Life would be so much easier if we could snap our fingers and transform an empty table into a festive Thanksgiving spread. But alas, that is not the case, so we did the next best thing—we called on the hostess with the mostest, Ina Garten, to help us harness our inner domestic goddesses and whip up an inspired feast. Because who better to turn to for advice on keeping our cool during the culinary marathon that is Turkey Day than the unflappable Barefoot Contessa?
The self-taught cook, who refined her entertaining skills by throwing weekly dinner parties in D.C while working at the White House, recommends keeping the menu laid-back and playing up the nostalgia angle. “Everyone comes to Thanksgiving dinner wanting to eat the foods that their mother used to make,” Garten tells InStyle. "I added a new twist so they taste even better than they remember.” Better yet, her four hearty, fail-proof dishes, some plucked from the pages of her newest book Cooking for Jeffrey ($21; amazon.com), are both crowd-pleasing and sanity-saving, a pairing that admittedly does not always go hand-in-hand.
VIDEO: 25 Thanksgiving Questions with Ina Garten
Read on to see what she’s serving.
3. A Cozy and Classic Spread
Recreate Garten's relaxed elegance tablescape with these easy tips:
A tablecloth with a linen runner or place mats on top adds texture and warmth to your setup. The effect is subtle, says Garten: "I don't like the sound of plates on a hard surface. Two layers of cloth look better, and you don't hear that clanging."
Choose Easy Florals
The seasonal bounty at Hamptons farm stands and Garten's own lush garden inspire the eclectic mix of jewel-toned flowers that make up her centerpieces. "I like to show a range of autumn colors," she says.
Keep Tunes Classic
"I play old-fashioned music from artists like Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald because everybody loves it," says Garten. Enter "classic jazz singers" into the search field on Pandora or Spotify for an instant soundtrack.
4. Flavorful Wines
The Barefoot Contessa plans on serving something straight from the bottle. “With Thanksgiving there’s enough to do already, so I think wine is really easy,” Garten tells InStyle. “Take out the cork, you’re ready to go." Get her go-to pours here.
5. Herb and Apple Bread Pudding
"Traditional stuffing can get so soggy," says Garten, who serves bread pudding in lieu of the standard filling. "This one is moist and crusty, which is so good." Cook it in a casserole dish and not inside the turkey, so you don’t run the risk of overcooking the bird. Get the recipe here.
6. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Understated and familiar, yet timelessly elegant, these roasted Brussels sprouts were a top pick for the culinary icon. “This recipe is about as simple as it gets,” Garten explains. “And what makes all the difference is sprinkling enough salt." Get the recipe here.
7. Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad
“I like the combinations of textures in this recipe," Garten says of this modern-yet-nostalgic side dish. "There’s peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese, salty Marcona almonds, and the sweetness of roasted carrots." Get the recipe here.
8. Pumpkin Flan with Maple Caramel
Sure, you could serve a store-bought pumpkin pie for dessert like always, but why do that when Garten is here to help make your Thanksgiving dinner menu a little more memorable? “It’s a fabulous thing to serve because it’s refrigerated, so you can make it days in advance, leave it in the fridge, and then just turn it over,” she says. Get the recipe here.
For more of Ina's Thanksgiving Day tips, pick up the November issue of InStyle, now available on newsstands and for digital download.