A Messy Masterpiece Thanksgiving
Surviving Turkey Day With A Clean Eating Menu And FREE Bonus Planning Printables.
November is the month where the days grow shorter and festivities grow louder. Fallen leaves carpet yards and streets. Feasts and family gatherings pepper personal calendars. Thoughts of turkey, potatoes, gravy, and pies flood people’s minds.
For many, this is an exciting time. For others, the stress shoots off the charts! The stress can be especially bad for people with restricted time and restricted diets. If you fall into either of these categories, this holiday special was written for you!
In this post, you’ll find printables to keep you organized amidst the chaos of holiday hosting. You’ll also find clean eating menu ideas for a feast that won’t completely derail your diet. The best part? Your guests won’t be able to tell the difference!
Fitting menu planning, grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking into already busy schedules can make it hard to keep a “thankful” mindset. I’ve also noticed that today’s constant to-do lists make it difficult to remember everything on my own. For this reason, I have created five helpful worksheets to keep me on track this holiday season.
At the bottom of this post your will find the FREE download that will hopefully help you feel more in control throughout your hosting experience. My gift to you! Here’s what’s included…
- A Host Timeline – Stay on task with this stress-less timeline. No more guessing what to do next!
- A Day Of Timeline – To help you keep track of what time each dish needs to be cooked or what task needs to be completed.
- A Supply Checklist – So you don’t forget anything.
- A Menu – Use this template to plan out your meal in advance. Also a great place to keep track of what your guests are bringing.
- A Thanksgiving Activity – To help remind you, and your guests, of what you are thankful for this year.
A few minutes of brain dumping onto these pages, saves me hours of disorganization, worry and stress. I’ve left empty spaces where you add customize items and make notes. Give them a try and let me know what you think on my Contact page!
For me, parties just aren’t parties without a good aesthetic. Thanksgiving is no exception. The environment and decorations can be a “make it or break it” for memorable parties.
Creating an aesthetic doesn’t have to be expensive either. Many times, you can reuse items from around your house or just purchase a few focal items.
For example, the copper silverware in my pictures are disposable ones from hobby lobby and the tablecloth is actually just a few yards of 66% off fabric. Could you tell? Probably not…
Start with a color scheme and choose what you want your guest to feel when they are at your event. Do you want them comfortable and casual? Then you probably should stay away from cloth napkins and real glassware.
Likewise, if you’re wanting your dinner to feel like a special occasion, then dress up your tablescape with metallic décor, cloth, glass, and chargers. The way you want your guests to feel should dictate what design choices you make.
The planning is done. The table is set. Now, let’s move on to the best part of Thanksgiving…the FOOD!
Herb Roasted Turkey
Turkey. It can be the best part of Thanksgiving dinner. However, it can easily be the worst and ruin what otherwise would have been a great meal. Dry, flavorless, and chewy are just some of ways turkey can go wrong.
Everyone has their own method of cooking turkey. Brave souls fry them. Traditional folks bake them in bags. Then there’s my genre…the slow roasters.
Slow roasting is the only way I’ve found to guarantee a moist and flavorful bird. Slow roasting means baking the bird at a higher temp at first, but then lowering temperature for longer period of time. Some people even roast their turkey overnight.
In order to keep my oven available for other dishes, I like to slow roast my turkey in my electric roaster. I smother the turkey in buttery-herb goodness, then set it, and forget it!
- turkey breast or whole turkey
- dairy free butter, softened
- fresh rosemary, chopped
- fresh thyme, chopped
- fresh sage, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste
Mix butter, garlic, and herbs (I measure herbs by my heart, but 1-2 tablespoons each would be a good guess). Smother the buttery mixture all over the turkey. The cool temperature of the meat will turn the butter solid, creating a cast. Salt and pepper generously. Put it in a roaster, set to 350 degrees, for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and continue to cook for 5-6 hours, or until internal temperature reads 165F. For best results, let the turkey rest before cutting.
