Jennifer Segal
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Chef, Recipe Developer and Busy Mom

Posted: 11/15/2015 7:35 am EST
Updated: 11/15/2015 2:59 pm EST

Make life easy on yourself this Thanksgiving -- and avoid being a frazzled host -- by selecting dishes that are easy and/or make-ahead. When your guests arrive, you'll be ready to celebrate rather than slaving away in the kitchen or, worse, nodding off at the table.

From my Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup to the Easiest Roast Turkey You'll Ever Make, these no-hassle Thanksgiving dishes are all tested and perfected crowd-pleasers.

1. Autumn Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

Made with carrots, sweet potatoes, apples and honey, this savory soup with a hint of sweetness and spice is the essence of fall. The secret ingredient is curry powder, which doesn't give the soup an Indian flavor like you might think, but instead lends a subtle hint of autumn spice. Make it now and freeze it, then check it off your list! GET THE RECIPE

2. Best Buttermilk Biscuits

Rich and buttery with a fluffy interior and golden crust, these biscuits can be made ahead of time and frozen so all that's left to do on Thanksgiving day is pop them in the oven. GET THE RECIPE

3. Oranges, Caramelized Red Onions & Spinach in Balsamic Vinaigrette

Inspired by Patrick O'Connell's Inn at Little Washington Cookbook, this salad of oranges, red onions and greens is dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. It sounds unusual but it really works, and the flavors are perfect for fall. Make all of the components the morning of Thanksgiving and quickly assemble before the meal. GET THE RECIPE

4. The Easiest Roast Turkey You'll Ever Make

Ever since I started hosting Thanksgiving dinner ten years ago, I have been on a quest to make the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. I've brined it, deep fried it, marinated it, injected it, buttered it, dry-rubbed it, butterflied it and stuffed it. And you know what? None of it made much difference! My advice to you on Thanksgiving is to keep it simple. Make a basic roast turkey along with an over-the-top delicious gravy and some cranberry sauce to go with it.

Focus your time and creativity on the side dishes and desserts because that's what everyone really looks forward to anyway. GET THE RECIPE

5. Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce

Fresh cranberry sauce is a cinch to make! This version is flavored with orange juice and orange zest, and can be made several days before the feast. GET THE RECIPE

6. Homemade Gravy

Flavored with onions, turkey drippings and fresh herbs, this rich gravy will make your Thanksgiving turkey (and anything else) taste delicious. GET THE RECIPE

7. Challah, Wild Mushroom and Herb Stuffing

Bake your stuffing separate from the bird so that you can make it ahead of time and ensure that it gets nice and crispy on top. This version, loaded with an earthy mix of onions and vegetables, is easy to make and pairs beautifully with simple roast turkey. GET THE RECIPE

8. French Green Beans with Shallots

With so many other flavors on the table, it's perfectly fine to keep your green vegetable simple. This dish has only three ingredients, but is much more than the sum of its parts. GET THE RECIPE

9. Sweet Potato Pecan Crisp

You can't have a Thanksgiving feast without a sweet potato casserole. Everyone loves this version topped with a pecan streusel. Make it a day ahead of time and reheat until the top is crisp. GET THE RECIPE

10. Easy Sausage and Herb Stuffing

This delicious sausage and herb stuffing relies on store bought stuffing cubes, which eliminates the step of slicing and drying out the bread. Believe me, when you are using a pound of sausage and an entire stick of butter, the bread does not matter much! The stuffing can be made in advance and reheated on Thanksgiving day. GET THE RECIPE

11. Cauliflower Puree with Thyme

Everyone loves mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving but the downside is that they can't be cooked ahead of time. Try this cauliflower purée instead -- it happens to taste remarkably like mashed potatoes but is easier to make, healthier and perfect for making ahead of time. You won't even need any oven space to reheat it -- just put it in the microwave! GET THE RECIPE

12. Apple Cranberry Oat Crumble

This old-fashioned Thanksgiving dessert comes from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson.

There's no fussy pie dough -- just apples and fresh cranberries tossed with sugar and cinnamon and a simple crumb topping of oats, flour, brown sugar and butter. Unlike pie, it's essentially foolproof (and I don't know about you, but I'd take a crunchy crumble over flaky pie crust any day). Bonus: you can make it a few days ahead of time. GET THE RECIPE