A Plate Free, No Clean Up Thanksgiving

Got your attention? Good.  Because I'm about to flip Thanksgiving on it's head. 

Let me cut to the chase about why I created A Plate Free No Clean Up Thanksgiving… It’s so YOU can actually enjoy Thanksgiving! There are plenty of holiday posts about what to cook and how but they don’t make sense for people like us. Life is different because we have small children and way less time to do anything (I mean it's like impossible for me to change the toilet paper roll). 

And if you're too busy right now, let me email you my entire recipe PDF guide so you can read it when you have time. No hard feelings! 

How many times have you had to jump up to grab a plate out of little hands, or are too busy cutting up your kiddos dinner to eat yours, or as much as friends and family promise to help clean up… you’re still looking at a counter full of dirty dishes.  You’re exhausted, it sucks, and you lost your wine glass hours ago.

I figured out a way to do all the classic Thanksgiving trimmings with… ZERO plates or serving platters on the table.  You're still going to get your traditional mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and pumpkin pie. There just won't be anything fragile to break, fancy to stain, or messy to clean. Can I get an AMEN!? 

Your Thanksgiving dinner will be easy made-from-scratch dishes paired with a few tricks and shortcuts to make your one woman show a success. 

And... I've timed all these dishes so they can be prepped a day or two beforehand and then all baked simultaneously for 20-25 minutes while your cooked turkey is resting.  

Your spread will be kid friendly without being laaaaame.  You're table is going to look adorable. You’re still cool and mama still got it ( I mean, you did figure out about holding that bib under your bra strap instead of in your mouth right?). No more passing food around the table a million times, not having anywhere to set it down, and playing a dinner long game of "keep away" from your little guy. 

See? Cool. Kid friendly. Not Lame. 

The first ingredient in this process is also the secret to it's success!

Brown paper.

Just roll it out and cover the table. Done. 

Sure I traced plates and wrote everyone's name but it's all about the paper.

That's all you need to ensure clean up is a snap. 

The paper didn't leak or allow food to seep through. 

So simple but so cute. I'll label it "beautifully rustic." 

Everything made in the post below is dish free and will be enjoyed feast style. 

Here's what my table looked like before the food.

I bought the brown paper at Michaels craft store. You can find individual brown paper rolls on Amazon Prime.  I checked for you. 

I bought the brown paper at Michaels craft store. You can find individual brown paper rolls on Amazon Prime.  I checked for you. 

I’m going to talk about all my recipes and why they’re awesome.  But if you wanna skip the chit chat and just scroll through the photos I’m happy to send you a PDF with the recipes.  Just let me know where to send it by clicking below

First up I tackled the candied yams.

I've been making and perfecting this recipe for over 10 years.  Every time I make it, people think its the cutest, tastiest, and coolest way to serve their yams (you can 1,000% use sweet potatoes). What's so cool you ask? They're baked and served in orange halves with toasted marshmallows on top!  The oranges act as these perfect little serving cups (you can throw away when finished!) and the marshmallows make you feel like you really should have your own cooking show. 

Candied Yams in Orange Cups

Click the photo and the recipe will pop up. Magic. 

Candied Yams in Orange Cups

Candied Yams in Orange Cups

Stuffing is my hero.  

I immediately knew I wanted to take classic Stove Top stuffing and make it waaaaaaay better.  Think stuffing on steroids. They do a good thing right? Lets let Stove Top do the major work for us... we'll just add a few tricks as we pass if over the finish line. And by tricks I mean, mushrooms, celery, onion, garlic, and sausage (swoon).

My Mom makes these incredible sausage stuffed mushrooms.  Hit of every party. I'm taking a little of her recipe and slam dunking it into my stove top stuffing creation.  Could you eat them in two bites? Yes. I eat them in one. 

Sausage Stuffing in Mushrooms

Click the photo and the recipe will pop up

Sausage Stuffing in Mushrooms

Sausage Stuffing in Mushrooms

Ok, so I don't want to ignore the turkey in the room.  

I sure did cook the 12lb turkey sitting on my table. I chose to set it on brown grocery bags after it was rested and then carve. It's completely up to you if you'd rather carve it beforehand and leave the big scary knife in the kitchen.   

I'm not sharing a turkey recipe this year because, full disclosure... I'm not a big day of turkey fan and will buy one already cooked for Thanksgiving this year. In fact, I cooked it using the instructions on the back of the bag. I'd rather eat my turkey the day after when I've jazzed it up for leftover heaven and spend my energy and creativity on the side dishes.  I get super pumped for the sides, sauce, and dessert. I'm just not in love with the whole bird straight out of the oven.  Yes, I'm still American.  

I know millions of people love their turkey, so my advice to you is to prepare your turkey however you like to; a family recipe, let someone else spear head that thing, or do what I'm doing... order one already made from Whole Foods.  

Absolutely use the brown bags to display your bird and trim it with some fresh rosemary or whatever herb you love smelling. It looks awesome and is one less enormous dish to clean that doesn't fit in the dishwasher or drying rack anyway. . 

Bread Me. 

I used Pillsbury biscuits for this spread.  The ones where every time you peel the paper the can pops and scares you. I'll never anticipate the pop time correctly.  Regardless of the instructions, I've found they need to be cooked for less time then recommended.  I did 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes.  Maybe it's just my oven but keep your eye on them or the bottom will burn! 

These were the perfect short cut for having delicious bread on the table for dipping and sandwiching.  

Now for the Cranberry Sauce!

