Help! Thanksgiving is Tomorrow and I Have No Plan!

You already know that I’m not much of a planner.  But here’s how not-much-of-a-planner I am: it’s Wednesday now (or it will be in a few minutes), Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and I have no plan.  No plan!That might sound ridiculous, since I’ve been giving you Thanksgiving meal planning suggestions for weeks.  But behind the scenes, I haven’t actually been planning to cook on Thanksgiving myself.  We’ll be on Vancouver Island, in Victoria, BC (where Canadian Thanksgiving was observed weeks ago, I know, but no matter).  We’ll be in a rental with a (probably inadequate) kitchen.  We’re meeting my brother and his sweet little family, so it will be a small gathering.  We’ve been playing it cool; we vaguely talked about skipping Thanksgiving dinner in favor of a fancy high tea, or picking up tacos from Hernandez.

But it’s Thanksgiving, and I like cooking for Thanksgiving.  And have you ever tried taking two toddlers and two barely-older children to high tea?

So, maybe we should cook a Thanksgiving dinner.  Help!

Here are the constraints:

1)      We’ll be cooking in a foreign, unstocked kitchen.  We’re just going to have to make do on this front; we’re already on the road and didn’t bring our usual kitchen kit.  Not even a good knife!  Not even salt!  Not even olive oil!

2)      We’d like to cook as economically as possible, since we’ll have to buy every single thing we need, and we won’t want to have leftovers.  (There are eight of us, but four are very small, so we’ll plan for six.)

3)      As always, we want to eat well.  Very well!  And our feast will be vegetarian.

You all always have such good ideas.  I like to think that I have good ideas too, but most of them assume that I’m in my own kitchen, which is full of spices and condiments and other magic ingredients.Can you help?  I’m looking for your favorite celebratory dish that doesn’t rely on too many ingredients to make it great.  And no fancy tools.  And no turkey.  Go.

If I can get my act together one whole day in advance, I’ll post my menu Wednesday night to inspire those lazy cooks who wait until Thursday morning to plan Thanksgiving dinner.  They must be out there, right?  (Right?)


41 thoughts on “Help! Thanksgiving is Tomorrow and I Have No Plan!

  1. Laura

    My favorite Thanksgiving side dish is roasted root vegetables. It’s easy, flexible (you can roast at a pretty wide range of temperatures, so it’s easy to cook this at the same time as, well, almost anything else), hearty, colorful, and (after you take the veggies out of the pan and put them in a serving dish) pretty.

    Cut up root veggies — onions, carrots, yams, potatoes, beets, garlic, whatever — and toss with olive oil. Spread out on a pan in one layer and sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika. Roast until done, stirring every half-hour or so.

  2. Sarah @ The Cook's Life

    I hate to say it, since it is such a plain dish, but what about mashed potatoes. I love them, and they speak holiday dinner to me. You can fancy them up how you please, depending on your supplies, or you can keep them as simple as potatoes and butter, with a little milk to mash them.

  3. Robyn


    Here’s what I’m making for the vegetarian main for our Thanksgiving (which, yes, we are having alongside a turkey, so I’m my own version of crazy down here–never fear!) Anyway, I picked it b/c it seems like it will be impressive and tasty and not too difficult to put together, as long as you can find frozen puff pastry in a grocery store up there. . .also seems you could sub in some other sweet-ish wine for the the madeira (reisling, port?). In a pinch, you could do cottage cheese instead of ricotta (though I would really look for ricotta–they’re not really an even trade, in my book). And, it says you can do barley in place of the farro–brown rice might work, too–esp. wild brown. Seems like it would be stellar with a nutty arugula salad with oranges or pomegranate seeds tossed in or something and a very simple lemon/olive oil dressing. One thing, though, is that I *cannot* vouch for it yet b/c tomorrow will be my first time making it–wouldn’t it be fun to be making the same thing on the same day, though? We could compare notes. . .or maybe this will inspire another idea. . .good luck! Let us know what you do!!! Happy thanksgiving and big hugs to your clan! Miss y’all!

    xoxo, r:)

    xo, r:)

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I’m on it. Thank you for the great recommendations! I’m going to do the farro-and-mushroom filling for and put it in roasted squash instead of puff pastry, yum! Thanks for picking such a great recipe for us. :) And I love the idea of dressing the salad with a lemon (or even the leftover orange juice after putting the segments in the salad!) so I don’t have to buy vinegar. We will indeed have to compare notes–thanks and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! :) xo

  4. triathlonobsession

    You know, there is nothing wrong with eating out for Thanksgiving (clean up is a definate plus) because really it’s about being with family. Who says tacos doesn’t cut it! If you must–roasted veggies (whatever you can find) is an easy and tasty favorite and I agree with the root veggie mash too! Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Sarah @ The Cook's Life

