Gearing up for Thanksgiving Day

November 13, 2018

The feast of all feasts, Turkey Day, is in sight! That day when your kitchen is nice and toasty, buzzing with activity as you rush to get that delicious bird and all the fixins on the table by the time everyone arrives! It’s an amazing day!

Last year, I discovered the beauty of ordering a heat-and-serve dinner for our small crew at Cracker Barrel. It was amazing and let me spend time on dessert and other favorite side dishes without the stress.

Even though this year we’ll be going to my sister-in-law’s for dinner, I thought it would be a great idea to share some amazing Thanksgiving dinner shortcuts I have uncovered. These shortcuts include pre-cooked, semi-homemade and even better-than-original cheats. For even more ways to cut down your time in the kitchen next week, visit our Thanksgiving board on Pinterest.

Pre-cooked foods

I love, LOVE the idea of making turkey dinner dishes ahead of time. Not only does it alleviate that time-crunch stress, it frees up your oven for other sides you want to spend a bit more time on, like fluffy rolls or scrumptious pies. Side dishes like casseroles, Jell-O salads, mashed potatoes and even gravy can all be made ahead of time.

To really save time, roast and slice your turkey ahead of time. I’m a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman, and she has shared this tip on her site. Simply roast the turkey as you would, just a day before Thanksgiving. Carve into slices, arrange on a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate. The next day let the turkey come to room temperature, drizzle 1 cup chicken broth over the turkey, cover with foil and roast at 350 degrees for 1 hour.


There are great ways to transform store-bought food into delicious, customized desserts, side dishes and more. Maybe your family loves Stove Top stuffing, but you’re looking for a way to freshen it up a bit. Add your own sautéed veggies and herbs. Or enhance those Mrs. Rhodes Rolls by topping with a garlic-herb butter sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Those incredible, huge, Costco Pumpkin Pies, too, are a great canvas for some homemade touches in addition to perfectly whipped cream. For instance you can add a meringue topping to that pie, or top with a crackly brûlée. Create a salted caramel sauce to drizzle on top or create a streusel topping for some sweet crunch. Don’t forget chocolate, too. You can make your own magic shell for some extra fun.

Cooking cheats

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, especially when serving a crowd, it’s OK to cheat! Go ahead and crack open that can of jellied cranberry sauce. Pop a can of crescent rolls when you’re running out of time. Make your favorite pie with packaged pie crust. Grab a salad kit for your green salad this year. If your fam loves mac & cheese, grab the frozen Stouffer’s version.

If there’s one intimidating item at Thanksgiving, for me it’s the gravy. So instead of carefully siphoning out turkey juices and praying it isn’t lumpy, I opt for store-bought gravy. Whether you prefer a powdered mix you add water to or a jarred gravy, that is one simple cheat no one will complain about. Add in some extra flavoring like soy sauce or Worcestershire.

— Jennifer Durrant

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