Tips & Tricks

Thanksgiving Recipes, Tips & Tricks

Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday, mostly because I refuse to worry about fat, calories and more calories.  It’s the one day where you get a free pass on being a total fatty.   Thanksgiving is when I will enjoy every savory and sweet bite.

I’ve been in charge of making Thanksgiving dinner for 3 years.  In the past 3 years, Thanksgiving has consisted of 6 to 10 people including myself.  Each year has been equally delicious!

Unfortunately, most Americans are freaking out, stressing out and putting “fun” in family disfunction on Thanksgiving.  To create a less stressful and daunting Thanksgiving, I will provide you with my tips, tricks and recipes that I’ve been using for the past 3 Thanksgivings.

Marlee’s Thanksgiving Menu

Phyllo Cups with Brie and Cranberry Orange Sauce
Herbed Butter Turkey Breast
Mashed Potatoes
Ruth Chris’s Sweet Potato Casserole
Traditional Green Bean Casserole
Honey Cornbread Muffins
Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Pumpkin Pecan Pie


Phyllo Cups with Brie and Cranberry Orange Jam
Place unbaked phyllo cups (found in your grocery store’s frozen baked section) on a sheet tray with a cube of brie. Bake until the edges of the phyllo cups have started browning and brie melting. Finish with any tart jam. I use the cranberry orange sauce I made the day before.

Herbed Butter Turkey Breast
1 Stick of Room Temperature Butter (Breast Only) or 2 Sticks (Whole Bird)
Chopped Thyme
Mince Garlic
Lemon Zest
Salt & Pepper
Onion (Quartered)
Lemon (Quartered)
Thyme Sprigs
Garlic Bulb (Cut in half)
Chicken Stock

The day before, mix the room temp butter with the chopped thyme, minced garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Place mixture in plastic wrap and shape into a log.  The day of, prep your bird and place in your preferred cooking device.  Pat the skin dry with a paper towel.  Rub with kosher salt.  Rub the room temp. compound butter over and under the skin of the bird.  Place the quartered and halved onion, lemon, garlic and thyme sprigs in the cavity of the bird.  Place a shallow amount of chicken stock at the bottom of the pan.  Cook and baste the bird as the directed packaging informs.

Ruth Chris’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Traditional Green Bean Casserole

2- 3 Boxes Stovetop Turkey Stuffing
Chicken Stock
1/2 to 1 Sweet Onion
4-6 Stalks Celery

Rough to finely chop your celery and onion.  Saute in butter (amount of butter as indicated on packaging) your celery and onion, Cook until translucent.  Add your chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Add the contents of the Stovetop box. Cook as directed.  Use measurements for butter and chicken stock according to the Stovetop packaging.

Honey Cornbread Muffins
The Neely’s Honey Cornbread Muffins  These are super moist and absolutely delicious.  My go-to cornbread recipe!

Cranberry Orange Sauce
1 Pound Fresh Cranberries
2 Cups Sugar
1 Orange (Zested and Juiced)
1/3 C. Water
Dash of Cinnamon
Splash of Vanilla Extract

Place all ingredients in a pot.  On medium heat, occasionally stirring, cook until cranberries have burst open and the sugar has completely dissolved.  Place in a serving bowl and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

Tips & Tricks

1.  Make as many dishes and prep as much as you can the day before.
The dishes I make and prep the day before:
Compound Butter
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Cornbread Muffins
Pumpkin Pecan Pie
Chop the vegetables for the stuffing
Green Bean Casserole (Not baked)
Sweet Potato Casserole (Not baked)

2.  Designate a family member that is in charge of dish duty.  If you’re cooking, you shouldn’t have to do the dishes too, that’s just cruel.  Wash your dishes as you go.  Don’t just pile them up until the very end of the meal.

3. Set your table the night before.  One less thing you have to do the day of.

4. Stick to what you know, don’t decide to experiment with overly complicated recipes the day of.  You will be sitting on your kitchen floor having a tantrum like Julie in the movie Julie & Julia.

If you have some tips and tricks that are helpful, please provide them in the comment section! Your tip might help someone else!

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Apple Cider Vinegar & Baking Soda

So I don’t know about you, but there are certain sweet treats that aren’t enjoyable – that of being from the dense and dry variety. I have never heard anyone say, “Nothing satisfies my sweet tooth like a dry and dense cupcake!” So you ask, “What can I do to make my pancakes fluffier and my cupcakes lighter?” Well, it’s super simple and the answer is:

Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda

The combination of  vinegar and baking soda creates that timeless science experiment, which somehow ignites that, ‘wow’ factor no matter how old you are.   So you might be asking:

“Why choose apple cider vinegar over traditional white distilled vinegar for my baked goods?”

Apple cider vinegar is sweeter because it is made with real apple juice!  I love salt and vinegar chips, but I don’t want that pungent vinegar flavor in my baked goods.  So how do you use baking soda and apple cider vinegar together?  Here are my tips for this technique:

  • Use the same ratio of baking soda to apple cider vinegar. (If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking soda, you will want to use 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.)
  • Change up the baking instructions: Don’t add baking soda to the dry ingredients.
  • At the very end of the recipe, right before your supposed to place your batter into its baking device, add the apple cider vinegar to the baking soda in a small dish.
  • Once the apple cider vinegar and baking soda has reacted, pour the liquid into your batter and fold the mixture in, until combined.
  • Let your batter sit for about 5 minutes to let the reaction really do its magic.
  • This is important! DO NOT stir your batter after it has been sitting for 5 minutes.
  • After 5 minutes, without stirring, you can now scoop your batter!

The recipes that I most frequently use this technique is in red velvet and vanilla cakes/cupcakes as well as waffle and pancake batter.


I hope this trick works for you and helps you make even better baked goods!  Let me know how it goes!  Be creative! If you have a recipe that needs some added fluffiness, try this trick!  Baking is part art, part chemistry, and of course fun! Worse case scenario you have to start over, but that’s part of learning! Don’t be scared to try something different.


Buttermilk Substitutions

Have you ever had that moment when you’re mid-way through a recipe and you realize that you forgot to buy an ingredient at the store? It’s happened to me plenty of times with flour, eggs, butter, chocolate chips and the list goes on… Luckily, I have a solution for you when you forget the buttermilk on your grocery list!

Buttermilk Substitutions


Substitution No. 1
Milk and Apple Cider Vinegar / White Distilled Vinegar
For 1 cup of milk, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
For baked goods I like to use apple cider vinegar because it is made with apple juice = sweet!

Substitution No. 2
Milk and Lemon Juice
For 1 cup of milk, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and let stand for 10 minutes.

Sustitution No. 3
Milk and Sour Cream / Greek Yogurt
For 1 cup of “buttermilk,” whisk together 2/3 cup milk with 1/3 cup of either sour cream or plain greek yogurt.

My disclaimer: I haven’t used these buttermilk substitutions when cooking, only baking. When I make pancakes and rhubarb bread I use the milk and apple cider vinegar mixture (also called “sour milk”).

Hope this technique helps in the future if you forget or run out of buttermilk!