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Thanksgiving Made Easy: Recipes and More

Updated on November 9, 2013

A plate full of yum!

Thanksgiving done in well under an hour!
Thanksgiving done in well under an hour!

The Tradition

Close your eyes...think of Thanksgiving for just a moment. The early morning parades are always fun to watch. And if your a college football fan, there's usually a good game on. But, the best part of the day is the large dinner you will eat, right? There's something about the food of Thanksgiving. But who has the time to spend ALL DAY in the kitchen? Maybe you do, but I don't. If you're like me and you want to relax on Thanksgiving, then this blog is for YOU!

I've also written the blog to save you from the utter exhaustion that preparing a big meal can bring. Yes, it's fun to cook and bake but think about how quickly that meal is eaten. My family can inhale their food within 10 minutes--a meal that could have taken me hours to prepare. Ugh! Join with me as we take our Thanksgiving back!

A Perfect Turkey!

No butter was used in the baking of this bird.
No butter was used in the baking of this bird.

Don't Skimp

We are a household of food snobs. For years I have spoiled my family with made-from-scratch goodies like homemade breads, pancakes and desserts. My kids cringe at lots of frozen food because they can taste the chemicals when compared to freshly made items. When we find a ready-to-eat item that is just as good as homemade, it's a keeper!

The following is my account of how I put together a Thanksgiving dinner in less than an hour. All were happy and I didn't lose most of my day slaving in the kitchen.

Begin with the turkey

For most of us, it's all about the turkey. If you Google turkey recipes, you'll see a lot of them.

Whole turkey versus just breast. While very few people eat dark meat anymore, most of us are watching our grocery bill. Whole turkeys typically cost less per pound and will give you more actual meat which is good for those who love those wonderful leftovers!

Secret number 1: Start with a fully defrosted bird.Lots of recipes say you can use a frozen one, but not only do they take longer to cook, they often don't cook evenly. For a quick defrost, place the frozen bird in a container of COOL water for an hour or so. You'll be amazed at how quickly that cold water can defrost an item. Plus, a fully defrosted bird will cook much faster. I personally don't have all day to wait around for something in the oven! Also, the fully defrosted bird is my secret to a perfectly brown bird. For some reason, frozen ones won't brown so beautifully, that is unless you help them along with fattening butter.

Secret number 2: Seasonings matter very little.Unless you use a brine, you won't taste the spices you rub on the outside. Save yourself some calories and don't eat the skin. Skip the butter and expensive spices and add salt and pepper to the outside of your bird. Some of you may like a "pretty bird" and for that reason you may use certain spices. I see your point but don't go overboard.

Secret number 3: Cook the turkey a day ahead. There's nothing wrong with cooking the turkey a day ahead. You could under cook it a little and then the day of, place it back in the oven to finish. Store the cooked bird in the refrigerator cut up or whole. We did this and the meat was just as tender and fresh tasting as if I had just cooked it.

Secret number 4: Cover the turkey while cooking. Uncover the last 30 minutes to brown the top. Spray the foil so it won't stick to the skin. You don't need butter for a brown skin. If it looks like the wings are getting too brown, keep them covered.

Boxed food has come a long way in taste. My family enjoys all of these items!
Boxed food has come a long way in taste. My family enjoys all of these items!

Thanksgiving Meal

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 3 hours
Ready in: 3 hours 20 min
Yields: A delicious meal for 6-8 people!

Low-Fat, Decadent Mashed Potatoes

Cast your vote for Mashed Potatoes

Low-Fat, Decadent Mashed Potatoes

  • red potatoes, diced in 2 inch cubes, skin on
  • water, to cover
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4-1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2-1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, (optional)
  1. Rinse the red potatoes. Dice into 2 inch cubes, leaving the skin on. Place in a pot and cover with water. Sprinkle approximately 2 teaspoons of salt. Boil until tender. Drain and mash.
  2. Slowly add the vegetable stock. Too little and the potatoes are still dry. Too much and the potatoes will swim. Then add sour cream to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Optional:add 1-2 cloves of pressed garlic for a little zip.

Boxed Versus Homemade

This is a big dilemma that can only be answered by your guests and/or family. Which items taste good enough to satisfy and which items are worth spending the time to make from scratch.

In the meal that I made, mashed potatoes are a side dish my family is tired of tasting the pre-made varieties. Those I made from scratch in the easiest and least caloric way possible. (Recipe is above.)

The other items on our menu, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans and gravy were prepared simply. The stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce were all packaged. Some of you are in shock because you say it's just not the same, Maybe not, but it's adequate. If you don't like the exact flavor of say the cranberry sauce or gravy, then doctor it up a bit. As far as the green beans go, we feel that simply steaming them is best. The green bean casseroles are loaded with calories. You don't need all the extra sauces. They negate the goodness of the vegetable!

My Story

The food shown in this photo is not actually from a Thanksgiving, it's from a Friday night dinner. Because I cooked the turkey the night before, I was able to put the rest of the meal together in about 30 minutes. Earlier that day I worked, followed by my son's sports game. By the time I got home, it was 6:30. By 7:00 we were eating and by 7:20 the kids were cleaning up. My family enjoys Thanksgiving type food on days other than the special day.

Microwave Potato Cooking

Potato Express Microwave Potato Cooker, Perfect Potatoes in Just 4 Minutes! – As Seen On TV
Potato Express Microwave Potato Cooker, Perfect Potatoes in Just 4 Minutes! – As Seen On TV

This item is on my Christmas shopping wish list. I hear it is a great time-saver!


Sweet Potatoes

Who doesn't love sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving? If these are on your menu, here's a quick and low fat way to add them to your table.

Start by baking your sweet potatoes whole at 400 degrees. Bake until they are soft. Let cool slightly and scoop the insides and mash. If you bake them, they will need minimal butter and brown sugar. You'll find they are very sweet on their own.

If you don't have time to fool with baking the potatoes in the oven, try one of those new microwave bags like the Potato Express. They give the same oven results but are faster since you cook it in the microwave.


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    • my_girl_sara profile image

      Cynthia Lyerly 4 years ago from Georgia

      There is too much fun to be had to spend all day cooking, even on Thanksgiving. I appreciate the comments and the encouraging words.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Everyone's always looking for shortcuts, especially on a day you want to spend with your family. Some good ideas here!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.