3 Ingredient Cranberry Orange Sauce

3 Ingredient Cranberry Orange Sauce

Growing up we always served it out of a can.   That's how I thought it was created.  I have no excuse for myself on that one.  I learned recently that making your own cranberry sauce from scratch is easy.  Especially when it's only 3 ingredients and 3 steps... Like the one I'm showing you! I added a lil zesty zest from an orange to elevate the cool factor.  I SWEAR the orange oil and fragrance made me feel so crisp, healthy, intelligent, and happy to be alive.  Try it... guarantee you're with me on this one. 

3 Ingredient Cranberry Orange Sauce

Click the image and recipe will pop up

I served my cranberry sauce and gravy in mini pumpkins and gourds.  A super inexpensive and incredibly cute way to not have to scrub dried cranberry sauce and gravy off dishes. You can make individual pumpkin bowls for everyone to dip at their leisure or you can just put a few on the table.  A little baking pumpkin is the perfect size to house sauce for the table. I loved having my own sauce filled little pumpkin cup so I was able to spoon cranberry sauce or gravy on whatever I wanted whenever I wanted! Whatever size you use... just throw it away when done!

It took only a minute to slice the top of the pumpkin off and scoop the seeds and flesh out.  The gourds are a little firmer and more difficult to slice.  When I do this again I will use all mini pumpkins.  Neither the pumpkins or the gourds got soggy from liquid or made it taste like pumpkin!  

 

The other part that took only a minute was heating up my gravy.  I chose here to throw a short cut in.  I used a store bought organic gravy.  It was delicious spooned over my mashed potatoes and couldn't have been easier to make. Like it literally couldn't have been easier to make.  We're picking our battles here. 

Now for them classic mashed potatoes.  

I didn't want to mess with these too much or my dad would kill me.  Mashed potatoes are his fav (don't tell his mac n cheese) and these needed to be tried and true all the way through... with a twist. 

So here's the deal... I wanted to serve these in the potato skins.  Seemed a natural answer to my no plate Thanksgiving dinner.  Perfect because you can eat the skin... Buuuuuut no one ever does. We all intend to but they just end up getting tossed or shoved to the back of the fridge. Oops.

Remember that twist I told you about... well here it goes.... before you spoon your yummy mashed potatoes back into their skins, lay a handful of cheddar cheese on the bottom and pop one pat of butter on top of the cheese. Voila! You've already prepped and dressed your potato skin for after the mashed potato part is eaten!  It's all in my recipe! 

Click the photo and the recipe will pop up! 

Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes

Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes 

Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes 

We need a vegetable right?

Green Beans in red peppers for the win! I wanted to choose something familiar that was equally as achievable as it was delicious.  I took the household favorite green bean casserole with those fried onion things and made it possible to serve without a plate.  

Side note: I was snacking on the fried onions all day.  I've never had them plain.  Out of this world.  So you can imagine how jazzed I was to not only mix them into the beans but also layer them on top with cheddar cheese.

Oh, and I don't have to soak a pan and scrape off dried cheese with my finger (totally gross but sometimes there is like no traction on the scrubber and you just need to say goodbye to the cheese).

Red peppers! (I understand I randomly just shouted that) These little guys are the perfect home for my mushroom soup smothered green beans! This super food is a super compliment to my beans.

The most challenging part for me was getting the right cook time to soften the pepper for eating but still keep them firm enough to hold the veggies. I figured it out though so you don't have to, obvi.

The added bonus is how gorgeous they look on the table.  The vibrant red is just mwa! 

FYI: Something I learned... don't try and get ever drop of liquid from your mixing bowl stuffed into the pepper.  It will just make the mixture too runny. 

Green Bean Casserole Stuffed Peppers

Click the pic to have the recipe pop up

Green Bean Casserole Stuffed Peppers

Green Bean Casserole Stuffed Peppers

So what's Thanksgiving without a little pumpkin pie???

And I actually mean a "little" pumpkin pie. These cuties are as adorable as they are delicious and easy to make. THE perfect treat for little toddlers and the perfect portable pie packed with everything you think Thanksgiving should smell like.

I used store bought frozen dough along with Libby's pumpkin pie mix with the addition of adding my own spice mixture.  It's the perfect combination to allow you to bake you're own pie without literally baking a pie- because there just aren't enough naps.  I love the touch of whipped cream on top with cinnamon.  I bet to your little one would LOVE to help with that part.

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Click the photo to see recipe

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Pumpkin Pie Bites

My pumpkin pie bites recipe requires a 3 in circle cookie cutter.  I did not have one (and I can imagine you don't either) so I improvised.  My daughter's 360 sippy cup and a regular sized peanut butter jar lid are the exact dimensions needed. I think a mayonnaise lid would work too.  I chose the sippy cup. See?

After I cooked everything this past Sunday and photographed it (yes, my family and friends thought I was insane) we sat down as a family and ate it.  I also absolutely drank one of the glasses of red wine that was on the table. It was so wonderful sitting there and enjoying my little family.  

My daughter, Stella James, reached right in and grabbed a twice baked mashed potato first.  She brought it to her mouth like she was eating corn on the cob.  And that was totally fine.  Staring at all the food before her, she looked like a kid in a candy store.  She couldn't believe she was allowed to just reach in and take whatever she wanted.  It was pretty awesome watching her.  We ate, colored, swapped bites, and gave hugs that left stuffing in my hair.  Best. Meal. Ever.

And for the grand finale...  here's how we cleaned up. 

Thanks for hanging with me and reading my entire post.  If you want all the recipes in one PDF I'm happy to email you.  We've all been in the grocery store trying to pull up a recipe we saw online and there is no service! If this can make life easier for you I'd love to help!