1. Plan a simple menu- As much as you may like to have a dozen dishes laid out, consider limiting the food YOU prepare to the basics. A turkey OR ham, dressing of choice, 3 veggies (each a different color), a simple salad (gives people an option to top the salad with a small portion of meat and stay on course with their diet) with two salad dressings (one light, one rich), and a dessert (or two if you keep it really simple).
2. Consider purchasing a smoked ham or turkey fully prepared from a reputable restaurant.
3. Prepare the dressing NOW! When it's cooked outside of the bird it's dressing rather than stuffing. Now, freeze it. Move from freezer to refrigerator one day in advance. Move from fridge to oven the day of. Easy! Take it a step further and bake it in a disposable metal container. Either buy a cheap aluminum one at the grocery store or pick up a cheap find at a flea market.
4. Use simple frozen veggies for 2 of your 3 vegetables. Add water, a pat of butter, salt and pepper (or your seasoning of taste) to the frozen ones and cook those the day of your dinner. For the third veggie, consider something like green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, or some other favorite that requires a little more work. Prepare it the night before, though!
5. For your salad use a ready mix. Buy one that has everything in it that you like or select a couple of extra "ready to use" items (like shredded carrots) to add to the mix with no effort.
6. Dessert- We always over-do it with dessert. Keep it simple. Make a Mud Pie simply by adding "Lovin' Scoopful's Mad About Mud Pie" to a chocolate pie crust and top with whipped topping. You can garnish it with chocolate sprinkles to remind you which flavor in case you decide to have more than one. Another delicious option is to take a graham cracker crust and fill it with "Lovin' Scoopful's Rockin' Raspberry Cheesecake". Again top it with whipped topping and this time garnish with raspberries if you have some available.
7. Here's the fun part... If your guest asks if they can bring something, let them know you have it covered but they're welcome to bring along a favorite dish if they'd like. If no one brings anything, you're already covered. If everyone brings something you've got a huge feast, but those dishes with the leftovers will go home with the loved one that brought them.
With this plan, on Thanksgiving Day all you have to do is:
1. Warm up the turkey or ham that was prepared for you.
2. Put the dressing into the oven.
3. Heat up the veggies (two that you just add water to and a third that goes in the oven but was prepared the night before).
4. Empty the salad into the bowl and set out the dressings.
5. After dinner take the pie or pies out of the freezer.
You can take care of those 5 steps Thanksgiving Day stress free. Your kitchen will be clean when guests arrive because there was no last minute heavy cooking. No mixing bowls or messy prep areas to clean up. Relax and enjoy your family, your friends, and your easy Thanksgiving Dinner!