12 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Dinner Easier Than Ever

on November 16, 2015


Fuss-Free Festivities

Between readying your home for guests, shopping for those last-minute ingredients and setting the stage for the perfect holiday spread, Thanksgiving can be a majorly stressful day for even the most seasoned hosts and hostesses. Have no fear: The Turkey Day troubleshooting team-David Bonom, Karry Hosford, Jill Melton and Katie Workman-is here to cut your workload in half for an unforgettable celebration of thanks, no breakdowns required.

Mark Boughton Photography / Teresa Blackburn Styling

Spruced-Up Spuds

Buh bye, tired tubers. For a fresh spin on a classic, heat a (24-ounce) container of prepared mashed potatoes in the microwave, and swirl in any of the following:

  • 4 ounces creamy blue cheese and chives
  • 1/2 cup soft goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, rosemary, tarragon, thyme or oregano
  • 1/4 cup pesto

Mark Boughton Photography / Teresa Blackburn Styling

Berry Pretty Bird

Doll that turkey up before it takes center stage. Place your star poultry performer on a platter and surround with 2 bags of frozen cranberries for an easy garnish.

Mark Boughton Photography / Teresa Blackburn Styling

Embellish the Relish

To 1 (14-ounce) can whole-berry cranberry sauce, add 1u20444 cup diced apple, 2 tablespoons each chopped celery and walnuts, and 1 tablespoon chopped chives. Chill and serve.


Stress-Free, Lump-Free Gravy

Scrape the drippings and browned bits from the bottom of the roasting pan. Combine with store-bought gravy and heat. Add a splash of white wine or apple juice and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Simmer 10 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter for a silky finish.


Almost-Homemade Turkey

Dress up a store-bought cooked turkey or turkey breast by brushing with a mixture of 1u20442 cup apricot jam, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, salt and pepper. Apply three times during the last 30 minutes of baking.

Mark Boughton Photography / Teresa Blackburn Styling

Gussied-Up Garlic Pull-Apart Biscuits

Start with 2 (12-ounce) cans refrigerated biscuits. Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces, dipping each into a combination of 5 tablespoons melted butter, 1 teaspoon each garlic salt and oregano, and 1u20444 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Spread pieces out evenly in a pan. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan. Bake at 400u00b0F for 35 minutes.

Mark Boughton Photography / Teresa Blackburn Styling

Make-It-Special Sweet Potatoes

A crunchy streusel adds panache to mashed sweet potatoes. Mash 2 (15-ounce) cans drained sweet potatoes in light syrup with 1 egg, 1u20442 teaspoon cinnamon and salt. Mix 3 tablespoons each cold butter, flour, brown sugar and pecans with your hands and sprinkle on top. Bake 30 minutes at 350u00b0F or according to your recipe's instructions.


Roast for the Most

To save valuable stovetop space, roast vegetables to serve on their own, or toss into salads and stuffing. Combine cubes of pre-cut butternut squash, sliced leeks, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 450u00b0F for 45 minutes or until tender.

Mark Boughton Photography / Teresa Blackburn Styling

Pumpkin Pie Upgrade

Top a packaged fresh pumpkin pie with marshmallows and bake at 350u00b0F for 15 minutes until golden. Broil for 1 minute. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and drizzle with maple or caramel syrup. If using a frozen pumpkin pie, bake according to package directions, adding the marshmallows 15 minutes before the end of baking time.

Mark Boughton Photography / Teresa Blackburn Styling

Speedy Sides

Thaw and drain 2 (10-ounce) boxes frozen spinach (do not squeeze dry). Add warmed cream and grated Parmesan cheese; stir well. Microwave spinach mixture until hot.

Not a spinach fan? Use microwaveable steam-in-the-bag vegetables to save precious space on the stovetop. Then sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.


Timeline Tips

u2022 Shop in stages: Shelf-stable items that can be purchased a week or two ahead, then those that need to be purchased a few days ahead.

u2022 To thaw frozen turkey, allow one day in the refrigerator for every 4 pounds.

u2022 Serving soup? Use a slow cooker to save space on your stovetop.


Fast Flavor Bursts

u2022 Add freshly squeezed orange juice to brighten up sweet potatoes, gravy, roasted vegetables or salads.

u2022 Multitask with maple syrup: Brush on your turkey during the last hour of roasting, drizzle over Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes, or splash into your gravy.

u2022 Make a garlic butter to use on everything from turkey to potatoes to vegetables: Combine 1 stick softened butter with 2 large crushed garlic cloves, 1u20444 teaspoon coarse salt and a handful of chopped parsley.

u2022 Buy fresh sage, thyme and parsley to toss around the bird, into gravy, or over vegetables for an impressive flourish.