Thanksgiving is the ideal holiday for people who actually know their way around a kitchen. The holidays are essentially a dragged out humble-brag for wholesome girls who “love to cook” and “just wanted to share their new banana bread recipe with the friends they love most!!”.
Cut to me: a gal who falls dead on the other end of the spectrum. One time I tried to make a Vietnamese spring roll that simply required me to buy some noodles and vegetables and roll them up into a single rice paper sheet—couldn’t even do that. So, you get where I’m at in terms of cooking for others. I am, therefore, taking the liberty of crowning myself an expert in NOT cooking, which makes me the perfect person to share ideas on what to bring to Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving dinner if you don’t know how to cook. And no, I’m not just going to tell you to go to the store and pick up a pumpkin pie—that’s amateur hour.
You can pretty much bet on the hosts having wine already, or another guest bringing wine as a gift. So, instead of bringing a basic $25 red wine (because you felt too guilty buying the cheapest $12 option so you took it one notch up), bring a bottle of something that the hosts will actually remember. Skinnygirl cocktails are always unexpected and yummy, but still as fancy as wine. My personal favorite is the original Margarita flavor. Loverboy is another fun, low-calorie drink, and the packaging will automatically let it be known that “party’s here!!!” Or, if all else fails, bring a variety pack of spiked seltzer, since we as a collective society are still not done making memes about it.
I recently braved the Union Square Trader Joe’s (if you don’t live in NYC, just know that this Trader Joe’s location is almost as crowded and difficult to get into as, like, LIV nightclub in Miami), and had the amazing pleasure of sampling their Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips. Not to be lame and get too overly excited about a chip, but I literally walked away thinking, “this is a party in my mouth!!” Okay, that got lame. Whatever. The chip truly tasted like turkey and then stuffing—magic! Pringles also came out with a roasted turkey flavor, now available in retailers nationwide. But if you do go this route, get a dip too so you don’t seem like a total cheapskate.
I know, I know—you saw that word “bake” and immediately kept scrolling. Don’t! You can do this! Ready-to-bake cookies literally only involve putting the cookie dough rounds (that are already all evenly cut up for you) on a cookie sheet, and putting them into the oven. You do not need to be Paul Hollywood to pull this off—all you need to be able to do is set a timer. If you don’t know how to use the oven, take deep breaths and text your Mom. Pillsbury knows that you are useless and uneducated in the kitchen, and has turkey-shaped sugar cookies just for you that are on-theme, easy and delicious. *Chef’s kiss.*
As someone whose cooking-incompetent mother has used this trick for years, I’m confident that people who don’t cook can still put together a really amazing and tasty salad. The ingredients don’t even have to be anything crazy. Simply find a unique dressing at one of those super expensive local health markets (like The Health Nuts), and people will rave about the salad. Trust me, I have seen the positive reactions with my own two eyes throughout many years of the same boring salad from my Mom (sorry, Mom)!
Here are a few detailed options (with links to ingredients you may be overwhelmed by):
Wild rice salad: Arugula, tomatoes, wild rice, shaved almonds, sweet potatoes (optional, my mom always forgets to add the sweet potatoes, #shocker, and it still tastes great), and Greek vinaigrette
Asian salad: Chopped up cabbage, chopped up peanuts, sesame seeds, tofu/chicken (optional), and ginger dressing
Garden salad: Mixed greens, avocado, dried cranberries/cherries, croutons, sweet potatoes, hummus (optional), walnuts, and avocado vinaigrette
Also, bring pita for extra brownie points.
Note that I did NOT write “cranberry vodka.” That was intentional. This isn’t your college bar. Let’s rebrand the cranberry vodka to a more sophisticated, classy Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving cocktail with cranberry juice, seltzer, vodka or gin, and some actual, fresh cranberries and lime to float inside the drink. Maybe even bring champagne flutes to complete the “fancy cocktail” package. Do a sugar rim if you’re extra fancy.
As my friend ingeniously told me over dinner the other night, the one thing everyone always forgets to bring to a Friendsgiving is veggies. I thought about it, and realized she was 100% right. When it comes to friendsgivings, everyone’s falling over themselves to bring a pumpkin pie, mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes, etc., and you have nothing green at the table. But roasting veggies is so easy. Just buy a bunch of asparagus, onions, peppers, or literally whatever else you want. Toss them in olive oil, season with salt and pepper (and other spices if you’re fancy), put them all on a pan, and roast at 400 degrees. Check on it after like, 20 minutes to make sure you didn’t burn anything.
To that girl in the office who ALWAYS brings banana bread in—we’re onto you. Banana bread is SO easy to make and requires very few ingredients. Just get:
You literally just have to mix up the bananas, sugar, egg, and butter. Then mix the flower, baking soda, and salt, and add the banana mix into that. Then you bake that whole thing at 325 degrees for about an hour in your new pan. So, watch out, designated office baker.
To the non-cooking betches out there: stay confident in your gifts! No, bagged chips might not be the “homemade dish” that was technically requested on the invite, but they are equally as tasty—so who cares?
Images: Element5 Digital/ Unsplash; Christine Siracusa/ Unsplash; Jeff Siepman/ Unsplash; Jez Timms/Unsplash; Taylor Kiser/ Unsplash; Erol Ahmed/ Unsplash; Emiliano Vittoriosi/ Unsplash; Mae Mu/ Unsplash;