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Food and Dining

DIY: Thanksgiving Dinner College Edition

Who says you have to wait to go home to enjoy a great Thanksgiving feast? My roommates and I set out to defy all odds and re-create Thanksgiving dinner in our apartment kitchen in just two hours. After much teamwork and lots of spontaneous dance parties, the mission was successful, and we made enough food to feed a small army. Here are some of our secrets to preparing a meal that’s well worth being thankful for.

  • Cranberry Sauce: Ditch the can. Once you taste this tangy yet sweet side you’ll never go back! Just follow the instructions on the back of the cranberry bag (most have them). Want that extra kick? My (not-so-secret) secret is to add half orange juice, half water and brown sugar instead of white sugar when boiling the cranberries. To surprise your guests, add cinnamon and all-spice and just a dash of crushed anise seed for a boost of flavor. Finally, garnish with orange zest for a beautiful display!
  • Homemade Rolls: Though you might be tempted to buy rolls, I can promise that the satisfaction of kneading the dough and having fresh, yeasty rolls come out of the oven is worth the extra 30 minutes of preparation. Seriously, these rolls aren’t called 30 Minute Rolls for nothing. Trick of the trade: for that golden glow, brush each roll with melted butter just before popping them in the oven!
  • Green Bean Casserole: This Thanksgiving favorite is easier than you think! With this recipe you’ll look like a pro in minutes!
  • Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing: Hands down the BEST boxed stuffing I’ve ever tasted (and, believe me, I’ve tried many types). With just four dollars and a bit of chicken broth, you have a dish that has I-can’t-believe-this-isn’t-homemade status. To add an extra treat, throw Craisins or chopped grapes into the stuffing to give it a bit more sweetness, extra crunch and flavor.
  • Turkey…er…rotisserie chicken: Let’s be real, who has the whole day to roast a bird?! We opted to save the real thing for Thanksgiving at home and went for Trader Joe’s roasted rotisserie chicken instead, hardly an uneven trade-out! The moistness and taste was almost equivalent and the savings in money, time and effort were far worth it. This college adaptation is just about as good as the real thing!
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar Pecan Topping: This is literally dessert for dinner! Hands down my favorite dish of Thanksgiving. The naturally sweet flavor of the potatoes, the smoothness of the texture and the crunch of the topping create a truly magical combination! My family has perfected and enjoyed this recipe for years, adapted from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse’s famous sweet potatoes, and I have no doubt that this will become your own family/apartment’s favorite new meal.

Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 6 sweet potatoes (about 4 pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Peel and chop potatoes, boil until soft, about 30-40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, add salt and mash with a fork
  2. In a medium skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cook until sugar dissolves. Stir in 4 tablespoons cream and the brandy and cook until slightly thickened, about one minute. Remove from heat and add to sweet potatoes, mixing well with beaters to combine. Transfer potato mixture to a buttered 3-quart oven-proof casserole. (At this point, dish can be covered and refrigerated, if making a day in advance.)

Brown Sugar Pecan Topping:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
  • 1/3 stick butter, melted

Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside.

Bake potatoes for 30 minutes. Add crumb topping, bake for another 10 minutes. Serve immediately while warm, or cover to enjoy!

Special thanks to my fellow chefs and friends: Kayla Swank, Olivia Miller, Lauren Hastings and Ashley Macres!


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