Thanksgiving: Make It or Buy It

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Thanksgiving is typically the time of the year when everyone comes “home” in one sense or another. Whether it’s a child coming home from college, or a relative returning to their home town, Thanksgiving provides the moments in life where we’re able to rediscover old favorites and relive old memories. Sure, you might be cooking elaborate recipes that are only used once or twice a year (at most), but it’s certainly not the time to try anything too outrageous or beyond our cooking abilities. 

When I was growing up, I remember sitting on the counter in my grandmother’s kitchen while she and her own mother fished preparing Thanksgiving dinner while everyone else drank too much alcohol and watched football on the living room. In her younger years, my grandmother cooked with a full face of make-up on, and it wasn’t until a decade ago when I finally saw how stressful the whole event was for her–her makeup actually melted off! The first year my mother and took over cooking duties, I remember finding all of these amazing recipes that looked so delicious that I didn’t bother reading the recipe or figuring out the degree of difficulty. I’m pretty sure we ate at 10pm that night because we were so overwhelmed and ill-prepared. The following year, my grandmother handed me a piece of yellow note paper with her holiday hosting tips, which I translated into our recent post all about stress free hosting, I’ll break it down for you: figure out what’s essential that only you can do, and delegate as much as possible to other people.

Both my grandmother and great grandmother had their own unique skill set when it came to the kitchen: one of them focused on the meat, stuffing and gravy while the other put the finishing touches on side dishes and desserts. They always served store bought dinner rolls and appetizers. Everything else was made from scratch; and they made it look easy. It was one great big lie–bigger than lying to me about Santa Claus.

The second year, I took a bit of her advice: I asked someone to prepare a salad and a dessert. That still left me with a lot to do myself. After dinner, my grandmother pulled me aside and asked me why I hadn’t purchased ready-to-eat items from the store. I remember telling her she was nuts. 

“You don’t have to make bread from scratch. Nobody at this dinner table eats slow enough to taste the difference.” She had a point.

Years later, my husband took me home for Thanksgiving. I remember walking in through the front door and wondering why the house didn’t smell like turkey. “The turkey goes in last,” his mother explained. What kind of sorcery is this I wondered.

Well, the Martha Stewart in our family orders a smoked, already cooked turkey every year. All she has to do is put it in the oven to reheat it prior to serving dinner. My mind was blown. She wasn’t covered in flour and didn’t appear to be the least bit frazzled. In case that’s the greatest news you’ve heard in weeks, this is where she orders her bird from.

Since that eye-opening moment five years ago (where has all the time gone?!), I’ve learned to embrace ready made items from the bakery, specialty stores and of course, the local market. Over the years, I’ve purchased mini mac and cheese truffles, pre-packaged turkey brine, stuffing mix and even a package of pie dough and ready to use pie filling. Like so many other people, my grandfather loved Ocean Spray Canned Cranberries, while the majority of my family is all about the cranberry chutney I make every year (let me know if you’d like to see the recipe appear prior to Thanksgiving!).

If you look around the internet, you can even buy complete, ready to cook dinners for $400 if you really want to impress your guests without the kitchen mess!

Thanksgiving dishes to make or buy insolence + wine

I reached out to other blogger’s to see what they purchase every year and canned cranberries were the winner, followed by pumpkin pie and stuffing mix! 

Other tidbits from amazing bloggers, be sure and give them a visit...

Biggest Disaster: “One year I used a very large rotisserie deep fryer to fry my turkey, but I installed the rotisserie incorrectly and it only fried half the turkey while (sort of) steaming the other half. Neither part tasted good.” – Mackenzie from Food Above Gold

Store Bought Item: “Funny enough ... cranberry sauce! There are a couple of people in my extended family who just don't feel like it's really Thanksgiving without that canned cranberry sauce with its wiggly little concentric circles. So, I make my own cranberry relish ... buy a can of cranberry sauce ... offer them side-by-side, and everyone's happy!” – Shelley from Two Healthy Kitchens

Do you serve wine? “I usually prefer a cabernet or malbec, something dry and full-bodied to serve with the meal. Pre-meal (perhaps with appetizers), I may serve a fizzy wine, champagne, or sparkling cider (non-alcoholic). I like presenting a variety for guests!” – Aarika from Just Beet It

Most Useful Tip or Advice: “Don't feel like you have to do it all yourself. I guarantee that at least some of your guests have a secret recipe that they would love to make and bring. Take some pressure off of yourself and let them help out a bit!” – Jamie from Magnetra’s Home

Favorite Part of Thanksgiving: “Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We all gather on the couch in our pajamas with coffee in hand and we snuggle under a blanket while watching. It is my favorite part of my favorite holiday!” – Elizabeth from Love Doing Life

One Thing You Make Every Year: “We love making from scratch egg noodles for turkey and noodles.  They are a fair amount of work, but worth it.  My mom still remembers her grandma teaching the family how to do it.  Also the mashed potatoes have to be real!” –Carlee from Cooking With Carlee

What do you make or purchase every year?