of the Hill/Noble family so much. Hugs to you all.

  2. That was really awesome Ellie! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We are going to Vero to Amy’s and family will be there and it is always fun! Love you Cuz💕

  3. That was really awesome Ellie! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We are going to Vero to Amy’s and family will be there and it is always fun! Love you Cuz💕

  4. Ellie,
    You never cease to amaze me.
    Trying the cinnamon rolls for sure.
    We love the gelatinous blob with ridges also!
    Gerard’s is helping us out this year.
    Happy Thanksgiving!!!


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