Thanksgiving dinner must-haves for your weekend celebrations

To prepare so many dishes at once can be daunting, so we pulled together a few ideas — including some must-haves from the Eyeopener crew to inspire your feasts, and hopefully take off some of the pressure.

Julie Van Rosendaal and Calgary Eyeopener crew provide favourite recipes

Thanksgiving dinner can be intimidating, but these recipes make the process a lot easier. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

It's Thanksgiving weekend, Canada's most food-focused long weekend of the year. To prepare so many dishes at once can be daunting, so we pulled together a few ideas, including some must-haves from the Calgary Eyeopener crew to inspire your feasts, and hopefully take off some of the pressure.

The Starter

Start off your dinner with some roasted carrots and parsnips with whipped feta. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Roasted Beets with Whipped Feta, Lemon and Dukkah

The few simple elements of this unique appetizer can be made well ahead and quickly assembled when you're ready to serve it. The whipped feta also makes a tasty base for roasted veggies (try winter squash, or carrots and parsnips) at the table.

This was adapted from a dish created by chef Steve Smee of Ten Foot Henry, via the new Calgary Eats cookbook. (If you don't have Macedonian-style feta, use what you have and add a splash of cream or water to help loosen it in the food processor.)


Whipped feta:

1 cup Macedonian-style feta

juice of a lemon, plus a bit of zest


¼ cup chopped almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp sumac

½ tsp dried thyme

¼  tsp kosher salt

¼ cup freshly ground pepper

To serve:

2 roasted beets, peeled and diced

1-2 tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar

1-2 tbsp olive oil


chopped fresh dill, parsley or mint


Whip the feta with the juice of a lemon and a bit of its zest in the food processor until smooth and creamy. To make the dukkah, combine the almonds, sesame seeds, cumin, sumac, thyme, salt and pepper in a small dish. Toss the roasted beets with the vinegar, oil and a pinch of salt.

To serve, spread the feta on a plate and top with the beets, a generous sprinkling of dukkah and a bit of chopped dill, parsley or mint. Serve with pitas or other flatbread, or crackers. Serves 6 or so.

The Turkey

Get your butcher to break down your bird and roast it on top of a bed of stuffing. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Roasted turkey can be intimidating, but the process itself is fairly simple. Aim for about a pound per person (you'll have leftovers!) and make sure it's completely thawed before you start.

Timing-wise, the general rule of thumb is 15-20 minutes per pound at 325˚F, and you don't need a special roasting pan. A braising pan, large casserole or cast iron skillet works just fine.

Stuff it loosely, right before roasting (or not — it will cook more quickly, and can be easier to tell when the bird is done, as you'll be able to tip it and see whether the juices run clear from the cavity), pat it dry with paper towel and rub all over with soft or melted butter or oil, salt and pepper, or any other preparation you like.

Check at the earliest suggested baking time. If you have a thermometer, it should read 165˚F inserted into the thickest part of the breast and thigh. Cover with foil and let rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving, which gives you some time to finish veggies or rolls in the oven.

Alternatively, get your butcher to break down your bird (or do it yourself!) and roast it on top of a bed of stuffing —it will cook in a fraction of the time, and be easier to handle when it's time to carve. Extra bits can be roasted in a skillet alongside, producing the browned bits necessary to make gravy!


Deconstructed Turkey + Stuffing

10-15 lb (5-7 kg) fresh turkey (or whatever size you like) 

canola oil, for cooking 

butter (lots) 

4 celery stalks, chopped (with leaves) 

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed 

1-1½ large crusty loves, torn or cubed 

2 tbsp chopped fresh sage, or 1 tbsp dried 

salt and pepper, to taste 

1-2 cups chicken or turkey stock 

a few sprigs of fresh thyme


Break down your turkey or get your butcher to break it down for you. I left the drumsticks and thighs intact, so wound up with two thigh/drumsticks, two breast pieces and two wings. He also gave me the carcass to take home for stock.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a large skillet, heat a generous drizzle of oil with a generous dab of butter and sauté the onion and celery for 4-5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Meanwhile, tear or cube your bread into a large bowl. Add the sautéed veggies along with the sage, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Melt about ½ cup butter and drizzle it over the bread, toss again and spread out in a large, shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle over some chicken stock — enough to moisten the bread without making it soggy. (This kinda depends on the type and age of your bread. Just go with your gut.)