    I have been thinking more about your Thanksgiving plans and I am starting to agree with the triathlonobsession’s comment above. You can make any meal festive, and it really is all about sharing the time with your family. Make it fun, and make it an adventure and it will be a year to remember no matter what you eat. Tacos, PBJ or scrambled eggs – they will all be fun and fabulous! Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      That’s so true. And scrambled eggs with roasted vegetables sounds pretty good, actually… :) Traveling with the whole kid rodeo IS always an adventure. :)

  6. Hannah

    I agree, I like the take-out tacos option, with a big side of mashed potatoes and roasted veggies. It’ll be an adventure, plus it’s simple and leaves you time to play with your family and see some sights. The neighborhoods around Victoria are beautiful to walk through. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I agree that roasted veggies are a must–and I love the enthusiasm for the taco idea! I think if we do that some people will be living vicariously through us. ;-)

  7. baconbiscuit212

    I’m thinking stuffed something. Like stuffed acorn squash or stuffed peppers. Something that everyone just gets one of limits the possibility of leftovers. Also roasted vegetables require minimal prep. Like roasted brussels sprouts. You can even pan roast them if there is no oven.

    Or . . . something awesome with eggs. Like a big frittata. If you grab some bread at the market, you can turn the leftovers into breakfast sandwiches!

    I know that you are on the road, but I would seriously consider stopping if you see a Walmart or something and grabbing a knife and a cutting board! Good luck, Emmy! I know you can do it!

    1. Robyn

      Just a reminder, if you don’t have an oven to bake, but want to roast, you can make an oven with a big pot with a lid and some tuna cans for your baking pan to rest on. . .the temperature is a little tricky, but it works! :)

    2. emmycooks Post author

      Thank you for the Brussels sprout reminder, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them. They’re on the list. And stuffed squash is the overwhelming recommendation, which I never do–tomorrow’s the day! :)

  8. Teresa

    Hi Emmy. I would add a hearty veg stew, good quality sourdough bread and greens. I know you do both stews and greens well and they are easy, yummy and nice with this weather. Dessert-poached apples and pears with a caramel sauce and sprinkle of toasted nuts? Have fun! Personally, I love the rush of a last minute feast!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      Thank you so much for the recommendations! I love the poached apple or pear idea. And you’re so right to point out that last-minute planning and cooking is fun–and you end up spending less time in the end! :)

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I’ve never seen that but it sure sounds like a step up from Tofurkey! I’ll definitely be looking for a good co-op in Victoria with a nice bulk section. :)

  9. EverydayMaven

    That sounds like a lot of fun! I don’t know if you read my Thanksgiving menu post but I was angling for an adventure and Indian food so I am kind of jealous!

    We were just recently in Victoria – it is so beautiful!!!

    I am voting for a one dish meal – like a casserole of some sort. You can buy a disposable casserole pan at the supermarket to make it easy.

    Stuffed squash would also work with a big salad and wine, a cheese, bread and olive plate.

    Or Indian food take out ;)

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I saw your post about Indian food–maybe if you cook every day then cooking on one specific day doesn’t seem like such a big deal. :) And I think you’ve settled our menu right there!

  10. Shannon

    I made the pumpkin leek phyllo pie on the nyt site to bring to a dinner for vegetarians. An be made ahead and frozen, then baked for about an hour before serving.

      1. Mercermom

        That’s it. Haven’t tried it before — but how can you go wrong with phyllo, feta, herbs, and veggies?

  11. Eileen

    Victoria is such a cool city! I’m a little jealous. :)

    Welp, feel free to steal our thanksgiving menu if you like. Sweet potato-black bean soup, roasted root veg with garlic, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, simple green salad, and pie. That’s pretty much it. The thing there is that roasting gives both the veg and the soup the main flavor, so you don’t have to worry about buying an entire spice cabinet while on the road (although I’d buy garlic, olive oil, salt, & pepper). If gravy is an issue, you can always serve mashed potato with a well in the middle in a big bowl, and top it with the soup. Also, cheese & crackers & nuts & olives are always good, & super easy to just buy.

    1. emmycooks Post author

      What a good point about roasting veggies as the main flavor-booster. So true. I’m so not making gravy of any kind, though. :) Thanks, and happy Thanksgiving!

  12. emmycooks Post author

    You all are awesome! It’s almost as good as if we were all standing around in the kitchen chatting. I love to benefit from the wisdom of the collective cooking brain. :) I’m thinking roasted squash stuffed with mushrooms & farro, roasted Brussels sprouts, a good salad, olives, cheese. On second thought, maybe we do want leftovers. :)

    1. Somer

      I just jumped in on this! Fresh veggie trays are always nice too. Good luck Emmy, what you’ve planned above sounds great for impromptu Thanksgiving!

  13. Allison

    I would go for roasted acorn squash for sure! Halved, roasted, and either served simply with a little butter and brown sugar or maple syrup, or stuffed with… whatever. It seems like you’ve got plenty of ideas for that already. The mushrooms & farro sound good and/or add chestnuts?! (Although that’s not going to work if there aren’t good knives in your rental kitchen…) Brussels sprouts or– even easier to prepare– green beans or broccoli on the side, and you already have nearly a full meal! …but what are you going to do about pie?? : )


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s