The secret to the personal chef approach is organization. Dreaming up a feast can be so much fun, but planning, shopping, and doing some of the cooking in advance will help things run smoothly, stress free, and allow you to enjoy your own party, too! Here’s how I like to plan the perfect Thanksgiving dinner:

Personal Chef Julie Anne Rhodes
1). Plan your menu up to a month in advance. When planning your menu keep in mind your own oven and stove top space. You will see the menu below has recipes that make use of the whole kitchen, not just the ovens, and some can even be made ahead and served at room temperature. Ask your guests if anyone is vegetarian, so you are both covered and a considerate hostess. I’ll use my family’s traditional menu here as an example, but feel free to go with your own choices – just follow the basics of the plan. It’s okay to be flexible – Nick used to prefer roast potatoes to mashed, so I’d peel a couple potatoes, cut into chunks, toss in olive oil and herbs, and throw in with the turkey the last hour of roasting – easy!
Nick Rhodes, Thanksgiving 1990
Members can click on the links to get the recipes! In the meantime please enjoy the delectable homemade pumpkin ice cream recipe below.
Thanksgiving Menu
Sweet Potato Casserole
Buttered Corn
Pecan Pie with Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Thanksgiving ’94 Tatjana, Emma, Peter, Christian, Petra, and Lavinia
2). Pull the recipes from cookbooks, magazines, recipes sites, etc. (this time of year you will find great ideas on your favorite food or parenting blogs). You can also click on the links in the text of this post for recipes from The Roving Stove, or Chef Tal’s vegan Thanksgiving recipes.
3). Make a grocery list from the ingredient section of each recipe. I usually make a rough recipe list first, then go over it again, multiplying the ingredients by the number of servings I’ll need (if the recipe serves four, and your serving eight – just double the ingredient amounts). Then consolidate ingredients that are in multiple recipes (ie. 4 tablespoons of butter in the mash potatoes + 4 tablespoons of butter in the corn pudding = 8 tablespoons or one stick of butter over all). I usually plan the menu and make the grocery lists at least couple weeks in advance. I start a file for each client or event, and keep the final grocery list and recipes in there until I am ready to use them.
Thanksgiving with Dad
4). Think about all the serving pieces you will need. Do you have enough plates, glasses, napkins, and silverware for all your guests? How will you decorate your table – do you have appropriate tablecloths? Either purchase or arrange rentals at least a couple weeks in advance to be sure you are set. Also order any floral arrangements you may want to dot around the house. Don’t forget salt and pepper shakers, and candles.
5). Figure out a schedule for your recipes. What can be made a day or two ahead? What needs to go into the oven? What needs to go on the stove? Can anything be heated in the microwave? What must be served as soon as it is cooked? BTW, it is never too early to order your turkey if you want kosher, free-range, or organic. If you go with frozen, be sure to allow time for defrosting in the fridge for a few days.
 Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Over the next few weeks I will be posting other Thanksgiving tips and recipes – lets get my newest dessert recipe out of the way first. You could actually make this now, and store it in your freezer until Thanksgiving.
Servings: 6

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 cup whole milk
1 cups heavy cream
1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs


1). Using an electric mixer, mix pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and bourbon until well blended, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2).In a small heavy saucepan bring milk, heavy cream, and sugar to a boil, stir occasionally.

3). Whisk eggs in a small bowl. Temper by adding 1/3 of the hot milk mixture in a slow stream whilst whisking constantly. Transfer mixture back into same saucepan, and set over low heat, stirring and scraping down the sides of the pan with a small heatproof spatula until thickened. Do not boil. Cook until the custard coats the back of the spoon. Pour custard into a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl to strain out any bits.

4). Stir in pumpkin mixture.

5. Chill custard, then freeze in an ice cream maker for 30-45 minutes. Transfer soft ice cream to an airtight container and keep in the freezer to firm up.

Serving Suggestions: Serve on it’s own, with a slice of pecan pie, or use it to make a pumpkin ice cream pie with gram cracker crust.

