If you want to enjoy Thanksgiving as much as everyone you have invited to dinner, a little advance planning is the key.
Let’s take the stress out of the meal.
Here’s my sure fire guide to making sure that this year’s Thanksgiving is sooooo much FUN for everyone…especially you! Start early.
If you breakdown a complicated meal into smaller parts, you’ll finish your tasks ahead of time.
Two Weeks Ahead
Make your meal plan.
Make a list of the dishes you plan to cook, those you’re going to pick up, and those that others are bringing to the party.
Make a grocery list of the ingredients you need. Sort your list by departments: dairy, produce, pantry staples, meats, and poultry.
|This makes your trip to the grocery store a lot easier to maneuver.
Take stock of your bar and include wine, mixers, and garnishes on your list.
After your grocery list is prepared, check your pantry to see which items you’ve already stocked and cross them off your list. (You’re already making progress!)
Now, place any orders you need to make. The turkey, of course (I like to order a fresh turkey), bakery goods and specialty items.
Hey! If you are thinking about some Brussels Sprouts in your turkey day meal plan… watch out for next week’s video!
One Week Ahead
Plan your tablescape.
Take stock of your china and flatware to make sure you have enough. Same goes for glassware and crystal. Don’t be afraid to mix and match china patterns. There’s creativity in designing a pretty table.
Look for festive placemats, table runner or tablecloth cloth. A simple throw blanket can double as a cloth on your table. Locate candlesticks and votive candles. Don’t be afraid to experiment with those cute twinkle lights wrapped around pillar candles for some real tablescape sparkle!
Create place cards (a great craft to do with kiddos) assemble your centerpiece and collect décor for platters. Pretty twigs and stems and whole fruit are good for decorating. I love to include food as part of my tablescape centerpiece. I place artichokes alongside pears and limes for a green experience.
Add a few branches, pinecones, and a gourd or two and you have an organic look that is perfect for the occasion.
Saturday Before Thanksgiving
If you are farmer’s market shopper, get up early and visit the market you love. Purchase all the fresh produce items that you need.
Stop and smell the coffee beans. Remember this is not a race. Take time to enjoy your stroll through the market. Smile at the people you pass and greet your favorite farmers.
This is the season to be thankful for the growers! Slow down long enough to enjoy a festive cup ‘o Joe while you double check your list.
Finish up at the grocers to purchase anything you were not able to find at the market.
Sunday Before Thanksgiving
Get Your Apron Out!
Make the dishes on your meal plan that are easily made in advance, like chutneys and relishes.
Really, you can make almost everything in advance, freeze and thaw!
Lay out serving dishes and utensils.
Tuesday Before Thanksgiving
It’s Prep Day!
Chop and prep all the ingredients you will need. If you need onions for three dishes, chop a bunch. Same goes for apples for pie and potatoes for mashed potatoes. Here’s a trick. Submerge potatoes in cold water ian the pot you will use to cook them in and place them in your fridge. They will be fine until you’re ready to boil.
Set your table! Prepare your centerpiece. Get those place cards placed! If you are hosting a crowd, a buffet table is the way to go.
Set up your bar. Did you remember to make extra ice?
If you have a frozen turkey, let’s get it on its way to thawing.
Wednesday Before Thanksgiving
Prepare your desserts. Bake your pies.
Prepare your casseroles and sides. You can bake most of these todays and simply warm them up tomorrow.
Make your gravy. It will be even better if you chill it over night and then warm it up tomorrow.
Prepare dough for breads or rolls. Letting dough rise in the fridge overnight is a good thing.
Cover everything with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until tomorrow. You can place the baking dishes on top of each other to save space. Use a heavy piece of cardboard or a thin baking sheet to separate the dishes.
It’s Show Time!
Get that bird ready to roast. Organize your oven racks and preheat so that you’re ready to bake and warm.
Before Your Guests Arrive
Just a Few Last-Minute Details!
Prepare mashed potatoes. Save the potato water to help thicken your gravy.
Set out appys.
Get the ice in the bucket.
Pour yourself a glass of wine…. you’re doing great!
The Big Ta Dah!
Pull the turkey from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. While he rests, encourage friends and family to help you get the casseroles and side dishes to the table.
Pour gravy into boats, carve the bird, say a prayer of thanks…. And enjoy your family and friends!
Here’s a recipe to help you jump start your turkey day prep!
