Thanksgiving Dinner: Make it Easy on Yourself!

easy Thanksgiving dinner - Thanksgiving dinner ideas

I’ve been going over my old Thanksgiving recipes this week. I’ve also been searching for new Thanksgiving recipes. I always provide a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu, but I also like to include at least one or two new dishes. Wow. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next month! Where did this year go? My dad always told me that when I got older, time would pass more quickly. I didn’t believe him when I was younger, but after I hit the half-century mark, I began to understand what he meant. Now, a month seems to go by in a flash, and turkey day is almost upon us, so I’m already planning this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

We always have Thanksgiving dinner at my house. My three daughters, their husbands, and my eight grandchildren attend. Oftentimes, we have additional guests, too. A few of my friends and/or a few of my daughters’ friends might join us for Thanksgiving dinner. We always have a huge spread! My Thanksgiving dinner menu usually includes smoked turkey, fried turkey, smoked ham, barbecued pork roast, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, squash casserole, rice and mushroom casserole, garden peas, sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, succotash, broccoli casserole, cranberry sauce, yeast rolls, congealed salad, fruit salad, iced tea, and soft drinks. That’s our traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu, but like I said, I usually add a new dish or two.

Of course, we also have lots of desserts with our Thanksgiving menu. Thanksgiving desserts always include our old favorites, like my no-bake layered pumpkin-cream cheese pie, sweet potato pie, and pecan pie. Sometimes our Thanksgiving dinner menu will also include red velvet cake, carrot cake, Italian cream cake, or a chocolate fudge cake with twelve skinny layers.

I’m retired now, so I don’t stress too much about preparing Thanksgiving dinner. When I was working, however, I found it all but impossible to do the entire Thanksgiving menu by myself. There just weren’t enough hours in the day, so I had to come up with a strategy and some new Thanksgiving dinner ideas. They worked so well that I still use them, even though I’m retired!


Delicious fried turkey is always part of our Thanksgiving dinner!
Delicious fried turkey is always part of our Thanksgiving dinner!
Turkey is usually included on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu.
Turkey is usually included on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu.

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

If you wish to celebrate the holiday but aren’t American, you might not be familiar with what a traditional Thanksgiving menu includes. If you’re an American, you can skip this part – you already know it. The Thanksgiving dinner menu usually includes a turkey. The turkey can be baked in the oven, smoked on a smoker, or fried in a turkey fryer.

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu also includes stuffing or dressing. For many years, this concoction was usually cooked inside the cavity of the turkey, but due to health concerns, many people have stopped this practice. Now, the dressing or stuffing is often cooked in a separate dish. Stuffing and dressing are usually made with bread crumbs or with cornbread, however, some people prefer rice stuffing.

An American Thanksgiving menu usually includes a sweet potato dish, too. Sweet potatoes are usually abundant in the fall, and they’re a lovely orange color, which goes along with the Thanksgiving theme. Popular sweet potato dishes include candied sweet potatoes, sweet potato pudding, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato soufflé, and sweet potato pie.

Cranberries almost always make an appearance on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu, and these tart, tasty berries can be used in a variety of ways. Some of these include cranberry sauce, cranberry muffins, cranberry bread, cranberry jelly, cranberry pie, and cranberry relish.

Another dish that’s a popular item on a traditional Thanksgiving menu is succotash. Succotash is an old Native American food that’s made with lima beans and whole kernel corn. Many Native Americans used to season their succotash with dog meat, but nowadays, salt pork is substituted.

Other typical dishes you might find on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu includes acorn squash, butternut squash, Hubbard squash, green beans, asparagus, macaroni and cheese, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, and white potatoes. You might also find crescent rolls, cornbread muffins, tossed salads, ambrosia, or mincemeat pie. Some dishes are regional. For example, in the South, many people include greens cooked with ham hocks on their Thanksgiving menu.


Thanksgiving dinner ideas: smoked and glazed cured ham.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: smoked and glazed cured ham.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: boiled shrimp.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: boiled shrimp.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: pork tenderloins.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: pork tenderloins.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: glazed smoked pork loin roast.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: glazed smoked pork loin roast.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: prime rib.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: prime rib.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: barbecued butts.
Thanksgiving dinner ideas: barbecued butts.

Non Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

There’s no law that says you have to serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner! I have a friend whose family doesn’t like turkey and dressing, so she never cooks a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu. Instead, they usually have grilled steaks or seafood for Thanksgiving dinner.

If you want to break with tradition, try some new Thanksgiving dinner ideas. If you’re expecting a crowd, it’ll be easier on you if you cook a big portion of meat. You could cook a beef prime rib roast, a pork loin, a Boston butt, a beef brisket, or a baked ham.

Other Thanksgiving dinner ideas you might want to consider are boiled shrimp or roasted oysters. These can be cooked outdoors, and part of the fun is in the cooking itself. Shrimp can be boiled in a big pot over a propane burner, and oysters can be roasted on a large grill.


My daughters always bring dishes to our Thanksgiving dinner, like this rice and mushroom casserole.
My daughters always bring dishes to our Thanksgiving dinner, like this rice and mushroom casserole.

Delegate your Thanksgiving dinner!

Don’t try to be a hero or a martyr when it comes to making Thanksgiving dinner. Learn to delegate! I do, and it’s made for an easy Thanksgiving dinner. One thing that really helps me is for my husband to cook all the meat outdoors. He cooks a large turkey, a cured ham, and a pork roast on the smoker. He also fries a smaller turkey or two in the outdoor fryer. Not only does this save me a lot of time and energy, it also frees up my oven for other Thanksgiving recipes.

