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Lazy Baking for Thanksgiving (And Non-Pumpkin Options)

Given the fact that I cannot cook a single thing that isn't frozen and pre-made, I'm shockingly not a terrible baker. Don't get me wrong, I still have to follow a recipe and I Google questions incessantly during the baking process to ensure that I'm not going to poison both myself and whoever I'm sharing the baked goods with. I also am kind of, sort of, most definitely a perfectionist, so my biggest fear when it comes to baking is not setting the entire house on fire in the baking process, but instead baking something that doesn't taste good. 

Because of this fear of missing the mark, I don't bake a lot. This is also coupled with a few more things, including the price of ingredients, actually having to go out and buy the ingredients that I might not have on hand, and the whole me being too lazy to deal with the whole prepping and baking and decorating process. However, there is one time of year that I will suck it up, roll up my sleeves, and get some baking done and that time of year is Thanksgiving (and like, occasionally Christmas if I have enough time and energy to go out in the cold and snow).

I follow a recipe or two for Thanksgiving and don't usually break out the boxed mixes for family parties where I'm competing with the big dogs AKA one of my aunts, a cousin, and an uncle who bake the most wonderful treats known to mankind. However, I'm lazy and sometimes you just want to take the lazy route not only to save time, but to ensure that they'll be delicious. I made two really easy and aesthetically unpleasing desserts on Sunday to prove that (a) it's possible to jazz up boxed mixes and (b) you can have fall treats without using pumpkin. 

I KNOW, I KNOW, Francesca, don't you worship pumpkin? And to answer your question, yes, pumpkin is my life and I make pumpkin bread every single year for my family on Thanksgiving whilst also pounding back an entire pumpkin roll baked by my aunt mentioned above.

I digress, if you know there are going to be one thousand pumpkin desserts at Thanksgiving, sometimes you want to switch it up and add a little more diversity into the sweets to follow up the delicious dinner. Or perhaps you don't actually like the traditional dinner of turkey and all of its accouterments and only eat dessert and there's only so much pumpkin you can take. I don't know your life or preferences, but I support all dietary choices on Thanksgiving (within reason, some people are sickos, like those people on Twitter that put a slice of cheese in between two Poptarts).

If you want to use some mixes this year to bring to your Thanksgiving dinner (or even Friendsgiving dinner! Is that a thing still happening?), here are two ways to jazz them up to make them a little more interesting, less simple, and inject a little more autumn into them. 

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Brownies

Sure, you could make these from scratch, but let's be real: brownies from mixes taste better than homemade brownies 90% of the time unless you are a skilled baker and have like a business and stuff. Or maybe it's just my homemade brownies that blow...ANYWAYS, all you need for this is a dark chocolate brownie mix (I prefer Ghiradelli, but do whatever makes you happy), Rolos, and some pretzels. Literally, all you do is make the brownies according to what the box says, pour it into your baking dish, and just put the Rolos into the batter. I like to spread them out evenly so you'll get caramel in each bite. I also melted some chocolate to put on top so my pretzel pieces had something to stick to after I pulled the brownies out of the oven, but again, you do you. Also, these brownies are best served warm unless you like biting into semi-hard brownies because the caramel hardened. Still delicious though, still delicious.

Salted Caramel Sugar Cookies

Did I make salted caramel cookies because I already had Rolos and pretzels on hand? Maybe. If you thought the brownies were easy, these are even easier and take way less time to bake. All you need is sugar cookie mix, Rolos, and pretzels. Seriously, all you do is make the dough, roll them into balls, gently press a pretzel into the dough (not too hard so it flattens, that's how you get really ugly ones like the ones in all of the pictures I have), stick the Rolo in the center of the pretzel, and bake them like normal. There may be a better way to make them, but at least a dozen of my family members told me they were good on Sunday and they have better things to lie about, like their natural hair colors. Jokes! 

However, if you're feeling a little more ambitious and are more comfortable baking, here are some of the most enticing fall recipes that I found that I thought would make a nice treat for Thanksgiving. There are some pumpkin ones in here, not going to lie. It's just so dang good!

  1. Pumpkin Apple Cider Doughnuts
  2. Pumpkin Spice Doughnut Holes (I've made these in the past and they were a crowd favorite, I would highly recommend for an easy to serve and small dessert)
  3. Crumbly Pumpkin Bread (I've made this every year for about three or four years now and fully intend on making it again. It's delicious, easy to make, and goes nicely for dessert and also earlier in the meal as a sweeter bread)
  4. Caramel Stuffed Pretzel Cookies (I made something similar, or potentially the same recipe, two years ago and they were also a crowd favorite)
  5. Marble Pumpkin Cheesecake (also, a plain cheesecake either plain or with fruit topping would also be delicious)
  6. Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Truffles
  7. Salted Caramel Butter Bars
  8. Salted Caramel Browned Butter Cookie Cups
  9. Cinnamon Sugared Pecans
  10. Cinnamon Maple Sugar Cookies
  11. Chai Cookies
  12. Apple Pie Bites
  13. Apple Crisp Shortbread Bars
  14. Pecan Pie
  15. Autumn Spice Pear Cobbler
What's your favorite dessert to eat on Thanksgiving? 


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