Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s not necessarily the food, I don’t even eat turkey as a vegetarian. For me Thanksgiving is about coming together with your family and friends, and sharing moments and memories in the kitchen and around a table. The people most important to me not only include my family, but also my friends. Which is why every year, I suggest a Friendsgiving. But as college students, most of us lack lots of experience with cooking and hosting, and like to avoid spending more money than we have to. I hope my guide below will help you host a Friendsgiving that’s about spending time with your friends without the stress and cost that comes with any holiday.
Let’s start with turkey, which might sound like the most daunting dish to tackle. But, it doesn’t have to be. If you drew the short end of the stick to bring turkey to your friendsgiving, don’t worry, because you don’t even have to cook it. Stores sell pre-cooked turkeys around thanksgiving. Another option is a precooked frozen turkey, in which case, you just need time to thaw and to follow directions. Or, if you want an even easier option, replace the turkey with a rotisserie chicken. It might not be traditional, but what matters is sharing a meal with your friends, not which bird is on your table.
If you are interested in testing your cooking skills, perhaps start small and stick with a turkey breast. This is much more manageable, and while I love Thanksgiving leftovers, no one needs an entire turkey’s worth. Unfortunately, there’s no way around purchasing a meat thermometer if you want to cook your own turkey, but that’s the only stick in the mud when it comes to turkey. The rest is simple. Make a dressing with some seasonings and olive oil, lather up your turkey, and let the oven work its magic. Give the turkey about 20 minutes per pound. (The smaller the turkey then, the quicker it cooks. And boneless is not only easier to manage, but it also cooks faster.) Once the thermometer reads 160 degrees, you’re all set. It will be worth the effort when you see the impressed look on your friends faces. See a sample recipe below.
Another Thanksgiving classic is mashed potatoes, another seemingly daunting task, that can actually be quite easy. I’m not talking about instant mashed potatoes, but they are certainly still an option.
Mashed potatoes are a dish where the main work is prep. You will have to peel potatoes, boil them, and then mash them. That’s pretty much it, but it’s a bit time consuming. I attached an easy recipe for homemade mashed potatoes below if you’re willing to use a little elbow grease. And if you don’t want to buy a masher, I’m a firm believer that you can do pretty much anything with a fork. This might take a little more time, but it will still be just as tasty.
If you don’t have the time for all of that, instant mashed potatoes will save you the time and fulfill the Thanksgiving potato quota.
Let’s add one more side. How about veggies to bring some color to the table. Some of my favorite fall vegetables are sweet potatoes and beets. Again, the most tedious part is the prep. After that, you throw everything in the oven on one pan, and you let the oven do the work. Peel and cut your veggies, and pour some olive oil over the cut veggies. The olive oil will make them crispy. Then add some salt and pepper, and if you want, some garlic and onion powder. Mix everything together to make sure all the veggies are lightly coated in the oil and seasonings, then spread on a sheet pan. These are super easy veggies to prepare, and they add a bright pop of color to your table. This is also a very universal method for making almost any vegetable delicious, so feel free to choose whatever vegetables you like.
And now for my favorite part, dessert. I have to suggest a pie first because while I might have said who cares if you serve chicken instead of turkey, it’s not thanksgiving without pie. But don’t worry, these desserts are quite simple as well.
With pie, the most tedious part is making the crust, which you can buy pre-made from almost any grocery store. With a premade crust your only job is to make the filling and pour it into the pie pan. In the recipe that I linked all you need is one bowl and a whisk. And if you don’t want to buy any new tools, especially if you’re already picking up a meat thermometer, you can resort to a fork. You’ll have to beat the mixture for a few minutes to make sure everything is well incorporated but like I said, you can do anything with a fork.
One of my go-to fall bakes is an apple crumble. For this, the most involved step is preparing the apples, so grab a friend and two peelers. After you’ve peeled all the apples, cut them to whatever size you want. I usually cut chunks about an inch by inch large. All you have to do then is mix the apples with a few ingredients, and throw them onto a pan. The crumble topping is even easier. Mix melted butter with some brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and that’s it! Spread it over the apples, and bake. And it’s not complete without some vanilla ice cream to top it.
If you’re like me and like to cook….it is fun to experiment during Thanksgiving. This can be a great way to try out new skills in the kitchen. If you don’t have any experience with cooking this could be a fun way to spend time with your friends and learn something new, even with the simplest of recipes.