Stress free, make ahead "sides" for Thanksgiving

Stuff I’d Like to See General Stress free, make ahead "sides" for Thanksgiving

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    • #311578

      Hi: I am a brand new “newbie”!! My husband invited my son’s possible, future in-laws who will be visiting their daughter and are from the UK for Thanksgiving dinner. Coupled with my family the number for dinner will be close to 20.

      My daughter will be coming home for the first time since May so I would like to spend some time with her as opposed to standing over the hot stove. Any suggestions as to dishes that can be made ahead, and possibly frozen, but elegant enough to serve guests who will be in my home for the first time. I am feeling slightly stressed, not to mention what it will do to my budget.

      Thanks for any help provided.

    • #434589

      Welcome to Budget 101, LaxMom! You have came to the right place. Relax!

      Take a deep breath! This is doable. A few questions–Did you want traditional sides (Like Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Corn Casserole, Rolls) Or did you want something different?

      Do any of your guests to be, have any special dietary requirements (Gluten and/or dairy intolerant, allergic to certain food) and are any of them Vegetarian or Vegan? What are your favorite foods? Most dishes can be made ahead.

      I have lots of recipes, and others on this site do also, so I am sure we will get this all figured out. Thanks; Virginia

    • #434639

      I found a new recipe for cranberry salad that I intend to try. It can be made early and refrigerated. Calls for cranberries, jello, and pineapple.

      Does that sound like something you might like? How about candied apple slices made with cinnamon red hots? Glazed orange slices?

    • #434643

      Thanks for the quick replies. I was hoping to do a traditional menu as opposed to trying to “go off the board”. As far as I can tell, there are no dietary restrictions on their end of things.

      They are apparently “foodies” as their son is a chef, which only adds to my stress level. I just want to get as much done before and frozen so I have time to spend with my daughter. We are not fancy people and I know I should not even worry about trying to “put on airs”, I just want it to be nice for them and have my son feel proud of his family.

      Any help would be appreciated.

    • #434804

      Here you go! Sorry it took me so long to post these, most you will need to double.

      Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

      5 pounds Turkey Wings
      2 medium Onions, peeled and each cut into 8 pieces
      2 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
      1 1/2 teaspoons Salt (divided)
      3/4 teaspoon ground black Pepper (divided)
      2 Garlic Cloves, peeled
      2 quarts Turkey Stock, divided
      3 sprigs fresh Sage
      2 sprigs fresh Thyme
      2 sprigs fresh Rosemary
      3 Celery Stalks, each quartered
      2/3 cups Flour

      Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray roasting pan with cooking spray. Add turkey wings and onions.

      Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake for 1 hour until turkey and onions are browned.

      Flip over turkey wings, add garlic cloves and bake another 15 minutes. Remove wings, onions, and garlic to stock pot. Add 1 cup turkey broth to baking pan and whisk to loosen browned bits.

      Add pan liquid to stockpot along with celery, herbs, and remaining turkey broth. Simmer for 1 hour. Remove solids from liquid stock.

      Pour stock through wire strainer to remove remaining bits. Remove grease from stock by using a grease separator or chilling in fridge so that hardened fat can be scraped off the top.
      For 5-1/2 cups of stock, make a slurry by shaking 1 cup stock with 2/3 cup of flour in a jar. Heat stock, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large saucepan until steaming.

      Whisk constantly while gradually adding slurry to stock until desired consistency is reached. Cook on low for 10 min. Serve right away or store in fridge no more than 3 days.

      May be frozen for up to a month. Reheat in microwave or on stove top; add water or turkey broth to thin it, if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning.
      Makes 5 to 6 cups

      Note: To thicken gravy, for each one cup of turkey stock make a slurry of 1 tablespoon of flour to 1 1/2 tablespoons of water or broth to shake together in the jar.


      Crescent Rolls

      1 1/4 cups warm Water (100 to 110F)
      2 packages Active Dry Yeast
      1/2 cup warm Milk (100 to 110F)
      1/3 cup Butter, softened
      1/2 cup Sugar
      1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
      5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour (or half whole wheat and half all purpose flour)
      2 large eggs

      Place 1/2 cup warm water in large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add remaining warm water, warm milk, butter, sugar, salt and 2 cups flour.

      Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer. Add eggs and ½ cup flour. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes.

      Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

      Cover with plastic wrap; let rest for 20 minutes. Punch dough down. Roll each half to 14-inch circle.

      Cut each into 12 pie-shaped wedges. Roll up tightly from wide end. Curve ends slightly to form crescents.

      Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place, until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until done.

      Remove from baking sheets; cool on wire racks.

      To Freeze: After Shaping, Place on greased baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and foil, sealing well. Once frozen, rolls may be placed in plastic freezer bags.

      Freeze up to 1 week.

      To use: Remove from freezer; place on greased baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until done.

      Remove from baking sheets; cool on wire racks.

      Makes 2 dozen rolls


      Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole


      3 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
      10 ounces white Mushrooms , sliced thin
      3/4 teaspoon Salt
      1/2 teaspoon Pepper
      6 Garlic Cloves , minced
      1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
      1/4 cup all-purpose Flour
      1 3/4 cups Chicken Broth
      1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
      2 pounds fresh Green Beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
      1/4 cup Cornstarch

      Melt the butter in a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

      Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, stirring, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth and cream and bring the mixture to a boil.

      Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes.
      In a large bowl, toss the green beans with the cornstarch until the beans are evenly coated. Transfer the beans to a 9 X 13-inch baking dish. Pour the warm mushroom mixture evenly over the beans.

      Let the casserole cool completely on the counter. Once cooled, cover with a layer of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.

      2 slices hearty sandwich Bread, white or wheat, torn into pieces
      2 tablespoons unsalted Butter , melted
      1/4 teaspoon Salt
      2 cups Canned French Fried Onions or 2 cups Homemade

      Pulse bread, butter, and salt in food processor until coarsely ground. Combine bread mixture and canned fried onions in a bowl, transfer to a zipper-lock freezer bag, and freeze. (place the topping bag right on top of the casserole in the freezer so you can keep track of both.)

      When ready to bake, adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the layer of plastic wrap from the baking dish and replace the foil. Bake, covered, until the sauce is bubbling and the beans are tender, about 80 minutes, stirring the beans thoroughly after 50 minutes.

      Remove the foil and spread the frozen topping mixture over the beans. Bake until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Serve.
      Serves 10

      (In case you want to make your own instead of using canned)

      Wantabe French’s French Fried Onions

      3 large Onions
      2 cups Milk
      2 cups all purpose Flour
      Salt, to taste
      Oil for frying

      Slice onions into rings. Soak them in the milk for 5 minutes. Heat the oil in a large skillet or deep fryer.

      Coat the onions with flour. Fry the onions in the oil. Flip and stir as needed to ensure they brown evenly.

      Place on paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Salt to taste.
      Store in an air tight container.

      Makes about 6 cups. 36 Servings of 2 Tablespoons each


      Make Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole

      10 Potatoes (about 3 1/2 lbs)
      1/2 pound Cream Cheese
      1/4 cup Butter
      1 cup chopped Green Onions
      1 cup Sour Cream
      1/2 cup minced fresh Parsley
      1 pinch dried Marjoram
      Salt and Pepper, to taste
      1/2 cup coarse fresh Breadcrumbs (optional)

      In a large pot of boiling water, cook potatoes for 20 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Drain and let cool slightly, peel. With a potato masher, mash until smooth (do not use an electric mixer), blend in cream cheese and butter until melted.

      Mix in onions, sour cream, parsley, marjoram, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to 8 inch (2 L) baking dish, smooth top.
      Sprinkle with crumbs, (Casserole can be prepared to this point, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 week. Let thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours.

      Add 10 minutes to baking time.) Bake in 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until heated through and top is lightly golden.

      Serves 10


      Make Ahead Orange Cranberry Sauce

      1 (12 oz) bag Cranberries
      1/2 cup fresh Orange Juice
      1 cup Sugar
      1 tsp grated Orange Peel

      Combine cranberries, orange juice, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 12 to 15 minutes, until the cranberries are popped and somewhat cooked down. Remove from heat, mash lightly with the back of a spoon, stir in orange peel, and transfer to a bowl. Let cool, then refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

      May be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to one week.

