Thanksgiving Meatballs & Cranberry-Mustard Sauce

November. Halloween is over and everyone is jumping right into Christmas. Music, movies, decorations, shopping …

Not me. I’m a Thanksgiving girl. I love everything about this holiday. I love the hymns we sing at church, the story of the Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal to celebrate the bounty of the land, getting together as family and friends without feeling like you have to exchange presents, and the anticipation of the feast to come.

I don’t complain about “slaving over a hot stove” to prepare a meal that is much too much for one family and making everyone’s favorite dishes. The greatest disappointment for me is that it’s over too soon and another year must pass before the smell of turkey, sage dressing, and pumpkin pie fill the house again.

I just couldn’t wait that long this year. Why not have a simpler version of a Thanksgiving feast to tide me over? So how do you get the flavors of turkey, sage dressing, and cranberry sauce into a simpler form?

Meatballs, of course!


What goes into sage dressing? Bread, onions, celery, sage … it’s the perfect set up for a meatball. No brining, no basting, no defrosting or carving involved. And, since every meatball needs a sauce, we will be serving these with a simple cranberry-mustard sauce.

Turkey Meatballs

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced onion
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1-2 tablespoons dried sage
2 cups breadcrumbs
2 pounds ground turkey
1 pound ground pork sausage (or ground pork)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
1/2-1 cup milk

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Saute the onion and celery in the butter and olive oil until tender. Add half the salt, half the pepper, the sage, and the bread crumbs; stir until well combined and bread crumbs are lightly browned. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine turkey and sausage and add the bread crumb mixture; fold the two mixtures together. Fold in the eggs, Worchestershire Sauce, and remaining salt and pepper. Stir in just enough milk to hold the meatballs together but not too much to make the mixture soggy. 

Scoop out meatballs with a large cookie scoop (about 1 1/2″-2″ in diameter) and place in a foil-lined baking pan (only half of the meatballs are pictured in the pan above). If you have fresh sage, place several leaves on top of meatballs. Bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and discard fresh sage leaves (if using). Drain off the drippings, drizzle with a little olive oil and place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to brown.

Makes about 36 meatballs.

Since my favorite accompaniment to turkey is cranberry sauce, I decided to experiment with the combination of cranberries and BBQ sauce. When I went to the refrigerator to choose a sauce, I noticed this Georgia-Mustard Sauce from Famous Dave’s as well as a bottle of apple cider. Cranberries … mustard … apples …

Cranberry-Mustard Sauce


1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons honey
6 ounces fresh cranberries
1/2 cup Famous Dave’s Georgia Mustard Sauce (or favorite BBQ sauce)

Bring cider to a boil in a sauce pan; add honey and cranberries. Return to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook cranberries 10-15 minutes.

Cranberries will pop/break as they cook. Smash the cranberries against the side of the pan with a large spoon, if needed. Add Georgia-Mustard (or BBQ) sauce and stir to combine and heat through. Stir in a little more honey if you like a sweeter sauce.

Serve warm or cold with meatballs.

There are always so many sides to choose from when deciding on a Thanksgiving menu. Celebrating a little early allows us to have some of those sides that don’t make it on the official holiday table. To kick off November and the season of gratitude, here’s a simple menu for a special meal:

Thanksgiving Meatballs
Cranberry-Mustard Sauce
Fried Apples
Parsley-Mustard Glazed Carrots
Cornbread Muffins
Pumpkin Parfait Cups

Recipes coming soon!

Now, if I could just get the Hallmark Channel to make more Thanksgiving movies. Until then, I’ll stick to Charlie Brown … never underestimate the power of popcorn, jelly beans and toast!

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Anita Hinkeldey McVey

From the farm in Alta ... to college in Ames ... to the suburbs of Des Moines in Waukee ... I am an Iowa girl through and through. I married the cute, but quiet, guy who made me laugh out loud in Statistics class and we have two awesome, but terribly sarcastic, boys. In 1999, I quit my research job to be home with those active boys. Staying home allowed me to spend more time preparing meals, trying new recipes and striving to serve healthier options for my family. Now that my boys are men ... well, "adults" anyway ... and my husband still appreciates what I accomplish at home, I have time to explore my creative side and knock "writing a blog" off my bucket list. I love trying new things, traveling, gardening, reading and clean countertops. I love baseball (watching, not playing) and concession stands. Choosing a favorite food is impossible but if I was forced to pick just one, it would be pie! I thank God that He has led me to this place. Here's to a new adventure and hopes that others will be able to use what I post to discover the benefits of family meals and living a picnic life.

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