Blog Archives - Percolate Kitchen

20-Minute Chinese-Style Chicken and Lettuce Wraps

Every time we go to P.F. Changs, I order the chicken lettuce wraps. This is a way easy version! My family loved it and it's ready in like 20 minutes so super simple.

Every time we go to P.F. Changs, I order the chicken lettuce wraps. This is a way easy version! My family loved it and it's ready in like 20 minutes so super simple.

These Chinese-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps are simple, delicious, and make a fabulous make-ahead meal for busy weeks or weekly meal prep!

Want to know a secret? This is more or less the same sauce I make my 15 Minute Beef and Bok Choy Lo Mein with. Same easy sauce, two delicious dishes- both read in under 20 minutes!

Come on. I can’t get any easier than that.

For a girl who loves her Seamless food delivery app like it’s my third child, even I admit- it’s faster to make each of these dishes sometimes than it is to wait on the delivery guy to scooter on up to my front door.

(And instead of a tip, I just pour myself a glass of wine. #besttipever)

The easy make-ahead-ability of these chicken lettuce wraps is why it’s so perfect to have on hand for busy weeks.

Whether you’re on the ball and always make your meals ahead (tell me your secrets!) or you’re a planner who likes to meal prep out your lunches for the week, this is a great recipe to have in your back pocket.

Another thing I love about this recipe is that it doesn’t require a lot of advanced planning to pull off! All of the sauce ingredients are pantry items that can hold for a while, including the crushed peanuts added for garnish at the end.

If you’ve got chicken in your freezer and lettuce in your fridge – or you can grab a head of lettuce on your way home from work – you’ll be able to crank this recipe out quickly once you get home, saving you some time, money, and a helluva lot of effort.

Because let’s be honest: the best kind of weeknight recipe is one that doesn’t require a ton of forthought.

You know the kind I mean: recipes that you can make when the mood strikes, or when the ish hits the fan, and you’re scrambling for a quick meal.

Recipes you turn to on the nights you can’t stomach another evening of takeout, or boxed mac and cheese and a side of roasted vegetables.

Yeah, I know you know what I mean. I may or may not have had my share of those nights, also!

Make these chicken lettuce wraps as the main course, or just a side.

I like to sometimes serve these chicken lettuce wraps not with lettuce, but over rice instead. The sauce is unctuous and tasty, light yet filling, and it works well with any vehicle you choose, be that a starch or a vegetable.

Plus, the kids like this dish! 👐

I take out the peanuts for my son since he’s too young to chew on them yet (where are your molars, boy!?) and my daughter eats it with ketchup which makes me cringey but hey. You can’t win them all.

When a bossy, stubborn three-year-old eats her dinner without further complaint, you hand over that ketchup. Am I right?

In any case, these chicken lettuce wraps are a perfect weeknight dinner for the entire family, ketchup or no!


Every time we go to P.F. Changs, I order the chicken lettuce wraps. This is a way easy version! My family loved it and it's ready in like 20 minutes so super simple.
Chinese-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
20 mins
This easy dish uses the same sauce base as the Beef and Bok Choy Lo Mein and is then topped with zesty green onions and crunchy peanuts. Roll it up in Bibb lettuce leaves for an easy meal or side. I crush my own peanuts by pulsing dry roasted, unsalted peanuts in the food processor until chopped. You can also buy pre-crushed peanuts sometimes in the nut aisle of your grocery store. The chicken portion of this dish freezes great! Cook the chicken as instructed, then wrap tightly with separate containers of peanuts and diced green onions and freeze everything together for up to 8 weeks. Thaw, reheat the chicken and top with the peanuts and green onions and serve in fresh lettuce cups.
Author: Ruthy Kirwan
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground or diced chicken
  • For the sauce:
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoon oyster sauce
For garnish and serving:
  • 6-8 Bibb lettuce leaves washed and gently dried
  • ¼ cup crushed unsalted peanuts
  • 2 green onions white ends trimmed, minced
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering.
  2. Add the chicken and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon or spatula, until it starts to brown.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, add the sauce ingredients to a container with a tight-fitting lid. Secure the lid, then shake the contents of the container until the brown sugar and ground ginger have dissolved. Alternatively, you can add the sauce ingredients to a large bowl and then whisk until they are incorporated.
  4. Pour the sauce into the saucepan and stir to combine with the chicken. Turn the heat to low and simmer, cooking until the sauce has started to reduce a bit and the chicken is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken from the heat. Spoon evenly into lettuce cups and top with the peanuts and green onions.