30-minute prep cuisine with roasting, simmering
Holiday Entertaining Fall/Winter
2 tablespoons olive oil 2 heads garlic, halved 2 medium onions peeled and cut into chunks 4 large carrots, trimmed and cut into chunks 6 celery stalks, cut into pieces 4 large turkey wings, about 3 pounds 2 (or more) tablespoons cornstarch 1 tablespoon kosher salt 2 teaspoons course black pepper 1 teaspoon ground sage
Tried it? Tag it!
I would love to see what you did with this recipe. Share your creation by tagging #inthekitchenwithjorj and with Scrumptious Possibilities With Jorj, my free private home cooking group.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Drizzle the olive oil onto a baking sheet with lip. Place the vegetables and turkey wings into the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and roast until the turkey wings are golden brown, about another hour. During that time, check to make sure that the veggies are not sticking to the baking sheet. Use a spatula to scrape the bottom and add a little water to loosen everything. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool slightly. Pour everything into a large pot or Dutch oven. Place the pot on the stove. Add 1 cup dry white wine and simmer over medium heat until most of the liquid disappears, about 5 minutes. Cover the vegetables and turkey wings with water, about 1 quart. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the stock until it is reduced by half, about 1 hour.
Pour the stock through a wire mesh colander and into a medium size bowl. Use the back of a spoon to push the veggie and turkey pieces into the bottom of the colander to push through all the juices. Place the bowl with the stock into the fridge to chill for up to one hour or for several days. (You can sift through the colander and gather enough turkey meat for a couple of yummy hot turkey sandwiches!)
To make gravy from stock, remove the bowl from the fridge. Use a large spoon to skim off and discard the thin layer of fat from the top. Transfer the stock into a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk together 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water. As the stock slowly boils, stir in the cornstarch slurry. The gravy will begin to thicken. You can add as much thickener as you like to get your desired gravy consistency.
Reduce the heat to low and let the gravy simmer slowly. Season the gravy with sage, salt, and pepper, stirring in just a bit at a time and tasting while you stir.
Holiday Gift Idea!
Need a little holiday gift to bring the grandkids, or a thoughtful way to entertain your guests’ children at your upcoming feast?
Purchase “Embarassing George” by Kimber Fox Morgan with cute illustration artwork by Jessica Kwan, available direct from the author herself or through my Amazon link!
My stuffed squash comes with quite the story, as so many of my recipes do! The flavors for this dish are sweet, tart, rich, and perfect to prepare for a brunch gathering with your best group of storytellers.
The story behind this recipe is a long one, but considering I survived, I am compelled to tell it!
On a trip that started in Russia, continued through Denmark, and ended in the UK, Sue and I found ourselves on a day trip to visit the city of Cork in Ireland.
The main attraction in Cork is the Blarney Stone, which we set of to see amid a swarm of fellow tourists. We arrived at the Blarney Castle, which is a tower that some describe as majestic or looming, depending on your mood. After traveling up the very narrow (I mean EXTREMELY narrow), four-story, windowless, and very claustrophobic staircase, Sue coaxed me through my one and only panic attack. I hadn’t even known I was claustrophobic until I met Blarney Castle.
When we finally burst out of the tower and onto the top of the castle, we found ourselves still in the queue to finally kiss the stone. Tradition has it that in order to receive the gift of eloquence, one has to bend over backwards to kiss the stone.
This means lowering your head (backwards!) from the parapet walk over an opening in the tower that leads all the way down to the ground below. There were two very, very young and scrawny teens that were on either side of the hole in the floor – to make sure you don’t fall through, but they were not enough to persuade me.
Needless to say, after narrowly escaping death in the tower (a bit of an exaggeration), I sprinted past Sue and that stone, down the castle’s back stairs, and found my way to the closest pub. I took refuge in a pint and comfort in a dish called Cheshire Pie, which combines chunky pork and sautéed apples in a flaky crust.
My recipe for stuffed acorn squash is a twist on that pie (minus the flaky crust). The flavors are sweet, tart, and rich. It’s super for a mid-week meal and awesome for a brunch gathering.
Actually, it’s a pretty perfect dish if you are just in need of a bit of calm after the storm!!
Apple, Sausage and Cheddar Stuffed Acorn Squash
30 – 40 minutes
For Squash: 2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
For Stuffing: 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 small onion, peeled and diced 1 small poblano pepper, seeded and diced 1 pound mild Italian sausage 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced 1 teaspoon apple pie spice ½ teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated, about 1 cup Sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400°. Drizzle the cut side of the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with apple pie spice. Place the squash, cut-side-down into a baking pan. Bake until the squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion and pepper and cook until the veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until brown and crumbly, about 5 minutes more.
