Thanksgiving can be stressful, sweet or a little bit of both. It can bring along close-minded relatives and moms who like to have a little too much wine; however, it can also provide time to make meaningful memories and discuss life’s blessings. Because family time comes with a whole host of feelings, the Emerald decided to offer its own food philosophies so that you can focus on what really matters. Here is a quick and dirty guide to the best dishes that are sure to impress even the strictest of grandmothers.

Mashed potatoes are a holiday staple:

I've never been one to get excited over turkey, ham or whatever main course meat is being served at Thanksgiving. This isn't a decision motivated by ethics, but rather by the flavor, which is often disappointing — especially considering how heavily a half-pound of meat settles in the stomach. Most of the time, the meat has dried out and, well, wielding a carving knife in front of your problematic family members is probably a bad idea.

Skip the meat and go for the sides. Quietly indulge in all of your potato-based food fantasies — this is the time to unabashedly eat four helpings of mashed potatoes. Mix and mash by garnishing with stuffing and that oh-so-irresistible cranberry sauce as opposed to gravy.

Sweet Potatoes are likely to make an appearance, too. While this sweet orange mess is an abomination, the marshmallow topping is delicious. Starting a debate between the dishes (because there is a superior potato) may help steer conversation away from the politics you don't want to hear about.

Chances are you'll avoid the heavy weight of not only the dried out main course, but the weight of your family's crushing world views.

Homemade mac and cheese plus barbecue sauce, an oddly satisfying match: 

When it comes to Thanksgiving dishes, there are always the traditional ones that are most popular — turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and whatever fruit pie you can think of. However, I feel there is one dish better than all of these that should become a standard: homemade mac and cheese with a side of barbecue sauce.

If you’re eating a good plate of homemade mac and cheese, then the dish should not be too creamy, but not too stiff either. It shouldn’t be over-seasoned and should practically melt in your mouth, especially if it’s fresh.

Now, where does the barbecue sauce come in? Well, homemade mac and cheese is baked and, therefore, not the moistest item. The barbecue sauce gives it that extra ounce of flavor and moisture. Just think of it as ranch dressing. Ranch is often added to dishes like pizza and chicken for odd reasons. Homemade mac and cheese and barbecue sauce go together in the same way.    

Dazzle guests with an aesthetic charcuterie board:

As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of Thanksgiving food (I know, I know, unpopular opinion), I’m all about the appetizer situation. I usually try to load up my plate with as much bread, cheese and crackers as I can without attracting attention or any disapproving scowls.

The key to a good charcuterie plate is cheese and color. Trader Joe’s is my one-stop shop for all things cheese. They have a great selection for not-so-scary prices. I like to start with a classic brie as I branch out into sharper flavors. Some favorites are goat cheese and white cheddar.

Next, color. Because most of the cheese is light-colored and pale, some color is crucial to round out the display. Grapes offer a rich, dark purple, while meats like prosciutto bring in subtle pinks. Adding strawberries or apples on the side can be a nice touch, as well as berries or apricots. Focus on organizing a balance of texture, color and shape.

Last but not least, make sure you style it on a fancy platter. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, a nice arrangement will make it look like you do. You can’t go wrong with a brown cutting board — circle-shaped ones are especially appealing. Slice some of the cheese, don’t slice the rest and fold up the meats to look classy.

If you follow these general guidelines, you’re sure to impress all the relatives — even the ones who spend Christmases on a yacht.

What to do with that unwieldy leftover turkey:

These days, Thanksgiving turkey is a highly polarizing entree — some complain that it’s too dry, some push it away due to the lack of flavor and others can’t load enough of it on their plate. These differing opinions usually lead to a half-eaten turkey sitting on the table at the end of the day, usually to be trashed or forgotten in the refrigerator.

Not anymore.

If you’re like me, that leftover turkey means more than the ruins of a wonderful meal: it presents an opportunity. Try spreading some cream cheese on a croissant roll, throw in some bean sprouts and onions, and top it off with the Thanksgiving meat. Use some cranberry berry sauce to tie the elements together; the rest is up to you. Now what you got on your hands is a refreshing, delicious meal to cure any Thanksgiving hangover. Where’d that turkey go?

Just as important: the sandwich is usually served best if prepared by a loving mother or grandmother while you remain unmoved on the sofa.

Arts Editor

Jordan Montero is the Arts Editor at the Daily Emerald. A few of his favorite things are Steely Dan, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Photojournalist and Sex and Relationships columnist

Dana is a photojournalist specializing in long-format storytelling — particularly regarding gender and social justice topics. She is the Daily Emerald Sex and Relationships columnist. This is her third year at the Emerald.

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