Turkey, Cranberry and Cream Cheese Pinwheels

The best part about a holiday party? The food! These turkey cranberry pinwheels are the perfect easy finger food for holiday parties.

If you’re looking for something simple to throw together, this is it.

It’s also a great lunch, kids think it’s awesome, and look at that gorgeous shade of red from the cranberry sauce.

Doesn’t that just scream festive!?

Other reasons to love this adorable, easy finger food option:

  • They’re no-bake.
  • They can be transported easily from your house to someone else’s, making them a great potluck option.
  • They’re super easy for kids to help with. That’s whether you need their assistance or just need to keep little hands busy for a while. (because yeah, I’ve been there).
  • You can use leftover Thanksgiving ingredients to make them (no extra shopping trips!)

If you’ve got Thanksgiving leftovers, they can really shine in these turkey pinwheels.

Did you know cranberry sauce freezes fantastically?

If you’ve got a lot left over after Thanksgiving, pop it in the freezer and pull it out to serve these pinwheels at a New Year’s Eve party!

The flavors in these pinwheels can be played around with as well. If cranberry’s not your jam, pesto makes a great substitute.

I’ll often make turkey rollups for my kids’ lunchboxes by rolling up pesto and cream cheese in a slice of turkey. It jazzes up the normal turkey lunchtime routine and by rolling it makes it easier for little fingers to grab!


I made these easy finger food turkey pinwheels for our last New Year's Eve party and my friends went NUTS for them! They're only a few ingredients and I just used the cranberry sauce I had in the freezer from Thanksgiving. Could not have been easier!
Turkey, Cranberry and Cream Cheese Pinwheels
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins

makes about 7-8 pinwheels

Author: Ruthy Kirwan
  • 4 slices deli-style turkey breast
  • 4 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 3 tablespoons cranberry sauce
  1. Arrange the turkey slices side by side on a flat surface and in a straight line, overlapping by about 1-2" each.
  2. Spread the cream cheese on the turkey slices evenly, spreading right up to the edge of the slices
  3. Spread the cranberry sauce on top of the cream cheese in an even layer
  4. Starting from the bottom (widest part), slowly and tightly roll the slices up into a log.
  5. Slice into rolls and serve

Easy Butternut Squash Pasta with Roasted Kale and Creamy Ricotta

This is such an easy recipe with only 6 ingredients! I like making it when it's cold outside, because it needs a pretty hot oven, but it's really simple to make. It stores pretty well, too, for making ahead of time.

This is such an easy recipe with only 6 ingredients! I like making it when it's cold outside, because it needs a pretty hot oven, but it's really simple to make. It stores pretty well, too, for making ahead of time.

My deep and unabiding love for roasted butternut squash knows no bounds, and this easy butternut squash recipe showcases just what I love about this versatile ingredient!

This isn’t the fastest recipe in the whole wide world, but it is incredibly simple. Olive oil, salt, and a hot oven will do most of the flavor building here.

And isn’t that what’s great about roasting vegetables? It completely turns their original flavor profile upside down. It brings sweetness to the forefront and just ups the game in terms of flavor.

In fact, if turning on my oven didn’t make my kitchen feel like a sweat lodge in the middle of August, I’d probably be roasting veggies straight up through summer.

