Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tips to Gobble Up: A Stress Free Thanksgiving


"Go to the grocery store - Publix. You have to come with me to find them. They have to keep them very cold so they stay dead. Look at the price and pick one that you have money for in your purse. Take it home. Cook it in the oven. Put on lemon - yum!! Sprinkle on a little salt - but only a little because salt has lots of fat in it. I don't even like turkey though. I like turkey fingers - you make them the same way to make chicken nuggets...
Cook it for 6 minutes and eat it!" -Selby Sniegocki
If only it were that easy, huh!  That was a quote from my little niece a couple of years ago when she was asked in school how to make a turkey for Thanksgiving.  Priceless! 

The best way to enjoy your thanksgiving is to save yourself a little work as possible on the day of the festivities.  Only having to worry about 3 things is key: timing, space and of course the bird.  Having friends and family help out with sides, drinks, setup and cleanup, etc. is a lifesaver.  I've been known to be hyper-detailed and over-organized and tried to relax a bit over the years when it comes to holiday preparation.  With a little more time on my hands I have found myself actually spending less time in the kitchen with even better results- all due to better planning.

Pre-set the table a couple days before- we have been hosting between 15-20 friends & family the last several years and I adore it.  Our long "Table" is comprised of three tables stretched across the dining room and family rooms.  We add the last table right before dining to ease up on space.  Utilizing the same table cloths with matching runners gives uniformity as well. We definitely include the kids at the main table- it adds to the warmth and gives all of us special memories to cherish and hopefully instills a sense of tradition in the young ones. 
Clean out your freezer now, make room for items you can make ahead (gravy, rolls, turkey broth, desserts, etc.) and for any leftovers not immediately consumed.
Start early. Beginning on the Sunday or Monday of Thanksgiving week, do a little prep work each day. Caramelize some onions while preparing for dinner one night, make bread crumbs while supper is in the oven, chop veggies while watching tv, you get the idea. Even getting tiny little steps, like chopping an onion, out of the way will make things run so much more smoothly on Turkey Day. 
BE CREATIVE .... got some great advice last year from the food network during their live Turkey show.... check out her response to me here with the "It Ain't Easy Being Green" Bean Casserole. 

Definitely figure out what you can make ahead of time... last year I bought a fresh pre-brined organic turkey instead of struggling with a fresh bird and a bucket of brine - well worth the extra dollars if you can swing it.  The only place I have been able to find these is at Whole Foods, a few dollars extra per pound but worth the saved aggravation. 

Slide fresh herbs, olive oil, butter. etc under the skin - not only does add amazing flavor throughout the dish but it looks beautiful if you lay those last couple of sage sprigs across the top.

 Create easy and unique place settings with an extra treat!

Ask your guests to bring sides, desserts and wines.... be sure to find out if anyone needs anything reheated so you can plan accordingly.

Add extra gravy bowls to several places on the table - makes it a lot easier for the thing people go for repetitiously.  A few weeks before the holiday buy some turkey legs and wings and make extra stock and gravy ahead of time and freeze it.  This is one sure-fire way to prevent any dropping or lumpy gravy the-day-of.   Plan ahead with lots of extra leftover rolls and sliced bread (and some extra cans of that jelled cranberry stuff that some people adore...)
Create a new tradition for giving thanks.... here is an example from one of my earlier blog posts about passing around a plate of bread each person giving some specific thanks to the person next to them based on an old Polish Christmas Wafer tradition.  Check out my earlier post here to learn a lot more about some of our most treasured family food traditions. 

Most of all...
 give thanks while you truly savor the people around you and the fortunate food before you.