      Serves: 12


      Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

      2 1/2 pounds Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
      1/3 cup pure Maple Syrup
      2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
      1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
      1/2 teaspoon Salt
      Freshly ground Pepper, to taste

      Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
      Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
      Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes.

      Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown (45 to 50 minutes more).

      Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, reheat at 350 degrees F until hot, about 15 minutes.

      12 servings


      Fried Cornbread Dressing

      Fried Corn Bread:

      (This is best done the day before making the dressing.)

      5 packets Corn Muffin Mix (each packet enough for 6 servings) made into cornbread batter
      (In case you want to make your own)

      Wantabe Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

      2/3 cup all-purpose Flour
      1/2 cup yellow Cornmeal
      3 Tablespoons granulated Sugar
      1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
      1/4 teaspoon Salt
      2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

      Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl, mix well.
      Whisk in vegetable oil and mix until dry mixture is smooth and lumps are gone.

      Equal to one 8.5 ounce box which is equal to 1 1/2 cups of mix

      To make muffins:

      1 Egg
      1/3 cup Milk

      Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, grease muffin pans or use paper baking cups.
      Combine mix with egg and milk, mixing well. Batter will be slightly lumpy. (For maximum crown on muffins let batter rest for 3 or 4 minutes, restir before filling cups.

      Fill muffin cups 1/2 full and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

      Makes 6 servings

      To make Cornbread: Prepare as directed for Muffins except pour batter into greased 8-inch square pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
      Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter in bottom of large roasting pan and place in the oven to melt (This will allow the cornbread to”fry” while it’s baking). Pour your cornbread batter into the roasting pan and fry/bake it until golden brown.
      When done, use a knife and score through the cornbread to make very small cubes.


      1 pound mild ground Pork Sausage
      2 diced small Onions
      2 cups sliced Celery
      1 pound sliced fresh Mushrooms
      @ 58 ounces Chicken Broth (4 (14.5 ounces each) cans or 2 quart jars of homemade — use what you need for this recipe and use the rest for something else. )
      2 1/2 teaspoons Sage
      Salt and Pepper, to taste
      1/2 cup Butter

      Brown sausage in dutch oven. Add onions, celery and mushrooms and 1/4 cup of butter. Saute til sausage is done and onion is translucent.

      Add sage and about 3 cups of cornbread. (if you need more oil add the other 1/4 cup of butter.) Let brown a bit. Add rest of cornbread and stir well.

      Take dressing from dutch oven and put into the roaster pan. Drizzle with chicken broth til nice and moist. Bake at 350 for about an hour or until golden brown.

      It does freeze well, so it can be prepared a week or 2 before the big day, placed in Ziploc bags, and stored in the freezer. Thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours or so before reheating. You might want to pour some chicken or turkey broth over the top of it when you get ready to reheat it in the oven just to make it plenty moist when it’s heated through.

      This makes enough for 24 to 30 servings.


      Baked Corn Pudding

      2 1/2 cups Corn, fresh or frozen (thawed) or canned (drained)
      1 Tablespoon Sugar
      1 teaspoon Salt
      1/8 teaspoon freshly ground Pepper (or white pepper)
      1 1/2 Tablespoons Flour
      2 1/2 Tablespoons melted Butter
      3 Eggs, beaten
      1 cup whole Milk
      1 teaspoon Vanilla
      dash Cinnamon
      pinch Nutmeg

      Mix ingredients and pour into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35 minutes.

      It can be made the day ahead and reheated.

      12 servings

      Hope this helps. Thanks; Virginia

    • #434832

      Oh my what an angel you are Virginia for sharing all those recipes. I had no idea you could make gravy ahead of time! All the recipes seem delicious.

      Any favorites that you truly must have at your table on Thanksgiving? I am definitely going to make the gravy and potatoes which will alleviate some stress the day of. You have been a great help.

