Thanksgiving can be a time to gather with family and friends, enjoy good food and celebrate together. But it can also be stressful and difficult for hosts, especially those trying to cook everything the day of the holiday.
There are always too many dishes that need to go in the oven, and they’re inevitably all supposed to be cooked at different temperatures. Counter space is short. Something doesn’t cook right and is taking more time and attention than planned.
There are some steps hosts can take to ease the stress and help themselves enjoy the actual Thanksgiving celebration rather than being stuck in the kitchen.
Preparing some foods ahead of time can help with timing as well as cramped kitchens and counters. Most dishes, or at least ingredients, can be prepared a day or two before the celebration.
It also can be helpful to figure out how much time everything will take and what space it needs — oven, stovetop, refrigerator — so you can prepare the foods in order, easily and on time.
Here are a few suggestions for early preparations on some Thanksgiving favorites.
A classic Thanksgiving side dish, stuffing is one food that can be helpful to prepare ahead of time.
The bread can be dried and cut ahead of the meal. The onions and celery can be chopped and prepared as well, and other ingredients can be measured and ready in a pan. The dish can be all prepared, just bake the day of the meal.
Bread and celery stuffing
-- 1 one-pound loaf of sliced white bread
-- 3/4 cup butter or margarine
-- 1 onion, chopped
-- 4 stalks celery, chopped
-- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
-- Salt and pepper, to taste
-- 1 cup chicken broth
Let bread slices air dry for one to two hours, then cut into cubes.
Melt butter over medium heat, Cook onion and celery until soft. Season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir in bread cubes until evenly coated. Add chicken broth and mix well.
Chill and use as stuffing for turkey, or bake in a buttered casserole dish at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.
Another favorite that can be pre-made is mashed potatoes.
On the day of Thanksgiving, they can be made and left at room temperature up to two hours in advance. Otherwise, they can be prepared the day before, refrigerated and reheated.
Reheat in a large saucepan on the stove, covered. Add milk as necessary to adjust the consistency.
Perfect mashed potatoes
-- 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
-- 1 teaspoon salt
-- 1/2 cup heavy cream
-- 1/4 cup butter
-- 2 tablespoons milk
-- Salt and pepper, to taste
Put potatoes in saucepan. Add water until potatoes are covered and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until done (when a fork can easily be poked through the potatoes).
Warm cream and melt butter together.
Drain water from potatoes. Put hot potatoes into a bowl and add the cream and melted butter. Mash together until smooth. Add milk to achieve desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Many people have favorite bread or roll recipes they pull out during the holidays.
For a make-ahead Thanksgiving, prepare the dough the day before and let it rise in the refrigerator. Bake as normal the day of the meal.
Rolls also could be fully prepared any time and frozen. Reheat lightly wrapped in aluminum foil just before eating.
When making this classic side from scratch, cranberry sauce can be prepared up to a week ahead of time and refrigerated, or longer and frozen, thawed overnight in the refrigerator.
Homemade cranberry sauce
-- 2/3 cup sugar
-- 1/2 cup orange juice (no sugar added or freshly squeezed)
-- 1/2 cup water
-- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
-- 1 12-ounce bag of cranberries
Combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.
Pumpkin or apple pies are traditional Thanksgiving fare that also can be made ahead of time. Store at room temperature or refrigerate, loosely covered with foil, up to a day in advance.
Impossibly Easy Pumpkin Pie
-- 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
-- 1/2 cup Bisquick
-- 1/2 cup sugar
-- 1 cup evaporated milk
-- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
-- 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground ginger can be used instead)
-- 1 teaspoon vanilla
-- 2 eggs
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Crease 9-inch pie plate.
Stir all ingredients until blended. Pour into pie plate.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes, then refrigerated until chilled. Serve with whipped cream or topping, if desired.
Store covered in refrigerator.
As the center of most Thanksgiving meals, the turkey is usually a specialty. Most people have a special way they prepare and cook their turkey. It’s best cooked the day of the meal, but there are things that can be done ahead of time to prepare.
Put the turkey in a pan with all its seasonings, or measure them out on the side, and have it all ready to bake the day of the meal.
Don’t pre-stuff, however.
On top of the foods, there are other ways to prepare early for a Thanksgiving meal that can prevent headaches the day of the celebration.
Pull out the dishes, silverware and glasses — along with linens and decorations — you want to use a day or two before, so anything that needs to be cleaned can be ready. Don’t forget plates for dessert or salad, glasses for water, wine or other beverages and serving dishes and utensils.
You can set the table the day before, complete with serving dishes so you know they fit, and be ready when guests arrive.