Amy Clark

Easy Make-Ahead Recipes for Thanksgiving Day

Over the years, I have shared many ideas that can be incorporated into your Thanksgiving planning. Today I just wanted to recap some of the best ideas and recipes that have been shared in one spot for your planning needs.


I had found a recipe for mashed potatoes that not only freeze beautifully, but they also can be reheated on low in the slow cooker. Both of these qualities make them a winner because I can keep the oven freed up for the other dishes and I can make them early.

Here is my recipe, adapted to our personal taste, perfect for any holiday get together! These are creamy and have a hint of tang to them from the sour cream. Sprinkle with a little paprika, if you so desire, and enjoy the convenience of pulling these out of your freezer for this holiday season.


Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Serves 15

5 pounds of potatoes
1 block (8 oz) of low-fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup low fat sour cream
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk (or more if desired)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Peel potatoes and cut into small cubes. Throw the potatoes in a large pot filled with cold water. Cook for 25 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain the potatoes and put them back into the hot pot. Add cream cheese, butter, milk, and salt. Mash with a potato masher or use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes. Spoon mixture into a freezer-safe container and label.

Thanksgiving Day: Put potatoes in the fridge 1-2 days before to allow them to completely thaw. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray and put potatoes in the slow cooker. Brush the top of the potatoes with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with paprika. Cook on low for two to four hours.

If you would rather bake these, bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for thirty to forty minutes or until completely hot.

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I have roasted a lot of vegetables during my lifetime, but I can honestly say that I had never roasted green beans before. I saw a recipe for roasting green beans and knew I would have to try it. I decided to use what I had in my produce drawer and pantry to make this great little side dish that I know you will absolutely love.

The original recipe did call for fresh green beans, but I had a bag of the fancy frozen ones from Aldi in my freezer that I wanted to use. I added an extra ten-fifteen minutes cooking time for these and they were perfect for our taste. You can roast them longer, if you like, but this amount of time seemed to fit well for me.

While these can’t be made ahead, necessarily, they are quick cooking and could be thrown in the oven while you are carving the turkey. Within just a short time, you have an elegant side dish that will be elegantly plated with your turkey and mashed potatoes this year.

Roasted Green Beans

2 pounds fresh green beans (or a bag of frozen fancy green beans)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (I use the bottled garlic to save a little time)
Salt & Pepper
Zest from one lemon (save the juice for later)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grab a jelly roll pan and dump green beans on the pan. Sprinkle seasonings, lemon zest, and garlic over the green beans. Drizzle the olive oil over the green beans and then toss with your hands until they are all coated with the seasonings and zest. Spread out in a single layer and slide your cookie sheet into the oven. Roast fresh green beans for 20-25 minutes and roast frozen green beans for an additional 10-15 minutes. When they are done, pull from the oven and put them on a serving platter. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top (from the lemon you zested) and serve.

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This spread is unbelievably addictive and so festive on your holiday table. Just try and eat one cracker and don’t be surprised if you are scraping the bottom of the bowl by the end of the day. This was a hit with everyone in our family and a nice change from the traditional cheese ball.

Cranberry Spread

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 c. orange juice

Do-Ahead: Mix all of the ingredients together and mold into a ball or leave loose as a spread. Wrap in plastic wrap, then wrap in foil, and store in a freezer bag. Make sure to label your bag so that you can find it again.

Thanksgiving Day: Let the spread thaw in the refrigerator 1-2 days before Thanksgiving. Place dip in a bowl (or on a platter if it has been molded into a ball) and serve with gingersnaps or crackers.

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This was my appetizer dish for a New Year’s Eve bash that my husband & I attended. My husband absolutely hates spinach so I wasn’t sure how well these would go over. If you can believe it, he really loved them so even if you aren’t a spinach lover these are definitely worth a try. The chicken flavored stuffing throws you off from the spinach and because the spinach is fully cooked, the texture of these is so great.

I love any appetizer that you can pop into your mouth gracefully. The spinach between the teeth though…well, you may still have that problem. I am planning to make these often for future nights of board game fun because they are portable and come together in a flash. To save yourself from cooking on the day of an event, make these ahead and keep them in the freezer.

