My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is less than two weeks away. Here are a few things that we can do ahead of time to make our Thanksgiving Day go smoothly. We want to focus on enjoying our time with our friends and family on Thanksgiving without being stressed out or exhausted all day.
I like to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of roasted Turkey with all of the fixings. I never really stray to far from my tried and true dishes. If you do want to try something brand new, I recommend trying out that recipe and experimenting before the big day.
The star of the show, the turkey, is something that you will always want to cook the day of but there are things that you can prepare ahead of time to save time the day of. If you are buying a frozen turkey, I recommend purchasing it a week in advance and keeping it in the refrigerator, giving it plenty of time to defrost. A few years ago, I started buying two smaller turkeys as opposed to one large bird. This cuts the cooking time in half and gives you four drumsticks instead of two. The drumsticks are popular around here! The turkey will take a day to defrost for every four pounds it weighs. It's okay for a fully defrosted turkey to sit in the fridge an extra day or two. If you are brining your turkey, you'll want to do it a couple of days in advance. I prefer a compound butter to brining. A compound butter is something that you can make now and freeze until the day before. The freezer is your best friend when it comes to making things ahead of time! I prep my turkey and make my stuffing the night before. Even though I no longer put my stuffing inside of my bird, I still call it stuffing. I just bake it in the oven after I take my turkey out of the oven to rest before carving.
Aside from a compound butter, there are a few other things that can be done now, two weeks before Thanksgiving, such as dessert. My family loves pie, especially apple. You can make your pie crust now and freeze it, you can make your unbaked pie and freeze it or you can go as far as baking your pie and freezing it.
Gravy is another thing that most people don't know you can make ahead of time. You can buy some turkey parts (breasts, legs, wings) and roast them. Collect the drippings and make your gravy now. It freezes wonderfully well, just defrost the day before and heat and whisk well the day of. The last thing you want to be doing is standing over the stove, worrying about lumps right before dinner is about to be served.
A dish that is actually better made in advance is cranberry sauce. It is so, so simple to make from scratch. Once you make homemade, you'll never want to serve it from a can again. It can be made now and frozen or up to a week before and refrigerated. It actually tastes even better after a few days in the fridge. Here is my super simple recipe:
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- 1 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
- 1 C granulated sugar
- 1 C water
- 2 tsp orange zest
- Mix all ingredients together in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until most of the cranberries have burst.
- Let cool and then refrigerate.
*substitute half of the water for orange juice, pomegranate juice or apple juice to change up the flavor.
*use an immersion blender if you like a smooth as opposed to a chunky texture.
I normally wait until the day before to make my mashed potatoes. I put them in the slow cooker a few hours before dinner will be served to get them heated up, stirring well. This also frees up space on the stove top and in the oven for the last minute things.
Two extra tips for a successful Thanksgiving meal:
- Always have a meat thermometer on hand. The temperature should read 165 degrees, measured in the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.
- Delegate! Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring a side dish. I usually request that my guest bring bread or rolls, ice cream for pie, or best of all, wine!
Try to relax, have fun and enjoy the holiday!