I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner when I was 23. My family came into town bearing pre-cooked traditional dishes and we set a random array of card tables with my mismatched dishes in my teeny tiny Bucktown condo. I had a few friends join in the fun as well, which is what I think Thanksgiving is all about…sharing time with those you love and eating everything in sight so you have to wear elastic pants.
Yeah, so I cheated. I didn’t actually make all the food (or even most of it- if I recall, I waited until the night before to hit up Jewel…and they were OUT. OF. POTATOES).
I have realized that you don’t have to make all the food yourself- there are lovely companies that can do it for you! If I am pressed for time or stressed about a party, I decide upon one stand out dish that I make from scratch. Outside of that, I don’t care if I make everything else as long as it tastes good (And if anyone else cares, honestly they wouldn’t be my friend. Would you rather have a freaked-out she-devil as a hostess, or the calm, champagne-sipping, serene gal you usually see??).
Here are some ideas to fake your holiday dinner so you don’t self-destruct due to an OD of stress.
Snag these at Costco; no one will know (unless you are notoriously horrible at making mashed potatoes; these will blow everyone away and they might just suspect that you fake it). These come two massive tubs to a pack and the bonus is that you can freeze them. All you have to do is heat them up and serve. My advice? Create a mashed potato bar with both traditional toppings like sour cream and shredded cheddar as well as more exotic toppings like blue cheese or pepper bacon crumbles.
|Mrs. Gerry’s Mashed Potatoes- available at most Costco locations for around $6|
Here’s a tip I have heard numerous times this season: cook 2 small birds instead of one large one. A- it takes less time B- you can have a great turkey centerpiece and cut up the other to serve. You can also just get a turkey breast and cook that instead of the whole bird.
If you do over-cook the turkey and it is ends up drier than your hair after a double color treatment, fear not. Pour some chicken or turkey stock into a pan and bring to a simmer. Place turkey meat in the stock for a minute and voila! Your turkey will be re-hydrated and ready to wow your guests.
Really? Who gives a crap if you actually make this from scratch. Give me some Stove Top and call me happy. What you need to do is add some extras in to make it gourmet. Try adding chopped Granny Smith apples and a cup of dried cranberries for a Paula Dean knockoff. OR to go the herb route, grab some fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (yep, just like the song). I also saw a recipe for caramelized onion with pancetta and rosemary stuffing if you really want to get crazy- just add all this in as you are cooking the Stove Top.
Ok, pumpkin pie is the traditional go-to, but I absolutely adore The Cheesecake Factory® Pumpkin Cheesecake. Tip: If you go to pick it up at The Cheesecake Factory like I did, it will run you around FIFTY DOLLARS. When I heard the price, I did an about face and walked through the exit. I just called the Cheesecake Factory in the Hancock Building 2 seconds ago and they confirmed the $50 price tag. You can get the exact same thing at Sam’s Club for $16, but they run out fast.
Another idea? Ok, so this isn’t traditional, but I think it rocks! Baskin Robins has an ice cream turkey cake:
Really? Can YOU make this? I think not. It will run you around $31.99, but there are some coupons available out there; they are usually available through Twitter or on the BR Facebook Page.