“For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.”
Thanksgiving, also known as “Turkey Day,” is one of the most important “food” holidays of the year.  Thanksgiving, a harvest holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada, has traditionally been a day of giving thinks to God for all material possessions and mostly, for a bountiful harvest. Most modern Thanksgiving traditions originated with the first Thanksgiving dinner which took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621.  This Thanksgiving dinner was modeled after traditional harvest festivals which took place in Europe at the time.  There is evidence that the harvest for the first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing food for over 50 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.  This first Thanksgiving feast included: seafood such as cod, eel and bass; shellfish (clams, lobster, mussels); wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and TURKEY); venison; berries and other fruits; vegetables (peas, beetroot, possibly onions); harvest grains; beans; corn; and lastly, squash.
There were irregular Thanksgiving feasts after the first Thanksgiving, with an even larger one occurring in 1623 after a great drought. Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony described this Thanksgiving in his journal which was published as Plymouth Plantation, writing,

And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving… By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty … for which they blessed God. And the effect of their particular planting was well seen, for all had … pretty well … so as any general want or famine had not been amongst them since to this day.[16]

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
Today, Thanksgiving is still celebrated every year in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. It was originally celebrated as a religious holiday but it is also celebrated as a secular holiday and has been a National Holiday since 1863.  Though the modern Thanksgiving dinner varies by region and culture, a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner will typically include a roasted turkey, some kind of stuffing, mashed potato, vegetable, and pumpkin or apple pie.
The thought of making a real Thanksgiving dinner intimidates me and I know I am not alone.  There’s a reason why more and more restaurants are staying open on this holiday and offering complete takeout Thanksgiving faux home-cooking dinners. Making a Thanksgiving dinner can be costly, time consuming, and scary! But it doesn’t have to be. And this year I made sure that I was going to take on the challenge to prove to myself and my readers that not only is it possible for even an amateur chef to prepare an entire traditional Thanksgiving meal that tastes good, but it’s also fun!
Here is an elegant menu that I used for my first home-cooked Thanksgiving.

My Thanksgiving Fairytale Feast

Fairytale Feasts Thanksgiving Menu

First Course

Second Course 
Stuffed Turkey Roulade
Cranberry Fig Sausage Stuffing
Potato and Turnip Gratin
Oven Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Orange Cranberry Sauce

Third Course
Chocolate Pecan Tart
Traditional Pumpkin Pie (Store Bought)


 I made the Fairytale Pumpkin and Acorn Squash Soup ahead of time and the rest of the dinner took me a few hours, but the entire meal can be made in a day.


1 Day Ahead:  

1) Prepare Pumpkin and Acorn Squash Soup. 
2) Prepare Stuffing for Turkey Roulade.
3) Prepare the Potato Turnip Gratin. You have the option of baking it in the oven and reheating next day. OR you can just prepare it and let it sit in refrigerator and bake it the following day.
4) Set the table.

Thanksgiving Day:
1) Prepare the Turkey Roulade.
2) Roast turkey and excess stuffing.
3) Prepare the chocolate pecan tart and bake in over after turkey and stuffing are done.
4) Heat the Potato Turnip Gratin in the Oven. 
5) Prepare the Orange Cranberry Sauce.
6) Prepare and bake the Chocolate Pecan Tart.
7) Roast the Parsnips and Carrots.


Thanksgiving Day:  
1) Prepare the Pumpkin Soup. 
2) Prepare the Turkey Roulade Stuffing. 
3) Assemble the Turkey Roulade. 
4) Roast turkey and excess stuffing.  
5) Prepare Potato and Turnip Gratin. Set aside.
6) When Turkey Roulade and Stuffing are finished, bake the Potato and Turnip Gratin.
7) While Turnip Gratin is baking, prepare the Chocolate Pecan Tart. 
8) Bake the Chocolate Pecan Tart. 
9) Prepare the Cranberry Orange Sauce. 
10) Prepare and roast the Parsnips and Carrots.

If you are looking for an easier, less time consuming take on this traditional Thanksgiving staple, try this elegant recipe for a stuffed turkey roulade. The roulade itself is so pretty and elegant to serve, not only on Thanksgiving, but on other holidays or special occasions.  I adopted from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  You can view her original recipe here.