Dairy Free Gravy
I’ve never been great at making gravy from scratch using pan drippings. I usually take the cheater’s way out and buy the gravy in a jar or make it using the mix packets. That was until our family had to go dairy free. Good gravy felt impossible to find.
Using the basics of gravy making, I started to experiment. It wasn’t until I found the paleo soup base in my post Soup Season: Part One, that I had an idea.
I made the slurry with a mix of butter and arrowroot starch. Then, I added coconut milk, pan drippings, and lime juice (to counteract the sweetness of the coconut). SUCCESS!
- drippings from the turkey roaster
- chicken bouillon (just incase there are insufficient drippings)
- 2 tbsp dairy free butter
- 1-2 tbsp arrowroot starch
- 1 can coconut milk
- lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
In a skillet, melt butter. Whisk in 1 tbsp arrowroot starch until a slurry is made. Cook until the slurry starts to brown. Whisk in drippings and coconut milk. Add lime juice a few drops at a time until desired amount of sweetness is removed. Salt and pepper to taste.
*If gravy is not flavorful enough, add a bouillon cube. If gravy is too thin, mix 1 tbsp of water with remaining tbsp of arrowroot before whisking into gravy. Boil for a few minutes to allow time for thickening. Repeat as needed.
Grain Free Stuffing
Grease a 9×13 dish and preheat your over to 350. Cut or tear your dried grain free bread into bite sized cubes and put into greased dish. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Sauté onion and celery in the butter until tender. Pour sautéed mixture on top of bread. Whisk eggs and chicken broth together in a bowl. Add egg mixture, fresh herbs, and seasonings to bread. Gently toss until well mixed. Bake for 1 hour, or until middle is cooked and top is crispy and brown.
Honey Pepper Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
An easy, green addition to your Thanksgiving menu. Crunchy, salty, and sweet! Not a fan of asparagus? Try replacing the stalks with fresh green beans.
For quick prep, wrap the bundles ahead of time, cover, and keep them in the fridge. Then, simply pop them in the oven when it’s time. The honey pepper glaze takes this dish to the next level, but can be omitted if you prefer a more savory finish.
- 35 asparagus stalks
- 8 pieces of bacon
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
Wrap 1 slice of bacon around a group of 5 asparagus stalks. Place on a rack line tray and bake at 350 degrees until bacon is crispy (30-40mins). Microwave honey, pepper, and salt in a small bowl for 30 seconds. Using a glazing brush, coat bundles with honey mixture. Bake for an additional 10 mins, or until glaze is caramelized.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole was not one of the dishes served at my annual family Thanksgiving growing up. It wasn’t until I tried some at a church Christmas potluck that I added this side to my favorites list.
I’ve had it with both marshmallow topping and streusel topping. In my opinion, the streusel is far superior. Unfortunately, our family can not find pecans that are peanut contaminate free for my son, so I substitute chopped almonds in their place. There is a subtle flavor difference, but still tasty nonetheless.
This sweet potato casserole recipe was found at the Real Food With Jessica website. I made two changes. The first change I made was to increase the sweetness level by adding 2 tablespoons of 100% pure maple sugar to the sweet potato mixture. The second change was to replace the coconut oil with melted dairy free butter.
Sweet Potato Mixture
- 3 large sweet potatoes, cooked
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup dairy free butter, melted
- 3/4 cup almond milk
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp dairy free butter, softened
Using a hand mixer, beat sweet potato mixture ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to a casserole dish. In a separate bowl, mix together topping ingredients. Carefully crumble topping on top the sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45mins, or until center is hot and topping is golden brown. Add a dollop of dairy free whipped cream for added bliss.
*If making in advance, cover and refrigerate prior to baking.
A Thanksgiving staple! I traded in the canned, gelatinous blob a few years ago after tasting fresh cranberry sauce for the first time. I can honestly say I’ll never go back.
Cranberry sauce is super easy to make. It only takes a few ingredients and less than 10 minutes of your time. Orange and cinnamon make the perfect addition to the tangy tart taste of the cranberries.