Here’s why I love this butternut squash recipe, especially in the winter.

It combines chewy and creamy textures with sweet and nutty flavor profiles. it’s all topped with a delicious dollop of creamy ricotta cheese. Pretty tough to get any yummier than that, amiright?

In fact, due to my butternut squash love, I recently compiled this huge recipe roundup 12 Cooks Reveal Their BEST Butternut Squash Recipes for the Holidays

That post also includes my favorite tip on how you, too, can cut into a butternut squash and not feel like you’re about to cut your arm off in the process.

(Trust me. It’s a butternut squash recipe game changer!)

Don’t forget that roasted kale! (I know, right!?)

Have you had kale this way before? Tossed with olive oil and a bit of salt, roasted in a hot oven (~400*) for about 10-ish minutes, and kale is suddenly NOT the typical hipster food your vegan aunt is always gushing about (though her raw kale ways is pretty delicious too, just saying). It’s so much more.

Roasting totally changes the game when it comes to kale, and if you’ve never been a big kale fan, I really implore you to try it this way. It makes is ‘meatier’, blend-able, and gives it this nutty flavor that is hard to describe. You’ve got to try it for yourself!

Last but certainly not least, top the whole big bowl off with a spoonful of creamy ricotta cheese.

Ricotta is what really ties this dish together, making each and every component work.

(or is that werk? I’m not cool enough to know, I don’t think)

The ricotta becomes a defacto sauce, mixing with the creamy butternut squash and chewy tubes of pasta, with that roasty kale goodness.

This is a dish that winter meals are made of.

This is a dish that you make on a Saturday when you’re busy at home but want something simple and tasty.

This is a dish of just 5 ingredients that make you thank the lord for hot ovens and olive oil. Yes, please, and thank you!

This is such an easy recipe with only 6 ingredients! I like making it when it's cold outside, because it needs a pretty hot oven, but it's really simple to make. It stores pretty well, too, for making ahead of time.
Easy Butternut Squash, Roasted Kale, and Ricotta Rigatoni Pasta
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr

Servings: 4
Author: Ruthy Kirwan
  • 1 large butternut squash peeled, deseeded and diced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 large bunches of curly kale stems removed and roughly chopped (about 2-3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil divided
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt divided
  • 12 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 1/2 cup 4 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 450*.
  2. While the oven is preheating, spread the butternut squash evenly between 2 rimmed sheet pans. Drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Toss with hands to coat.
  3. Place the squash in the oven and roast 35-45 minutes, or until soft and cooked through and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  4. While the squash is roasting, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.
  5. On a rimmed sheet pan, spread the kale evenly and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sea salt and toss with hands to coat.
  6. When the butternut squash is roasted and removed from the oven, add the kale. Roast for 8-10 minutes or until the edges have begun to crisp and the kale has wilted and softened. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  7. Toss the pasta, roasted butternut squash, and roasted kale together in a large bowl. Taste and season with more salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.
  8. Serve hot with dollops of cold ricotta cheese on top

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie Casserole with Biscuit Topping

Here’s the thing about Thanksgiving that is often overlooked with the planning, prepping and cooking; the dinner is only as good as its leftovers!

I mean, what’s Thanksgiving without leftover turkey sandwiches, pie for breakfast, and figuring out what to do with your leftover cranberry sauce? (I’ve got a great recipe on the way for that one, actually!)

But there are only so many days of turkey sandwiches one can take, right? That’s where I take what we’ve got left… and turn it into leftover turkey pot pie!

I’ll be straight up with you here: this isn’t a super quick recipe, like most of the recipes you’ll find here on Percolate Kitchen. It’s not crazy weeknight friendly, and you can’t throw it together in 20 minutes.

BUT, it’s relatively simple, and each part of the recipe comes together while another part cooks. So it won’t take you half an afternoon to put together – maybe an hour or so.

If you want to make it even faster, you can use precooked vegetables (frozen and thawed, veggies leftover from another meal, or made during a meal prep power hour), and instead of the biscuit topping, use a sheet of puff pastry or phyllo dough. It should bake in about the same length of time, and the instructions are similar: just make sure the veggies are soft and cooked through, the liquid is bubbling at the sides, and the pastry or topping is browned and flaky.

Another variation for when you don’t have leftover turkey

Just use leftover roast chicken! Or chicken thighs browned beforehand and diced. Poached chicken breast, shredded. Poached turkey, diced. use what you have!

The beauty of a pot pie is that it’s crazy amenable to leftovers. That’s the whole idea of the dish!

The only important things I would stress? Potatoes are a must, as far as I’m concerned. Their starchiness adds thickness to the pot pie sauce that is hard to replicate- without them, the dish runs the risk of being too liquidy and soggy.

But seriously? This is not a complicated casserole.

It’s a great way to change up the Thanksgiving flavors that you might be a little, ah, over by Day Three.

AND, and it makes pretty dang good leftovers itself!

That’s like, the inception of leftovers, right? Using leftovers to make a dish and then eating the leftovers to that dish!?

You’re so clever. I knew I liked your brain.

Enjoy your turkey, your family time, and your leftovers. Happy Thanksgiving!

This is such a fresh new take on pot pie AND how to use leftover turkey after thanksgiving or christmas! She's also got some good ideas on chnaging this up to suit your own family leftovers too, which is helpful.
Leftover Turkey Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping
Servings: 6
Author: Ruthy Kirwan
for the casserole:
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 large carrots peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small white onion peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 2 large russet potatoes washed (about 1 pound) and diced
  • 1/3 cup white flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 3 cups diced cooked turkey (about 2 pounds)
for the biscuits:
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 400*F.
  2. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the carrots, onions, garlic, and potatoes and stir to coat.
  3. Whisk in the flour until thick and creamy, then slowly whisk in the chicken stock/broth. Let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the carrots and potatoes have softened through.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking, make the biscuits. Add the dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk or sift to combine. Slowly add the milk and stir until the dough is wet and sticky.
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and carefully pat into a large square. Using a sharp knife or a pastry scraper, slice the biscuit into 6 squares/rectangles and let the dough rest for a few minutes.
  6. While the dough is resting, spread the cooked turkey evenly on the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish.
  7. Once the vegetables have softened, remove from heat and pour the mixture evenly over the turkey.
  8. Using a metal pastry scraper or spatula, lift the squares of biscuit dough and arrange on top of the casserole, side by side and evenly spaced, but not touching. Sprinkle the biscuit dough squares with a little salt.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the liquid is bubbling at the sides of the dish, and the biscuits have browned.
  10. Remove and let cool slightly before serving.

12 Cooks Reveal Their BEST Butternut Squash Recipes for the Holidays

I love making butternut squash recipes in the winter and fall, especially for the holidays! this is a great roundup. She's even got a cool tip about how to slice a butternut squash- i was so scared the first time, but her idea really worked!

I’ve always had a thing for finding new butternut squash recipes; especially for the holidays! There’s something almost addicting about their slightly nutty, slightly sweet, creamy texture and flavor.

Butternut squash is at its best between the months of September and March; part of why it’s such a great recipe to have in the fall.


“The only problem I can find with butternut squash is that I can’t stop eating it!”, says Jessica from Coffee and Crayons (her delicious recipe for 5 Ingredient Oven Roasted Garlic and Herb Butternut Squash is below!)

And I have to say, I 1,000,000% agree. You can find butternut squash on our table most nights throughout the fall and winter.

So when I started planning my Thanksgiving menu for the year, my eye kept turning to butternut squash. I love it for its simplicity; one of my all-time fave ways to eat butternut squash is cubed and roasted with olive oil and salt.

