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Cooking First Thanksgiving Dinner Is a Big Challenge but Don't Despair : Following a Few Keys to Success Will Mean a Delicious Meal and Time to Be Relaxed Enough to Enjoy the Holiday Food With Your Guests

November 21, 1985

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner for the first time can be quite a challenge (if not downright frightening). But with a little planning, it's possible for the cook to serve a delicious meal and still be relaxed enough to enjoy it along with everyone else.

A few keys to success: Keep in mind the available space and equipment, plan a menu that is equal to your capabilities and make a timetable. Whether to prepare recipes using fresh, convenience, or a combination of the two foods will need to be determined by personal skill and preference.

The following menu is designed to serve six people. It should be able to be prepared by a cook with limited experience, and requires a kitchen range having one oven. The timetable is based on serving dinner at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. It is meant to be a guide, and can certainly be changed or expanded, if desired.

THANKSGIVING DINNER MENU Turkey and Dressing Baked Sweet Potatoes Green Vegetable Cranberry Sauce Rolls Wine Pumpkin Pie Coffee

Use either fresh or frozen turkey and the following recipe or a packaged dressing mix. Purchase fresh sweet potatoes about the same size so they bake evenly. Select either a fresh or frozen vegetable and prepared whole-berry or jellied cranberry sauce. Also purchase ready-to-bake rolls, wine if desired and either regular or instant coffee. Bake the pie yourself or purchase one fresh or frozen.

Several days ahead, prepare grocery shopping list using the menu and recipes. Order fresh turkey or purchase frozen turkey and begin thawing in refrigerator.

Two days ahead, pick up fresh turkey and other necessary ingredients.

One day ahead, bake or purchase pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving Day morning, prepare dressing recipe or mix according to directions on package and refrigerate.

At noon, prepare turkey for roasting according to recipe directions and begin roasting.

At 1 p.m., set table. Place cranberry sauce in serving dish and refrigerate. Ready other serving dishes.

At 2:45 p.m., begin baking sweet potatoes.

At 3 p.m., ready coffee pot. If using fresh vegetable, prepare for cooking.

At 3:30 p.m., remove turkey from oven and allow juices to set before carving. Fill water glasses and open wine. Place cranberry sauce and butter on table. Prepare rolls for baking

At 3:45 p.m., bake rolls. Begin cooking fresh or frozen green vegetable. Remove stuffing from turkey and cover with foil to keep warm. Slice turkey.

At 4 p.m., place everything in serving dishes and serve.


1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey

Salt, pepper

Sesame Whole-Wheat Stuffing

Rinse turkey, pat dry. Rub salt and pepper to taste into neck and body cavities. Lightly spoon stuffing into neck cavity and close with skewer. Lightly fill body cavity. Secure drumsticks lightly with string.

Inset meat thermometer into center of thigh next to body, but not touching bone. Roast uncovered on roasting rack at 325 degrees 20 to 22 minutes per pound or to internal temperature of 175 degrees.

Let turkey stand at least 20 minutes before carving. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Sesame Whole-Wheat Stuffing

8 cups whole-wheat bread cubes

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 cup butter or margarine

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 cup turkey or chicken broth

Dry bread cubes at 250 degrees 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool, then place in large bowl.

Saute onion, celery and parsley in butter until onion is tender. Stir in sesame seeds and poultry seasoning, then stock. Pour over bread cubes and toss to combine.

Note: Remaining stuffing may be baked in buttered casserole while turkey stands before carving.

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