Perhaps you are worn out from your stressful job. Or maybe the constant barrage of bad news filling your Facebook feed has you feeling overwhelmed. Or it’s possible that you’d simply like to spend the days leading up to Thanksgiving conserving your energy for the really important things, like fighting with family members about politics, football, or the rules of Scrabble. Whatever your reason, here is how you can throw together what I call a “plausible deniability/homemade” kind of Thanksgiving dinner with a bonus cooking schedule and shopping list.
1. Buy a Turkey Breast not a Turkey. Unless you are feeding a large group (in which case you’ve violated the first rule of Lazy Thanksgiving), most people eat breast meat. Buy a turkey breast, throw it in a casserole dish or small pan, and then pop it into the oven. Slice it up, put it on a platter and you’re good to go. Pro-tip: toss in some potatoes and chopped root vegetables to cook with the breast. Instant side dish.
2. Cranberry sauce. Canned cranberry sauce is fairly popular and I grew up eating little circles of red gel at my Thanksgiving dinners. All you need is a can opener to pull off this Thanksgiving staple. But if you want to conceal your level of culinary apathy this year, all it takes is a 12-ounce bag of cranberries, a cup of sugar, and about 1-2 cups of water. Cook until the cranberries pop, remove from heat, stir and you’re done. If you want to take it up half a notch, use orange juice instead of water. Fancy.
3. Stuffing: Go for Stove Top. There are a million iterations of Stove Top Stuffing Mix and a little creativity can turn this boxed lifesaver into a gourmet delicacy for your guests. Select your flavor. (I like anything that isn’t cornbread-based…cornbread stuffing is disgusting. I know: controversial.) You will need one cup of chopped onions, one cup of chopped celery (you can purchase both of these pre-chopped or frozen at the store), a cup of chicken broth, a cup of chopped apple (can be tart or sweet depending on your taste; you can buy pre-sliced apples) and some chopped bacon (you can buy precooked bacon, something for which we should all be thankful). Sauté the onion, celery, apples in butter. Add the precooked bacon during the last minute or two of cooking to get some bacon flavor mixed in there. Heat up your broth while you sauté and then add it all to the Stove Top mix. Season to taste. Toss into a casserole dish and bake according to box directions.
4. Vegetable: You’re going to need a vegetable in the Thanksgiving mix. The traditional green bean casserole is easy to throw together, but you’re going to add in a twist with some cheese. You’ll need a can of green beans (or frozen if you roll like that), a can of cream of mushroom soup, a cup of cheddar cheese and a can of fried onions. If you have the energy, sauté some of the extra onions left over from the stuffing and mix in with your canned green beans. Or sauté the onions with your frozen green beans after they are a bit defrosted. Mix together your cream of mushroom soup, one cup of cheddar cheese and about a cup of fried onions and blend in with your green bean/onion mix. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Put ½ cup of fried onions on top and bake for five more minutes. Or if you made this in advance, after you’ve heated up the green beans, spread the fried onions on top and heat for about five minutes.
Extra: If you are inclined and have the energy, buy a bag of chopped vegetable mix (like cauliflower/broccoli) and steam. Toss with salted butter and viola, something that at least looks healthier than a cheesy green bean casserole.
At this point, you will have made enough food to achieve “plausible deniability” — so now we can move into the “just buy it pre-made” part of preparation.
5. Gravy: If you aren’t cooking a turkey, you can’t really make your own gravy, so just go with a jar of Heinz HomeStyle Gravy, Roasted Turkey flavor. Or, if you trust BuzzFeed, Campbell’s turkey gravy. Take some turkey breast from your roast, shred it and throw it in to maximize the appearance of homemade. We eat with our eyes, I’m told.
6. Pumpkin Pie: Just buy it from Costco. Yes, Costco is a madhouse around Thanksgiving time, but it’s worth it for their cheap, delicious pumpkin pie.
7. Bread/Rolls: Since you’re at Costco already, grab a bag of their rolls. This is another secret treasure at my favorite warehouse store. Delicious.
Logistics is key to the Lazy Thanksgiving dinner. You want to spread out your cooking efforts as much as possible without afflicting your dinner guests with food poisoning.
Sunday before Thanksgiving: Hit Costco and the grocery store. (While you’re there, also pick up some scented pine cones to throw into a wide-mouthed vase as a center piece.)
Monday: Recover from Costco. Deep breaths. You can put off shopping until today but it’s going to hurt.
Tuesday: Make your cranberry sauce and cheesy green bean casserole.
Wednesday: Stuffing day.
Thursday: Cook turkey breast, heat up gravy, reheat green beans, vegetables and stuffing while you let your turkey breast get ready for slicing and plating. Toss your rolls in the oven for a bit so they seem toasty and not stale. Assemble the rest of the cuisine and you have completed your mission!
- One turkey breast
- Can of cranberry sauce or 12-ounce bag of cranberries
- Sugar, if you don’t have it on hand
- Orange juice, for cranberry sauce if you’re wild like that
- Pre-chopped onion and celery (can be frozen)
- Sliced apples
- Pre-cooked bacon
- Butter, if you don’t have on hand
- Stove Top Stuffing Mix
- 2 or 3 cans of chicken broth- it’s always good to have some extra on hand
- 2 cans of green beans (14.5-ounce) or equivalent frozen green beans
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese
- Can of fried onions
- Heinz or Campbell’s turkey gravy
- Pumpkin pie — Costco or risk a grocery store pie
- Rolls — Costco or grocery store
So here’s your guide to a mostly homemade Thanksgiving dinner with minimal effort. Have a great holiday and get some rest!