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Last-Minute Dinner Ideas to Save Your Thanksgiving

How to make Thanksgiving dinner happen when the oven breaks or the kids get sick

Jackie Freeman

Published on: October 30, 2018

Instant Pot Turkey
Instant Pot turkey from Crunchy Creamy Sweet

Even though we’ve been planning our Thanksgiving meals for days, weeks or months, you can always expect the unexpected to happen. Whether your kid has the sniffles (or worse), the roads are unsafe to venture out to your in-laws or appliances break down, you can pull together a fabulous dinner that still feels a bit like a Thanksgiving feast.

When appliances break

Has the oven been acting “funny” lately? Can’t get the electric burner to turn on? Use other kitchen appliances to help save the day (and your food). Use your slow cooker, Instant Pot or rice cooker to make mashed potatoes, green bean casserole or even the turkey. Or cook your sweet potatoes in the microwave instead of in the stove. 

Skip the canned soup and go for a fresher and healthier version, with this slow cooker green bean casserole that simmers in the slow cooker for a few hours while you gather the rest of your ingredients for your impromptu feast.

If you’re in a real time crunch, you can have this Instant Pot turkey breast dinner ready to go in just 35 minutes. You can also make a quick gravy in the same pot!

Let others do the cooking for you

If your kids are sick and you don’t want to risk getting the rest of your family or friends ill as well, stay home. Some grocery stores offer takeout options for holiday meals.

If that option isn't available, you can always send someone to the grocery store to pick up a rotisserie chicken, canned cranberry sauce and frozen hashbrowns or mashed potatoes. 

Pantry to the rescue

Pro tip: Keep your pantry fully stocked for any day, not just the holidays. Always have a box of cornbread on hand to top casseroles, sop up chili or drizzle with honey for dessert. Cornbread makes a great impromptu stuffing side dish along with some cooked onions, carrots, mushrooms and dried herbs in this recipe. Serve it with a tart jam like cherry instead of cranberry sauce.

For dessert, turn simple ingredients like flour, butter, eggs and pecans into a quick and easy maple pecan blondies.

Maple Blondies
Photo: Maple pecan blondies from The Kitchn

Not only is this carrot cake made from basic pantry staples, but it can also be cooked in the microwave, making it quick and easy.

Don’t forget the freezer

Just like having a well-stocked pantry, have a few staples, like frozen vegetables and chicken breasts or thighs, on-hand as well. When disaster strikes and you’ll be staying home, jazz up your veggies with fresh or dried herbs, garlic and breadcrumbs. The Kitchn really knows how to make frozen veggies come alive with a few simple tips.

Instead of a Thanksgiving turkey, whip up some roasted chicken or make a Thanksgiving-inspired turkey stew. Pull some chicken or leftover turkey from the freezer and simmer it in a creamy sauce for a warming stew.

Turkey Stew
Photo: Turkey stew from What Should I Make For...

Finally, make it fun

You might be a little disappointed that Thanksgiving isn’t what you had in mind this year, but find ways to change the mood. Have the kids make homemade Thanksgiving crafts to lift the spirits, brighten the scene, and remind everyone what they're grateful for this year.

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