Central Virginia Community College gives Thanksgiving cooking crash course

CVCC’s culinary arts program director shares simple recipes and leftover meal ideas

Thanksgiving dinner can be overwhelming, but these tips will guarantee a fantastic meal

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Without the big family gatherings this Thanksgiving, many people are cooking a holiday meal for the first time. Central Virginia Community College Culinary Arts’ program director, Chef Philomena Hughes, wants to help ease your first-time cook jitters with a few simple recipes.

Hughes’ biggest advice for beginners is to know your skillset. For example, if you’re not a great baker or have never tried baking, buying your desserts and cooking the main course will be your best bet.

Another pointer, have your tasks set up. There are a few dishes you don’t have to wait to make on Thanksgiving Day, you can cook them the day before.

As for leftovers, Chef Hughes suggests not being afraid to be creative. You can make sliders with turkey, an apple slice, cranberry sauce and lettuce. Instead of chicken dumplings, you can take your leftover turkey and make dumplings with that.

If you cooked roasted vegetables, take the leftovers and add it to a salad along with cranberry sauce.

Below are a few quick and easy holiday dishes Chef Hughes recommends for beginners.


2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, washed

½ stick butter, cut into 6 parts

¼ - ½ warm milk or heavy cream

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Place washed potatoes in saucepan with 2 tsp salt and cover with water. Bring the pot of water to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Drain potatoes and leave in saucepan. Add ¼ cup of warm milk, salt and pepper and all of the butter to the saucepan with potatoes. Use a potato masher or fork to smash potatoes. If too thick add more warm milk. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to your serving dish and garnish with a spring of thyme or parsley. To watch Chef Hughes make it herself, click here.

TURKEY STUFFING Yield: 12 servings

1 (12 oz) package of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing

4 TBSP butter

1 container Stuffing blend – find in the produce department at the grocery store – contains chopped onions and celery and fresh herbs

2 cups of Swanson Chicken Broth

Heat butter in 4-Qt. saucepan over medium heat

Add Stuffing blend and cook vegetables for 5 minutes

Add broth and heat to a boil

Remove saucepan from heat and add a bag of stuffing and mix lightly.

Cover and fluff with a fork, then transfer to your serving dish and garnish with a sprig of fresh sage. Here’s a clip of how it turns out.


1 bag of chopped Root Vegetable Roasting Bag – find in your produce department

1 bag of sliced Brussel Sprouts – find in your produce department

1/2 bag of baby carrots

3 TBSP Olive oil

1 tsp Salt and ¼ tsp pepper

Spread vegetables on a cookie sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Then roast in the oven at 400F for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Transfer to your serving dish and garnish with fresh Rosemary.


1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed

4 ounces sliced shitake mushrooms, stems removed

1 ½ TBSP olive oil

1 tsp Kosher salt


1 log of Simply Truth Herb Garlic Goat cheese

French’s Crispy fried onions

Spread green beans on a cookie sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper and toss to coat then roast in the oven at 350F for 8 minutes. Transfer to your serving dish and immediately add crumbled goat cheese so it will melt on green beans. Sprinkle with crispy fried onions. Check out how it’s supposed to turn out, here.


1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries

¼ cup water

¾ cup sugar

Dash of Cinnamon and ground Ginger

Rind of an orange – use a veggie peeler to take the rind off orange, then slice into thin pieces.

Juice of fresh orange

In a medium saucepan, add cranberries, water, sugar, spices and juice of an orange. Cook over medium heat until cranberries burst and get jam-like. Turn heat off and add your sauce to your serving vessel and garnish with orange pieces.


1 package of Pillsbury pie dough sheets

2 - 20 ounce cans of Apple Pie filling

¼ tsp of Cinnamon and Nutmeg

¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 F

Take one of the pie dough crusts and place in a pie pan. Pour fruit filling in a bowl and add spices and mix. Pour into unbaked 9-inch pie shell. Take a second pie dough crust out of the package and lay top crust on filled pie and pinch edges together. You can prick the top crust with a knife or fork to vent steam. Brush milk over the dough so you will have a nice golden glaze. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.


1 package of Pillsbury pie dough sheets

2 ½ cups Pecan, roughly chopped

3 large eggs

½ cup dark brown sugar

1 cup dark corn syrup

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F

Take one of the pie dough crusts and place in pie pan and pinch edges. Very roughly chop the pecans– some whole, some lightly chopped is fine. Spread pecans evenly inside pie crust. Whisk the eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, melted butter, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl until combined. Pour over pecans. Bake the pie for 50-55 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Remove finished pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. The pie filling will settle as it cools. Slice and serve pie warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream or ice cream.


1 / 10-12 lb turkey thawed

½ onion

½ lemon

Fresh thyme

Fresh rosemary

Fresh sage

¼ stick butter, melted

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325F

*Adjust oven rack so the turkey will sit in the center of the oven

Remove thawed turkey from the fridge 1 hour before roasting. Wash turkey and then dry with paper towels.

Stuff vegetables, fruit and herbs in the turkey cavity (make sure you pull out neck and giblets from the cavity first) Also salt and pepper. Brush turkey all over with melted butter and salt and pepper. Set the turkey on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan or on a sheet pan.

Roast turkey 13 minutes per pound, until golden brown and internal temperature reaches 165 degrees or you can pull out at 160 and then tent with foil (it will continue to cook). Let turkey rest for 20 minutes with foil tent before carving.


Use pan drippings from your turkey. Spoon off the fat from top.

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the roux: Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, whisk in the flour to form a thin paste. Let this cook for a few minutes until bubbly. Pour in the pan drippings and whisk to combine with the roux.

Finish the gravy by whisking in a 1/2 cup of the broth. You can add more broth for a thinner gravy or let the gravy cook a few minutes for a thicker gravy. Taste and season with salt, pepper, as desired.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.