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Help me make Thanksgiving happen w/ help from TJs in a tough situation

Here is the situation: we will be having Tgiving with family in a small rented vacation condo that is designed for 4 people. I have no idea what tools will be available in the kitchen and cannot ask. For various reasons, there will be 9 of us (4 older kids) there for the meal. I am in charge of this meal. For family harmony reasons I need to make the meal VERY simple--light on prep and dishes. (It's a long story...) But I would like to maintain the Thanksgiving feeling and have it be good, of course.

We are driving to this destination and I have a beautiful new Trader Joe's by me. For this reason, I am thinking of loading up on TJ's Tgiving stuff. Can anyone advise on what is good? Was thinking about their frozen mashed potatoes, butternut squash/spinach gratin, Brussel Sprouts Parmeyere, Cauliflower Gratin, their cornbread stuffing, something w/sweet potatoes, and their gravy. Has anyone tried any of that? I have beautiful greens from my CSA so could do a lovely salad. Nice cheeses and crackers for apps. 4 of the 9 of us are mostly veg, so turkey needs are reduced, but we will still want something. I really need help with that since I rarely cook meat. TJ's has a pre-stuffed breast and I believed precooked meat as well, or perhaps this is something to get locally? Not much room in the fridge or time to thaw.

I am pining to make pies but it might be best to buy those also, or at least crusts. Does TJs have good crusts? Maybe a simple pecan pie and a pumpkin cheesecake?

Any other ideas for things that are LOW prep, LOW fuss, but will still feel Thanksgiving-y and not sad?

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  1. Can't help with most of this as we cook from scratch for the most part, but I can tell you that they often run out of pie crusts a week or so before, so keep that in mind.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sandiasingh

      They get hit hard right before the holiday and run out of a lot of stuff. Good advice sandia.

    2. I think TJs sells thawed turkey breast or you could perhaps ask them if they do. I'm planning to buy the wheat and white rolls for our dinner, look like pretty standard rolls but perfect enough to sop up gravy with. Other thing I've heard are really good - ginger spice cake. hey also have a wonderful cheese selection as well as other antipasto like thing that I'm sure would make for a lovely platter and perhaps you could go lighter on dinner. I think you can have a lovely dinner, even if it's not what you initially planned. Vacation condo with some loved ones? That's what I call a holiday :)

      Is there no other store in the area?

      3 Replies
      1. re: fldhkybnva

        TJ's is a good way to go for the sides, apps, desserts. I think the butternut/spinach gratin and corn pudding are terrific. If you think it would work to bypass the bird, TJ's frozen acorn squash half with turkey pot pie filling and topped with puff pastry makes a delicious entree for one (package says two, don't believe it).

        How about supplementing the TJ haul with a cooked turkey from a regular supermarket or restaurant, for a more Norman Rockwell experience?

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          There isn't much close by in terms of stores. It may be okay but it's just really unknown, you know? Heavy antipasti is a great idea. We all love that stuff anyway, right?

          1. re: loraxc

            I could live on salami and cheese

        2. Are you driving to this place on Wednesday or on Thursday morning? Just wondering if you could prepare some stuff the day before and bring it with you?

          Also, I don't know about the TJ products but I recently bought a box of instant garlic mashed potatoes from Whole Foods and surprisingly, they were pretty tasty. Not fresh, but really not bad. And it took about 5 minutes to prepare on the stove.

          1 Reply
          1. re: valerie

            Alas, we are going out on Saturday and won't have access to a kitchen till Thursday, really.

          2. Hey hon - the Brussels aren't good, neither is the butternut and spinach gratin. The TJ's frozen crust IS great, though, and pumpkin pie from scratch is pretty easy (so is pecan, actually.) Their prebaked pies aren't bad, either.

            I'd stick to simply prepped veg - roasted brussels (TJ's does have chestnuts, which are a nice addition), maybe baked sweets, slow roasted green beans. Creamed spinach is SUPER easy to make if you just wilt spinach with some cream cheese and a little parmesan.