      I truly appreciate you taking the time to respond. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    • #434835

      There are also quite a few Thanksgiving Recipes here: – – Frugal Thanksgiving Recipe and Decoration Ideas

      The broccoli casserole recipe is always a Hit & is easy to make ahead.

      The Pumpkin Cream Dream is another super easy throw together appetizer/dessert style recipe. It keeps the kids out of your hair while you’re getting things together – Pumpkin Cream Dream | Fluffy Pumpkin Dip

    • #434840

      Liss Oh, now I am also definitely making the pumpkin cream dream too ~~sounds so yummy. Thanks for all your help and advice. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

    • #434841

      Liss: Do you serve the pumpkin fluffy dip as an appetizer or as a desert option?

    • #434842

      Wow! All these recipes sound wonderful! There are several shared here that I am definitely going to try this year.

      You all are awesome! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • #434854

      I have to have a snowball cake for Thanksgiving. It’s dead simple and can be made a day or so in advance.
      1 angle food cake crumbled
      1 small can of crushed pineapple (If you love pineapple you can increase this amount it doesn’t hurt the flavor at all lol)
      2 small or 1 large tub of whipped cream
      1 package unflavored jello
      1 tblsp lemon juice
      drain the pine apple but keep the liquid.
      make the jello according to directions using the pineapple juice plus lemon with any required water to make the amount. Mix the pineapple, angle food cake and 1 package or half a large package of whipped cream.

      Put in a pan and ice with the balance of the whipped cream. Lightly cover with foil (keep the foil off the whipped cream) and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
      My momma made this for as long as I can remember and I have made it the last 30 years. So yummy.

    • #434867

      sdmshad: Recipe for snowball cake sounds amazing. I think it is so special that you have continued a food tradition. I lost my mom when I was 9 so I don’t have that connection, but I hope that my daughter enjoys and will make some of the recipes I have shared over the years.

    • #434910

      What says Thanksgiving to me is Pumpkin Pie. Here is a make ahead version of it.

      Pumpkin Pie

      Pie Crust
      makes one 10 inch pie crust

      1 1/4 cup Flour
      1/4 teaspoon Salt
      1/2 cup Butter, chilled
      3 Tablespoons Ice Water plus a little more on hand in case it is needed

      Cut the butter into cubes and add it to the food processor with the flour and salt. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly and well incorporated. Add the water one tablespoon at a time while pulsing.

      As soon as the dough comes together stop adding water. Roll your crust on top of parchment paper. Lift the paper and slide the crust off or peel back the parchment to easily get your pie crust from the counter to the pan.

      Place crust into a buttered glass pie pan.

      Pumpkin Filling

      2 Eggs, beaten
      2 cups Pumpkin Puree
      3/4 cup Honey or 1 cup Sugar
      1/2 teaspoon Salt
      1 teaspoon Cinnamon
      1 teaspoon Nutmeg
      1/2 teaspoon Ginger
      1/4 teaspoon Cloves
      1 1/2 cups Evaporated Milk

      Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into pie crust.
      Bake for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake until the pie is set in the middle (35 to 45 minutes).

      Cool 30 minutes and serve warm, or cool to room temperature (about 2 hours) and serve or refrigerate ( can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days) or freeze (for up to 2 months).

      To Freeze:

      Completely cover the pie in its glass pie pan with plastic wrap (starting and ending with the wrap on the bottom) Next cover the plastic wrap with aluminum foil. Put the wrapped pie in a freezer bag.

      When ready for your pie, remove from freezer, remove from bag, remove all layers of wrapping and bake at 350 degrees F until warmed through (about 50 to 60 minutes), do not thaw before baking. Let cool slightly before serving.

      Alternately, you can thaw the pie, uncovered, for 1 to 2 days in the fridge and serve cold or warm it slightly in the oven.

      Hope this helps. Thanks; Virginia

    • #434906

      @laxmom 256335 wrote:

      Liss: Do you serve the pumpkin fluffy dip as an appetizer or as a desert option?

      Both, we serve it with cinnamon graham crackers & gingersnap cookies. It’s also yummy with apple slices.

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Stuff I’d Like to See General Stress free, make ahead "sides" for Thanksgiving