What can a non-cook bring for a Thankgiving treat?
November 22, 2006 3:19 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are hilariously bad cooks. What's something easy that we can make tonight or tomorrow morning and bring to his parents' house for Thanksgiving?

We'd like to bring a dessert or something they're not already making, which I'm going to assume is your typical Thankgiving fare--turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes.

And although I'd really just like to get a can of cheap cranberry sauce and dump it in a bowl, I'd like to make a nice gesture to his family.
posted by sian to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I did a Google search for "cranberry chutney" and came up with this Food Network post as the first result. It's very similar to the recipe I've been doing every year since I was in college, and incredibly easy.
posted by matildaben at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2006

Why not bring something to munch on before dinner? Here's something I bring to gatherings a lot when I'm pressed for time:

Line a bowl (even a cereal bowl will work) with plastic wrap (don't worry about the wrinkles). Smush in a layer (about 3/4 inch thick) of soft goat cheese. Spread on a few spoonfuls of jarred pesto sauce and sprinkle on chopped, jarred sundried tomatoes packed in oil or roasted peppers. Add more layers of goat cheese, pesto, and tomatoes/peppers, until it's as thick as you want. Chill for a couple of hours. Put a plate on top of the bowl and then flip the bowl over. The cheese just plot out. Peel off the plastic and serve with crackers or slices of baguette.

It's not traditional Thanksgiving flavors, but it's almost sinfully easy and requires no actual "cooking" at all.
posted by mostlymartha at 3:34 PM on November 22, 2006 [3 favorites]

My family doesn't do the typical Thanksgiving/Xmas, but Roasted Chestnuts seems like an easy way to go. My mom used to made them at random times during the holidays as a late after dinner snack.

And as long as you don't burn them, they will give off a nice smell for the kitchen.
posted by Cog at 3:42 PM on November 22, 2006

I made a big bag of caramel corn to serve as snack food for before/after the big meal at our host's house. It'll be a nicer treat than a bag of chips, and won't risk conflicting with the host's dinner menu.

My standard recipe is similar to Grandma Paul's, but I halve the caramel sauce and only prepare half the popcorn. (The linked recipe could also benefit from a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon powder and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract, both added with the baking soda.) The other half gets a heavy dose of salt and butter, and after the caramel popcorn is finished the two halves are mixed together. Adults like this more than straight-up sugary popcorn.
posted by ardgedee at 3:45 PM on November 22, 2006

Rice Allemande

Cook rice in milk (nice fat white rice)
Cool, mix in whipped cream, sugar, grated almond
Top with sprinkling of grated almond, cacao powder

posted by Meatbomb at 3:49 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Real cranberry sauce is ridiculously easy to make:

One pound fresh cranberries
One cup sugar
One cup water
1/4 cup orange juice (optional)

In medium saucepan, dissolve sugar into water over medium heat. Bring to a boil & add (rinsed) berries & OJ. Turn heat back to medium for 5-7 minutes, until all berries have popped open. Turn heat to low & stir occasionally until sauce reaches desired thickness. Remove from heat, place in fridge to chill.
posted by scalefree at 3:53 PM on November 22, 2006

My favorite side dish is cheese hominy. Even those who say that they hate hominy love it.

1 large (not the super size) can of yellow hominy and 1 of white hominy. both drained. 1 cup chedder cheese (shredded). 1 can of cream of mushroom soup. 1 small can of chopped chilies. 8 oz. sour cream.

Mix all in a large pot on low heat until all the cheese melts. pour into serving sih and top with more cheese, if you want.

