Happy Thanksgiving! Some last minute ideas

Its that time of year again! Thanksgiving is when we all slave over a much bigger-than-usual meal, planning and cooking far more food than we really need. Its crazy, its stressful, and I love it. This kind of thing used to scare me, but now, its a fun challenge–all the planning, the timing, and trying to balance the variety of food throughout the entire meal–I can’t quite nail it down, but its a wonderful thing.

Turkey, ravaged on the Thanksgiving table

By the time you’re reading this, I’m abuzz in the kitchen (and I promise you a post to show the fruits of my labors during this holiday, so check back in a few days!), so while I do that, I thought I’d post a mini-roundup of dishes I’ve done before that would do great on your holiday table. This list is by no means exhaustive and I’d love to hear what your plans are for this year, whether they be what you intend to do or links to some of your own holiday-relevant food. I’ll have more to add soon enough.

And to all of my readers, I hope you have a fun and Happy Thanksgiving!

Given all the work that goes into the Thanksgiving meal, I like my guests to be a little on the hungry side–why bust your ass all day so that they can fill up on some mediocre lunch and have no room for the fruits of your labor? So for those early/mid-day growling bellies, consider:

  • Cream Cheese Swirled Pumpkin Bread: like banana bread, but pumpkinny. Light, sweet, and hits the spot as a snack or, for me, breakfast. Plus, you can easily do this a day or two ahead and nobody will be the wiser.
  • Cranberry muffins: simple and delicious muffins–sweet, tart, and surprisingly lively flavor with a crunchy topping. Again, a great snack or even breakfast, and again, easily done a day or two ahead.
  • A bowl of soup, whether it be:
    Bowl of Cream of Sweet Potato Soup

    • Roasted Butternut Squash, which can be substantial if you include cannellini beans and sausage as originally written, or lighter without them.
    • Cream of Sweet Potato has a similar style of sweet/spice/creaminess about it. You can’t go wrong with either one.
  • Toasted Pumpkin Seeds: With all the pumpkin and squash in play, having a bowl of seeds is pretty easy and more seasonal than opening a bag of chips. Plus, these salty mid-day snacks can be surprisingly filling, so its a great and easy way to stretch the day for cheap.

Roast turkey, out of the oven and resting

Then, of course, there’s the big meal: Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Roast Turkey with gravy: The star of the show, of course. There are many approaches to cooking the bird out there, but I think my favorite way to do it is by brining it overnight before oven roasting it. Brining not only infuses flavor into the meat–it also produces a moister, more tender bird.
    Traditional cranberry sauce
  • Cranberry Sauce (two ways): I used to think I hated cranberries, but it turns out, I hated bad cranberry sauce. These two very different versions of this classic sauce will run you out of cranberries very quickly. I’ll be making a much larger batch of them both this year, so please, if you were thinking about opening a can of cranberry sauce this year, try it from scratch. You’ll never go back!
  • Macaroni & Cheese: if you were thinking about giving your guests a heart attack, this is the way to do it. Incredibly rich with more cheese than macaroni, this dish includes gruyere and mascarpone for sauce as well as a crisp cheddar and parmesan crust.
  • Creamy Sausage Mushroom Stuffing: Another quintessential side dish: stuffing. Don’t buy a box or bag of premade stuffing. Everybody craves stuffing, and with a little bit of extra effort, you can really blow away your guests. My wife isn’t one to remember meals in great detail, but she told me that I had better prepare this one again this year or I’d be in big trouble. Yes ma’am.
    Stuffing, fresh out of the oven

And then, finally, dessert. Whether you’re in the crowd that claims you have a sweet tooth or not, I think dessert is crucial to any good meal. Its that finishing touch that draws the meal to an end, hopefully on a high note.

  • If you’re baking any pies, you can prepare the crust(s) in advance and just set them aside in the fridge/freezer until you need them. Depending on what you’re doing, you might prefer a traditional, all-butter pate brisee, or, you might want to make a graham cracker crust from scratch (no mushing up boring store-bought graham crackers!).
  • Armed with a good crust, you’ve got options in the pie department. Everybody loves pie. Even if you’re not hosting Thanksgiving, your hosts will be happy if you bring any one of these:

  • Last year, I made a Poached Pear Bourbon Bread Pudding that was a big hit.
    Poached Pear Bourbon Bread Pudding w/Candied Hazelnut Topping
  • It wouldn’t be me to not include ice cream in the roster. So of course, you also might consider an ice cream or sorbet, and the beauty of this is that you can prepare it a good while ahead of time. Flavors like pumpkin, pomegranate, pear, or cranberry (swap cranberries for blueberries, and a mix of honey and OJ in place of the maple syrup. Skip the nuts) come to mind.

Like I said, this list is by no means exhaustive, and I promise I’ll have a few new things to add in the coming days/weeks. I hope your menu planning goes well and I’d love to hear if there’s anything that you absolutely must have on your Thanksgiving table this year!

Again, I hope you have a happy holiday!

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17 Responses to “Happy Thanksgiving! Some last minute ideas”

  1. mikky Says:

    happy thanksgiving to you and your wife… can’t wait to see the actual feast you’re going to make… cheers… :)

  2. Joanne at frutto della passione Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Mike! Can’t wait to see what you cooked up!

  3. Laurie Constantino Says:

    How did you know I’m doing my Thanksgiving dishes at the last minute!!???!

  4. Laurie Constantino Says:

    (I accidentally sent that before I finished!) Mike, I hope you have the best Thanksgiving ever!

  5. heather Says:

    mmmm. those look good. i think the cranberry muffins are my favorite. yum!

  6. Dragon Says:

    Can I come to your house for thanksgiving? Yum!

  7. noble pig Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Mike, all your food looks fabulous! I’m oogling those cranberry muffins.

  8. Bunny Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Mike!! Everything looks fantastic!

  9. Bellini Valli Says:

    I feel full but thoroughly satisfied after reading this post. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  10. linda Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving! And enjoy your time in the kitchen 😉

  11. Peter Says:

    Thanks for the tips (our Thanksgiving is next yr.) and have a festive and not too tiring Thanksgiving!

  12. pam Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Marie Says:

    Happy cooking and Happy Thanksgiving Mike!

  14. Jesse Says:

    What a beautiful list of food!!! I love that first picture the most… after dinner’s been ravaged and people are sitting back and loosening their belts… brings back happy memories! =) Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  15. White On Rice Couple Says:

    wowzers, Mike, you’re amazing! I’m going through a delicious food coma already!

    happy thanksgiving to you and your family!

  16. Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Southern Inspired Thanksgiving from Mike's Table Says:

    […] Happy Thanksgiving! Some last minute ideas […]

  17. Kevin Says:

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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