Never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner before? No problem! Our real-life tester, Melissa Collins, is a Turkey Day novice as well, and so she followed our First-Timer menu -- no crazy techniques or ingredients necessary, we promise!

By Rachael Ray Every Day
November 01, 2005


Our real-life tester, 25-year-old Melissa Collins of San Francisco, has never prepared a whole Thanksgiving feast on her own, but this year she wants to host the Big Day for all of her friends. See what this Thanksgiving novice had to say about our First-Timer menu!

Real-Life First-Timer

No Wacky Ingredients!

These recipes call for easy-to-find ingredients that won't trip up Thanksgiving first-timers.


A Simple Bird

The Herb Butter-Basted Turkey with Cranberry Grapefruit Sauce was one of Melissa's favorite dishes!

Turkey in Oven


The recipe calls for a 12-pound turkey. Melissa confessed that this was still the biggest piece of meat she's ever cooked!

Inside Turkey

The Making of a Pro

Learning how to maneuver a Thanksgiving turkey for the first time was a little difficult, Melissa says, but clearly she became quite the professional--look at that beautiful bird!

Finished Turkey

Scrumptious Side

The Root Vegetable Bread Salad is a yummy side dish that only takes 30 minutes total to prepare, and only uses one bowl!

Bread Salad

Let Us Bake Bread

The Root Vegetable Bread Salad calls for one load of any French or Italian bread. The lightly toasted bread cubes create a nice crunch with the root veggies.

Toasting bread

Festive Flavors

The salad is also tossed with lemon juice and parsley, giving the ingredients a delicious flavor, but nothing too fancy or difficult! However, Melissa did confess that she forgot to add in the chopped red onion -- whoops!


Hot or Warm!

The good news? This side dish can be served warm or at room temperature, which makes it an excellent option for beginner Thanksgiving chefs.

Bread Salad2

Stick a Fork in 'Em

Sweet potatoes are a great ingredient for novice cooks--you just bake, and they taste great! Which is exactly why we chose the Maple-Mashed Sweet Potatoes as a side dish in our First-Time menu.

Baking Potatoes

Maple and Milk

The deliciously sweet sauce for the sweet potatoes is simple too--just bring to a boil and combine with the mashed sweet potatoes!


No Trip-Ups Here

The sweet potato dish, like the rest of our First-Timer menu options, is simple and easy to navigate.

Sweet Potatoes

Punch of Parmesan

The Green Bean Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts was Melissa's favorite dish--she loved the flavors and variety of ingredients.

Green Bean Salad

Chilly Onions

The first step of this easy salad recipe is to submerge the onions in a bowl of ice water for 30 minutes. Brrr!

Onions on Ice

Perfect Timing

Melissa said the salad was super easy to make and (bonus!) it can sit for hours and still taste fresh and flavorful.



What could be tastier than toasted pine nuts?

Toasted Nuts

Pecan: Pee-can or Puh-cahn?

The Pecan Pie with Bourbon Ice Cream is a beginner's dream dessert because the filing doesn't crack like tricky custard pies can. Using a frozen piecrust makes it even easier!

Pie in Oven

Bourbon Ice Cream

Melissa loved the spiked ice cream--also a super simple treat--that goes along with this pie. Just grab some vanilla ice cream, stir in some bourbon whiskey and refreeze.

Baked pie

The Verdict

Melissa says these dishes definitely fulfilled the beginner-friendly promise! Although, after cooking a whole Thanksgiving meal on her own, she'll opt for a potluck option or delegate some of the dishes this Turkey Day!