If you prefer smooth sauce, you can run the mixture through a fine mesh strainer before transferring to the serving bowl to cool. You can spread the leftovers on toast, use in thumbprint cookies, or in the middle layer of cakes. Lost of great holiday uses for this tradition dish.
- 16oz fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup (more if you prefer sweeter sauce)
- 1 orange
- 2 cinnamon sticks
Put cranberries, cinnamon sticks, and maple syrup in a small sauce pot. Cut the orange in half. Squeeze the juice from one half into the pot. Slice the remaining orange half into thin slices, making sure to remove the seeds. Throw the whole slices into the cranberry mixture. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer until cranberries are popped and thick, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Dutch Apple “Cheesecake” Pie
Welcome to the mad scientist portion of this post! This pie is a Messy Masterpiece mod-podge of multiple recipes with a little bit of originality tossed in.
The dairy free cheesecake layer was my own creation. The addition of cinnamon in the mixture perfectly compliment the apple pie filling layered on top. Try it and you wont be disappointed!
- 2 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp 100% maple syrup
- 3 tbsp dairy free butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 2 package Kite Hill Dairy free cream cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup 100% maple syrup
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Apple Streusel Topping
- 2 cups apple pie filling
- 1 cup almond flour
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp coconut flour
- 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup dairy free butter, melted
- 1/4 cup 100% pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the crust, combine flour, syrup, melted butter, and 1 egg. Press into the bottom of a deep dish 9 inch pie plate. Be sure to leave enough at the top to crimp your edges. After you’ve crimped, prick your crust with a fork. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl. Using a glazing brush, egg wash the bottom and edges of your crust. Bake for 15-20mins, or until the crust starts to turn golden brown.
Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the cheesecake filling. Set aside. Mix together the ingredients for the topping, minus the apple pie filling. Set aside. When the crust is ready, pour cheesecake filling into the pie crust. Top with apple pie filling. Crumble topping on top of apple pie filling. Shield crust with a pie shield or tin foil so it doesn’t burn. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let cool on a cooling rack and then refrigerate overnight before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.
Cranberry Moscow Mule
What’s a holiday menu without a fun cocktail? Boring, that’s what. Whether you serve it with vodka, or without it for a virgin alternative, this festive Moscow mule makes any guests feel classy.
Cranberry Syrup (makes 4 servings)
- 1 cup cranberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup honey
Moscow Mule (makes 1 serving)
- 2oz vodka
- 1oz cranberry syrup
- 1/2oz lime juice
- 6oz Reed’s Zero sugar ginger beer
- Lime slice, cranberries, mint sprig for garnish
Make cranberry syrup by combining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer until cranberries have burst and sauce has started to reduce. Pour cranberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Be sure to get as much liquid as you can out of the cranberries. Mixture should be the thickness of honey. Allow mixture to cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to make cocktail. When it’s time to make each cocktail, combine ingredients and top with ice.
*For a batch of 8 servings, double syrup ingredients. Combine all the cranberry syrup with 16oz vodka, 4oz lime juice, and 48oz ginger beer in a large pitcher.
My husband and I’s first Thanksgiving as a married couple was one I’ll never forget. At just 18 and 19 years old, it was the first holiday we would celebrate without our family.
Six hours away from our hometown, living right outside the gates of my husband’s Air Force base, we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of others in the same situation. Yet, somehow, we still found ourselves feeling very alone. I decided to cook a special Thanksgiving meal just for my husband and I to raise our spirits.
All dressed up, the two of us feasted like kings on a meal that looked like it belonged on the cover of a magazine. Ok, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but it was still pretty impressive. What was even more impressive is the two of us somehow managed to squeeze the mountain of leftovers into our apartment’s tiny fridge.
I’ve come a LONG way since that lonely Thanksgiving day. Years of hosting events, holidays, and event planner training has gifted me with a mountain of experience and knowledge. Knowledge that I now get the privilege of sharing with the world on my blog.
This year, I choose to be thankful for three things…my readers, my journey, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way!