Have family or friends or maybe yourself who are coming for Thanksgiving who are on a special diet or have health issues and concerns and you don’t know how to manage? Whether you just want to eat healthy and delicious food or have a food/health issue…you don’t have to spend the whole day cooking and cleaning in the kitchen this Thanksgiving! Everyone that has eaten my Thanksgiving recipes all said they are as good or better than what they have had, and they did not miss the wheat, dairy or refined sugar! Wow, this is so wonderful and many heartfelt thanks!
Here is an easy guide to help you prepare things ahead of time you so you can enjoy your holiday and guests. Trust me after 20 years of doing this…it is so much easier that trying to be the Superhero on Thanksgiving…especially if something goes wrong-very embarrassing. Don’t be afraid to send the recipe to one of your guests/relatives and ask them to make it and bring it-delegate and accept the help. I know it is not easy, especially for people who like to be in control/charge! Remember, we allow others to grow and feel needed and be blessed by their contribution/help too. This is what helped me to realize micro-managing was stunting the growth of my employees! Let go, ah, it feels so good! There is still plenty for you to do.
I am listing all the goodies you can prepare ahead of time by day from my cookbook, No Wheat No Dairy No Problem-order it now on this site!
Up to one week ahead: Pie Crust (see Recipe of the Week-15 minutes) Wheat, dairy and Gluten Free, Cranberry Sauce(sugar free and way better than anything that is store bought-15 minutes)
Up to three days ahead: Candied Yams( adapted from Paul Prudhomme)-40 minutes, Mashed Potatoes 30 minutes, Sweet Potatoe Pie Filling 10 minutes
Up to two days ahead: Brine 5 minutes and soak/refrigerate Turkey(fresh or frozen)-will be the juiciest ever!, clean your house or have it cleaned, do laundry etc..!;) See my directions for thawing turkey according to weight-must be done in the refrigerator.
The day before: make salad dressing/vinaigrette, chill wine, Pecan Pie Filling, Cornbread for stuffing, chop vegetables(onion, celery etc…), Assemble and bake pie-Sweet Potato Pecan, Pecan, Pumpkin. I highly recommend the Sweet Potato Pecan-it’s a sure winner! See my utube video for rolling pie crust and dicing an onion at http://www.utube.com search under LaurenHooverAuthor and laugh out loud!;) You try being videotaped and then laugh at yourself…I did! Take a hot bath and get a good night sleep, you’ll need it. Spend quality time with those you love, play a game together, go for a walk etc… because Thanksgiving is so busy that you may not get a quality conversation in that day. It so important to remember to be thankful and tell our loved one’s how grateful we are for them-especially children…they really are not mind readers!;)
Go to the grocery store for anything you forgot and pack your patience-it will be crowded and filled with crying children and you(or your spouse) will circle several times to find a parking place-don’t give the teenagers the car today!
Thanksgiving day: Eat Breakfast so you are not ravenous all day and then get a stomach ache from not eating for hours-you will be so much happier and your family will be very thankful.This is a lovely time to have quality time with whomever is in your home before all the rest of the guests arrive and it is crazy.
Begin with a Clean Kitchen-which will keep you organized and calm. Set out ingredients, measure them out and follow the recipes. Have fun! I like relaxing or upbeat music playing while I cook.
Get the kids/husband/family/friends to set the table, build a fire, decorate-it will keep them busy and out of your kitchen-unless they like to cook! Kids love to make the name tags for the place settings-great project to keep them entertained.
Prepare stuffing(cornbread or regular or Gluten Free) and chop herbs, Stuff Turkey and bake (see my recipe that was even good enough for a US Senator)! The secret…cooking it at a very high temperature will create crispy skin and juicy meat- not to mention-save time and energy! Yum! Reheat Mashed Potatoes, Candied Yams in the oven or microwave if absolutely necessary, cook and chop vegetables and wash/spin salad greens-toss at the table. Teenagers who like to cook will love to make salad or this is a good item to ask some else to bring. Pour wine and enjoy!
I do not put out a lot of snacks…just a few to tide people’s appetite, but not spoil it for a huge dinner. Perhaps a bowl of nuts and some raw vegetables and hummus or dip and deviled eggs all of which can be made the day ahead or store bought(of course I make them myself)!
Important tips: See Professional Secrets and Tips section of my cookbook-it will help to ensure YOUR success.
Use oven and digital read thermometers-temperature is key. Enlist help, people love to help. See my guide for cooking times according to the weight of the Turkey.
Clean(with hot water and soap) all surfaces, sinks, counters, cutting boards, utensils and hands that touch raw Turkey to prevent spreading salmonella-food poisioning.
Keep Turkey refrigerated at 38 degrees until ready to stuff and bake.
Stuff the Turkey just before baking so bacteria will not grow.
Do NOT and I repeat, DO NOT leave food out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. It is best to put out smaller batches. Optimal Bacteria growth temperatures are between 40-140 degrees…yep, room temperature! It grows extremely rapidly by the hour after four hours throw it out. I hate waste…so I put out smaller portions or serve everything at once and put it away or send it home with guests just after eating. Only follow this advice if you want to avoid food poisoning or a big tummy ache-really you will be so much happier and healthier.
Final Tip/Preference: To baste or not to baste? I like to soak a large piece of cheesecloth in grapeseed oil, fold it in half and in half again to fit over the Turkey. Cover the Turkey with it and I do not baste if you like a crispy skin. The high temperature will crisp the skin and seal in the juices. Resting the Turkey for 20-30 minutes is the ONLY way to have the juice stay in the meat. If you cut into the Turkey right away or before 20 minutes, watch all the juice run away and there is nothing to get it back into the meat…it will be dry, I promise.
Let someone else, especially the teenagers, do the dishes!
BTW, I did all of this in a cooking class last week in 3 1/2 hours with no help- I slept very well that night! So, You can do it too. Just follow my recipes carefully-read them first. I like to read them the night before I cook/prepare them. and again just before making them. Buy my cookbook even if you only use the Thanksgiving recipes!
Take a deep breath, have a glass of wine, relax and have a very Happy Thanksgiving. From my heart to yours…may you have much to be grateful for this year. I am so grateful for many things/people including everyone who has been so supportive of the launch of my cookbook. Thank you for all your continued support and passing the word about my blog and cookbook.
Many Blessings, Be Well and Happy Thanksgiving, Chef Lauren Hoover