Fairytale Stuffed Turkey Roulade
(Serves 8)

3/4 cup figs
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups of chopped sweet cooking onion
1 lb uncased sweet Italian sausage
1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
3-4 cups of seasoned stuffing mix
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 large egg
1 large turkey breast (or 2-3 halves of the white meat), deboned and butterflied (about 4-5 lbs)
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (to pour over turkey)
Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

Add the figs, cranberries, orange juice and water to a small sauce pan and bring mixture to a boil.  Simmer for two minutes and set aside.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium high heat and add in the onions and celery. Saute until softened. Add the sausauge and crumble into small pieces, sauteeing for about 10 minutes until all the pieces are browned. Add the figs and cranberries (with the liquid) to the sausage vegetable mixture. Add the chopped rosemary and mix well.

Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl.  Add the sausage vegetable mixture, chicken stock, egg, and salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Lay the butterflied turkey breast down on a tray or cutting board (if skin, skin side down). Place saran wrap over the turkey and pound together with a mallet until flat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing over the turkey, creating about a 1/2 inch layer. Be careful not to put in too much stuffing! Now roll the turkey over into a cylinder and tuck in all the stuffing that falls out. Use kitchen twine to secure the turkey roll’s shape.

Place the excess stuffing in a buttered gratin dish and bake for about 40 minutes. Place the turkey on a sheet pan  or in a roasting pan.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until the turkey reads 150 degrees in the center.  In a regular oven, this will take about 1 1/2 – 2 hours depending on the size and width of your turkey.  Using a convection bake oven, this takes about an 1 hour.  Baste the turkey roll with the juice from the pan while it is cooking.

Cover the turkey roulade with foil and let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.  Serve sliced on a platter and garnish with fresh rosemary. Serve the leftover stuffing in the gratin dish.

And remember, if all else fails and your Thanksgiving Fairytale turns into a Thanksgiving nightmare, “It isn’t so much what’s on the table that matters as what’s on the chairs.” ~ W.S. Gilbert.  

Roasted Parsnips and Carrots.
 A turkey isn’t the only symbolic dish of Thanksgiving. The sides are stars as well, with the stuffing or potatoes sometimes stealing the show! I am sure the recipe for the Cranberry Fig stuffing will more than satisfy you but these other side dish treats are equally as elegant and delicious. I used seasonal ingredients to create a fall menu that will be fresh and flavorful. I hope you enjoy 🙂

One of my favorite components of a traditional Thanksgiving meal is the cranberry sauce.  I also love oranges so I combined the two flavors in my unique cranberry sauce recipe, which I hope you enjoy! (I didn’t have enough fresh oranges so I used some orange juice as well. So that is how I wrote the recipe.)

Fairytale Orange Cranberry Sauce 
1 1/2 bags of fresh Ocean Spray cranberries
3 large oranges
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of white wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup sugar
Place the cranberries in a large saucepan. Add the juice from 2 oranges, the orange juice, and water and cook on medium high heat. When almost to a boil, add the white wine and cinnamon stick.  The cranberries will burst open and mixture boils, summer for about 5 minutes.
Serve with orange slices as garnish.
I didn’t bother to make traditional mashed potatoes for this Thanksgiving because I wanted to make something different and something special. My answer: a potato gratin! I love making gratins! There is something to comforting and whimsical about them. They bring me back to my college days in NYC when me and my best friends used to frequent places like French Roast to get our fill of comfort food. When had the best times together and these types of dishes make me nostalgic for those days.  This potato gratin has a slightly different taste because I incorporated turnips, white root vegetables commonly found this time of year. Turnips are usually white and have a green or purple-ish color wherever the sunlight has fallen upon them.  Turnip roots are high in Vitamin C.  I also cut down on the fat content of traditional gratins by using 2% Swiss Cheese instead of Gruyere and reduced fat milk. I also baked my gratin for a little bit longer than I should have because I really like a nice brown crusty top for my gratin.
Fairytale Potato and Turnip Gratin

2 lbs of Russet Potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/8 inch pieces
2 large turnips
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 large blog of 2% Swiss cheese (or 2 cups of Gruyere cheese)
1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese
1 cup of Half and Half
1-2 cups of 2% milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel potatoes and turnips. Place in a large pot of water with lemon to prevent browning.  Slice all potatoes and turnips into small uniform pieces, measuring about 1/8 inch for each slice. (Using a mandolin would be great for this. But I don’t have one so I cut them by hand.)

