Thanksgiving Turkey Twist: Citrus Inspired Recipes

 I’m excited to be sharing a duo  of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes that both happen to be citrus inspired.  You can find a phenomenal butter roll recipe and  a delicious pumpkin pie alternative over here. Trust me you’ll be the hit of the party if you bring anyone of these recipes…  but as for today Lemon Rosemary Turkey and Orange Cranberry Relish  is on the agenda.

 I also make rolls and this alternative dessert for our Thanksgiving dinner!  I am not a huge pumpkin pie fan so I like to have something additional to offer.  You can find those two recipes here.

Turkey feels daunting, but it can be the easiest part of the day. I truly think the most challenging part of Thanksgiving dinner is the timing of it all. Getting the food on the table, fully cooked, still hot, and all at the same time is a feat worth recognizing even if not accomplished perfectly. (A friend of mine wrote a great post about putting together a Thanksgiving dinner and all while having fun, she includes a day-of timeline that is awesome – you should check it out!) Isn’t it so much fun to have friends who are good at things you are not, or people to share life with?

Getting the turkey cooked and also finding a way to cook everything else in the right timeline can be challenging, but one of the joys of a potluck Thanksgiving dinner is that the hard work and struggle of figuring out the timing is shared between contributors. That being said I always volunteer to bring the turkey – I’ve learned it really is the easiest part. Get it in the oven and let it cook, enjoy the delicious smells wafting from your oven, and maybe even do something fun like create a tablescape or add a surprise touch to the table  that makes your guests feel special, all while it cooks. Now the carving proves a tad more challenging, but in the end I get to take home the carcass which also gets this home cook and soup lover all kinds of giddy. (Soup tip: save your gravy and add it to the broth to make the most delicious turkey noodle soup – that one is a freebie).

Cooking tip: I always leave at least 4 hours for a turkey to cook and the more specific guide is 20 minutes per pound. This time around I did two 12-13 lb turkeys and it was just over four hours. It only took me about 15 minutes to prep the rub and get it in the oven.

This is my FAVORITE turkey recipe and it always gets rave reviews. It can be used on whole chickens or game hens as well!
A friend of mine shared this with me  almost 8 years ago when I cooked my first turkey in my home for our first married Thanksgiving.  I’ll never do a turkey any other way. (Okay, that not might not be entirely true as last year we tried something new by brining a turkey with Juniper berries… I do like to try new things. But, if I’m looking for the perfect turkey to impress a crowd this is the one I will choose.) It is unique, flavorful, moist, and produces consistent results that people love.


Prepping the rub of rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper, and lemons are ready to go into the cavity in quarters.



Lemon Rosemary Turkey

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Lemon Rosemary Turkey
4 lemons (or more if they are small)
6-7 stems of rosemary
1 1/2  tsp salt
1 tsp pepper (you can add more or take away if you have a peppery preference)
2 Tb of oil (your preference on type)
A turkey baster (you can do without this but it does make it easier)

1. Thaw the turkey (I put the turkey in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2-3 days ahead if frozen).  When thawed remove the neck and giblets that can be found in the cavity (the hole 🙂 )
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When the turkey is fully thawed wash with cold water and drain. Place the turkey in a roasting pan. I prefer a real pan so that I can make gravy right in it, I love mine since I can transfer it right to the stove top to make gravy, but for this turkey I made gravy in a separate pan and was transporting it so you will see that I used disposable pans. There are perks to this too.

3. Zest 1 large lemon
4. De-stem 4 or 5 stems of rosemary – do this by holding one end of the stem and running your hand up the stem to disconnect the leaves (or would you call these needles?) from the stem. Then do a rough chop of the leaves.
5. Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary, salt and pepper together.
6. Apply the rub to the outside of the turkey and drizzle a bit of oil on top.

7. Then cut the lemons into quarters and insert them into the turkey with 2 full stems of rosemary – be sure to remove the neck and bag of giblets. (usually there are three things, 2 bags and the neck, in the turkey that you need to remove).
8. Put the turkey into the oven and cover with a “tin foil tent” – this just means rip a piece of tin foil off and create a v-shape and set it on top of the turkey. This keeps the rub from burning.
9. About 3.5 hours later remove the turkey, and use a baster to take some of the juices and apply them generously to the top of the turkey.  Put it back in the oven, but this time with no tin foil tent, this will help the top to brown to a lovely golden shade. If there are not enough juices to really baste the turkey you can also drizzle the top with the oil of your choice or melted butter.  I say melted butter because you do not want to have to rub a stick of butter on the skin and remove the yummy rub. Some people just use a stick of butter rubbed on the skin if they are not using a rub .
10. Remove the turkey when the drumsticks are loose, yank on them to see if the joint is loose. Another hint your bird is ready is that the juices are running clear. Or you can grab a tried and true turkey thermometer for a couple of dollars that pops out when your bird is done, to temp.

