A quick thanksgiving
The holiday meals have been "mine" since my teenage years, but things get harder every year as we are all living overseas and have different work schedules. While I hope to do a proper celebration at some point (January? It's actually a big deal in my family), this year there is just no time for a real feast for several weeks between work, sibling birthdays, and family weddings. We, of course, don't get the day off ;). Starting Monday night, I am at work or classes straight through until Saturday evening (literally--working 9 hour days, classes until 8 or 9 at night. Unless a shift gets cancelled...!). I would still really love to put out some sort of thanksgiving-esque food for dinner for the family. My only day to prep, realistically, is Monday before I head off to class. I have a sister in law who can help some (not American, although she has celebrated w us a couple of times and is a great cook), but beyond that it will be whatever I leave in the fridge.
Any ideas, 'Hounds? Traditional foods reign for thanksgiving ( & I'm normally a make-it-don't-buy-it type) but there's just no way I can make a turkey and get to the sides. I was considering some sort of sandwich or bake? A loaf of Stuffing bread or something that is traditionally "leftovers" that could be served cold? A pie or tart that will keep from Monday afternoon until Thursday night? Ham is out....
Consider stuffed chicken breasts using boneless breasts and a boursin type spreadable cheese. If you want a more traditional stuffing, make whatever bread stuffing you like instead. Dip in egg wash, roll in seasoned breadcrumbs and bake. You could prep this a day or two before and finish it in the oven. You could even cover it in a alfredo sauce, tossing in spinach or broccoli for the veg component. You could even take this further by tossing the sauce with cooked & drained egg noodles or rice before setting the chicken on top. This would be a whole meal in a casserole.
Chicken or turkey pot pie, made with veggies and sweet potatoes. You can serve cranberry sauce, if the ingredients are available to you.
I just got the latest allrecipes email newsletter and the theme is Make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes - maybe you could do some of these? http://allrecipes.com/recipes/holiday...
(don't do what I did and stare at the slideshow thinking "but there's only 3 recipes there!" scroll down and you'll find more)
You could also do a turkey low and slow if your sister in law or somebody else is home all day. I love this method because it gives great results, you can throw it in the oven and practically forget about it for 6 or so hours and I think it's pretty forgiving, plus you can have quite a long rest time for it as well.
Here's a topic on it if you think it will work with your schedule: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/883472
How many people are you feeding?
Perhaps your SIL could cook and freeze winter squash now to be defrosted and seasoned on T-Day. Mashed potatoes don't take but 30-40 minutes and can be done while the turkey or turkey breast or turkey parts roast. You can probably buy a decent gravy from the deli department at the grocery store. Then there is the dressing--it doesn't take that long for a traditional sage dressing to come together. Again, if your SIL has the time she can cut and dry the bread several days in advance and then saute the onions and herbs a day or two ahead; then it's just a matter of mixing together with eggs and stock and baking.
Instead of turkey, how about roasting a chicken (or multiple chickens depending on the size of your group) at high heat on Thursday? As Gourmanda suggests, you or your SIL can assemble all of the ingredients for dressing in advance, and just mix it up with the wet & dry ingredients together, and bake in the oven in a separate pan (stuffing the bird(s) would take more time and will slow down the cooking time of the birds). While they are roasting, you and/or SIL could prep sides, including mashed potatoes as suggested upthread. You can whip up a gravy from the chicken drippings in 15 minutes while the birds rest, before you carve them. Total prep & cooking time for everything on Thurs would be about 1-1/2 hours; is that too long? Buy some sort of apple pastry from a bakery for dessert (or pumpkin if available).