Which reminds me: have you ever found yourself trying to cut a ginormous butternut squash and it feels like an impossible task? Me, too! Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna cut my whole arm off along with the squash.

Here’s one of my favorite kitchen tips for slicing a hard-to-cut butternut squash: pop it in the microwave for 10-30 seconds first! This will soften the skin enough so that the knife slips right in.

Of course, that’s not so easy when you have a jumbo sized squash on your hands inside a teeny tiny kitchen with a small microwave to match, but oh well. it’ll work in most instances #tinykitchenproblems


Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Thanksgiving Turkey With Herb Butter Seasoning

This is How To Store Your Fall Produce

So now that you’re armed with some easy-slicin’ squash, let’s get to some fab recipes that feature it, ok? Ok!

Oh, but first: if you’re trying to get your Thanksgiving plans in order, I’ve got a Survival Guide for that! Click here to check out the detail on my awesomely comprehensive Thanksgiving Survival Guide, packed full of recipes, cheat sheets, charts, lists and more, so you can be on top of your Thanksgiving planning this year.

(If you’re even the slightest bit overwhelmed by cooking for Thanksgiving, you need this guide in your life!)

All right! On to the recipes!

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Feta, from Jenn at Peas and Crayons

I love the pop of color that cranberries bring to this dish! Plus, everything is better with cheese. Salty feta is a great balance to the creamy butternut squash and the tart cranberries. This would look fab on a holiday table spread! Click here for the recipe.

Easy Garlic Herb Roasted Butternut Squash, from Katie at Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Garlic and herby butter coat roasted butternut squash cubes here. It’s a simple dish made by first roasting butternut squash in the oven, then tossing it with garlicky butter and freshly minced herbs. This seems like the kind of recipe that would be even better on Day Two (and so perfect for a make-ahead power hour side!) Click here for the recipe.

Easy Butternut Squash Skillet, from Tiffany at Eat at Home

Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Tiffany’s. She shares not only simple, easy-to-follow recipes, but she’s a meal planning genius as well. Her newsletter always has tons of great value. And I love this easy, simple butternut squash skillet side. It’s cooked in the cast iron pan, one of my must-have kitchen items! Click here for the recipe. 

5 Ingredient Oven Roasted Garlic and Herb Butternut Squash from Jessica at Coffee and Crayons, guest posting for Rachael at Eazy Peazy Meals 

Only 5 ingredients!? Sign me up, seriously. Jessica at Coffee and Crayons guest posted on EZPZ Meals with this incredibly simple butternut squash recipe, and I fell in love at first sight. This is an easy recipe to make on the side when you’ve got something a little more complicated cooking, like a full Thanksgiving meal. It shows that you really don’t need to get all detailed and crazy to have a good side dish! Click here to get the recipe.

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash from Karen at 365 Days of Slow Cooking

We were discussing the idea of using our slow cookers for holiday cooking over in my Facebook group, Busy Mamas Cooking in Tiny Kitchens, and afterward, I fell down a Pinterest rabbit hole of holiday dishes made in the slow cooker. That’s how I found this deliciously simple butternut squash in the slow cooker recipe! Our general consensus during that Facebook chat was that yes, using a slow cooker is an awesome way to free up stovetop space and have a hands-off approach to holiday cooking. So this recipe from 365 Days of Slow Cooking fits right in with that! Click here to get the recipe. 

Butternut Squash Homefries from the Stacie and Jessica at the Real Food RD’s

How genius is this idea!? I love a good plate of crispy, creamy, fried potato homefries, but subbing butternut squash in place of potatoes blew my mind when I saw this. It’s such a great idea, saves calories, and tastes incredible! Click here for the recipe

Farro, Kale and Butternut Squash Gratin from Land O’ Lakes 

I love the chewy texture of farro and it’s one of my favorite additions to add into holiday and seasonal salads. That’s why I got so pumped to find this butternut squash gratin dish, and even more thrilled that it also calls for kale! I think the nutritional benefits of farro, squash and kale balance out the butter and heavy cream. Eat this one in good health. Click for the recipe. 