Each of my three daughters brings two dishes to our Thanksgiving dinner, too. That’s six dishes that I don’t have to make. When other guests come to share Thanksgiving dinner with us, they always ask what they can bring. I don’t know if this is just a “southern thing,” or if it’s a common practice everywhere, but I’m not shy. I usually give them something simple to bring, like tea, ice, paper plates, a salad, or a pie or cake from the bakery. You’ll find that even simple things that you don’t have to deal with really help you manage your time.


I cook ahead what I can for my Thanksgiving dinner menu, including my cornbread for dressing.
I cook ahead what I can for my Thanksgiving dinner menu, including my cornbread for dressing.

Plan Ahead for Thanksgiving Dinner

As I already mentioned, I plan my Thanksgiving dinner menu far in advance. I write down everything I want to serve, and I made a grocery list. Starting in October, I begin picking up some of the non-perishable items I’ll need for Thanksgiving dinner. As I buy them, I check them off my list.

Another way I save time is to make my cornbread in advance and store it in the freezer. I let it thaw the day before Thanksgiving, so assembling and cooking my dressing doesn’t take long.

I also make and assemble my casseroles the day before Thanksgiving. All I have to do to them on Thanksgiving morning is to pop them in the oven. Not only does this save time on the big day, I’ve also discovered that allowing the casseroles to sit in the fridge overnight improves their flavor. If you’re using any crunchy toppings on your casseroles, don’t add them until just before cooking. They’ll get soggy sitting in the refrigerator overnight.

There’s no reason to kill yourself making your Thanksgiving dinner! If you don’t have anyone to help out with the meal, buy a couple of ready-made dishes from a deli, a supermarket, a bakery, or a restaurant. Purchasing just one or two dishes can be a big help. You’ll find that by following some of these suggestions, you won’t be so stressed out and tired when the big event occurs. You’ll actually get to enjoy your guests and your Thanksgiving dinner for a change!


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Comments 21 comments

dinkan53 profile image

dinkan53 5 years ago from India

Beautiful appetite producing pictures, I started constantly swallowing saliva from the very beginning of your interesting hub and mouth filling up with saliva and I have to eat something, thanks.Rating it up!!!


bizzymom profile image

bizzymom 5 years ago from New York

This is a fantastic hub! Your writing is so easy to read through. Your ideas for Thanksgiving dinner are fantastic. Can I come over for dinner too? It all sounds delicious! Thanks!


msannec profile image

msannec 5 years ago from Mississippi (The Delta)

I'm hungry already! Great hub!


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 5 years ago from The Land of Tractors

Fabulous, you made me hungry reading about all of the different alternatives to Thanksgiving. We have lived so far from our relatives for so many years that we don't often do the whole shebang, and in recent years we've purchased a big rotisserie chicken the day ahead and baked a pie and trimmed up the meal with a few of our choice favorites. This has worked well for us in transition and there's still enough to share if we have unexpected guests. I loved your ideas and pictures. Delegate all the way!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

I knew I should have waited until after dinner to read this hub, Holle. Now I am positively drooling ... all over my keyboard. What a lovely Thanksgiving spread you have pictured - with luscious photos and some extraordinary suggestions. Thank you. Yummm!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

If I could transform your delicious photos into actual food, I could really make Thanksgiving easy!


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 5 years ago from Texas

Habeee,

Great hub with tips and ideas on preparing Thanksgiving dinner.. We usually attend dinner at my grandmas but one day I'll be having to do my own Thanksgiving dinners. I love the idea of preparing casseroles ahead of time for sure.. Also what about this no-bake layered pumpkin-cream cheese pie!!!!!!! It sounds DELISH! Perhaps you could share your recipe for that soon?!? Great Hub!!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Thanksgiving is a lot more enjoyable when you aren't stressing out all day. Thanks for the great tips! I hope that you have another wonderful family holiday this year.


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Lol, dinkan. Thanks for that response!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Bizzymom, I'll set an extra place for Thanksgiving dinner!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Anne, great to see you! How ya been?


DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 5 years ago

Habee, Great tasty looking suggestions and alternatives for side dishes or main Entrees for Thanksgiving! Hmm can I possibly place an order for a fried turkey sent to California the day before Thanksgiving? lol! I like to plan early so this is great timing...

Thank You for sharing, Peace & Blessings!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Western, a roasted chicken makes a great Thanksgiving dinner for a small family. Thanks!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

drbj, come on up and join us for Thanksgiving dinner!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Bpop, that would take away all the fun of cooking!!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Jamie, that recipe is on my cooking site. Just click the link in the above hub. That pie is awesome!!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, random. We're really looking forward to the holidays!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Deb, you gotta get you a turkey fryer, girlfriend! Fried turkey is usually the #1 item on southern Thanksgiving dinner menus!!


Jeff_McRitchie 5 years ago

Terrific hub. I like how you discussed alternative foods for the big meal. Good job!


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Jeff! Hope you have a wonderful holiday!


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 5 years ago from sunny Florida

Thanks for sharing. However, I read this early in the morning before even a cup of tea and...

I had a difficult time reading as I kept looking a the pictures and my mouth was watering....I love the picture of the boiled shrimp with veggies and the way it was presented. Just have to say...o, YUM...and have a lovely holiday.

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