Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year. Who doesn’t want to be able to eat and eat and eat — and not feel guilty about it?! It is the day where families comes together, everyone gets along, your kids eat all their vegetables on their plate, and everyone lives happily ever after. Wait. Whose fairytale is that? What is supposed to be a day and time of giving thanks has turned into stress, anxiety, and trying to do too much and please too many people — all at once.
Thanksgiving reminds me of waking up early to watch the Macy’s parade, eating plates and plates of my mamaw’s cooking, taking an afternoon nap after all that turkey and then settling down to watch football at night with my dad. My mamaw cooked for over twenty people, and she never seemed stressed. She just seemed happy to have all her family piled into her tiny farmhouse living room. So when, as a society, did we become so rushed that we cannot even enjoy the simple things in life?
I would like to share a few tips and recipes that I use when it comes to our Thanksgiving meal.
Everything does not have to be homemade
One more time — EVERYTHING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE HOMEMADE. I know that people love to bake and show off their amazing culinary skills during the holidays. But with everything else you already juggle (work, kids, a house), cut yourself some slack here. I choose the dishes that I really enjoy making from scratch or that are a family tradition, and I focus on making those. Many restaurants now sell Thanksgiving hams, turkeys, and side dishes to-go, and that is a big time saver!
Here are a few of my favorite homemade dishes!
Sweet Potato Casserole (This comes with pecans AND marshmallows — oh my! You can easily remove nuts for nut-free allergens)
Green Bean Casserole ( I don’t deter from the classic Campbell’s recipe here.)
Crock-Pot Dressing (Yes. In the south, we say DRESSING. And we love our crockpots!) – This is a huge space saver. It frees up the oven for your other casseroles and meats!
Corn Pudding This is a nice spin on corn and my kids love it!
You can always check out these tried and true favorites from other Nashville Moms Blog writers and families!
*Just make sure you read the recipes correctly. You don’t want a dessert trifle with beef sautéed with peas and onions like Rachel from Friends! (A little Friends humor for you fanatics like me).
Prep the day before
I know most people probably know this tip already. It really is helpful. This is one time of year when those organizational skills come in handy. Make a list of all your dishes and how much time you will need to prepare and bake each of them. That way, you can plan accordingly and not rush for time the day of! Running behind schedule gives me the most anxiety, and this is a tried and true way to get things under control. And if you are baking a turkey, set an alarm reminder days before to remember to thaw that baby out!
It’s okay to be unconventional
Last year, we had baked beans and creamed corn. This year, I will have coleslaw as an option. Why? Because this is what my kids and family requested! I know these aren’t the typical dishes you see at the Thanksgiving table, but I want to see my people happy. So I open a can of Bush’s baked beans, and voilà! It is okay to be a little funky with your dishes!
It’s okay not to serve turkey!
I know turkey is the main dish at most tables. But not everyone likes turkey, or your family may be small and a whole turkey is a lot of trouble! I have cooked a small ham the past few years for this very reason. You can buy a small baked ham at the store and make your own glaze from scratch to give it a personal spin. Another tip? If the ham is small enough, you can cook it in your slow cooker. (Frees up more oven space!) If your family insists on turkey, but there are only a few of you and you can’t possibly eat a whole bird? Buy a small turkey breast! It will be just as good — without all the hassle!
I love to bake desserts. Desserts are something that can usually be made a few days in advance and placed safely in the fridge until the big day. Below you’ll find a few of my favorite holiday sweet treats. I recommend if you don’t enjoy baking, that you buy beautiful pies and cakes at local bakeries! Or alternatively, you can buy frozen pies and add a special whipped cream topping to give it a personal touch. There is nothing wrong with serving Edward’s or Marie Callendar’s pies!
Turkey cupcakes (for the kiddos)
Apple dumplings (made with crescent rolls — yum!)