            I'd definitely buy their pre-stuffed turkey breast with cranberries (or even a precooked turkey, which I think they have). What about making your famous butternut squash lasagna, freezing it, and taking it with you in the car? Their frozen mashed potatoes aren't terrible, either.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Savour

              They do have precooked turkeys, and their turkey gravy and their stuffing are a lot better than I was expecting - my favorite local TJ's was handing out samples yesterday. I've been using their frozen mashed potatoes for years, mostly as a freezer staple for short notice, and I like them quite a lot. The sample lady with whom I frequently swap recipes urged me to get the fried onion bits - she likes them in salads, but I want to try them as a bump-up for stuffing and/or cheese-heavy gratin dishes.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Love those fried onions, sprinkle on anything for a side dish

                1. re: Will Owen

                  The fried onion bits are spectacular. I use them to make mujadarra and top soups.

                  Loraxc - you could make a pretty awesome green bean casserole with TJ's condensed mushroom soup, fried onions, and fresh (or frozen) haricots verts.

                2. re: Savour

                  I would be happy to cook things, believe me, but that is not what people want me to do. It's complicated. murg.

                  The lasagna is a great idea IF I can do it before we leave (questionable).

                  So the turkey breast is okay? That's what wigs me out the most.

                  1. re: loraxc

                    IDK why the sides aren't that great this year- they've been pretty good in the past but I thought the brussels were just not good - bitter - and I usually love brussels. The spinach and squash I thought I'd love but salty and the squash was stringy.

                    I'd maybe go for sweet potato latkes from the frozen section (haven't tried, but the regular latkes are very good), and maybe the Spinach and Kale Phyllo Pie? They also have frozen mini pecan pies which get good reviews, and maybe their pumpkin soup would be a nice addition? (Topped with some of those fried onions and maybe a little blue cheese?) The frozen pumpkin bread pudding is also pretty good, and the frozen mushroom Tarte might be nice, too.

                    1. re: Savour

                      You suggestions sound super. Traditional but with some tweaks. We recently had a butternut squash soup with a drizzled of truffle oil and toasted pumpkin seeds on top.

                      1. re: Savour

                        That's two bad reviews for the brussels and spin/squash so sounds like a no-go. Too bad. I know I liked the mashed potatoes so those are good to go, anyway, and sounds like the stuffing, gravy, and turkey will be okay. I have had that spin-kale pie and I like it fine, but my family is wedded to my particular spanakopita and will probably whine. ;) Mushrooms are well loved by my children, who are the two most devoted vegetarians, so that is a good suggestion.

                  2. They were sampling scalloped potatoes yesterday at my TJ's - I was skeptical, but hungry...they were pretty tasty! And I'm picky about my scalloped spuds.

                    1. Their pumpkin cheesecake is to die for! It flies out of the store when shipments come in. Buy some TJ cream for whipping in a package , serve with the cheesecake, and your group will love it! Cake looks small but is so rich, one cake will be enough. They also sell butternut squash ready for cooking. Throw in boiling water, drain and mash with maple syrup, easy side. Their 1.99 packages of frozen green beans are nice, you could cook them, sauté a few mushrooms in butter to add to them, another easy side. The 1.29 packages of turkey gravy are tasty. Buy a few of these, boil some noodles and combine. Haven't tried the turkey things but the pre-cooked breast sounds like a good idea. Good luck!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: 85knits

                        I am going to get that cheesecake and the shelf-stable cream is a good one since fridge space is limited. Is the gravy in a jar or frozen or what?

                        1. re: loraxc

                          No jar or frozen, it's in a package! I bought a few to keep around . I hope you find the cheesecake , I had to wait a day for a shipment to arrive. It's very popular!

                      2. You have me curious. WHY can't you ask what tools are available? I have no problems carrying knives, microplane grater, really anything. Especially if traveling by car, the skies the limit.

                        1. Best advice I can give you is to call TJs, explain your dilemma and ask them to please hold your items for pickup. They are known for being wonderfully accommodating in that way.

                          The cornbread stuffing and gravy is good. I was surprised.

                          They have a great variety of hummus and all is good so this might go well for keeping the vegetarian souls soothed. In that same section, they have a portobello mushroom ravioli that is passable - kind of stingy on the filling. It has cheese though so might not be suitable for your veg-folk. There is also a frozen mushroom ravioli that is good.

                          Best of luck. Sounds like a challenge.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Harts52

                            Thank you for that good idea about calling. I might just do that.