Rub a large gratin dish with the butter. In a large skillet, combine milk, salt pepper, nutmeg, potatoes and turnips on medium heat.  Simmer until the potatoes and turnips are tender. (Be careful not to use high heat, you don’t want the milk to curdle!)

Add the potatoes and turnips to the gratin dish.  Shred in the Swiss cheese and sprinkle with parmesean.  Bake for 40 minutes in oven. Broil if necessary to brown the top.

Let this dish sit for about a half hour so it will settle before serving.

Potato and turnip gratin – ready to bake!

There’s nothing like a roasted seasonal vegetable to compliment any meal, including Thanksgiving. Parsnips, like turnips, are a white root vegetable.  They are related to carrots but have a slightly sweeter flavor.  There is evidence that the parnsips were commonly used by ancient Greeks and Romans.  Parsnips are commonly used today in soups and stews. I adopted this Ina Garten recipe for Roasted Parsnips and Carrots. Ina recommends using smaller sized parsnips because the root core of the larger ones are often too tough.

Fairytale Roast Parsnips and Carrots
(Serves 6)

2 large or 3-4 small Parnsips
1 bag of carrots, peeled
Olive Oil
1 teaspoon of dill weed
Ground black pepper

Options: fresh thyme or dill weed for garnish.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel parsnips and carrots.  Cut parsnips and carrots in half and slice diagnoally.  Place the vegetables on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle dill weed, salt and pepper over the vegetables. Toss well so that each vegetable is coated with oil and seasoning.  Roast for 20 to 40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Garnish with fresh dill or thyme sprigs.

I know Thanksgiving is traditionally associated with pumpkin pies, apple pies, pumpkin rolls, and other fall baked treats. But anyone that knows me knows that I don’t (can’t) bake. That doesn’t mean I don’t try though! 
When you fail at cooking, many times you can save your dish by fudging the recipe or adding more ingredients. But baking is so scientific and mathematical, it hinders my natural instinct to want to estimate the measurements of ingredients and add in my own flare to a recipe. So, I did what I do best for my Fairytale Thanksgiving Feast.  I made a rustic baked apple and cranberry crumble.  I also found a way to add in chocolate to this meal. Because for me, that is always the best part! This Fairytale Chocolate Pecan Tart, while technically a baked dessert, is so easy to make and CLEANUP IS EASY. I adopted this recipe from a Cooking Light recipe. The entire thing is prepared in a medium saucepan on the stovetop and thanks to the refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust, it’s almost idiot-proof. And the results are sooo worth it. Believe me, if you like brownies or anything chocolatey, like I do, then you will have to make this tart. I promise it will be a recipe you want to make over and over again!

Fairytale Chocolate Pecan Tart
(Serves 8)
1 cup Nestle’s semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs, beaten
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust half (the kind that unrolls!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an old-fashioned metal tart pan OR coat a removable-bottom tart pan with Pam baking spray. Lay the Pillsbury pie crust over the pan and gently press the dough into the sides of the pan. (Don’t force it into the crevices too much – you want to be able to get this tart out!)

Combine brown sugar, flour, salt and corn syrup in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and whisk together until well blended. Bring mixture to a boil while whisking. Remove from heat and immediately add the butter, chocolate chips and vanilla extract. Stir with a wooden spoon until chocolate is smooth. Stir in the pecans. Let cool for a minute or two and add the egg.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust.  Back in the middle of the oven for a half hour. You can insert the toothpick into the center of the tart. It shouldn’t be wet or clean but have somewhat of a fudgy texture. You don’t want to overcook the tart.

When you remove the tart from the oven, if you are using a metal tart pan, let cool COMPLETELY for at least a half hour. Then gently press a large dish over the top of tart and turn over as you would a jello mold. Tap the tart gently on all sides and then left the metal tart pan away from the tart. It should be upside down on your dish. Invert the tart onto your serving platter.

Serve with a doll-up of cool whip or homemade whipped cream.

I baked! And I was so thrilled it came out to be so delicious! 