Place the chicken carcass and wings in an ovenproof skillet, drizzle with a bit of oil if you like, and slide it into the oven. Pat the leg and breast pieces dry with paper towel and rub all over with oil or soft butter. Set on top of the stuffing mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pull the leaves off a few sprigs of thyme and sprinkle that over, too. If you like, tuck a few sprigs into the stuffing as well.

Roast for 1-1½ hours, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a breast or thigh reads 165˚F. Rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. While it rests, make the gravy. Move the bones to a pot for stock, and make the gravy on the stovetop out of the browned bits in the bottom of the pan.

Serves eight or more.

The Cranberries

Jalapeño Cranberry Sauce for Paul

Eyeopener director Paul Karchut loves his cranberry sauce spiked with a little jalapeño — it's particularly tasty on leftover turkey sandwiches. If you like, omit the jalapeño and add a bit of grated orange zest (or use orange juice in place of the water). It's also tasty with a shake of cinnamon or cinnamon stick added to the pot. 


1 bag (about 3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries

½-¾ cup sugar

¼ cup water

½-1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped


In a medium saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries start popping and the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool. Makes about 2½ cups.

The Potatoes

Mashed potatoes hold really well, and so can be made ahead and kept warm on a back burner, on the warm setting in a slow cooker, or reheated at the last minute with a splash of cream. I also love mashing some rutabaga in with the potatoes. Also worth nothing: whole potatoes can be tucked into the oven, directly on the oven rack, around the turkey as it roasts — I often do those small, long, dark-fleshed sweet potatoes, and serve them with a small pitcher of browned butter (add some sage as it browns, if you like!) at the table. 

The Buns

Parker House rolls are the perfect accompaniment to your dinner. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Parker House Rolls for Angela

The Eyeopener's Angela Knight recalls the soft Parker House rolls on their Thanksgiving table in Moose Jaw. She says the buttery folded pockets are perfect for leftover sandwiches … and she's right. 


1 pkg (2 tsp) active dry yeast

3 tbsp sugar

1 cup milk, warmed

½ cup butter, melted (divided)

1 large egg

3½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ tsp fine salt

flaky salt, for finishing (optional)


In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup warm water, along with a pinch of the sugar. Set it aside for a few minutes, to get foamy. Add the rest of the sugar to the yeast along with the milk, half the butter, egg, flour and salt and stir until the dough comes together. Knead for about five minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It should still be quite tacky. (I do this in my stand mixer, with the dough hook.) Put it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise for an hour or so, until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and divide it in half. Roll each out into an 8x12-inch rectangle. Brush all over with melted butter. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, then fold each half almost in half lengthwise, leaving about half an inch uncovered. 

Cut the dough crosswise in half, then in quarters, making eight pieces. Arrange in a buttered, greased or parchment-lined 9x13-inch pan in four rows of four, with the long sides of the buns running along the long sides of the pan. (Once you do this once, you'll totally get the hang of it.) Cover with a tea towel and set aside for about half an hour, while you preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until deep golden. Immediately brush the tops of the buns with the remaining butter while they're still warm — and if you like, sprinkle with coarse salt.

Makes 16 buns.

The Dessert

It's like a cross between pie and apple crisp. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC )

Apple Pie for Rob

Rob Brown opts for apple over pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving — and says it must be served with a slice of cold aged cheddar. This version has a crumble topping. It's like a cross between pie and apple crisp. 


Pastry for a single crust pie:

4-6 large apples, peeled and sliced

½ cup sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon


½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup butter, grated or cut into pieces

¼ cup finely chopped pecans or almonds


Preheat the oven to 350˚F. 

Roll the pasty out slightly larger than your pie plate, and gently fit it in without stretching. Toss the apples with the sugar and flour and mound into the pastry. Trim and crimp the edge.

In the same bowl you used for the apples, blend the flour, brown sugar, butter and nuts with a fork or your fingers, until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle over the apples. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until bubbly and golden. Cover the top loosely with a bit of foil if it's darkening too quickly.

Let stand for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Serves eight or so.