I hate to cook but I love to entertain at the holidays. Over the years, I have found shortcuts for entertaining at Thanksgiving but still offering my guests something that resembles a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner. My mother was even proud of me last year because my Thanksgiving dinner shortcuts worked so well. I wish that I was Martha Stewart because I want to entertain with the perfect table setting, fantastic food and just the right amount of hospitality. The sad truth is that I am an overworked, underpaid mother and wife who does not have the time or energy to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. If you are one of my long, lost sisters, here are my Thanksgiving Dinner shortcuts for you to try.
I have no clue how to cook an entire, raw turkey so I cheat (besides I do not think I can stomach putting my hand in a turkey’s butt to add stuffing). I buy a fully cooked turkey breast from the deli and carve it at home. For those who do not like turkey, I also grab a fully cooked spiral ham. Secret: Place the ham in your own baking dish; add pineapple rings around and on top of the ham and heat on warm in the oven. It will smell wonderful, look great and no one will be the wiser.
Sides are easy when you do a little planning and cheat a little. Green beans from a can look and taste great when you add a few cocktail weenies and almond slivers. Sweet potato soufflé is not difficult to make when you use canned sweet potatoes and Stovetop dressing really does taste pretty good when you add some gravy to it (from a jar of course – not the dry, packaged stuff).
Canned cranberry sauce looks much better if you dig it out of the can, dump it into a bowl, chop it up to look like it is homemade and add a few pecan pieces.
Desserts are easy when you visit the bakery. I usually get a pecan pie, apple pie and pumpkin pie. To make them appear more like homemade, add some butter to the top of the apple and pecan pies and warm them in the oven. Some crushed pecans and a little bit of brown sugar sprinkled over the pumpkin pie is a good shortcut too.
My grandmother probably rolls over in her grave when I do this but her fine china is too delicate to use with a house full of kids (and clumsy adults). I do not advocate using cheap paper plates; however, party supply stores have beautiful, heavy-duty plastic plates. They also have heavy plastic silverware that is the same color as your flatware. I purchase fancy plastic cups for cold drinks and use my regular coffee cups for coffee. To make myself feel better about using plastic, I have a specific trashcan for the plastic so we can dump it in the recycling bin at our local recycling center.
Thanksgiving dinner decorations probably are the easiest shortcuts I take that time of year. A pretty pumpkin or a group of small gourds in the center of the table with pretty fall colored silk leaves is a simple Thanksgiving table decoration. Pine cones, acorns and fall leaves around a large three-wick candle in the center of the table is also a quick table decoration for your feast.
Even though I like to take shortcuts for my Thanksgiving dinner, I do try to make the dinner appealing both to the palate and to the eye. Therefore, rather than have jugs of tea and soda sitting around, I use inexpensive pitchers to hold drinks and a clear punch bowl to hold ice and scoops. Placed on a side table with some simple decorations, it is pretty and convenient.