I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving dinner for about 5 years now. I like to think I’ve got this holiday down, and yet every year I find myself stressing about what to make and how many side dishes is enough and if the menu will appease everyone. Last year I settled on a menu that consists of dishes I’ve been making for a few years and a few new dishes. At the end of the day I really felt like it was an easy Thanksgiving and that everyone went back for seconds and thirds. Which is my mind is a success.
Here is my Easy Thanksgiving Menu
The turkey is hands down the centerpiece of your meal and really it is the easiest part. You just stuff, season and wait. It’s the fact that the Turkey monopolizes your oven that is stress inducing.
Here are a few tips for your Turkey:
- Allow ample time to defrost
- Buy a fresh never frozen turkey if possible
- Keep it simple
- Don’t stuff it with stuffing instead use fresh herbs and lemons to keep it moist.
- Butter is your friend
- Don’t be afraid to get under the skin.
This recipe for Citrus and Herb Roasted Turkey does all of these things and it comes out delicious. The first time I cooked Thanksgiving I did something very similar at the recommendation of my friends Mother-In-Law and the turkey came out perfect.
I like to keep my side dishes a mix of the classics and new dishes. For me it’s not Thanksgiving without the stuff to make a perfect Black Friday sandwich the next day. So I always have mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. And then I usually throw in a dish that is slightly different into the mix.
I’ve done a few variations on stuffing over the years from a chorizo stuffing to a cornbread stuffing. However this recipe from Apple and Herb stuffing was perfection. It matched my parents desire for a traditional stuffing with my desire to have something that didn’t come in a box.
While these are probably my favorite part of the meal, I tend to have my Mom make them because there is just something comforting about my Mom’s homemade mashed potatoes. I like my mashed potatoes traditional. I don’t think they need a lot of seasoning, fixings or fuss. Just some butter, milk and salt. This recipe for Foolproof Traditional Mashed Potatoes, totally nails it.
These are my something extra sides. Usually it’s a dish I dare say, I haven’t made before. My mom would say that you never try a new dish for a party or big event but, I like to throw caution to the wind and it hasn’t steered me wrong. Here are a few recipes I’ve done over the past few years.
Sweet Potato Risotto – I love any excuse to eat risotto and this recipe is delicious and an unexpected addition to your Thanksgiving menu.
Sweet Potato and Apple Gratin – I got a lot of raised eyebrows when I pulled this cookie topped side dish out of the oven. But once everyone tasted it they were sold.
Roasted Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts – I’m not a brussels sprouts fan but I know people who love them and how can a vegetable be bad when it has syrup and bacon on it.
Salad – I’m always on the fence about salad on Thanksgiving, I mean it’s not a day to go for the healthy option. But this Roasted Root Vegetable Salad is so good that you will forget it’s good for you. You can roast the vegetables the day before and then toss with greens and goat cheese before serving.
For me Thanksgiving is all about the carbs and I tend to forget that you need a green vegetable. This is one thing that I usually put my Mom in charge of or I buy a can of pea’s and call it day. Is this lazy? Sure. Does anyone seem to care? No. Because Thanksgiving is about the carbs.
Except for my husband and I, my family isn’t big on desserts. Which makes me sad, because I love me some Thanksgiving desserts. My husband’s family usually has no less than 5 desserts at their house and I always hope for leftovers. But even though it’s usually just two of us eating dessert I can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. These Two-Bite Pumpkin Pies are the perfect little indulgence and small enough that even my dessert hating family might have one or two.
Taking the Easy Way Out
There are some things I don’t want to make, or can’t be bothered to make, or just don’t seem worth my time. Here is what I do about those items.
Cranberry sauce, I usually buy an organic cranberry sauce at the grocery store.
Gravy is not my thing and the one year I did make it my Dad ate most of it before we even sat to eat, so now I buy it from Trader Joe’s and keep an extra box for my gravy loving family members.
Green vegetables, like I said before canned peas are your friend.
A few years ago I had a crazy idea that I was going to make my own butter. Yeah I never got around to it. And in the grand scheme of things no one is going to notice the butter. I buy a good loaf of bread and some butter and call it a day.
My husband is obsessed with biscuits because he grew up on the pilsbury ones, these homemade buttermilk biscuits are excellent if biscuits are a must in your house.
I skip appetizers for a few reasons. One, my family usually shows up at dinner time (or 20 minutes late but who’s counting) so things are just about ready to go when they arrive. Two, a few years ago I did put out appetizers and they were barely touched even though they were really good. So I’ve opted to skip them. If your family arrives super early go with some good crackers and cheese.
I love spending the day in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. I really enjoy the process and labor of love that is this huge meal. It’s the one time of year that I do it and I want things to be good but I also don’t want to be stressed out. These easy Thanksgiving recipes leave me some room to step away from the kitchen and spend time with my family, which is really what it’s all about.
Check back next week for my guide to wine for Thanksgiving.