BY SAMANTHA SCHWALM
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it brings together family and friends. A lot of the other holidays tend to get very commercial, but Thanksgiving is about gathering around a table, breaking bread and giving thanks.
But what would Thanksgiving be without food! With our family I don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen and not able to enjoy some of the other holiday traditions. I am confident that with a little planning you can attend a Turkey Day football game or morning walk to work off a couple calories and still serve a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. Many people consistently ask me: “Are there Thanksgiving sides we can make a head of time?” and “How do you make Thanksgiving less hectic and be able to enjoy the day more?” The great news is there are many traditional dishes and side dishes that can be made a few days in advance. This will allow the chef(s) to get out of the kitchen and enjoy more time with family and friends.
Pre-Thanksgiving Game Plan
Just like the NFL teams playing in the afternoon, I believe the key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is laying out a plan for the week before Thursday (and maybe a couple glasses of wine the day of). I learned from my mother who always made her squash and apple sauce a week in advance, froze them, and would simply pull them out Wednesday evening to defrost, ready to put in oven an hour before meal. On Tuesday I prepare sides of roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and cranberry sauce. Wednesday I will bake my pumpkin and apple pies. I also believe that one should not reinvent the wheel. That said, I feel the best pumpkin pie recipe is on the back of a Libby pumpkin can. Keep it simple and do not mess with perfection. When making stuffing a good majority of the ingredients can be prepped the day before, making assembly of the final recipe a relatively simple exercise. The final thing I do before I go to bed Wednesday evening is brine the turkey. It may sound scary, but every grocery store sells a brining kit with step-by-step instructions. Brining your turkey will ensure it does not dry out while it bakes. When Thursday rolls around all you will have left to prepare are the mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and turkey. I find both the potatoes and gravy taste better if they made on Thanksgiving Day right before dinner is served.
My final recommendation for Thanksgiving is making sure to embrace new dishes for your holiday table. I have learned the traditional Thanksgiving dinner you grew up having may be different from the guests sharing your table. While often difficult to “break from tradition,” we have found the dishes prepared by guests or other family members bring new flavors and conversation to the table. Some of those dishes have now even become an annual addition to our Thanksgiving table.
1 Pound Brussels Sprouts
1 Bag Frozen Pearl Onions
Salt and Pepper
*Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
*Trim 1 pound brussels sprouts.
*Place brussels sprouts and frozen pearl onions in a bowl.
*Toss in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt & pepper.
*Place vegetables on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
Simple Stuffing Recipe:
2 Cups Carrots, Celery, and Onions
3 Tablespoons Poultry Seasoning
2 Tablespoons Thyme
2 Tablespoons Rosemary
6 Cups of Dried-Out Bread
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 1/2 Cups of Chicken or Turkey Stock
1/2 Teaspoons Salt and Pepper
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
*In a sauté pan, sauté carrots, celery, and onions in the unsalted butter.
*In a casserole dish combine the rest of the ingredients except for the stock.
*Mix everything, including the sautéed vegetables.
*Slowly pour the stock over the mixture until everything is moist.
*Place in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until stuffing is crunchy on top.