Donna shares Thanksgiving recipes

For the last 30 years, nutritionist Donna Weihofen has shared her favorite Thanksgiving recipes. She started on the morning show and she back after a COVID-19 break in 2021. This year, she shares tips on how to make turkey, casserole and more.

You can read the full recipes below or download them here:

Donna’s Turkey Tips
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes topped with Cranberry Sauce
Broccoli with Cheese Sauce Casserole

Donna’s Turkey Tips

Tips for cooking and serving your turkey and gravy

Purchase your turkey far enough in advance to allow it to completely thaw out in the refrigerator. You will need 1 day for each 4 – 5 pounds of weight. To speed up thawing, place turkey in the unopened bag into a sink of cool water.

On the day of cooking, remove turkey from the outer bag. It is best to do this in the sink to prevent contaminating counter tops. Remove the bags of giblets and neck pieces from the inside of the bird. Rinse inside and outside of the turkey with running water.

Wash your hands. It will be very important, especially this year, to handle the turkey carefully to prevent cross contamination with other foods. Consider the turkey to be a salmonella source and it can spread bacteria to areas that it touches. Be assured that the salmonella will be destroyed in cooking. As long as you cook the turkey to at least 165 degrees in the thickest areas, it will be safe to eat.

Grease the bottom and sides of the baking pan. Place turkey rack in baking pan. Spray rack with cooking oil spray.

Place washed and drained turkey on the rack in the pan.

Rub turkey with canola oil.

Wash your hands and any utensils that were in contact with the raw turkey.Using soap and hot water, wash the sink and any countertops that were in contact with the turkey.

Insert thermometer into thickest area of the inner thigh. This is a part of the turkey that cooks the slowest and is also one of the thickest. The thigh is just below the drumstick. Insert the thermometer parallel to the body of the turkey. You should feel some resistance as it goes into the meat. If it suddenly slides very easy, that means you may have poked through into the turkey cavity. If you hit something, that means you have hit a bone.

Sprinkle the breast and leg area with pepper and seasoned salt such as Lawry’s salt. You may also sprinkle lightly with paprika.

Loosely tent the breast and leg area of the turkey with aluminum foil. Do not wrap it tightly. Cover the cavity opening with foil.

Place turkey in preheated oven at 325 degrees.

Remove the foil for the last hour of baking. If the breast is not brown when turkey is almost done, turn oven up to 400 degrees or put under the boiler for a few minutes and bake until the breast is beautifully brown. Watch carefully.

General guide for unstuffed turkey.:

12 – 16 pounds 3 – 3 ½ hours

16 – 18 pounds 3 – 4 hours

18 – 20 pounds 4 – 4 ½ hours

20 – 24 pounds 4 ½ – 5 ½ hours

Bake until temperature reaches at least 170 degrees deep in the thigh. I prefer to bake the turkey until the temperature in the thigh reaches 180 degrees and 170 degrees in the breast. The turkey will continue to cook a little more after taking it out of the oven.

Do not rely on a “pop up” temperature button. Always check with a thermometer.

Remove turkey from the oven, cover with a towel, and let set for at least 30 minutes to allow the juices to distribute throughout the turkey. This is an important step to make sure you have a wonderful juicy turkey.

Note that it is best not to cook your turkey with the dressing inside the turkey cavity. When a turkey is large, it takes a long time for the temperature of the stuffing to reach a safe temperature. It is much safer to cook the dressing in a bowl in the oven. If the dressing is prepared with chicken broth, it should be just as tasty.

To make gravy, remove the floating melted fat. One way to do this is to pour the turkey drippings into a gravy separator. Return turkey drippings to the pan. Add additional chicken broth or water if you would like more gravy. Bring mixture to a boil.

In a jar or shaker, combine 1/2 cup flour with 1-1/2 cups cold water or canned chicken broth. Shake well and slowly pour flour-water mixture into the pan while stirring constantly over medium heat. Bring to a boil. If thicker gravy is desired, make another mixture of flour and water. Be sure to stir the gravy as you add the flour and water mixture to the boiling drippings. Continue to boil several minutes while stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

These potatoes are wonderful. Even when made days ahead of time, the potatoes taste like you just made them. They are good to keep on hand in the refrigerator for a quick warming whenever you are in the mood for great mashed potatoes.(Do not freeze.) The white pepper is an essential ingredient.

6 large russet potatoes (3 pounds), peeled and quartered

1/2 cup fat free milk or milk of your choice

1/2 cup light or regular sour cream

3 ounces reduced fat or regular cream cheese

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain.

Add milk, sour cream, cream cheese, and white pepper to the potatoes in the saucepan. Using an electric mixer, beat until fluffy. (Do not use a food processor or the potatoes will turn to “glue”.)

Add extra milk if needed for a smooth light consistency. They will thicken a little more after being refrigerated.

Add additional pepper and salt to taste. Transfer potatoes to a lightly buttered casserole dish. Cover and refrigerate.

On the day of serving, bring to room temperature and heat covered potatoes in 350 degree oven until hot – about 30 minutes. Time will depend on the size of the casserole dish. The potatoes can also be reheated in a microwave but stir occasionally for more even heating throughout the dish.

Sweet Potatoes topped with Cranberry Sauce

This is so easy and can be made ahead. It is a great combination of flavors.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 cups fresh cranberries

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

In a medium saucepan, cover sweet potato cubes with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and boil gently until potatoes are tender. Drain and place serving bowl.

In a medium saucepan combine cranberries, butter, and brown sugar. Place over medium hot heat; stir constantly until cranberries have popped open. Remove from heat.

Add orange juice to thin to desired consistency. Spoon cranberry sauce overthe sweet potatoes.

If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. At that time warm in an oven or microwave.

Broccoli with Cheese Sauce Casserole

This recipe has been in my friend Monica Tuite’s family for years. Try it and it may become your favorite way of serving broccoli.

10 cups broccoli florets – 1-1/2 pound bunch of broccoli before stems are trimmed off

Cheese Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1-1/2 cups milk

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Cracker Mixture

60 original Ritz crackers (1-3/4 sleeve)

6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a medium size casserole dish such as a 9 x 12 inch oval or a 10 x 10 inch baking dish.

In a 4 quart or larger sauce pan, bring a few inches of water to a boil. Add broccoli, cover pan and steam just until tender crisp. Do not overcook. Drain well and set aside.

For the cheese sauce, choose a small sauce pan. Melt butter and add flour. Stir over medium heat for 1 minute. Add milk and continue to stir or whisk over medium hot heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Add pepper, salt and dry mustard. Stir to mix. Remove from heat and add 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Stir to mix.

For the cracker mixture, place crackers in a plastic zip lock bag. Crumble crackers. Place crackers in a bowl. Drizzle the melted butter over the crackers and mix well with a fork.

To Assemble, sprinkle half of the cracker crumbs in the bottom of the casserole dish. Arrange broccoli on top. Pour cheese sauce over the broccoli. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of cheese on top. Sprinkle remaining cracker crumbs on top.

If making this ahead of time, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.

When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator for 1- 2 hours at room temperature.

Bake (350 degrees) covered for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 – 20 minutes or until lightly brown on top and mixture is heated through and bubbly.

If you have leftover, warm them in a 350 degree oven. Warming in a microwave will make the cracker crust soggy.

More recipes can be found here.