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"Back of the Box" Thanksgiving

by Tamara Hogan

I'm not the world's greatest cook. Actually, let me correct that - the food I cook is actually pretty tasty, but let's just say the fewer the ingredients, the better. Most of my go-to recipes have:

- 5 ingredients or less,
- can be assembed using largely pre-packaged ingredients, or
- have the words easy, simple or brainless in the title

My most well-thumbed cookbook is called "The Back of the Box Gourmet."

I don't have a lot of patience for complexity, fuss, or dishes. If the recipe is putzy, it's not for me. And that's okay, because I have a repertoire of utterly brainless, calorie-laden recipes that friends and family BEG me to make, year after year.

Mark and I are hosting my family for Thanksgiving this year, with the event being pretty casual, and heavy on the appetizers:

Kari's Nacho Dip
1 lb. hamburger, browned
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 jar of salsa 
1 small block Mexican Velveeta Cheese

Instructions: In large pan on stovetop, brown hamburger. Add soup, salsa and Velveeta, stir/mix until cheese is melted and all ingredients blend. Voila! Ready to serve with tortilla chips. I keep mine warm in a small crockpot.

I know, the cream of chicken soup seems really out of place ("One of these things is not like the other...") but work with me here.

Artichoke Dip 
1 can artichokes
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup Miracle Whip
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. garlic
Optional: real bacon bits to taste

Instructions: drain artichokes, squeezing out all that nasty can juice. Break apart artichokes into a medium sized bowl. Add all other ingredients. Stir. Heat in oven, microwave, or crockpot until bubbly.

I realize "bacon bits to taste" is a very dangerous statement. I personally can eat my body weight in bacon in a single sitting. But please--control yourselves.

Parmesan Cheese Crisps (ONE INGREDIENT! ONE!)
8 oz. shredded parmesan or provelone cheese

Instructions: heat a non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Spoon 1 tbsp. of cheese into skillet. Let it melt, browning slightly, approx. 2 minutes. No need to turn. Using a spatula or similar tool, scoop crisps out of pan onto a cooling rack. Repeat until all cheese is crisped.

<Taking a bow> I know. You can thank me later. ;-)

For the meal, in addition to Mark's Squashy Potatoes (basically mashed potatoes combined with butternut squash), we'll be serving up the following pan o' cholesterol goodness:

Sheila's Cheesy Hash Browns
2 lb. bag of frozen cubed hash browns, thawed
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 stick of melted butter 
1 pint heavy whipping cream

Instructions: Spread thawed hash browns in a 9 X 13 pan. Add mozzarella cheese and mix until evenly distributed with potatoes. Pour melted butter and whipping cream over the hash brown/cheese mixture. Bake in 350' oven for 1 hour or until brown and bubbly. 

Heaven, I tell you. Heaven.

Turkey? Oh, yes, there will be turkey. Mom's on turkey patrol, thank god - and there will be plenty of leftovers. 

What's your favorite thing to do with leftover turkey? 


  1. My mom's favorite thing to do with leftovers was make soup. She'd freeze the leftover soup and get it out the next nasty, wintry Sunday for after church brunch. I'm still fond of a hot bowl of soup with fresh bread and butter,

  2. Gravy, turkey, and baked potatoes. Hmm-hmm. Sometimes sandwiches, and sometimes homemade turkey soup. But none of it lasted that long!

  3. We do "turkey manhattans" with the leftovers! Left over rolls heated up on the bottom, mashed potatoes heated up on top of roll, turkey diced and on top of potatoes, then gravy on the top! Everyone in the house will eat it!

  4. Tamara, I had to smile at your no-fuss recipes. They are dishes that have been in my repertoire for years, and you're so right. They're simple, fool proof, and always welcome!

    What made me smile is that I enjoy cooking and have a reputation as a very good cook! I can't think of a single, favorite recipe that has more than five fundamental ingredients, or three steps. (I have this issue with how many bowls or pans I'll have to wash.)

    As for leftover turkey recipes, who needs 'em? A. don't buy too big a turkey in the first place. B. When there's not enough left for sandwiches, throw it out.

  5. I love turkey sandwiches. And I love to just pick at the turkey when it's cold as I'm taking it off the bone. Grab a salt shaker and pick away.

    Your recipes sound great. You're my kind of cook. Got to be simple, no fuss.

  6. Great recipes! Easy and delicious - my favorite. As for leftover turkey, we love making sandwiches. It's not very original, but a turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich is a joy.

  7. Hi ladies! So glad you're enjoying the simple recipes. MM, I really hate to do dishes, too.

    Today we're using leftovers to make turkey pot pie.

  8. You are my kind of cook, Tamara. I like turkey salad with celery, miracle whip, dill pickle relish and turkey. Yeah, easy. Don't even have to cut the pickles. :-) I'm going to have to try these recipes. I think even I can handle them.

  9. It ALL sounds good. Cheese crisps.... hmm.... As an avid cheese lover from way back, I'm surprised I never thought of that, though I have done the cheese-skirted hamburger thing a time or two!

  10. I cut it up in chunks and put it in cream of chicken soup, some spices and serve it over toast, noodles, or mashed potatoes.

  11. I adore this post. My cooking guidelines are very similar. My fave thing to do with leftovers is to make a giant sandwich with all the fixins. MMMMM.

  12. Hi Tamara! I love artichoke hearts, one of my fav foods, so I'll have to try your recipe. Thx so much for sharing!


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