This post was first published November 13, 2012

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  • November 12, 2010
    1:37 pm

    Dear Julie Anne, Good morning to you. Yeah, still "anonymous"am still working towards constructing all of my identities/roles:cyber-buddy & my own BFF, artist,daughter,and good friend;gotta get my tag, Jewels! (Am tight w/the units & the fam.) Your meals look enticing, healthy, and serious. You say yummy, I say nubby; and let's not call any of this precious dialogue off. I want to thank you for allowing me to share my opinions, and I was so elated to do so. I hope if only one person is heartened then it's my pleasure to be so translucent here, in your cyber house, Jewels. Next.It's taken me a bit of time to hollaback at you, I generally like to keep all flow of communication in the form of vibes, helpfulness, silliness, good cheer,& keeping my antennae open and extended in the specific form of ready helpfulness; well ,on, yet I was processing on my end what it must have been like for your family, your daughter, her parents, essentially, you; How to deal with this, really?I was flummoxed. I cannot believe the level of distraction, callousness, and flat-out cruelty which is certainly de-rigueur w/ some & otherspasses as life-as-we-know-it. Don't want to inflame that issue, just that it sucks that happened to such a pure,pretty young lady.It gave me great pause. I also think that most folks don't recognize their automobile is also a weapon. I lost my nephew at the age of 21 two days before Thanksgiving, on his eldest brother's birthdate. Know how horrified I was when I read how flippantly she was ignored?What? No matter it wasn't "serious." Not even going to flame those issues further. The very best we may aspire to is to process, sit with those feelings, then create something, followed by some type of prayer/celebration, and just give it wings, let it fly away. Oh yeah, fun, that is crucial. That is what I need fun.

  • November 12, 2010
    3:51 pm

    Can’t wait to see the creations, and eat them with my eyes!

  • November 12, 2010
    6:01 pm

    Nick looks like he was caught off guard!Dorah Carpenter-Caulfield

  • November 12, 2010
    6:01 pm

    Well Goooood Morning!!!! ♥ What a great start…Kim Phillips Cuccia

  • November 12, 2010
    6:18 pm

    OMG! Do you know how hard it is to find pics of Nick EATING? Rarer still to actually see him putting food in his mouth.Nique Quesada

  • November 12, 2010
    6:18 pm

    I know – I'll probably catch all kinds of grief for publishing it.

  • November 12, 2010
    6:37 pm

    LOL, well, @ least he is not chewing or anything. He looks so cute all perturbed like that.Nique Quesada

  • November 12, 2010
    8:35 pm

    I won't tell. He'll never know. Feel free to pop these little treasures on! :PKim Phillips Cuccia

  • November 12, 2010
    8:36 pm

    I've never actually had to cook Turkey Day dinner. I have roasted a turkey though — it came out pretty good. But I have the best BEST *BEST* recipe for cornbread stuffing.Veronika Stevens

  • November 12, 2010
    8:36 pm

    he looks like a 10yr old boy who does not want to eat his dinner.Misti Parresol Stolp

  • November 12, 2010
    8:36 pm

    Oh he wanted to eat it all right!

  • November 12, 2010
    10:05 pm

    Fantastic blog! I've added you to my blogroll and am following! My sweet cyber friend In New York Paris Tomorrow commented that I have to visit your blog and man was she bang on! I luv it! A meal like thanksgiving is all in the planning, thanks for sharing your process. Of course in Canada Thanksgiving has come and gone but I'm gonna lock this away for Christmas. Please visit me (I have two blogs) I'd luv to keep up…