I also love to make this Baked Apple Cranberry Crumble. Like my summer specialty Fairytale Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, this is a rustic dish that is easy to make and it’s fun because the measurements are really estimated. Usually I just throw in whatever I have or feel like using for the crumble topping. This dish screams AUTUMN and it’s a sure crowd pleaser! It’s also very portable. Hope you enjoy!

Fairytale Baked Apple Cranberry Crumble
Serves 8

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour 
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 cup of old-fashioned oats
1 cup of sliced almonds
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (divided)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)
6-8 large baking apples (I like honeycrisp.) 
1 package of Ocean Spray Cranberries

Optional: Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for topping!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel, core and slice all apples. Place in water with lemon so that the apples do not brown. 

In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice (if using) and pinch of salt. Rub in chunks of butter with fingertips until it forms coarse crumbs.  Mix in oats and almonds. Set aside.

Spray a large 9 X 14 aluminum tray with Pam baking spray (or use Crisco or butter). Add the sliced apples and cranberries and mix well. Sprinkle crumble mixture on top. Spray with Pam baking spray or add some thin slices of butter over the crumble filling to get a golden brown topping.  Sprinkle with additional cinnamon.

Bake until filling bubbles and topping is crisp and crunchy, 45 -60 min. The apples should be tender and soft and some of the cranberries will have burst open. Let cool for about 15 minutes.  Serve warm with cold vanilla ice cream on top.


This soup is a really great Thanksgiving starter course. Like my Fairytale Butternut Squash Soup, this soup is made by pureeing the pulp of two kinds winter squash (pumpkin and acorn squash) with some chicken broth and onions. This soup has a bit of a spicy bite to it though thanks to the thyme!  I highly recommend making the whole wheat croutons. They’re just delicious in the soup.

If you want to get REALLY festive, try using mini hollowed out roasted pumpkins as soup dishes. Or just roast a large pumpkin and put the soup in there and ladle it out to your guests right from the pumpkin.

Fairytale Pumpkin and Acorn Squash Soup


1 medium pumpkin (about 3.5 lbs)
1 medium acorn squash (2 lbs)
4 tablespoons of butter, divided
2 tablespoons of honey, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 medium size sweet onion, chopped
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
5 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup of 2% milk (or half and half)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice
Fresh ground pepper

Whole wheat croutons (recipe below)
Toasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut and clean pumpkin and squash.  Place the pumpkin and squash pieces on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave until melted. Stir in 1 tablespoon of honey and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Brush the sides of the pumpkin and squash with the mixture.

Bake the pumpkin and squash pieces in the oven for 45 minutes or until the pulp is tender.  Let cool completely (this is important!) for about 20 minutes.  Scoop out the pulp with a large spoon and discard the shells.

Cooked Squash

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, saute for about 5 minutes until tender. Add thyme and sage; saute 1 minute.

Add the broth and pumpkin and squash pulp. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool another 10 minutes before adding it to a food processor or blender in batches to puree.  After pureed, return the soup to the Dutch oven.  Stir in milk, cider vinegar, ginger, nutmeg, pumpkin spice and freshly ground pepper.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of honey and 1/3 teaspoon of salt. Cook over low heat and stir often.

Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with pumpkin seeds or whole wheat croutons or both. Serve immediately.

Fairytale Whole Wheat Garlic Thyme Croutons

6 slices of good crusty whole wheat bread
3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop the bread into large chunks and add to a mixing bowl.  Melt the butter in the microwave. Pour the butter and olive oil over the croutons and immediately mix well.  Sprinkle the thyme and garlic powder over the top. Spread the croutons on an aluminum foil lined pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned.  

Fairytale Breakfast: Toasted Muffaletta bread with ricotta cheese and honey.

In the United States, November 11th is Veteran’s Day, an annual holiday commemorating Veterans for their honorable service, bravery, and sacrifices they have made in serving to protect our country.  In my family, not only do we celebrate Veteran’s Day, but we also celebrate the Catholic holiday of St. Martin’s Day.  It is also the feast day of my late paternal grandfather, Martin Collins. I wait for this holiday all year because when my maternal grandfather bakes his infamous Muffaletta bread to mark the occasion.  Here is how this tradition came about:

St. Martin, a Roman soldier and monk who was baptized as an adult, was the bishop of Tours in 397 A.D. He is commonly depicted riding on a horse and is best known for allegedly giving a beggar half of his cloak during a snowstorm.  St. Martin of Tours is commemorated on November 11, the day which he was buried. 

