It can be so tempting to stress about (or generally freak out about) Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you are hosting the dinner or responsible for cooking most of it. I have cooked my own Thanksgiving dinner for years, and have found that with just a few tactics and some help from the kids it can be fun and easy. Here are a few tips to make Thanksgiving dinner easy (followed by some easy recipes!):
- Cut yourself some slack! It’s OK to use some recipes that are easy (or all easy recipes), or to even decide to supplement things that are made from scratch with pre-made at the store. If you cook from scratch often, Thanksgiving will be just a more involved kind of day. If you are the take-out queen or you rarely cook from scratch, of course doing it all just one day a year will spaz you out.
- Pick a couple of more complicated, standout and involved dishes to show off if you really want to impress, and then go with easier recipes or premade to supplement the rest of the meal.
- Get the kids to help. Not only will they have a blast (and you can believe memories for years to come), but you will get a break. Just pick tasks that are easy and safe for the children (salad making is a great one, so is anything that involves assembling, stirring, and so on). It’s OK if what they make isn’t perfect. Resist the urge to kick them out of the way and take over.
- Do as much prep work ahead of time as possible. Go buy your turkey NOW and let it thaw in the refrigerator (oh, I can count the years I messed this step up). Look at recipes where many of the steps can be done before Thanksgiving, and that will leave less work on the day of.
- Pace yourself on Turkey Day. Make a list of what you need to cook, how long it takes and note which things can sit for a little bit. Do your turkey first thing, and then work your way down the list. If you are making five things all at once, all that require heavy attention, you will get stressed.
- Don’t feel confined by tradition. You and your family can set your own tradition. I made duck instead of turkey a couple of times, and the whole family loved it.
Here are some easy Thanksgiving dinner recipes:
Find out how to roast a turkey at Home-Ec 101. Roasting a turkey isn’t scary (well except maybe pulling giblets, tail and neck out… eww). Promise!
Make Dinner Rolls in Less Than an Hour with this quick and easy dinner roll recipe that takes less than an hour (and is so simple even those of us who are challenged at making dough rise can do it).
I was shocked the first time I made cranberry sauce from scratch. This is one area where you should definitely wow guests with your expertise, because this easy cranberry sauce recipe is ridiculously simple and delicious.
Another great one to cook from scratch is mashed potatoes. Over at Disney Spoonful, they have a simple buttermilk mashed potato recipe. Another fun and cool idea is to have a mashed potato bar for Thanksgiving.
No dinner on Thanksgiving is complete without stuffing! This is a great basic and easy stuffing recipe, and it gives you the baseline if you want to add other ingredients or experiment.
I am not big on sweet potatoes (don’t judge!), but I know many people are. I am even tempted by this sweet potato soufflé recipe, and apparently I might get kicked out of the South if I don’t drool over this Good-Enough-to-Earn-Honorary-Southern-Status Sweet Potato Casserole by Shell at Things I Can’t Say.
Don’t forget your greens! Like I mentioned above, a salad can be a great thing to have the kids make. In fact, have them set up a salad bar (beyond any vegetables that need to be chopped, that is all assembly). It can be a great way to get a healthy start to the meal, and to be a precursor to the meal for those who are getting hungry smelling all that great food.
Jo-Lynne at Musings of a Housewife also has a delicious-looking and sounding Roasted Brussels Sprout with Bacon and Caramelized Onion recipe. She had me at bacon. And caremalized. And… wait, what were we talking about?
Another option is to make some crock pot side dishes, since those can sit and cook themselves all day long. Andrea of Good Girl Gone Redneck has a crockpot macaroni and cheese recipe.
Of course, the grand finale could be the most important. What Thanksgiving is complete without dessert? Find out how to make apple pie (or crisp) from Kelly at Mom Got Blog and, as a bonus, you can make the filling ahead (see my tips above) and freeze it until you need it for Thanksgiving.
Natalie of Mommy of a Monster has a recipe for pumpkin upside-down cake. Or skip the cake and pie and get right down to business (well, chocolate business) with pumpkin truffles by Kelly at Eat Picks.
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Photo of turkey, © Africa Studio – Fotolia.com | Photo of mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole, © Disney’s Spoonful | Photo of apple pie © Kelly of Mom Got Blog | Photo of pumpkin truffles © Kelly at Eat Picks