  • November 13, 2010
    6:33 am

    excellent tips here which I shall be using for Christmas dinner. Incidentally can anyone tell me when thanksgiving is, my cousin has recently moved back to the UK from America and I should prolly whip up a Thanksgiving style meal to make him feel more at home back home.Any suggestions for those sans ice cream maker? I can't resist anything with the word "cinnamon" in it and we're so starved of cinnamon goodies in the UK that all my American friends always arrive on the visits to the UK overloaded with things for me (am spoilt). …then again, my friend Charley and I eagerly headed to the supermarket with your cinnbon style recipe last year, discovered the word "breadmaker" on the way round and had our hearts so set on making it that we shoved a breadmaker in the trolly too. So if all else fails this years pressie to myself will have to be an ice cream maker like last year's pressie was the bread machine, LOL!You're a bad influence Jewels, you make me try new recipes! On which subject, my mother and I were at a loss to do with our mountain of home grown tomatoes at the end of the season this year and went for your ciabatta recipe en-masse. It was *gorgeous*. We ate so many portions we could hardly eat the following day, had to put some made up ones in the fridge, which were our sole meal the following day because we just couldn't resist them, and my newly returned cousin wolfed the lot down too. Divine!

  • November 13, 2010
    1:14 pm

    Thanxs for the comment julie anne, honoured to be on ur blogroll! Listen, ur story & blog is so cool would u mind if i wrote a post about u on monday? I know my fashionistas would be all over u (food & glam awesome combo) & bring u a pile more readers (ur like a hidden gem 🙂 ). Lemme

  • November 13, 2010
    4:31 pm

    This is great, Jewels! I love cooking for thanksgiving. I have my turkeys that we raise organically at the butchers today (one was 30 pounds!), and everyone is already excited about stuffing and turkey and trimmings.I just hope we're still in our house for thanksgiving…the mortgage company tried to foreclose though we've been paying…a paperwork mixup on THEIR end. (there's been large quantities of chocolate going into my body lately LOL)

  • November 13, 2010
    6:24 pm

    premierludwig, Thanksgiving is on the 25th – it would be a blast to surprise her with a turkey dinner!Of course Cupcake – gee it's fun to say that! thank you.Oh know! That is unbelievable Mari – I'd be hitting the chocolate too. Tell those turkeys to get their act together, or we will eat THEM for Thanksgiving.

  • November 13, 2010
    6:28 pm

    ‎1) Lavender Honey Glazed Turkey cooked in Apple Cider. 2) Dressing with Pecans, Homewood Farms Sage infused sausage. 3) Grandma Boopa's Vanilla Bean Sweet Potato Pie 4) Cranberry, Tangerine & Lavender sauce 5) Apple Butter Glazed Buttermilk Biscuits 6) 5-Spiced Chocolate Pumpkin Souffle'sJoe DiMaggio Jr.

  • November 13, 2010
    6:29 pm

    I'm inviting myself! Yum!!! I just wrote a new recipe for turkey tenders with sweet potatoes & pears in a maple-cider reduction. May have to add some lavender next time I make it – one of my favorite ingredients.

  • November 13, 2010
    7:52 pm

    Cornish hens with oyster stuffing, baked mac and cheese, sweet potato pone, collard greens seasoned with smoked turkey, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and home made sweet potato pie with graham cracker crust.Bj Nelson

  • November 13, 2010
    7:53 pm

    Mmmmmmmmmm may have to do a little table hopping on the East coast this year!

  • November 13, 2010
    11:55 pm

    Good tips for planning the holiday meal!Charlene Elovitz

  • November 14, 2010
    6:32 pm

    Would love to have you table hop our way as well! Sometime, someday, hopefully! I'm now contemplating a funny solution to my small oven/turkey dilemma in UK. I've always wanted to put a cornish hen on a huge silver platter with lid, place it in the middle of the seated table, remove the lid with flair and shriek, "OMG, I knew I overcooked the turkey!!!!" (Backup turkey on standby, of course)Cynthia Zeman GodwinCynthia Zeman Godwin

  • November 13, 2012
    8:14 am

    Awesome tips that allowed me to enjoy my guests and dinner. Following these tips and the PCA made easy entertaining with delicious food. We don’t have a dining room, proper so any meals are in a part of the kitchen and PCA means I don’t have a ton of pots and pans to look at during dinner and I’m not freaking out and forgetting things.
    Canadian Thanksgiving was last month but PCA and these tips will be part of our Christmas routine again

    BTW what is it with English people and mashed potatoes? My husband is anti mashed potato as well so it’s roast potato city here for him and mash for the rest.