St. Martin’s day traditionally marks the end of the fall farvest and the beginning of winter, a time when newly produced wine is ready for drinking. Around the world since late 4th century, this is also a period before the season of Advent starts when people would begin a 40 day fast. This period was called “Quadragesima Sancti Martini,” which is Latin for the “forty days of St. Martin.”  On St. Martin’s Eve, people traditionally ate and drank as much as possible before starting their fast. Thus, St. Martin is the patron saint of horses, mounted soldiers, tailors, wine cask makers, and even, well, “drunks.”

In Italy, many Sicilians celebrated St. Martin’s day by dipping hard biscuits containing anise seeds into Moscato wine. These biscuits are small flat loaves of bread known as Muffaletta. Many Americans associate Muffaletta with the famous New Orleans hero-style sandwich that originated in 1906.  This New Orleans style Muffaletta is filled with layers of provolone cheese, Genoa salami, ham and a chopped mixed olive salad served on “Italian bread.”  However, the Muffaletta bread that is used to make this traditional sandwich comes from this Sicilian St. Martin’s day tradition. Today, there is still a Muffaletta festival celebrated in Reizi and the Province of Caltinessetta in central Sicily.

My grandfather has been making Muffaletta bread to celebrate St. Martin’s Day since I was a little girl. (And every year he ends up making more and more to try and keep up with the demand!) We serve it toasted, with a dab of ricotta cheese and drizzled honey on top. I love this bread so much that I usually freeze a loaf and enjoy it with the ricotta and honey for a special breakfast on Christmas morning. It’s savory and sweet and the perfect fairytale!  If you are craving a taste of this tradition, try buying a loaf of Fennel or anise bread at your local bakery. Spread some part-skim ricotta cheese on the bread. Toast in the oven until it is warmed through and drizzle it with some honey immediately upon removing from toaster oven.

As an alternative, instead of serving this bread by the individual slice as shown above, you can also bake each half in the oven with the ricotta spread on top. Then drizzle with honey and put together as a sandwich and serve as shown below.  This is how Muffaletta is traditionally cut and served in New Orleans. Here we kept the traditionally Sicilian tradition and used ricotta and honey. 

Whole loaf of Muffaletta with ricotta and honey.
Photo Courtesy of Alissa Costello.

Today is the holiday Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”), celebrated in Mexico and by many Mexican Americans.  It is similar to the Catholic holiday of All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1st and/or All Souls Day, celebrated on November 2nd. On this day, Mexican families traditionally gather together to pray for the souls of family and friends who have passed away. It is a celebration of the lives of those who are no longer with us and the traditions to mark the occasion vary by region.  Typically, Mexican people build private altars to the deceased or visit the graves, adorning them with flowers such as marigolds, photos and other memorabilia. Some people dress up on costumes and the skull and bones are very popular symbols of the day. Many families clean their homes and make the favorite food and drinks of the deceased.
In honor of the occasion, here is a new Mexican recipe that I adopted from Cooking Light magazine. It’s a great recipe to feed a crowd. You can make it ahead and it feeds alot of people! 

Fairytale Green-Chili Chicken Tortilla Pie

1 1/3  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1  cup canned chopped green chiles, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1  cup fat-free sour cream
3/4  teaspoon salt
1/2  teaspoon ground cumin
1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2  (10 1/2-ounce) cans condensed 98% fat-free cream of chicken soup, undiluted (such as Campbell’s)
1  garlic clove, minced
Cooking spray
24  (6-inch) flour tortillas (Authentic Mexican work best because they are thicker)
5  cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 1.5 pounds)
1 1/2  cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups of shredded low fat mexican cheese mix (such as Sargento)

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.  Spread 1 cup soup mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 6 tortillas over the soup mixture, and top with 1 cup chicken and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layers, ending with the cheese.  Spread remaining soup mixture over cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly.  Let sit for about 30 minutes after removing from the oven so it has time to set.

Shred the chicken with a fork.
Cream base for pie layers.
The chicken tortilla pie before baking.