Thanksgiving Dishes

Updated: Dec 6, 2018

My husband and I enjoy watching cooking shows then looking up and experimenting with the new foods and techniques. With me having a cooking background and my husband being the willing guinea pig for whatever crazy thing I want to try next, this has become a fun past time. There have been some of these shows that have made me pause though. One show I saw recently was describing how to make the “perfect holiday party spread”, and it looked amazing, truly. But the host was so uppity about it. Here was a professional, knocking out high skill techniques and saying things like, “See, so simple.” When they said something along the line of “in order to truly honor your guest the lattice has to be perfect” or “ you never want to give them something store bought”, I flinched.

Don’t get me wrong, I am the type to show I care by making you something. I am also a perfectionist, so I understand the desire to want things to come out just right, look exquisite and taste devine. Actually, I flinched because it hit a sensitive area for me. In my mind I think I know what a “perfect holiday party spread” should look like, and I get so frustrated when it doesn't filter out of my mind and into reality the same way.  

In my mind, the Thanksgiving spread should look like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting and have all the good feelings of a Christmas Carol. But, I am also that crazy busy person who has dishes always in the sink, laundry mounded up on the floor, five projects in progress simultaneously all over the table, and I don’t remember when the carpet was vacuumed last (?). I am a frustrated perfectionist. I often get in about an hour before people are coming over to do a mad sweep to clean the house and try to come up with something “simple yet sophisticated” to serve for dinner. And all too often lately that has been pizza or sandwiches served on the “fine china” aka, paper plates.

"Don't forget what is most important in life"

I have had to learn to let things go and give myself grace, to prioritize what is important. The lattice on my pie being crooked, or the fact that I am using store bought pie crusts and canned pumpkin (in the past I would have made everything from scratch), is not near as important as the memories that we make and the time that we get to spend with friends and family. I can not be so distracted on the little things, or the things I can not control, that I miss out on the important things.

The food is a small part to the bigger lesson I am learning. Drama will happen, it is a part of life, and the holidays bring it out since we put so much pressure on it being our versions of “perfect”. Like so many, I have dear family members feuding with other dear family members. I have people missing from my life and there are people far away from whose lives I am missing. There are people near and very dear to me struggling with so many things that I am utterly powerless to fix. I want to make everything better, make situations disappear and people get along. I wish I could bring people back closer to me.

"God's plan is better than mine"

Things will never be “perfect” and in reality, we have little control over situations. What we can control is how we react, how we roll with the punches, how we respond to the chaos we call life. I am learning to give up on my fantasy of perfect and give these situations back to God since it was His already anyways. I can only practice faith that He has a bigger plan, even if it doesn't look like my plan. What I can control is how I respond. I can choose not to take offense. I can choose to forgive and give grace. I have control over the words that I say and don’t say. I have control over my tongue and I can speak in love and encouragement. I have control over so much and should focus on what I have been given rather on what I have not. This is the meaning of giving thanks for me this Thanksgiving. God’s plan is better than mine, so I can not be so distracted on making my plan a reality that I miss out on His.

Turkey Taco Meat

Total Time: 15 minutes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4-6

To make taco seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon Chili Powder

  • 1 ½ teaspoons Cumin

  • 1 teaspoon Salt

  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper

  • ½ teaspoon Paprika

  • ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder

  • ¼ teaspoon Onion Powder

  • ¼ teaspoon Oregano

  • ¼ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

  • ¼ cup of Oil ( you may need more depending on the amount of seasoning you use)

  • 2 cups of cooked Turkey, shredded ( dark meat works best, but you can use either)

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of water

Mix all seasonings ahead of time. You can mix them in a sandwich bag then seal and shake the bag so that you get a thorough mix.

In a sauté pan, heat oil. Add in seasonings and stir to make a thin paste.

Add in Turkey and stir to coat the meat completely with the paste.

Stir in water and simmer till heated. (You may need to add more water depending on how dry the turkey is. White meat will need a little more water for sure).

This can be eaten on hard or soft tortillas or over corn chips as nachos. Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Some suggestions are:

Lettuce   - Tomatoes -   Sour Cream   - Cheese -   Corn - Black Olives   - Jalapenos - Mango Avocados or Guacamole   - Lime Wedge or Cilantro for seasoning   - Red Cabbage Slaw

Red Cabbage Slaw

For Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil

  • ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar

  • ½ to 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

  • ½ to 1 tablespoon Honey


Mix the ingredients for the dressing together, whisking till the honey is dissolved.

For Slaw:

  • ¼ head of Red Cabbage, shredded (around 1 ½ to 2 cups)

  • 1 lg Carrot, shredded ( about ½ cup)


Toss in the shredded cabbage and carrots. You can do this by hand to help bruise the cabbage and massage the dressing into it.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to an hour, stirring in the middle of the time to recoat the slaw in any dressing that has settled to the bottom.

Creamy Turkey & Rice Soup

Total Time: 45 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Serves: 4-6

  • ½ cup of butter ( you can also substitute with olive / vegetable oil)

  • 1 cup of carrots, chopped (two medium carrots)

  • 1 cup of celery, chopped (two sections)

  • ½ cup onion, diced (1 small onion)

  • ½ cup of mushrooms, chopped (optional)

  • ¼ cup of flour

  • 1 ½ cups of gravy (Without gravy, increase the flour to ½ cup and the broth to 4 cups)

  • 3 cups of broth (either vegetable, chicken, or turkey) *

  • 2 cups rice, cooked

  • 2 cups of turkey, chopped/shredded (white meat works best, but either will do)

  • 1 ½ cups of half and half cream

  • 1 tablespoon parsley

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 - 2 cups of any leftover cooked vegetables that you want to add in (optional)

*  You can make your own turkey stock after you carve your turkey by combining chopped celery, onion, carrots and the bones from your roasted turkey (you can also add in your giblets if you didn’t use it to make gravy) in a large pot. Add about 4-5 cups of water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 1 - 2 hours until the vegetables have lost their flavor. Strain out the liquid (stock) and discard the bones and vegetables.


In a large soup pot, melt / heat butter / oil then sauté carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms till the onions are translucent.

Add in flour and mix till smooth. Add in gravy and cook till bubbly, about 1 - 2 minutes.

Slowly add in broth a little at a time, mixing until incorporated before adding more.

Stir in the rice and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, add parsley, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add any cooked vegetables for the last 5 to 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Jessica Garrett

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