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What to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner Without Cooking

Thanksgiving Card "What can I bring...without having to cook?"The best Thanksgiving meals are ones where everyone brings their favorite dishes or contributions. A grand feast created by friends and family, coordinated by the host and Chief Turkey Chef, that is what tends to work well in my circle of grateful celebrants. I can’t wait!

I say that with a little guilt right now, though, because I just talked with my host and ended up not having to cook a thing this year. I’ll contribute, to be sure, but I won’t be cooking.

I can, and have, cooked the whole meal before, and have delicious recipes for orange cranberry sauce, turkey brine and southern sweet potato casserole at the ready without even so much as clicking on Pinterest. My mac and cheese is a work of comfort food art. I make a chocolate Bourbon pecan pie that will make you weep and run out to dismantle the Mayflower for kindling to feed the firepit so you can sing songs to America all night long.

But I’m not into cooking right now. I’m just not, and everything I’ve made lately has fallen flat. So what do you bring to a holiday potluck when you don’t want to cook?

Fortunately I have a lot of options in my no-bake cornucopia. One quick email to the host and I have a great shopping list that will fully support our shared meal without me needing to preheat the oven or transport steaming dishes. Talk about thankful. Here are some of the ideas we talked about:


  • Amber Waves of Grain 1 of 8
    Amber Waves of Grain
    Celebrate America's harvest properly by bringing bourbon. Bring sugar, bitters and lemon to make Grandma an Old Fashioned, and bring 7Up and cherries to make Shirley Temples for the little guests.
  • Wine is a Non-Cook’s Go-To 2 of 8
    Wine is a Non-Cook's Go-To
    Wine is a staple hostess gift and an easy bring for the non-cooking potluck guest. Don't forget to bring a corkscrew if you think your hosts might not have one, or just to make it easy to handle without distracting someone who is busy mashing potatoes. I tried La Crema's wines at a recent party and think this Sonoma Pinot Noir (with its cherry, cranberry and tobacco-hinted goodness) would be perfect with traditional Thanksgiving fare.
  • Relish the Ease 3 of 8
    Relish the Ease
    Another great solution for a non-cooking year is to bring the relish tray for pre- and post-dinner snacking. Select gorgeous olives and creative pickles, and also make sure it's a Thanksgiving classic by adding a scoop of old school black pitted olives. Don't forget to Instagram your niece's manicure.
    [Image: Creative Commons License, some rights reserved by redjar]
  • Oh, Nuts! 4 of 8
    Oh, Nuts!
    It's just not a fall holiday without a huge basket of uncracked nuts on the table. And I don't even want to talk about the fabulousness of this squirrel nutcracker from Anthropologie.
  • Media Menu 5 of 8
    Media Menu
    Bring some entertainment for non-footballers to enjoy after being stuffed and everyone will forget who cooked what anyway. Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Will & GraceThanksgiving episodes are my favorites.
  • Be Ready to Roll Up Your Sleeves 6 of 8
    Be Ready to Roll Up Your Sleeves
    As the non-cook you can best show gratitude by leading the clean-up brigade. Bring a work kit of gloves, sponges and soap to show you mean business and the job is yours!
    [Image: Creative Commons License, some rights reserved by Piccadilly Pink]
  • Recipe for a Fire 7 of 8
    Recipe for a Fire
    If your host has a fireplace or pit and doesn't have this covered, offer to bring the components for a great after dinner fire and you'll be the holiday hero. Fatwood, pinecones and kindling plus wood of various sizes will do the trick.
    [Image: Creative Commons License, some rights reserved by slgckgc]
  • Coffee for Pie 8 of 8
    Coffee for Pie
    Is anything better than coffee and pie? Let someone else roll the dough this year and bring a bold organic, fair trade coffee to play barista instead of pastry chef.
    [Image: www.debontherocks.com]

What about you? Are you looking for ways to support your turkey-basting, pie-baking friends and loved ones with Thanksgiving contributions from a non-cook?  Here’s one thing for certain. I will be the most appreciative and thankful diner, generously praising the delicious contributions of those who did carefully select and prepare Thanksgiving recipes. And come Christmas, I’ll be the one brining that bird, I promise.

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