The genius who came up with a cooking-intensive holiday in the middle of the week surely did not have working parents in mind.
So, let’s just admit that it’s too late to get an early start on Thanksgiving. With only 24 hours to go, it’s time to tear up that ambitious menu, put away the tart pans and face reality.
While you prepare the big bird, we can help you pull off some culinary magic with store-bought side dishes you can pass off as your own. Most of the items are dairy-free or vegan; all have been taste-tested. Just open the box, pop into the oven or microwave and slide onto your own platter. No one will be the wiser.
Blue Hill Bay Smoked Whitefish Salad (Costco, $14.69) is creamy, salty and perfect with crackers, matzo or veggies.
Cornbread (Trader Joe’s, $2.99) is a lifesaver when you’re in a time crunch – either on its own or as the basis for a cornbread stuffing.
Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish (Trader Joe’s, $3.59) is ideally lumpy. With just three ingredients (cranberries, oranges and sugar), it’s a sublime balance of tart and sweet – especially when slathered on a turkey sandwich the next day.
Sweet potatoes can be made simply using canned sweet potatoes — easily doctored with margarine, brown sugar (or maple syrup) and crushed pineapple. Or you can forego the tradition altogether and go for Trader Joe’s Potato pancakes ($2.49). Hey, at least you’ll get a jump on Hanukkah.
For non-kosher cooks, I recommend Trader Joe’s Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecans ($4.99). It’s delicious enough to satisfy the most discerning palate. The nuts are optional (they come in their own separate packet). Best of all, it takes just 3 minutes in the microwave – unless you add another minute and top it off with your own marshmallows.
With all those savory turkey drippings in the pan, some people think buying gravy is a travesty. But who needs to worry about last-minute whisking? Trader Joe’s offers a ready-to-use Organic Savory Vegan gravy ($3.79) that can perk up dry turkey or a mound of mashed potatoes.
Casseroles are a Thanksgiving staple – and another category that is almost impossible to do without dairy. If that works for you, our two non-kosher standouts: Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Au Gratin ($4.99)* and *Corn Pudding ($4.99). The cauliflower is covered with a cheesy sauce and topped with Parmesan herbed breadcrumbs. The corn dish is ultra-rich, loaded with both mozzarella and parmesan cheese and hardly qualifies as a vegetable.
If you’re looking for something kosher, quick and healthier, consider buying TJ’s fresh cut-up squash ($2.49). (Why buy a vegetable that requires a chain-saw to prepare?).
You can also halve Trader Joe’s brussels sprouts ($3.79) lengthwise, spread on a rimmed cookie sheet (cut-side down), drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. (For the best browning, place empty cookie sheets in an already-hot oven for 5 minutes before adding veggies).
Pumpkin, apple or pecan pie is as essential on Thanksgiving as hot dogs on the Fourth of July. But unless you live near a kosher bakery, this is a tall order to carry out when in need of a pareve (non-dairy) dessert after a meat meal. So tough, in fact, that we entirely struck out. (Trader Joe’s has a pareve kosher chocolate babka, black and white cookies, snickerdoodles and merengues – which can be paired with TJ’s soy vanilla ice cream – but they’re not traditionally “American”).
For those alright with a dairy dessert — consider Trader Joe’s Apple Crumb Pie ($6.99).
And if you’re not in need of a kosher certification — Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie ($5.99) is as traditionally American as you can get.