So what's a Busy Cook to do when faced with the biggest American dinner of the year? There are many options, but the easiest traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu is my favorite solution.
You can go the alternative Thanksgiving route; those menus are all delicious and festive. But what if you want the real thing? Roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, salads, desserts? Follow this menu. It's easy - I promise.
As with all dinner parties, which is what Thanksgiving is, organization is key.
- Make lists, lots of lists, and use them! I like dedicating a notebook to each holiday, with the menus, guests, recipes, and tips and tricks I find to make everything perfect.
- Write down the recipes you want to use and make a shopping list. In fact, make two shopping lists! For a dinner this big, you're most likely going to go back to the store anyway, so divide the list in half and pick up forgotten or overlooked items on the second trip.
- Make sure you have enough serving and cooking dishes! I like to pull all of my dishes, pots, and pans out of the cupboard the week before the dinner and assign a dish to each one. Then put a post-it note on the dish indicating which recipe it will hold, and put it back into the cupboard. This way you'll also know if you need to borrow or buy something (like an extra crockpot).
- These recipes are all tested and foolproof. But if you feel unsure about anything, ask someone else to make it, or give it a trial run the week before. Just about everything here will freeze well. If it turns out great, freeze it to serve next Thursday. If not, try something else or farm it out.
- If you're offered help, take it!
- I like to set my table the day before the gathering. This way you can take your time, have fun enjoying your beautiful dishes and crystal, and add some special touches, like pinecone placecard holders or a floral centerpiece.
- Next week, make one of these recipes a day (two, if you're feeling strong) and refrigerate or chill as directed. Then all you have to do on Thanksgiving is roast the turkey and fill up crockpots.
- Relax! This holiday is all about family and friends gathering to celebrate togetherness and the beginning of the holiday season. If things aren't perfect, but you're calm, everybody will still have a good time. And remember to give thanks.
Easiest Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
- Shrimp Puffs
These crisp and creamy little appetizers are the perfect freeze-ahead treat. Just bake them and arrange on a plate when it's time to serve.
- Praline Cranberry Dip
Make this easy six ingredient recipe the day before, then put out with some large grapes, apple slices, and crackers.
- Cooking Turkey From the Frozen State
Not only does this method result in the most tender and juicy turkey, but it is safer! No turkey juices will be dripping in your kitchen. Remember to start this turkey 5-1/2 hours before you want to eat. And be sure to use a very shallow pan so the air circulates properly around the turkey.
- My Great-grandmother's Stuffing in the Crockpot
Stuffing turns out moist, tender, and fluffy when cooked in the slow cooker. This recipe is so easy! Don't assemble it until the morning of Thanksgiving, though, otherwise the apples will be too dark.
- Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are usually a last minute recipe made when everybody is crowding into the kitchen. This recipe is made ahead of time and just heats in the crockpot. Be sure to stir it a couple of times while it's heating.
- Make Ahead Turkey Gravy
This recipe tastes of turkey because you add the drippings from the roasted turkey as you reheat the make-ahead gravy. It's one of the best time-savers ever!
- Glazed Sweet Potatoes
This super simple side dish adds a note of elegance to the table, without being too sweet or cloying.
- Bagged Green Salad with Homemade Creamy Tarragon Salad Dressing
Homemade dressings are a quick and easy way to make any salad taste homemade. And you can make it up to three days ahead of time.
- Carrot Pineapple Salad
Make this salad up to 4 days ahead of time, then cut into squares just before serving. It's a fresh and clean contrast to the other rich recipes.
- For heaven's sake, buy the rolls! You have enough to think about.
- Pumpkin Pie
Once you have the pie crust tackled (use a refrigerated premade crust) this pie is simply a matter of mixing ingredients and pouring them into the shell. Make this pie a day ahead of time.