Butternut Squash with Wilted Spinach and Blue Cheese from Whole Foods

This is another deceptively simple recipe that calls for only a few ingredients but delivers huge flavors. I love the pungent blue cheese mixed with creamy roasted butternut squash, and the wilted spinach adds heft to the dish. Click here to get the recipe.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Almond Pecan Parmesan, from Angela at Oh She Glows

Kale, almonds, pecan, parmesan cheese, skillet cooked, roasted butternut squash… this recipe is everything I love about a fall dish AND include cheese. It’s a keeper and I plan on putting this one into some serious rotation. Click here for the recipe. 

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash and Beets, from Julia at the Roasted Root

Maple roasted butternut squash for sweetness and flavor, roasted beets for color and health benefits, the whole thing together for maximum tastiness and a gorgeous presentation. I love this combo of roasted goodness from Julia, and her funny take on why we need more beets in our lives was an entertaining read as well. Click here for the recipe. 

Oven Roasted Butternut Squash, from the Sonia at the Healthy Foodie

Sonia keeps it real and proves that a great dish is found in the quality of the ingredients and the use of good technique. She roasts her butternut squash to perfection but makes sure it browns nicely in the oven, getting a great caramelized crust in the process. She says, “Caramelization really is the key with this dish. You’d be surprised what it brings to the squash in terms of depth and flavor.” Click here to get the recipe. 

Roasted Bacon and Butternut Squash Side Dish, from Tracy at Baking Mischief

Everything is better with bacon, isn’t it!? Tracy ups the tasty factor to 11 by adding crispy, salty, delicious bacon to roasted butternut squash. It’s a perfect balance of texture and flavor and I can’t wait to try it out! Click here for the recipe.

There you have it; 12 of the BEST butternut squash recipes for your holiday table!

Which one do you think you’ll make first this year?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious about cooking evvvvverything for Thanksgiving this year, check out my gotta-have-it Thanksgiving Survival Guide!

Each guide is packed with traditional recipes, meal plans, grocery lists, worksheets, timelines, and more.

It’s all you need to get you totally large and in charge of your holiday feats this year, minus the rushing around and the overwhelm. It’s a huge help!

How to Survive Cooking Your First Thanksgiving In 6 Important Steps

Thanksgiving Survival Guide | Percolate Kitchen (click to read the full post!)

Cooking your first Thanksgiving can be nervewracking. It’s a big day with SO MUCH pressure, it can feel overwhelming!

So you’re the person in charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year. Lucky you!

Except…. not. There are so many moving parts to Thanksgiving, how can you keep track of them all!?

Maybe you’re freaking out about cooking your first Thanksgiving because you’ve never cooked for these many people before?

Or, last year you cooked and it was a disaster. Cold turkey, chewy mashed potatoes (how!?), and a dinner that finally got on the table 3 hours after you meant it to.


Or, your mom/grandma/aunt/uncle has always cooked an AWESOME dinner but they’re not able to this year, and the pressure is on!

Or, your kitchen is teeny tiny and you have zero space for a normal week’s groceries and gadgets, let alone the amount you’ll need for MORE.  

Fear not, my busy friend. I’ve been there, I’ve burned the mashed potatoes, and I lived to tell the tale.

You will, too!

But before that, here are 6 steps I learned from the ground up that can help you survive cooking your first Thanksgiving, whether you’re new to the game or just plain freaking overwhelmed.

Before we get into the 6 steps, download your copy of the Thanksgiving Game Plan! I’ve got a FREE packet for you, with 2 cheat sheets and a checklist for your Thanksgiving prep. Leave your name and email down below and I’ll send it to you!



This is the first, and possibly the most crucial step of the whole process of Thanksgiving dinner: get it all out on paper.

