Make Thanksgiving Easy with Our Thanksgiving Menu

We love classic Thanksgiving dishes, but also crave lightened-up Thanksgiving recipes with vegetables. But why choose? Our Thanksgiving menu combines classic flavors with fun twists and bright colors. 

  • By Jess Dang
  • October 20, 2020

According to Benjamin Franklin, the only things certain in life are death and taxes — but we think he may have forgotten something: dinner. No matter what’s going on in the world (and what an eventful year it’s been), we all need to eat. Every single day. At Cook Smarts, we believe dinner is a time to slow down and savor where we are for a few minutes, a time to show those around us through food that we appreciate them and to spend quality time together.

So it probably comes as no surprise that we’re big fans of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the one meal of the year that embodies those values more than any other. It’s a celebration, an appreciation, and a dinner party rolled into one. 

But we also know that Thanksgiving can be the most stressful meal of the year when it comes to meal planning and cooking. You have to find the right recipes, make sure they go well together, make a huge grocery list, time everything out perfectly, and execute right on schedule. 

That’s why we wanted to make Thanksgiving easy this year. For the first time ever, we’re including a complete Thanksgiving menu right inside the Cook Smarts meal plan service site so that you can plan, shop, and cook for Thanksgiving with as much ease as you can for any other meal.

This meal plan contains recipes for 6 dishes you can mix and match depending on what sounds good to you and your family. Use it as a complete Thanksgiving menu, or pick a few dishes to be a supplement to the tried-and-true recipes you cook every year. It’s full of classic Thanksgiving flavors with a few creative twists, and will help you create a bright, colorful, and deeply satisfying meal so that you can spend more of your time swapping stories with the people you love, whether you’re in person with them all or cooking for just your immediate family while sharing love over Zoom with extended family and friends. 

Read on for descriptions of the dishes included! The easy Thanksgiving recipes will go live on Monday, November 2nd. If you’re already a Cook Smarts member, you’ll automatically get access to them then — if not, sign up for a 14-day free trial here so you’ll be ready to access the best Thanksgiving meal plan!

1. Lemon Paprika Roast Turkey Breast with Garlic Mushroom Gravy

The first dish in our Thanksgiving menu gives the traditional turkey a flavor upgrade with a lemon paprika compound butter. We’ll offer tips on making sure the most important dish of Thanksgiving goes smoothly, as well as how to make a rich, thyme-scented gravy to go on top (with or without the mushrooms, depending on your taste preferences). By cooking turkey breast rather than an entire bird, you can get the turkey in and out of the oven in no more than 2 hours, freeing the oven up for other dishes. 

2. Challah Dressing with Leeks & Sage

Challah’s light texture and mildly sweet flavor make it a perfect bread to soak up stock flavored with the classic flavors of leek, carrot, sage, and thyme, among other ingredients. We’ll also share our favorite tip to make chopping effortless — a huge timesaver! Our version of dressing uses eggs to turn the dish into a kind of rich, savory bread pudding that’s crispy on top and pillowy-soft inside. It’s a delicious complement to the rest of the meal, and the carrots and leeks bring in added servings of veggies to a typically carb- and cream-heavy dinner.

3. Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Lentils & Feta Cheese

This Mediterranean twist on twice-baked potatoes adds a splash of color to your Thanksgiving table, not to mention some great flavors. You’ll prep a filling for the sweet potatoes and a panko crust to go on top, then mix the filling together with scooped-out sweet potato flesh, spoon it back into the potato skins, and top with the panko crust. Roasted bell peppers and lentils add extra substance to the dish, yet it’s still relatively quick and easy. Most of the time this dish takes is hands-off time in the first and second bakes of the potatoes, giving you plenty of time for cleanup, preparing another dish, or taking a much-needed rest. 

4. Pan-Seared Za’atar Brussels Sprouts with Preserved Lemon 

Lightened-up Thanksgiving recipes need vegetables, and we make them as tasty as any Thanksgiving dish. We know that Brussels sprouts may be the most controversial vegetable of Thanksgiving, but you’ve never tasted them like this before! We flavor the sprouts with preserved lemon for a burst of bright acidity (we’ll give you alternatives if you can’t find it) and za’atar, an herb mixture including sesame seeds, dried sumac, and often herbs such as oregano and thyme. This combination gives the vegetable a unique yet identifiably fall flavor that comes together in just a few minutes and with very few ingredients.

5. Apple & Pecan Kale Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Speaking of lightened-up Thanksgiving recipes with vegetables, what could be more evocative of fall than kale, apples, and pecans? We add pickled shallots to this salad for extra bite and have you toss it in a flavorful apple cider vinaigrette for a Thanksgiving side that’s anything but boring. We’ll also share a quick step for making the kale leaves tender and delicious even if you’re using regular kale rather than baby kale. You’ll toss the ingredients together just before dinnertime to keep everything crisp and fresh.

8. Cranberry Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

For a twist on the traditional pie and ice cream for dessert, our Thanksgiving menu provides a cranberry crisp recipe. Fresh or frozen cranberries make for a beautiful, tart dish that balances the creamy sweetness of the ice cream. In the oven, some of the cranberries will break down into a jammy texture that contrasts with the crispness of oats and pecans in the topping. This is an easy, quick dish to prep ahead and then bake while everyone is resting after the meal, and it’s a perfect way to make Thanksgiving easy and finish the day off strong.

Want to check out these easy Thanksgiving recipes for yourself? Sign in to your Cook Smarts account, or sign up for a free trial if you’re not yet a member!

As a Cook Smarts member, you’ll be able to access these easy Thanksgiving recipes all year long, plus you’ll get a new meal plan each week to help make dinner easy, healthy, and delicious. Each meal has the option of original, gluten-free, Paleo, and vegetarian so you can stay on track with your health goals with a single click!  

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