Sunday, November 24, 2013

help w/ organizing Thanksgiving shopping and cooking

A few have emailed me asking how to avoid Thanksgiving overwhelm. I always host, so here are a few of my tips so you truly get to enjoy the feast too.

Tip #1: Have a totally organized shopping list. By organized, I mean, list the items you'll need aisle by aisle. It sounds anal, but trust me. Many of you purchased my "Thanksgiving in a Snap" guide, which included my shopping list for the complete feast, but if you are working off your own recipes, organize your shopping list this way (produce, dairy, bakery, pantry items (by aisle/section), meat/poultry, frozen). You'll whiz past the frazzled shoppers and be home in no time.

Tip #2 - Make side dishes ahead.  Most parts of the feast can be prepared ahead of time, and only require a little cooking here and there!

Today (Sunday) I made our cranberry sauce, and tucked it in the fridge. This can be made several days ahead. In fact, it gets better each day.

Today (Sunday), I also made our stuffing (same recipe that's in the Thanksgiving in a Snap guide, only I went super easy on myself and had Trader Joe's chop my onions + I used their "Stuffing Starter" from the produce case too, instead of chopping celery and fresh herbs, so really it was just a matter of dumping everything into the pot, and giving it a quick stir!!). The stuffing I make is almost like a savory bread pudding, and it freezes beautifully. So, I put the stuffing in the freezer, and since it's in a baking dish I know will go right from freezer to oven, I'll pull it out on Thursday and plan to thaw/bake it about 1.5 hours, from frozen.

I also roasted and mashed the sweet potatoes today (Sunday). These could be refrigerated or frozen. I froze ours since fridge space is at a premium (that would be because my husband has enough beer stocked in there for us to throw an absolute bender between now-Thanksgiving... which, um, isn't going to happen?).

OK, so as of Sunday night:
  • I have done most of my grocery shopping (except the green veggies and turkey, which I will pick up on Wednesday)
  • the cranberry sauce is made (fridge)
  • the stuffing is made (freezer) 
  • and sweet potatoes are made (freezer)
Tomorrow (Monday), I plan to:
  • make either mashed potatoes or a root veggie gratin-- verdict is still out on which
  • make an extra side-- either spinach gratin or creamed onions and kale, since I have leftover cream sauce from the pumpkin cannelloni we made for the children's teachers
  • make sure I have apps on hand for friends coming over Wed evening and Thurs mid-day (if not, add to shopping list for Wednesday, when I go pick up the turkey)
  • meet one friend for coffee and another for lunch
Tuesday, I plan to:
  • make a caramel apple pie
  • make a pumpkin pie with gingersnap crust
  • go for a long walk
Tip#3 - It's OK to buy - if I don't feel like cooking, or I get to the pies on Tuesday, I'll pick some up at our local market when I'm there on Wednesday picking up the turkey and Brussels sprouts. In fact, you all should feel 100% ok picking up anything that you don't get around to cooking. No one wants a frazzled mom on Thanksgiving, or the week before.

OK, so back to Wednesday... I plan to:
  • pick up my turkey before 3pm
  • pick up any remaining appetizer ingredients I may need to entertain Wed/Thurs + the Brussels sprouts
  • saute the Brussels sprouts
  • make the brine and brine our turkey
  • go for a long walk 
  • have old friends over for cocktails and an early kiddo dinner
  • pull something out of our freezer for dinner... don't want any mess or effort! 
On Thursday, I plan to:
  • go for a late morning hike with my family
  • have friends over for Bloody Mary's early afternoon
  • roast our turkey
  • make gravy
  • reheat: the stuffing, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach gratin or creamed onions, mashed potatoes or root veggie gratin
  • have my mom bring green beans almandine
  • thoroughly enjoy the feast
Thanksgiving is totally doable as a make-ahead feast. It just takes a plan, some tried and true recipes, and a little cooking time here and there. If you have any questions about the make-ahead recipes in my Thanksgiving in a Snap guide, don't hesitate to ask them over on the Meals in a Snap Facebook page. I'll do my best to get back to you within a few hours. Cheers to a relaxing feast with your family!!

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