Creating an Easy Thanksgiving Dinner

Karen Frazier
Happy family at Thanksgiving; © Dmitriy Shironosov | Dreamstime.com

Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal for your family doesn't need to be difficult. You can make a delicious yet easy meal that is satisfying and fits in with the holiday spirit.

Before Dinner Drinks and Appetizers

Get started with simple appetizers. Making a hot spiced cider or mulled wine and offering a simple platter of veggies and dip or cheese and crackers is a great way to whet your guests' appetite for your meal.

Hot apple cider; © Msphotographic | Dreamstime.com

Hot Spiced Cider

You can use a simple hot spiced cider recipe. You can make the cider in a slow cooker, heating it for two hours on low and then keeping it on warm so guests can serve themselves throughout the afternoon/evening.

Simple Ranch Dip

This is a great dip for veggies, chips, or even to spread on crackers. It uses pre-packed ranch dressing mix (Uncle Dan's is a really tasty brand available at most grocery stores). Make it ahead the night before to allow the flavors to develop. To save time, visit the salad bar at the grocery store and select pre-chopped vegetables, such as carrot sticks, sliced peppers, and cherry tomatoes, or purchase a pre-chopped vegetable tray.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 package ranch dressing
  • 4 scallions, green and white parts, thinly chopped

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients until well combined.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.

Easy Pumpkin Soup Course

You don't have to have a soup course, but some people like to start a meal with soup. If you'd like an easy soup, try this pumpkin soup, which you can make in just over 5 minutes. Save even more time by buying pre-chopped onions in the produce section of the grocery store.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin (unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter on medium-high until it bubbles.
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken broth, pumpkin, heavy cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Whisk constantly until it simmers, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Super Easy Main Course Turkey

Making a turkey isn't terribly difficult, particularly if you buy a self-basting turkey. Skip adding stuffing inside the turkey when you want to keep things simple. Familiarize yourself with turkey tips for cooking times depending on the size of the turkey you are making.

Thanksgiving turkey; © Alexander Raths | Dreamstime.com

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 onion, unpeeled, cut into quarters
  • 6 to 8 sage leaves
  • 1 bulb garlic, halved crosswise
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and set them aside for another use. Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat it dry with paper towels.
  3. Sprinkle the turkey liberally with salt and pepper, inside and out.
  4. Put the turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up with the wings tucked underneath the bird.
  5. Put the onion, sage, garlic, rosemary, and lemon in the cavity of the turkey.
  6. Tuck the drumstick tips under the skin around the turkey's cavity.
  7. Roast the turkey in the preheated oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Allow the turkey to rest out of the oven for 35 minutes before carving it.

Side Dishes

You can make as many, or as few, side dishes as you wish. They don't have to be difficult, and you can make many of them ahead of time.

Mashed Potatoes

You can make mashed potatoes ahead of time and reheat them in the microwave just before dinner; they can also be kept on a warm setting in the slow cooker. Try a recipe for fluffy mashed potatoes. You can also save time by purchasing pre-made mashed potatoes at the grocery store.

Gravy

Make giblet gravy from the giblets and neck you've reserved from the turkey, making it while the turkey cooks. To save time, try a store bought gravy or use pre-made gravy packet. You can also make a simple gravy right in the roasting pan while the turkey rests.

Ingredients

  • Drippings from the roasting pan
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 cups canned poultry stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. After removing the turkey from the roasting pan, put the roasting pan directly on your stove burner, using two burners if needed. Heat the burners to medium-high.
  2. Whisk in the flour, whisking constantly to combine the flour with the pan drippings for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine, whisking constantly until it thickens and begins to boil, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Whisk in the poultry stock, simmering until it thickens, another 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the heavy cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sweet Potatoes

If you can't imagine Thanksgiving dinner without sweet potatoes, try making simple sweet potato fries. You can also make baked sweet potatoes with raisins.

Cranberries

Cranberries are a big part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The easiest way to make them is to buy a can of cranberry sauce and serve that. However, it only takes a bit of time and hardly any effort to make homemade cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce; © Olha Afanasieva | Dreamstime.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop, about 15 minutes.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Stuffing

For some people, stuffing is hands-down the best part of Thanksgiving. You can buy pre-made stuffing, such as Stove Top. Alternatively, try this easy stuffing recipe, or make some in a slow cooker the night before the reheat the next day. Save time by purchasing pre-made bread cubes, found in the bakery section at the grocery store, and using pre-cut vegetables.

Vegetables

For a veggie side dish, make simple steamed vegetables seasoned with a little salt and pepper, or toss a few slices of crumbled, cooked bacon into fresh green beans. You can also try to make easy Brussels sprouts, which are a traditional Thanksgiving side dish.

Dessert

What's Thanksgiving dinner without pie to finish it off? Many bakeries make delicious pumpkin pies, which is a great way to finish out your meal without any fuss. For an alternative dessert that you bake yourself, try this incredibly easy sweet potato pie, which uses a pre-made pie shell.

Time-Saving Tips

To save time in the kitchen this Thanksgiving, consider the following tips:

  • If you're inviting a crowd, ask people to bring their favorite dishes, which will save you cooking time.
  • Rely on pre-prepped ingredients as much as possible, such as pre-chopped veggies, prepared bread cubes for stuffing, and pre-made pie shells.
  • Make as much as you can ahead of time. That way, you only have to reheat it the next day, so you can enjoy your guests on Thanksgiving day.
  • Using your slow cooker as much as possible allows you to add ingredients, turn it on, and walk away, so you're not needing to tend to simmering dishes throughout the day.

Easy as Pie

You don't have to slave away for hours in the kitchen to create a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. With a few easy recipes and some simple strategies, you'll have a tasty Thanksgiving meal that you didn't have to work hard to prepare.

Creating an Easy Thanksgiving Dinner