11.  Then the challenging carving part – I encourage you to visit  YouTube and watch some how-to videos during that cook time I mentioned. 🙂  One tip for sure is that I prefer an electric carving knife.



Rub is mixed and applied generously to the turkey. I put as many lemons into the cavity as I can fit with at least two stems of rosemary.


Now on to the perfect pair for our citrus turkey – a yummy relish made with fresh cranberries and a blast of citrus!


Orange Cranberry Relish

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Orange Cranberry Relish


1. One  16 ounce bag of fresh cranberries
2.  One large orange
3.  1/4 cup sugar
4.  One can of  frozen orange juice concentrate ( he will probably only use one quarter to one third of the can)


1.   Wash cranberries and the orange.
2.  Zest the entire peel off the orange.
3.  Place the entire bag of cranberries and the orange zest along with the juice from the orange in a food processor.
4.  Pulse the blade until the cranberries are finely chopped and have begun to get a bit juicy.  Then add sugar and a quarter of the frozen  Orange juice concentrate.  (Could be up to one third of the can.) At this point you can add more orange juice concentrate or sugar to your taste. The relish should begin to get a little bit more juicy with more concentrate.
5. Refrigerate  until ready to use.

One final tip:  it’s amazing to me how few people actually indulge in cranberries on their turkey, since this is a very different type of cranberry dish I do encourage my guest to try it and I’m amazed at the number of people who exclaim… “Wow I’ve never liked cranberries with my turkey but this is delicious!”




Adding a few new favorites to this post, circa 2020 they are not getting their own posts… yet. Maybe in 2022. 🙂

Auntie Lisa's Thanksgiving Sweet and Spiced Cranberry Sauce

  • Servings: make the full batch you won't regret it
  • Difficulty: easy
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Auntie Lisa’s Thanksgiving Sweet and Spiced Cranberry Sauce

2lbs of fresh cranberries
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups water
10 whole cloves
4 whole Allspice
2 6′ Cinnamon sticks
Teaball or disposable teabag

1. Wash berries and remove the squishy or rotten ones. Look for stems to remove as well.
2. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves.
3. Put cloves and allspice into a tea ball and add to sugar wither with cinnamon sticks.
4. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add cranberries and stir one or two times until they start to pop. 
6. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Things to note:
Leave the spices in until you serve. We suggest you make in advance as this lets the flavor deepen. Transports well in mason jars, be forewarned that it will stain clothing. 

Thanks to my friend Colleen for sharing this with me in 2019.

Also because everyone always asks me for my Scalloped potato recipe I use this one for “Scalloped Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin” from Epicurious. 

I truly believe that carving the turkey can be the trickiest part. Here I am carving mobile fashion. I start with the drumsticks and wings and leave them whole since I have some folks in my family who like to eat them just like that, plus if no one decides to go for them we just toss them in the soup pot for all the yummy goodness to melt off the bone. Then I slice the breast up to the breast bone in thin slices. And at that point I usually have to get my hands dirty to get the thigh and other dark meats served up. Good luck!


I so enjoy making my guests feel special and to know that I thought of them so a few touches we added to our feast were a tablescape that considered our audience and was still beautiful. I say still because the reality is that with small children you have to balance beauty and practicality. It was inspired by my friend Kelly Welk over at Ciderpress Lane (see that post here) and executed by my talented and passionate friend. (Have I mentioned yet that it is really fun to share the responsibility with others, to tap into others’ favorite things and things they are just plain good at? Or that this dinner was not in our homes so we had to do it all in a mobile version? Amazing.) Another friend added perfect name cards that made each guest feel just that much more like they belonged. Belonging is a really powerful thing that can be accomplished around the table.


I also have several introverts that are close to me and know that “sharing what you are thankful for” around the table can be a moment of displeasure. Because of this I always look for an alternative way to share the things that are so dear to us in our lives and that we are grateful for that can be just as special. This year we pinned our “thankful for” words to a cute picket gate. Other years we have written them on a chalkboard. We also could have used the brown paper tablecloth for people to express their thanks. Then if you do decide to share out loud at least people have had the chance to think and articulate what their’s might be ahead of time. Another approach is to have just one family member share on behalf of everyone.

Finally we worked hard to have the kids feel included. This is really important at our house so Cashel and Camper both helped get ready for the “party.” They helped me shop and in the kitchen and we also selected fun crowns for the kids to color and wear at the feast. I just love what the color crayons represent on the table. I am about everyone belonging and even the wee ones had a spot at our table – makes my heart glad.

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I hope you found some inspiration and will give these recipes a try. Let me know if you do! And I encourage you to try the rub year round on other poultry – makes a regular dinner just a bit more special. Happy feasting!



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