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Onward Chef: Your Guide To A Perfect Penn State Friendsgiving

Thanksgiving is a time of merriment, family, and tons of delicious food. It’s especially fantastic if you haven’t seen your family in awhile, haven’t been home since August, and have been living on dining hall food.

Though we all have that special day dedicated to our kin, the holiday is too glorious not too share with our best friends as well — alas, the obvious need for “friendsgiving.”

Because most of us don’t quite reach the culinary expertise of our beloved mother or grandma, it’s no shocker that we had to dumb down this guide a little. Not too mention we’re all broke as hell. And does a butterball turkey even fit in a standard State College apartment downtown?

We’ve compiled the most essential Thanksgiving plates and broke them down for you — college style. Each food item is extremely doable, straightforward, non-expensive, and still delish.

The Bird

Turkey: the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table. Hauling your ass to get a huge turkey into your modest apartment and risking setting the place on fire is not worth it. Luckily turkey comes in all forms, so you can totally cheat this one while adding some personality to it. Consider the following:

Deconstructed Turkey Dinner: Pick up some pre-packaged turkey tenderloin and chop it into small cubes. Combine it in a bowl with mixings such as celery, carrots, cranberries, and mayonnaise. Add some lemon juice, salt, and pepper to top it off.

Pan Seared Turkey Cutlets: Buy a few pounds of turkey cutlets and pan sear them using some olive oil. If you want to impress your friends and get creative, season with sea salt, garlic powder, and cracked black pepper. (hint: things we all usually already have.) If you want to go completely nuts add some smoked paprika or a few pinches of dried thyme, oregano, or your favorite spice… if you even have one.

A rotisserie chicken: Need I say more?

Mashed Potatoes

This is a straightforward one and there’s no real way around it, unless you want to buy some microwave pre-made stuff, which is gross — don’t do that. Buying potatoes in their true from is a ton cheaper in the long run anyway.

You can, however, microwave your potatoes for about 4 1/2 minutes each so they soften up. Let them cool, mash them (removing the skin if you wish,) and plop them into a bowl. Stir in your milk, butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. The potatoes will already be super soft and mushy from the microwave — genius. Kraft has nothing on you.

Cranberry Sauce

The easiest way around making cranberry sauce is just buying some frozen cranberries. Heat 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan and stir in the berries. Once they begin to pop after 5 minutes or so, pour the sauce into a bowl or separate container.

Because I don’t know anyone who actually loves cranberry sauce that much, we suggest running over to Walmart and buying a can of it.

Some alternatives to cranberry sauce if you still want a fruity flavor in the mix:

  • Cranberry apple sauce
  • Cherry or strawberry jello
  • Orange or lemon relish
  • Fruit spread, like grape or apricot


Green Bean Casserole

We’re getting into the vegetable realm here, folks — but never fear. This casserole is incredibly easy to make. Grab some canned green beans, French’s french fried onions, some generic cream of mushroom soup, milk, and you’re ready to go.


If you haven’t figured this out by now in college, frozen vegetables are your friend. Buy a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts to saute. These go perfectly with bacon, herbs, and onion. You can do just the same with carrots or asparagus.

(For all dishes calling for produce, don’t be afraid to get adventurous and run to the Farmer’s market for some local goods. This adds a touch of Pennsylvania state farm charm compared to the frozen Walmart greens.)


Pillsbury crescent rolls. What, did you think you were going to whip up some fresh bread?


We strongly recommended Stouffer’s turkey stuffing because it’s insanely cheap and actually great. But if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious just buy a loaf of white bread, poultry seasoning, and a small onion. Moisten the bread with water and add in some onion, seasoning, and salt. Feel free to add whatever else your heart desires, such as butter or chicken broth. Mix everything with your hands and cook for an hour.

Pumpkin Pie

Before whipping up a pie, consider some easy and local options. The Penn State Bakery is a new and fantastic destination for all your dessert needs. The Farmer’s Market also has an endless array of baked goods, including fresh pies. However, a pumpkin pie is extremely easy and quick to make, especially with a frozen crust. Feeling especially stingy? Get an underclassmen to smuggle some west halls cookies or desserts out of the dining hall for you all.

And of course, top the pie or dessert off with some Creamery ice cream of your choice.

The Drinks!

Of course we saved the best part for last. The friendsgiving cocktails! Here are some of our favorite festive options.

Our Favorite Gameday Spiked Cider:

Be sure to check out our festive and easy spiked cider cocktail, perfect for gamedays or cozy friendsgivings.

Bourbon Cider Punch

In a large punch bowl, combine 4 cups of apple cider, ginger beer, seltzer, bourbon, and lemon juice. Add apple slices and cinnamon sticks for garnish. Serve with ice.

Red Wine and Orange Soda Sangria: This sounds like a joke but it’s delightful and laughably easy. In a bowl mix 2/3 parts red boxed wine of your choice and 1/3 orange soda. Add a splash of your favorite fruit juice. Serve over ice. Instantly stupify your friends. (Spike the sangria with some brandy or orange liquor if you’re feeling extra festive.)

Best Boxed Wine Suggestions: If franzia is all you have, that’s fine. However, we’ve listed our favorite next level boxed options, ones that you can show up to more than a frat party with. With all the decadent food you’ll want to opt for a red, of course.

  • Vella Delicious Red and Chillable Red
  • Fish Eye Merlot or Cabernet
  • Carlo Rossi in Cabernet or Merlot


So there you have it! Just a handful of options for your super easy, hella fun friendsgiving. Don’t get too wrapped up in the food. If you burn something, oh well. At least you have your legitimate Thanksgiving around the corner.

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About the Author

Carolyn Popescu

Current senior studying Advertising and Visual Arts, Carolyn has a passion for entertainment and music. She also loves photography, film, graphic design, social media, and all things in between. She's the current Sony Music Marketing Representative for State College, so be sure to reach out to her with any local music scene questions, ideas, proposals, or if you just need someone to geek out about music with.

(Contact her through [email protected] or [email protected])

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