                          2. For the vegetarians TJs has some great butternut squash ravioli in the refridgerated area, or if they like faux meat the italian "sausage" -also fridge section- is very good and could be sliced and added to the ravioli or kept for another meal. Unless you are certain the vegetarians like Tofurkey (the larger stuffed one in the fridge section) don't buy it-it's a love/hate items with vegetarians.

                            In the frozen section they have a great assortment of veg and non veg appetizers that just need to be baked.

                            I suggest you buy and bring fresh sage, thyme, and parsley to chop and add to any premade items to "freshen" them

                            I'm also a fan of their pumpkin cheesecake

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              I am one of the vegetarians and not big on Tofurkey. I mean, it's okay but not for a gala meal like Tgiving, I guess.

                              Herbs are a good idea...they can really make premade things taste better.

                              1. re: loraxc

                                I was referring to the big stuffed looks like a turkey tofurkey, not their other products, TJ's has them for about $20 or so


                            2. We had our kitchen in construction one Thanksgiving and had to get prepared food from a local grocery. It wasn't good. Not compared to the from scratch T-day I do. OTOH, that was the reality of our lives that year.

                              No one starved. No one got food poisoning. It became a memory. And we had Thanksgiving in February when the kitchen was done.

                              We were also living as poor students in the country outside Paris one year. We had mackerel grilled on a rack in the fireplace.

                              What I'm saying is adjust your expectations. If buying everything frozen from TJ makes a turkey dinner possible, go for it! Have fun being together and you'll make a memory that weaves the fabric of all your other T-days too.

                              The one thing I'd offer is that counter top roasters are in stores just now and often run under $50. One of those things got us through the months without appliances. You can even plug it/them in outside. So if it's a small kitchen that's not well equipped one or two of those might come in very handy.

                              I still have mine 6 years later and use it in the summer for non-grilled foods like baked beans or mac & cheese when we're BBQing.

                              Wishing you a memorable holiday.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rainey

                                A friend, who lives in Sacramento where it gets REALLY hot in the summer, got one of the roaster to use outside. He loves it. Great suggestions.

                              2. Pick up a can or two of the French Fried Onions. Even if you do not make a green bean casserole, the possible uses are just about endless. [Even if you just dump 'em in a dish and call it an appetizer!]

                                1. Has anyone referred you to this thread? I always read it before I shop at TJ's

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Berheenia

                                    yeah, that's a great thread. I've tried things that are delicious that I never would have picked up if I was left to my own devices.

                                  2. I thought folks might be interested in the outcome of this. It turned out one of our guests also has an unusual allergy, so I needed to reconsider some of the packaged food. I bought TJ's gravy, pumpkin cheesecake, and mini pecan pies, as well as cheeses for apps, a little app torte, and broth. I will be premaking this excellent lasagna http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi... at savour's great suggestion and also a simple but delicious stuffing (http://savour-fare.com/2011/11/20/old...) and creamed kale (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bo... have never made that recipe but I have all this lovely kale and, you know, heavy cream, so it must be good. We will buy a Costco prepared chicken (I guess the person with the allergy knows this is okay). I feel like I might need something else but will worry about that when I get there.

                                    I am worried I might not have enough dessert for 9. The cheesecake is small, as are the little bitty pies, and this is a big dessert crowd. But I was worried about cooler space. I bought some of those shelf-stable whipping creams, canned pumpkin, and speculoos cookies. There must be something I can do with that, right?? (and sugar or something)

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: loraxc

                                      You could make a version of old-fashioned ice box cake with the sweetened whipped cream and the speculoos (or if you want to make it a pumpkin dessert, fold some canned pumpkin with the whipped cream first). The idea is to layer the cookies and whipped cream, then chill overnight. The cookies soften and meld into "cake." Simple and tasty. Like this: https://www.google.com/search?q=icebo...

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        I knew there was something like that! My subconscious was fumbling around trying to find it. :) Thanks!

                                        1. re: loraxc

                                          There is definitely something there with those ingredients. In times like this it is something like playing Chopped or Iron Chef. You might want to pick up some pumpkin pie spice or bring a mixture of warm spices (nutmeg, allspice, cloves?) from home to add to the pumpkin/whipped cream mixture. Make sure you leave some of the cream separate for putting on top.

                                          Relax and enjoy being with the family, the dinner will be fine.