When a hostess is crammed for space in the kitchen, preparing a Thanksgiving meal for a crowd is a challenge. With limited counter space and a single oven, there's really only so much that can be done when it comes to cooking up a Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings.
Over the years, one Thanksgiving prep tip I've discovered is to use Mom's old crockpot slow cooker for cooking up and serving Thanksgiving side dishes. A crockpot isn't an appliance that we normally think of as using at Thanksgiving but can be a fantastic time and space saver when cooking for a crowd. Crockpots are totally portable and can be plugged in an out-of-the way location (such as the laundry room) which frees up counter space in the kitchen. And after the side dish is cooked, it can remain in the crockpot where it will stay nice and warm throughout a Thanksgiving meal.
Even beyond food prep, a crockpot is a versatile warming tool that comes in especially handy at Thanksgiving. Dinner rolls, fresh cooked breads and biscuits will stay warm in a crockpot set to low. A covered slow cooker is also a great way to serve up large batches of mashed potatoes, cooked vegetable dishes, and vegetable casseroles. Need some more ideas of how else a slow cooker can be used for a Thanksgiving dinner? Here's some of my favorite crockpot friendly Thanksgiving recipes.
1. Sweet potatoes: serves 16
1. Cube 9-10 large sweet potatoes, place in a greased crock pot.
2. Melt one stick butter in a saucepan on low heat. Add 2 cups brown sugar, 1/2 cup of honey, one tablespoon cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg to saucepan, and stir until combined.
3. Pour mixture over sweet potatoes. Top with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until potatoes are tender.
2. Orange Glazed Carrot Medallions: serves 16
Plain sliced carrots can be cooked in a crockpot in just a few hours which is a great way of preparing a Thanksgiving veggie without loosing range space. For a fancier way of preparing carrots for Thanksgiving, try this colorful recipe.
1. Place 6 cups carrot medallions (1/4" rounds) and dash of salt in crockpot. Just barely cover with water, cook on high for 2-3 hours until carrots are tender. Drain.
2. Return carrots to crockpot. Stir in half stick of melted butter, 2/3 cup of orange marmalade, and one teaspoon chopped parsley. Replace lid, continue cooking on high 30 more minutes.
3. Crockpot Stuffing: Serves 8 (double for 16)
It's been my experience that just about any bread stuffing recipe works well in a crockpot. Our family favorite stuffing recipe uses 8 cups of bread cubes, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, 8 fresh fresh sage leaves (or 1/2 tsp dry), and a 1/2 teaspoon of crushed thyme tossed with a can of Swanson chicken broth, and then turned into a greased crockpot. To cook, cover and cook on high for one hour, switch to low and cook for an additional three hours. Just before serving, stir in a heaping serving spoonful of the turkey's own stuffing for added flavor.
4. Green bean & red potato casserole: Serve 12 as a side dish
Everyone has their own version of the ever popular green bean & bacon casserole. This tasty crockpot version calls for red potatoes which makes a colorful presentation for a Thanksgiving table.
12 medium sized red potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
8 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
1 pound of bacon fried, drained and crumbled
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
one medium onion, chopped
1. Toss veggies and bacon with soup. Turn into greased crockpot.
2. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours, stirring once halfway through the cooking process.
5. Hot cranberry relish: Serves 12
Cold cranberry relish may be a Thanksgiving staple but hot relish is equally as delicious. Almost any cranberry sauce recipe can be prepped in a crockpot; one easy recipe that our family has used in the past combines 12 ounces of fresh, rinsed cranberries, 2 cans of chopped mandarin oranges (reserving liquid), 1/2 tsp shredded orange peel, a pinch of cinnamon and a cup of sugar. These ingredients and the reserved liquid are combined in the crockpot, covered and then cooked on high for 2 hours. This tasty relish is delicious served hot or cold.