I often put it in a small crock pot to keep it warm.
posted by nimsey lou at 3:59 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Bring some Port or after dinner dessert liquor. Get some nice glasses to go with as a thank you for having us gift.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:01 PM on November 22, 2006

Green bean casserole. It's so hard to mess up that we have assigned it as my brother's dish to make every year.
posted by Ugh at 4:04 PM on November 22, 2006

An (even easier) version of scalefree's and matildaben's:

1 bag cranberries - open, wash, pick out the bad ones
1 medium sized orange - chop up into manageable chunks; do not peel
1 cup sugar

Put all of the above in the food processor until it's about the texture of pickle relish. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Voila. It's tasty
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:05 PM on November 22, 2006

Buy a pie. If it is too late to buy from a bakery, and it most likely is, buy a good frozen pie and bake it. They are surprisingly good, not the cheap ones, but the better ones.
posted by caddis at 4:10 PM on November 22, 2006

The ever-popular Sweet Potato Crack. I make it every year because the savory sweet potatoes are way better and everyone always loves them. And they're really, really easy.
posted by mckenney at 4:10 PM on November 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

Apple pie is pretty easy. If you buy a premade crust, it's just a matter of peeling, coring, and chopping apples, dumping some sugar and spices in (there's recipes everywhere), and cooking.

They're time-consuming, so they're appreciated, but they're very easy.

For maximum homemade goodness, make the crust yourself. It's a little trickier, and you may need a rolling pin. Not everyone has one anymore. Joy of Cooking has an excellent crust recipe. (and a very good apple pie recipe as well, although I use one I got from another cookbook.) At this late date, though, I think you'd probably be happier buying a predone crust.

(You could even cheat and buy premade pie filling.....)
posted by Malor at 4:15 PM on November 22, 2006

I love the goat cheese idea!

Easy side dishes:

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

Cranberry Fruit Conserve You will have to buy a zester if you don't have one, but this is very easy. I made this today. Very easy and very delicious.

If you want to do something really easy buy a mix. Eagle Brand, Krusteaz, Pilsbury and other brands have all kinds of yummy looking mixes such as pecan squares and pumpkin pie gems. I saw these mixes today at Super Walmart. If you were feeling really ambitious you could make a couple different mixes like the pecan squares, the pumpkin pie gems, and a cranberry-orange or spice quick bread and arrange them on a large platter. It will look like you put in a lot of effort, but they are all mixes and very easy. Just make sure to follow the directions well and you can't go wrong. Happy Thanksgiving!
posted by LoriFLA at 4:21 PM on November 22, 2006

what Emperor SnooKloze said above, but also add two tablespoons of horseradish. It is a nice touch in the traditional cranberry sauce. I do not boil the ingredients though, just use a blender to mash everything together. Make sure to chill overnight.
posted by carmina at 4:21 PM on November 22, 2006

An extremely nice bottle of wine.
posted by JekPorkins at 4:26 PM on November 22, 2006

(ok, you wouldn't actually be making the bottle of wine, but who's going to care if you made something or not if they get a great bottle of wine out of the deal?)
posted by JekPorkins at 4:27 PM on November 22, 2006

Five Cup Salad.

1 cup pineapple chunks
1 cup mandarin oranges drain both ( save juice to add in cake mixes instead of milk)
1 cup coconut shredded
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup cool whip

Directions: Mix together and chill

You can add walnuts if you like. You will love it.
posted by JayRwv at 4:30 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Clarifying re: what Carmina said--no, mine is a strictly no-cook recipe.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:32 PM on November 22, 2006

this cranberry sauce rocks - 2 small bags of cranberries ( so about a pound) and a cup of water and a cup of sugar (brown or white, if white add some molasses if you have it, about a teaspoon) - mix and boil. Soon the berries will start to pop. Let them pop while you stir for a bit (a couple of minutes) and then remove from the heat and let it cool. While waiting, why not peel a pomagranate. When it's cool enough to jam your finger into the mix without screaming add the inside parts of the pomagranate - the little covered seeds, basically. Mix and mix and mix and then add 3 shakes of cayenne pepper and stir some more. Put it in a bowl, put the bowl in the fridge and tomorrow everyone will think you are amazing.
posted by henryis at 4:32 PM on November 22, 2006 [3 favorites]

Chocolate pie. Everyone loves it, and it's as easy to make as making pudding. Grab a pre-made graham cracker (or oreo cookie) crust from the store and a box of instant chocolate pudding. Follow the pie instructions on the box: mix in the milk, pour into the crust, chill.
posted by rhapsodie at 4:46 PM on November 22, 2006

APPLE CRISP!!!! Sorry, I really love that stuff. I can even post a totally awesome recipe if anyone wants.
posted by loiseau at 4:53 PM on November 22, 2006

This thread has a lot of great suggestions in it.
posted by ambrosia at 5:05 PM on November 22, 2006

I will give you my super special secret for awesome cranberry sauce. Make it like it says on the bag of cranberries, as far as the berry-water-sugar stuff goes. But, leave out all that orange stuff (juice, pulp, zest) and put in the zest from half a lime. Cook as directed.
posted by QIbHom at 5:32 PM on November 22, 2006

I agree with the bottle of wine. That way even if you are duplicating something they already have, it's no big deal.
posted by tastybrains at 5:33 PM on November 22, 2006

Get some brie, blue cheese, some gouda, some fancy crackers and a link of hard peperoni. Serve it before dinner when everyone is really hungry but the food isn't done. It will stand out as it is the first thing that everyone will eat, and no cooking is involved. Trader Joe's is a great place to get the items, but your neighborhood supermarket should also have a good selection at a little higher price.

A bowl of mixed nuts and a nutcracker can also be a good appetizer before the real meal.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 6:24 PM on November 22, 2006

Devilled eggs are awesome. I made them for all family functions starting when I was like 8 years old. It goes along with the appetizer theme here.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:01 PM on November 22, 2006

You'd have to make it tonight, but Famous Chocolate Refrigerator Cake is the bestest & easiest dessert ever. So good that I requested it for my birthday a couple years, even though my mom is a great baker. Obtain Famous Chocholate Wafers & a large tub of CoolWhip (light works too). Make a long caterpillar of cookies mortared together with CoolWhip and then give the caterpillar a coat of whip. Stick it in the fridge overnight and present it the next day. There will be a fight over the last piece.
posted by roboto at 7:08 PM on November 22, 2006

no-cook, minimal prep, and impressively tasty: buy dried figs, walnuts & blue cheese. slice each fig vertically in half (but not all the way, you want the two pieces still attached), insert one walnut and one small piece of blue cheese. smush fig halves back together. works equally well for appetizers or dessert.
posted by judith at 7:27 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I won't even bother posting the cranberry sauce recipe, since its almost identical to the ones above. Make it, its so easy!
posted by Joh at 10:01 PM on November 22, 2006

Green salad is always appreciated with all that beige food, really! For fancy, use two or three types of lettuce in a huge bowl along with the usual tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, maybe bell pepper - use very fresh ingredients, bring along some French dressing and maybe a container of Good Seasons italian dressing (made from their packet), and you may not have to bring any back home with you.

Another good item is lightly steamed asparagus, if you have a steamer big enough. It only takes 4-7 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus, and you can serve it with fresh lemon squeezed on top.
posted by amtho at 10:03 PM on November 22, 2006

Please don't do asparagus if you don't know how to cook.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:30 AM on November 23, 2006

I do asparagus in the oven, which is even easier. I lay them all out in one layer on the shallow pan (think cookie sheet) that I've covered in foil. Drizzle olive oil on the asparagus and sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Roll the asparagus around to coat and pop under the broiler. When the side that's up starts to form little skin bubbles and turns brighter green, pull the pan out and use some tongs to roll them around a little more. Put back in the oven if there are any spots that need a little more cooking. I usually have them out of the oven in ten minutes or so.

This does make the pee of everyone stink to high heaven though, so it's probably not recommended for folks who aren't really close, so if this party involves people you don't really love, leave the asparagus at home, and bring a salad or some cranberry sauce.

The good news with cooked cranberry sauce is that it freezes extremely well, so even if you duplicate, it's ok.
posted by bilabial at 3:54 AM on November 23, 2006

posted by captaincrouton at 10:18 AM on November 23, 2006

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