Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year! The food, the family, the traditions…what’s not to love?? Over the years, I’ve found some Thanksgiving shortcuts that help me stay in the spirit of the holiday, instead of getting stressed. Try a few of these holiday hacks and see what works for you! For all of you last-minute Thanksgiving chefs, here is your cheat sheet. Spoiler alert—I am not a chef. But I set a really pretty table and I make the same yummy, embarrassingly simple dishes each year. Feel free to add in some gourmet dishes if you must, but all of my Thanksgiving mainstays (that people request year after year) are ridiculously easy and fast to make.
Get ready to have your mind blown—I make my turkey in a SLOW COOKER. You literally cannot mess it up. I use a turkey breast (a large breast is still enough to feed 12-15 people with plenty of leftovers); therefore it’s all white meat. If you have only one takeaway from this post, let it be this turkey recipe; it will change your life. Try it any time of year: it’s a cheap and easy way to feed your family for many meals since the turkey meat can be substituted for chicken in most dishes. I originally got this recipe from a church friend, Melissa Nunley.
Turkey Breast by Slow Cooker
- 1 large (4-7-lb.) turkey breast
- chicken broth
- garlic (minced garlic, garlic powder, fresh garlic, whatever)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Ranch salad dressing packet (powder)
Put the thawed or fresh turkey breast in the slow cooker and cover as much as you can with chicken broth. Sprinkle in your garlic (how much is totally preference). Add your bay leaf. Sprinkle the Ranch packet on top (this is the secret ingredient- it will not taste like ranch, just like perfectly seasoned turkey!)
Turn your slow cooker on low and cook all day, or on high for 6-8 hours. I typically put everything together the night before and put the whole pot in my fridge. We usually eat around noon or 1pm on Thanksgiving Day, so I will set my alarm for 4 or 5am, get up and plug it in on high and go back to bed. Once it’s fully cooked, my husband pulls it out and removes large chunks/shreds of the turkey and puts it in a serving dish, then pours the broth over the turkey pieces. It is absolutely the juiciest, best turkey you’ll ever try. There’s no chance of it drying out! The presentation isn’t as pretty as pulling a big basted turkey out of the oven, but I promise, the flavor will make up for it! (Also, side note, there’s still a wishbone in a turkey breast that you can wish on—it’s just smaller!)
Stove Top Cranberry and Apple Stuffing
Y’all, I’m going to come right out and admit it: I use Stove Top for my Thanksgiving stuffing. It feels good to get that out in the open! Every time people ask me how I make my stuffing/dressing, I’m legitimately embarrassed to admit that I use a box of Stove Top. Kids and adults alike gobble this stuffing down and it’s always one of the first dishes to get completely finished off. I trick it out a little, but feel free to add whatever you fancy to your stuffing. This recipe is originally from Kraft Recipes (with a few minor tweaks from me!).
- 1 1/2 cups of apple juice
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 6-oz. package of Stove Stop mix (whichever kind you like- they make a whole wheat chicken variety that I like!)
- 1/2 of a 5-oz. package of dried cranberries
- 1 small apple, chopped
- Walnuts or pecans, toasted
Bring the juice and butter to a boil. Add stuffing mix and fruits; mix lightly. Cover. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork and serve. I’ve also tried omitting the nuts because my daughter is allergic, I’ve added chopped celery, or cooked ground sausage…you really can’t go wrong! This recipe makes about eight servings, a half cup each. I typically double the recipe for our guests because I like to have leftovers!
Trader Joe’s Frozen Pumpkin Pies
I discovered these pies a few years ago, and my husband and I go through several (like, 10-ish) each season. Thanksgiving? Yes! Christmas? Yes! Tuesday night? YESSSSSS. The trick is, you have to get the FROZEN pumpkin pies. There is some extra spice (extra nutmeg? extra clove?) that just puts it over the top. The crust is also buttery and flaky and delicious. For whatever reason, this year Trader Joe’s was super late getting in their stock. I creepily started asking the store associates around the first week of September if the pies were in (don’t judge me), and I had to wait until the last week of October for them to arrive! My husband called around to several of the stores and when we finally got the good news that our local TJ’s had them in stock, he hurried right over! The display had a huge section allotted for the pies, and all but THREE were sold out! So obviously, we aren’t the only ones that know about this pie. Do yourself a favor and go grab one NOW.
Other than keeping my dishes ultra easy and fast, I like to try to actually enjoy the day itself! We always keep the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on in the background, but while I’m cooking I love to watch all the Friends Thanksgiving episodes. Friends is my all-time favorite show, but it’s also one of the only TV shows that always did a big Thanksgiving episode rather than (or in addition to) a Halloween or Christmas episode. They are some of the best episodes of the whole series…remember in The One With All the Football, where they all compete for the Gellar Cup? Or The One With the Rumor, where Brad Pitt guest stars (when he and Jen were still happily married…sighhhh)?
Give me a good drink, some Friends, and a well-deserved nap at the end of the day and I’m the most thankful girl in the world on Thanksgiving!
What are some of your best last-minute Thanksgiving tips?