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Oct 31, 2008 02:39 PM

Thanksgiving dinner: what do you "cheat" on?

My cheats:
cornbread - from a mix
pies - from a bakery
rolls - store bought
ham - from Honeybaked

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  1. Although I make homemade cranberry applesauce, by popular demand by my guests (and my husband) I MUST serve canned cranberry sauce, clear, not whole berry. They need to see "the lines."

    This year I am attempting to make a 100% organic Thanksgiving meal. Wonder if there is an organic line of canned cranberry sauce?

    One other thing...After making a gazillion Thanksgiving dinners in as many years... I have come to the conclusion that Thanksgiving is NOT about the food. Oh yeah we all want the turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes... and pie for dessert... but simple is best if you don't want to get overwhelmed.

    There is no reason to go crazy nuts over this meal. It pains me to see cooks fuss over complicated recipes that consume a lot of their time and often don't turn out good. No one needs that angst. There is no edict that says you MUST make everything from scratch.

    Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate family, friends and those we love. Make your life easy and enjoy the day.

    5 Replies
    1. re: TrishUntrapped

      I agree that Thanksgiving, and every other holiday for that matter is all about family. But in my family that means we are all in the kitchen together cooking up some serious dinners. My mom, my wife and I will spend the better part of three days in the kitchen getting ready for such an event. No corners are cut and no short cuts are taken. Nothing less than the best for my family.

        1. re: TrishUntrapped

          I have a very small family and we see each other often, at times too often, so Thanksgiving IS all about the food.

          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            Everyone has their own cut on this. I love the cooking and the specialness of the meal and want it to be the best it can be. the pleasure of the gathering is so enhanced by delicious food and wine. I like to serve in courses so people dont just fall upon the food and finish in 20 min.
            Having grown up in a home with high food standards and top flight baking, my bar for this meal is high. My husband complains that I sort of start where my parents were and go on from there. I take a day off to make it happen the way I want, so that I can bake the pies that I dont have time to make the rest of the year, etc. Making pie crust, cranberry sauce, broth etc ahead of time also helps.

            In terms of shortcuts, Ive stopped baking dinner rolls for this meal, just too much fuss and difficulty with oven access. I usually go to a good bakery for some bread these days. Some years I skip the cornbread in my stuffing and just use the Arnold's white bread.
            I make my cranberry sauce, but also buy the very good orange-cranberry sauce that Trader Joe's sell.
            I make braised pearl onions/shallots, but these days I use the frozen sambhar onions from the indian grocery for this rather than peeling for hours.
            I doctor up canned mincemeat instead of making my own.
            Above all, I let other people bring things if they want. That's been the biggest stress reducer since I used to need to do it all.

          2. cornbread from a mix for the dressing
            pies - pumpkin pie from Costco is wonderful, but I'll make the pecan pie
            frozen pearl onions for the creamed onions
            jellied cranberry sauce - my family only likes that *roll eyes*

            1. I suffered a cardiac arrest a couple months ago, so this year, I'm definitely taking some shortcuts...Instant mashed potatoes (i'll still add cream cheese, sour cream and chives). Gravy mix with homemade turkey broth...instead of green bean casserole, I'm just going to do a mushroom and green bean stirfry. Dessert will be storebought. I'll still do the turkey and stuffing from scratch.

              1. No cheats here. Full traditional New England Thanksgiving meal. Though this holiday is all about the family, the meal is worth the miles of travel!

                3 Replies
                1. re: smtucker

                  2 years ago I hurt my back and couldn't cook. Last year I broke my wrist and tore my rotator - couldn't cook. Both years, I bought the entire dinner prepared by our local grocery store. No Whole Foods, organic, heritage or fancy smancy. Everyone was just as happy with it. It was good, it was easy. I'm doing the whole thing again this year. Bringing the tradition to the table my own way has been so important to me over the years. The last two taught me it was the gathering, not the meal that was importtant.

                    1. re: chowmel

                      Thank you for that perspective. Nine members of my family are going to Texas for Thanksgiving this year. My youngest brother (unmarried at 48) is providing the turkey and ham from somewhere. I've been obsessing about dried out turkey and salty ham when the important thing is the family being together and giving thanks for all our good fortune.

                  1. I cheat on my rolls occasionally, and Honeybaked is a requirement at our house, but other than that I don't cheat on much. I make my pie crust a couple of weeks in advance, and cranberry relish is made a week in adavance. The stuffing is made the day before as are the pies. Usually, I'm the only one who cooks, and I tend to really enjoy the time in the kitchen. The extra effort is something I look forward too.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: FoodChic

                      I agree, FoodChic. I make my turkey stock and cranberry relish up to a month in advance and freeze them. I can't tell you how much time this saves on The Day. This year I'm going to try to make a piecrust in advance and freeze it.

                      1. re: SSqwerty

                        I've never thought about freezing my cranberry chutney...SS, there's no loss in flavor or texture? Mine is chunky with pears, ginger and orange along with the cranberries. What a time saver that would be!

                        1. re: amela

                          amela, I would love your chutney recipe. thanks

                          1. re: missbug53

                            I just saw your request and went to get my recipe that I have been using for over 10 years and it is GONE! I am having a heart attack. I have no idea where I got it in the first place. If anyone has a cranberry chutney remotely similar, please post! It also had mustard seeds in the ingredients.

                          2. re: amela

                            Truth to tell, amela, the freezing ahead seems to help the flavor by letting the dish "season" for a while. Your chutney sounds delicious! I'll bet it will freeze like a dream.

                            Here's the one I make and freeze. By the way, it's fabulous frozen and tastes like sherbet: