Whether you're an avid cook or just a beginner, when it comes to holiday meals, we can all use a little extra help in the kitchen. Sometimes that help comes in the form of an extra glass (or three) of wine, and sometimes it comes in the form of a few secret (or maybe not so secret??) ingredients. These Thanksgiving recipe hacks that I've compiled below mostly consist of either a simple switching out of an ingredient or the addition of just a few things. But don't be fooled by how easy these are. Each one packs a powerful flavor punch that'll take your dishes from good to mind-blowingly delicious in a matter of seconds. Now that is something to be thankful for...
Cocktail Nuts > Spiced Nuts || Nuts are a great addition to any appetizer spread, but don't just open a can and dump them in a pretty bowl. Toss them with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of salt (omit this if you're using salted nuts), some brown sugar and a generous pinch of fresh herbs (I like thyme, rosemary or sage), spread them in an even layer on a baking sheet, and roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Allow them to cool. Now they're fit for a pretty bowl.
Turkey Drippings + Wine > Gravy || When you're making your turkey dripping gravy, add in a little dry white wine (or even apple cider) and a pinch for fresh herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary) for an extra boost of flavor.
Boxed Stuffing > Better Stuffing || Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a fan of making things from a mix or box, but sometimes you just don't have time to do it all. And though I rarely will admit to it, I'm actually kind of maybe addicted to boxed stuffing (I swear they put some magical powder in there that makes me want to eat the entire box! Anyone else?!), so if I don't have time to make stuffing from scratch, I'm totally fine letting the mix fill in. However, I like to add a little something to make it still feel special enough for a place at the holiday table. The options with things you can add are really limitless. For starters, when you are making the stuffing, replace some of the water with wine or chicken broth, or even drippings from cooking the turkey. For mix-ins, try adding fresh herbs, dried fruit, nuts, pumpkin seeds or bacon bits. One of my favorite combos (shown above) is sautéed pancetta and diced shallots along with fresh sage.
Canned Sauce > Citrus Sauce || Just like with my stuffing, I prefer to serve a homemade cranberry sauce, but if I must cut corners, the canned version isn't the worst thing in the world and luckily, there are a few ways to make it better. Try pureeing (using a Cusinart or blender) it with some chipotle peppers for a smokey flavor, or you can puree it with a little red wine. For an even easier upgrade, just add in some orange or lemon zest and/or a sprinkling of thyme.
Mashed Potatoes > Creamy Potatoes || It's hard to make mashed potatoes taste better (they're already delicious enough on their own), but a few additions help make them extra special for the holidays. I like to add in cream cheese for an extra creamy flavor, but you can also replace some of the milk with heavy cream, switch out regular salt for truffle salt, and add in a little grated cheese or a handful of fresh herbs.
Sweet Potatoes > Festive Potatoes || Mashed sweet potatoes are always a favorite of mine at Thanksgiving. Mashing them with orange juice or apple cider and maple syrup instead of sugar gives them a sweet and spicy flavor that is just too festive. And remember those spiced nuts we made up above? Chop up a few of those to add on top (along with some sage) and they'll be almost impossible to resist.
Whipped Cream > Flavored Fluff || It's almost next to impossible to make apple or pumpkin pie taste any better than they already do, but it's still fun to try. For a super simple upgrade, simply spike your whipped cream. Spiced dark rum, brandy or cointreau are good options for the afore mentioned pies, and amaretto or frangelico are great for a pecan pie.
I'd love to know, do you already use any of these hacks? What are some of your favorite ways to simplify your Thanksgiving cooking?