As someone who has never hosted her own Thanksgiving, I’ve gotten very good over the years at figuring out what to bring instead. Some years, I go all out and bake something magnificent, like a lattice-topped apple pie. Some years, especially if I’m eyeballs deep in papers to grade, I’ll pick up something easy that I know everyone will love – like some good wine.
No matter where you are or who you’re celebrating with, if you’re stuck for what to take, here are some great easy (and not so easy) ideas that will taste great, and take a load off your insanely busy hosts!
What to Take for Thanksgiving
A Signature Cocktail + Coordinating Snack
Your host/hostess isn’t likely to have time at the beginning of their party to serve drinks, let alone cocktails – so offer to handle it for them! While they are putting the finishing touches on dinner, consider bringing a “signature cocktail” to serve to guests as they arrive, and offer up a coordinating snack to tide them over until the everything’s ready.
I suggest keeping it simple with a Cape Cod (cranberry juice, vodka, and a lime wedge) and some trail mix of toasted almonds, dark chocolate chips, and dried cranberries. It’s a nice nod to the traditional cranberry sauce you’ll likely be eating later, and the snack has a little bit of something for everyone.
You can either mix this in a large batch ahead of time, or keep things separate if you think the kiddos will want some juice…without the extra kick.
A No-Fuss Dessert
If you’re asked to bring dessert, I suggest bringing something easy and that doesn’t require the use of the host’s oven. There is nothing more annoying than a guest demanding use of the oven while your poor host is trying to cook/eat/relax. Same goes for the freezer, in my opinion.
And please – make it yourself. There are times when store bought desserts are fine, but Thanksgiving isn’t one of those times. If your host spent weeks planning, and days cooking, you can suck it up and spend a couple hours in the kitchen.
If you’re not baking-inclined, give cookies or box-mix cupcakes a try. I enjoy bringing sugar cookies with festive frosting or sprinkles (or both), chocolate chip cookies, or carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. These are especially good ideas for small children, who may not like pumpkin pie (trust me, they exist).
If you have more baking skills, pies are always a big hit. I’ve never made a Pumpkin Pie, mostly because my mom or some other family member always makes them. I have, however, gotten very good at baking Apple Streusel Pie and Alton Brown’s Shoo Fly Pie, which my husband’s family and friends often fight over. This year, I’m tempted to try making Pumpkin Cheesecake – because I like Pumpkin Pie, but I love cheesecake.
Black Friday Breakfast
Odds are, with all the planning, cooking, entertaining, and cleaning your hosts will be doing on Thanksgiving, breakfast the next morning isn’t even on their radar. If you’re still stumped for what to bring, consider Friday’s breakfast!
As with all things, keep it simple – don’t make them cook another meal the next morning! I suggest Alton Brown’s Granola Bars, Apple Strudel Muffins, Pumpkin Bread, or a nice box of doughnuts or bagels from the local bakery – all of which can easily feed a couple hosts, and however many guests they have staying over if that’s the case. That way, all they have to do is brew some coffee and they’re all set – unless you’re staying with them, then maybe offer to handle that too.
So there you have it – a bunch of easy (and not so easy) ideas for what to take for Thanksgiving! This year, I’ve been asked to bring homemade stuffing, and my husband asked me to bring the Alton Brown’s Shoo Fly Pie for him (since I don’t think he’s a big Pumpkin Pie fan). I’ve never done my own stuffing before, so that will be a fun experiment!
What are you planning to take this year?