Start with an enormous list; include every single thing you’ll need to remember. Just get it all out, then work backward from there, breaking the list into smaller parts.

Write your whole guest list first.

As you’re figuring out the guest list, now is the time- before you decide on the menu- to find out who’s got allergies, who’s vegan, who’s able to bring their famous pumpkin pie along, etc.

Don’t forget the kids!

For example, do you have an uncle who likes to pour gravy all over everything, even his salad? Make a quick note of that on your guest list, so you don’t forget when you’re writing out your menu.

Then, write your entire menu.

This is the fun part! Keeping those with dietary restrictions in mind, figure out the recipes you’ll be making for the big day.

Cruise Pinterest, magazines, blogs, Google, ask your friends and family on Facebook for recipe recommendations. Keep it simple, but have fun!

If a recipe is super new to you, try to fit in a ‘practice’ run in the week or so before Thanksgiving. Being familiar with a recipe helps to take the edge off the stress of cooking on the day of.

Another important tenet of writing out your menu is deciding on what you can make ahead of time and chill or freeze until Thanksgiving Day; I’ll touch on the specifics of that later in the post. But it helps to, as you’re writing out your menu for the day, make a mental note of what can be made ahead to take some of the day-of pressure off.

How do I know what to serve at Thanksgiving dinner?

If you’re drawing a blank on what a typical T-giving day menu includes, no sweat. Here’s what I always make sure to have on the big day:

  • the turkey, turkey seasoning, and stuffing/dressing
  • gravy, made with the turkey drippings and extra gravy made ahead of time with chicken stock
  • mashed potatoes
  • salad
  • 1-2 casseroles/side dishes
  • cranberry sauce
  • bread rolls/biscuits/etc

THAT’S IT. Anything else is extra. Trust me on this one. You do not need to pull out all the stops!

Write a rough timeline

This is where the dirt meets the road, my friends. Once you have the particulars like guest list and menu figured out, your timeline (or ‘game plan’) will be the single most important process of the meal- before you start cooking.

I’d wager to say it’s more important than the actual cooking. With the right game plan, your stress load will be remarkably minimized! 

The trick is to start early. 

No matter how much more time there is between now and Thanksgiving, take a few minutes and write out everything that needs to be done between now and the morning of.

This includes grocery shopping. Turkey ordering. Booze procurement. Make-ahead items. The breakdown of cooking Thanksgiving day itself.

Still feeling overwhelmed? 

I’ve got a great download that will help you – and it’s FREE! Download this ‘Game Plan’ packet that includes three helpful cheat sheets: one to help figure out your overarching gameplan, one to figure out how much food to serve, and a Thanksgiving Day checklist. 



Accept the help!

I get it, I do. It’s hard accepting help. I struggle with it all the time.

But with a dinner like Thanksgiving, it’s okay to lean on people. When someone asks, “what can I bring?” be honest. Tell them!

Here are some suggestions you can ask people to bring
    whipped cream
    ice cream
    serving dishes and spoons
    napkins, cutlery, glasses, tablecloth
    side dishes

In all actuality, everything but the turkey can be brought potluck-style by someone else.

(And technically, the turkey can be brought in from somewhere else, too!)

What about the cleanup?

Don’t forget to figure this out! Try not to make it all on you; you’ll be doing enough that day!

Add extra plastic storage containers, cling film, and ziplock bags to your grocery list so that you store leftovers and send stuff home with guests.

If someone asks how they can help, ask if they’ll chip in with cleaning and storing food after the meal. It’s a cheesy old adage, but it’s true: heavy hands really do make light work!


Check out the image below; I’ve created an easy primer for figuring out how much food you’ll need for each guest. Obviously, you can play around with this; kids will eat less, some adults will eat more.

And don’t forget the leftovers! Turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite parts of the holiday!

Click the image to enlarge. You can also fill in your email address in the box below the image to download this AND the gameplan primer AND a checklist for the day, all in the one go!