Spinach Balls

2- 10 oz packages frozen spinach
1 package chicken-flavored stuffing mix
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup butter, melted
Salt & pepper to taste

Do-Ahead: Cook spinach according to instructions, drain in a sieve, use back of a wooden spoon to press the spinach against the sieve to get as much moi
sture as possible out In a bowl combine the spinach, stuffing mix,cheese, eggs, butter, salt& pepper Mix thoroughly& roll into small balls 3/4 to 1″ size. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze.

Thanksgiving Day: To serve place frozen balls on a cookie sheet and bake at 350F 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned If you are doing them fresh or thawed only bake for 7-10 minutes. Serve hot.

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I have prepared this recipe two ways for you! The first is the traditional way stuffed with cranberry deliciousness. The second version is as a muffin and minus the cranberries for the cranberry-haters. We have one of those in our family so I made the second batch just for him…To which my husband pronounced, “Perfection,” and then he swiftly ate three!

Because these are better the second day, this is just another example of something you can make in advance so you can kick your feet up while the turkey is cooking!

Pumpkin Cranberry Cornbread

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup buttermilk (I substituted with regular milk and a teaspoon of vinegar to sour)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, room
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 8″ x 8″ baking pan or a 9-inch pie pan. In a bowl, toss together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In another mixing bowl, mix with a wooden spoon, the pumpkin puree, sour cream or buttermilk , butter, eggs and honey, until well combined. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture just until combined. Mix in the cranberries. Transfer to a prepared baking dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until edges just begin to color. Cool to room temperature.



Pumpkin-y Cornbread Muffins (For the Cranberry Haters)

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup buttermilk (I substituted with regular milk and a teaspoon of vinegar to sour)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, room
2 tablespoons honey
Sugar for sprinkling (I used the raw sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners. In a bowl, toss together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In another mixing bowl, mix with a wooden spoon, the pumpkin puree, sour cream or buttermilk , butter, eggs and honey, until well combined. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture just until combined. Transfer to the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle with a little sugar (I used raw sugar) on top. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until edges just begin to color. Cool to room temperature. Makes approximately 12-13 muffins.

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I am still the biggest fan of my bread machine. I do realize that they aren’t for everyone. Some people love to knead dough and use their stand mixer to do the heavy duty mixing or even to do the process by hand. Not me! The bread machine is the way to go at this stage in my life and it is worth every inch of space that it takes up, residing on the top of the refrigerator.

This bread recipe is a no-fail bread machine recipe that I have used for years. The ingredients are so simple and it makes the perfect loaf of bread every single time.

Throw the ingredients in the bread machine on Thanksgiving morning or take advantage of that delay timer on your bread machine to wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread. This recipe is a tried-and-true in our family!


Portuguese White Bread

1 cup water
3 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Add all ingredients in order listed into your bread machine. Choose the”basic” cycle and wait for the perfect loaf of white bread to appear! Yes, it is that simple!

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No celebration would be complete in our house without a big bowl of holiday punch. This is a cost-effective and elegant way to keep everyone hydrated without breaking the bank! I can’t imagine hosting any holiday celebration anymore without my holiday punch and I hope you can try this fantastic recipe in your house!

Amy’s Holiday Punch

1 (2 liter) bottle cherry 7-Up soda
1 liter (half a bottle) raspberry flavored soda (I found this at Walmart)
1 (12 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 (12 ounce) can frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1 (1 liter) can pineapple juice

Mix all the ingredients together for the punch. This will fill one large punch bowl or two smaller ones.

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A Word About Leftovers (if there is such a thing)


Last year, I saved all of my yogurt, sour cream, and whipped topping containers for our Thanksgiving feast. I found a bunch of them in my fridge with a scoop of this and a dab of that in them.

These were run through the dishwasher and are now waiting for all of those Thanksgiving leftovers. I am sure our guests will want to take home some of the leftovers from our feast so I am making sure we are prepared this year. No one likes the burden of returning a dish so these will make the perfect containers to send home all of the goodies without the hassle. Best of all, we are putting these containers to good use rather than adding them to the recycle bin.

If you were feeling ambitious, you could cover them with scrapbook paper. I, however, feel hosting Thanksgiving dinner is ambitious enough and I hope our guests will appreciate the thoughtful gesture of having these containers to enjoy a little of the feasting in their own home.

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What is your favorite Thanksgiving recipe, tradition, or time-saving strategy in your family? I would love your ideas!

Published November 12, 2009 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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