Rachael's Ideas for a Low-Key Thanksgiving

Rachael's tips make it easy to keep your Thanksgiving celebrations budget-friendly and meltdown-free.
Rachael Ray

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: TV Personality Rachael Ray conducts a presentation at KitchenAid stage at the Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite featuring KitchenAid® culinary demonstrations presented by MasterCard during the New York City Wine & Food Festival at Pier 94 on October 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

Photo by: Neilson Barnard ©2014 Getty Images

Neilson Barnard, 2014 Getty Images

At this year's New York City Wine & Food Festival, Rachael Ray was all about Thanksgiving   but not the huge blowout meal you might be thinking of. Instead, she took this meal of all meals off its anxiety-inducing pedestal, revealing tricks for a no-sweat day of and day after. Whether it's nixing the giant bird altogether or going big with leftovers, her tips make it easy to keep your Turkey Day celebrations budget-friendly and meltdown-free. Here are the takeaways, which can be used on the big day itself or any day of the year:

Rachael Makes Turkey Meatloaf

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: TV Personality Rachael Ray conducts a presentation at KitchenAid stage at the Grand Tasting presented by ShopRite featuring KitchenAid® culinary demonstrations presented by MasterCard during the New York City Wine & Food Festival at Pier 94 on October 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

Photo by: Neilson Barnard ©2014 Getty Images

Neilson Barnard, 2014 Getty Images

Low-Key Holiday? Make a Meatloaf:

There's no other way to put it. Getting a huge bird in the oven on Thanksgiving can be a whole thing. When Rachael is angling for a smaller Thanksgiving (say, with one or two other people) or is looking for that comforting flavor on any old day, there's only one thing to make: turkey meatloaf. At the festival, Rachael served up an easy turkey meatloaf with nuts, served with a simple stovetop gravy and an easy, not-too-sweet cranberry sauce. After folding homemade breadcrumbs soaked in milk, as well as toasted pine nuts and chopped hazelnuts, into ground turkey meat and shaping it into a loaf, she baked it off in the oven until browned and tender. For Rachael, an easy, budget-friendly meal like this is ideal for sharing with neighbors, bringing to a soup kitchen or getting the kids involved. For a time of year that notoriously hinges on excess, a simple meal like this is worth sharing.  Use this turkey meatloaf recipe as inspiration.

Stuff Your Waffle Iron:

No matter how legendary your family's stuffing recipe is, digging through an endless vat of leftovers can get old by Black Friday. Always keeping things interesting, Rachael slathers a hot waffle iron with butter before pressing leftover stuffing onto it and cooking until crispy and "mind-blowingly delicious." Instead of dousing this griddled beauty with maple syrup and calling it a day, top your savory waffle with leftover turkey and all the usual Thanksgiving fixings, from cranberry sauce to mashed potatoes. To make a real dent in your leftover loot, Rachael suggested making an affair out of it and inviting friends and family over for a pressing party. While you're at it, here’s a Waffled Leftover Thanksgiving Brunch recipe from Food Network Kitchen, plus  12 Recipes You Didn't Know You Could Make in a Waffle Iron.

Thanksgiving Day is All-American. The Day After Is Up for Interpretation:

Though stick-to-your-ribs favorites like mashed potatoes and stuffing may be an all-American tradition, Rachael loves transforming leftovers into a French-inspired croque madame the day after. After toasting bread, she smears it with a nutmeg-spiked bechamel, straps it with sliced leftover turkey and sprinkles on shredded fontina. She broils the open-faced sandwich in the oven until the cheese is bubbling, and tops it with the last component, a butter-basted egg (her husband's favorite), which she fries in a pan and bathes in butter. The addition of this egg is what makes Rachael's day-after sandwich a croque m adame and not a croque m onsieurGet the recipe for a traditional Croque Madame here, which uses the classic ham instead of turkey.

If You're Attending Thanksgiving Dinner Somewhere Else:

Sometimes, what lands on the Thanksgiving table any given year is out of our hands  especially if the meal is held in someone else's house. For the control freaks among us, certain make-and-take dishes can be brought to the host's house without threatening their game plan. Rachael suggested bringing a no-frills frittata, which works to bulk up the meal for any vegetarians in the room. Deviled eggs ( like these from Food Network chefs) are another one of Rachael's go-tos, since they don't risk filling you up and they're super easy to transport. She also shared that a "good ole' cheese ball," like this one from Food Network Kitchen, can be really fun, especially when you roll it in nuts or blend it with dried fruit.  

Photos by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for NYCWFF.

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