Christmas Turkey Dinner Shortcuts
In this article: Find 7 simple Christmas turkey dinner shortcuts that will cut down on time and stress! They will help make the simplest turkey dinner meal ever!
I love eating a traditional Christmas turkey dinner. It’s part of the fun of the holiday season for me.
However, cooking it is NOT!
Early on in our marriage, I struggled to figure out the mysterious secrets of preparing the “perfect” turkey dinner.
I asked questions, gathered recipes, baked ahead, plotted, planned, and strategized.
I’ve cooked turkey dinner for our family of 5, small groups of 25, and one notorious group of 100 (never again…).
After all that experience, I still find turkey dinner to be one of the most challenging meals to get on the table (and have all the food hot at the same time!!).
So, just for fun, the other day I decided to experiment and try my hand at making the most simple turkey dinner of all for 4 people – using all the shortcuts I could think of. Here they are, along with (my opinion of) its success:
Christmas Dinner Shortcuts
Christmas Dinner Shortcut #1 – Simplify the menu and purchase groceries accordingly.
Rather than trying to out-do any Christmas turkey dinner menu I’d ever heard of, I jotted down this simple menu ~ keeping in mind that my husband and I are trying to eat healthy on a consistent basis. We don’t want all our healthy eating habits to go out the window by “pigging out” on a huge Christmas dinner!;)
Here was the menu:
- Mashed Potatoes
- Spinach Salad with dried cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- Pumpkin Pie
- Buns (I opted out of these since, you know, #calories)
Christmas Dinner Shortcut #2 ~ Start with a boneless turkey breast
Hold onto your horses, people! This is an absolute game changer…
There was no thawing for 3 days in the fridge, digging out bags of gizzards (and other un-identifiable yuck), wrestling a sad bird in and out of the pan, basting, or carving meat off of bone.
This little baby was baked from frozen to done in less than 3 hours! Then, once it was cooked, it was easy as pie to remove from the pan and slice through quickly with an electric knife.
My opinion? I’m a TOTAL FAN! I loved its simplicity and it tasted delicious. (It is a little pricey, though.)
Christmas Dinner Shortcut #3 ~ Choose a pre-stuffed turkey breast
I went to the store with the idea of buying stovetop stuffing for our super simple turkey dinner meal. But, I was ignorant of the fact that some of those turkey breasts come pre-stuffed! (What??!!)
So, once I laid my eyes on that, I decided that a 2 for 1 deal would work even better for me. Stuffing with absolutely no additional work at all ~ does it get any better that that?
My opinion? I’m in! It was absolutely delicious. (But, bacon wrapped stuffing bites are still highly recommended!)
Christmas Dinner Shortcut #4 ~ Reach for canned cranberry sauce
Like the frozen and stuffed turkey breast, I have never in my life bought canned cranberry sauce. I’ve always done the old school “start with fresh cranberries” method. (And started a few oven fires with them, too…)
This time, I plunked out the cranberries in a pretty white bowl and microwaved it for about 45 seconds, stirred it, and microwaved it some more. Honestly, it was absolutely delicious ~ no cooking down on the stovetop or putting out oven fires involved.
My opinion? I’m questioning why I thought I needed to make “homemade” cranberries. These were just as delicious!
Christmas Dinner Shortcut #4 ~ Rethink the buns
Ok, I’m not gonna lie. These fresh, homemade bread machine buns with turkey dinner are so good. I usually bake them ahead of time and pull them out of the freezer on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. Then, a little heating up in the microwave right before dinner makes them warm and fresh tasting. I love how they melt in my mouth and soak up the gravy…
But, again, since we’re trying to be more conscious of our bread intake, having dozens of melt-in-your-mouth buns in our house is just not a good idea!;)
I was going to reach for a lovely bag of bakery dinner buns ~ which I think would be a lovely option ~ but in this case, I chose to have no buns at all. Our Irish friends always laughed at us that we had buns and stuffing with turkey dinner. They just couldn’t understand why there were so many bread products needed at one meal! (But, their bacon wrapped stuffing was an event itself…)
My opinion? Do what you need to do in the bun department….
Christmas Dinner Shortcut #5 ~ Forget the peeling, chopping and dicing, and choose frozen veggies instead
One of my favorite side dishes for Christmas dinner is a baked carrot casserole. It’s absolutely delicious ~ but definitely takes some prep time!
So, instead, we stood at the frozen veggies section and had a terrible time choosing which kind to get. There were so many options. The final choice of corn with jalapenos was made by my husband.
My opinion? The veggies were a bit uneventful… They were tasty, but nothing special.
Christmas Dinner Shortcut #6 ~ Let the bakery make your dessert
I don’t know that I would actually be able to get away with not having our family tradition of steamed pudding with Christmas dinner, but this time, I chose pie.
When I went to pick it up from the bakery section, I discovered it was only $2.98! Goodness…I don’t know if I could make one from scratch for that price!
My opinion? It was delicious served slightly heated with just a small scoop of salted caramel frozen yogurt.
Christmas Dinner Shortcut #7 ~ Buy gravy mix
The one negative thing about the handy dandy frozen turkey breast is that there were NO drippings. That was a bit unexpected to me. I’ve used gravy mix before, but added it in to a batch of homemade gravy from drippings. This was my first mixing up the gravy with just mix. It was simple, but…
My opinion? Uggh. I did NOT like the gravy! I felt it tasted like truck stop gravy… After talking with just a few friends, I realized I made a rookie packaged gravy mistake. Apparently, brands make a really big difference in the gravy department. I’ve just ordered some Epicure gravy mix that is apparently the big deal…
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
Overall, I think the super simple Christmas dinner for 4 experiment went very well. The amount of work and time spent was substantially less than a typical traditional turkey dinner. I admit it did lack some of the flair of a real cooked turkey, but I loved the fact that putting this dinner together was really not much more work than a normal week-night meal.
Another thing to note is that there were not many leftovers. I usually love to put together some casseroles for leftovers and pull them out of the freezer later on in the month, but the 4 of us (our young adult sons gladly took part in this experiment!), finished off nearly the whole meal.
The lighted Christmas tree and Christmas music playing made it a fun little memory, and I would definitely try this idea again. Fun, delicious, and no-stress (or fires!) involved. tee hee.;)
More Ideas to make a Christmas Turkey Dinner Festive & Fun:
- Turn your turkey dinner into a little Christmas party – with folded napkin trees on each place setting!
- Set the table with wood block place cards and folded pocket napkins.
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Thank you for sharing this Rita! Due to the pandemic our usual Thanksgiving family dinner of 35 plus where we all bring dishes is now my immediate family of 5. I am planning on using a turkey breast too for all the reasons you stated. Years ago we would actually do a turkey breast in the grill. Put it in a pan, coat turkey with olive oil or whatever you like and cook accordingly. So moist, easy and yummy.
Sauté that jalapeño corn in a pan with some diced onion and butter/oil until some are slightly browned and caramalized… fan favorite around here and great in anything Mexican also.