What’s your Thanksgiving game plan?

Think of a football coach in this way; you need to have a full ‘game plan’ mapped out ahead of time. This is what helps you create a clear path to Thanksgiving victory.

The best way to create a ‘Cooking Your First Thanksgiving’ game plan is to start big, then whittle it down to actionable steps.

Here’s what I mean by starting big, then whittling down:

BIG THING: grocery shop


Decide on the items you’re making (don’t include the dishes guests may be bringing).

Write down every single ingredient you’ll need, then check your cupboards and fridges to see what you’ve got and what you can substitute in.

Then, write your grocery list.

Clear your fridge for the onslaught of new items you’ll be bringing home.

Bring your list to the store (aside: Somehow, I manage to forget this every year 🤦 Don’t be like me. Remember your list!)

BIG THING: Cook Thanksgiving dinner


Decide the time you want dinner to be on the table, then work backward from there: How long will the turkey take? That’s when it goes in the oven.

Other questions to help figure out your timing: How long to prep the turkey before it goes in the oven? What items can be cooked beforehand and then reheated for dinner? What can be made in the ~20 minutes while the turkey rests after it’s out of the oven?

Tip: To avoid looking at your now enormous list of clear steps and getting overwhelmed, start with the smallest, easiest things first. Not only will it feel good to cross a handful of things off your list in a short period of time, but it will get the ball rolling in a ‘snowball’ effect; more things done means more momentum for the rest.

Need help organizing your thoughts? Here’s a game plan primer to download!

Click the image to enlarge; OR, leave your name and email below and get this game plan, plus the food amounts cheat sheet I mentioned in the last step and a master checklist.

You can do this!



Getting down to business on the day of Thanksgiving

Now comes the real balancing act: cooking (and reheating) everything on the day of Thanksgiving, and getting it all on the table at the same time.

This is the step that I struggled with for years! I would find myself frantically mashing potatoes while everyone else was sitting down to dinner, privately cursing my mismanaged time.

But I’ve gathered a few tips in the meantime that will help you not make some of the same mistakes I did early on! Click the images below to enlarge. You can also pin them to save for later!


It’s the least fun part of the day, but don’t forget the post-Thanksgiving dinner cleanup and storage.

Having a rough idea of how this will play out will make it go much smoother and faster. I personally kind of enjoy cleaning up after Thanksgiving, although I’m usually beat after all that cooking. But it’s a nice time to reflect and chat with people on a more casual, one-to-one level.

Plus, when you’re in the kitchen you’re located at the prime advantage point for sneaking another piece of pie or a glass of wine. Score!

When people ask if they can bring something to help, sometimes I’ll tell them not to bring anything but to plan on chipping in to wash dishes.

I also make sure to always clean as I cook, which cuts down on the anxiety-inducing pile of post-dinner casserole dishes.

And lastly, I make double sure that there’s plenty of big ziplock baggies, plastic storage containers, cling film, tin foil, etc to both store food easily and send people home with leftovers.

There you have it; the Six Steps to Cooking Your First Thanksgiving!

If you’re a veteran Thanksgiving cook, or you think I forgot something- I wanna hear about it! Do you have any extra tips and tricks you wish you knew before jumping into cooking a Thanksgiving dinner? Leave a message in the comment section below!

Don’t forget to download my FREE Thanksgiving Game Plan by entering your email in the boxes below. You’ll get access to a gameplan breakdown cheat sheet, a checklist for the big day, and my food amounts cheat sheet. It’s a really helpful little packet!

Still nervous about cooking for the big day? I got your back, busy friend. Click here to buy my whole Thanksgiving meal plan, including recipes, grocery lists, cheat sheets, worksheets, storage and make-ahead ideas, and fully itemized grocery list. It’s insanely helpful and jampacked with info that will save you a TON of time planning, prepping and getting ready for Thanksgiving!