Add the apples to the pan. Season with 1 more teaspoon apple pie spice and some of the salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese. Pull the baking dish from the oven. Turn the squash so they are cut side up. Stuff the squash with the apple-sausage filling.
Place the dish back into the oven and cook until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes more. Garnish the stuffed squash with a dollop of sour cream.
Don’t mean to hassle you…I’ve got your hasselback – so many puns, so little time as we run out the clock on fall and celebrate Thanksgiving THIS THURSDAY! Having considered all the sides that might possibly grace the turkey, here’s what I want to share with you this week: the art of hasslebacking!
Some may ask, what the heck is a hassleback potato? I thought hassleback was that woman who left The View a few years back.
Nope, it’s a legitimate cooking technique and sooooo tasty!
The method of thinly slicing – but not all the way through – and marinating the nooks and crannies in between, with all kinds of luscious and savory flavors was invented the same year I was born.
Hasselback potatoes or Potato à la Hasselbacken was Leif Ellison’s creation. It was 1953 in Sweden, and he was a trainee chef at restaurant Hasselbacken in Stockholm. You can actually buy a hasslebacking kitchen gadget, but carefully making slices with a large knife is just as effective.
More than just potatoes, the hassleback method works with butternut squash, apples, pears and carrots.
Go online, and you can make Bon Appetite’s AWESOME butternut squash recipe, which is an incredibly good side for the Thanksgiving table. I also find when hasslebacking carrots, that sriracha and cinnamon work well in the cracks.
I’m sure your Thanksgiving will be an utter delight, no matter what. Wishing you a happy gobble gobble day, and sharing this book signing event with my Charlotte friends before signing off. I will be at Park Road Books on Black Friday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on November 29th. Come by and see me when you’re done shopping 🙂
Hassleback Sweet Potatoes
with Honey, Pecans & Goat Cheese
10 minutes to prep and up to 1 hour to bake
4 sweet potatoes, skins peeled
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup Orange Blossom honey
4 to 6 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Juice of a naval orange
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel 4 sweet potatoes, cutting off the rough ends.
Make slices all along the sweet potato as shown in the photo.
In a separate bowl, whisk together cinnamon, honey, butter, orange juice and salt. Drizzle the mixture into the slices of each sweet potato.
Using a cheese spreader or small spoon put a dollop (or two!) of goat cheese into each incision on the sweet potato. Garnish the insides of the sweet potatoes with chopped pecans.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the sweet potatoes can be easily poked with a fork.
Optional: add whip cream to each potato before serving.
This was so going to be a post about Thanksgiving side dishes…. And then… I had the blessing of having both granddaughters join me on what happened to be National Bread Day this Sunday.
Mallory, 13 and Bookie, 2 have a huge age difference between them, but share a common love for me – reminds me of Sally Field in Soapdish and that line, “they really, really love me!…”
Here’s how making our precious memories together went down. I was looking for something to write about for Monday’s blog, and Mallory inspired me by her quest to bake something. She was looking for edible cookie dough or at the very least, a chocolate cookie skillet.
But Jorj.com just posted a bunch of cookie stuff….soooo, we decided on baking bread instead. Thanks to just placing an order with Carolina Ground, and having a lot of flour on hand, we had an absolute blast.
We baked my recipe, A Tale of Two Loves from Canvas and Cuisine and swirled the bread with a layer of my last jar of highly coveted apple butter.
Totally worth it!
Sweet Mallory spent hours with Brooke in between dough rises, and sweet Brooke abandoned her nap to rise to the grown-girl challenge. Does it get any better than this? I’m not sure. Coming into Thanksgiving, this is what I give thanks for. And I hope you cherish your family moments too.
Oh, and P.S. When you bake this bread, feel free to add a tablespoon of your favorite spice mix to the flour, like apple pie spice, gingerbread spice, or pumpkin pie spice!
A Tale of Two Loaves
makes 2 yummy loaves
20 minute cuisine, plus 2 hours to rise and 30 minutes to bake
2 cups milk, warmed on the stove top
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 package
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 ½ cups white or whole-wheat bread flour
2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Stir the beaten egg into the warm milk. Stir in the sugars. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Place the melted butter, salt and whole-wheat flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the wet ingredients. Stir, on slow to medium speed, until the flour and milk are combined. Add the all-purpose flour, about ½ cup at a time gradually increasing the speed of the mixer to form a soft, wet dough. This process will take you about 5 minutes. Once the dough wraps around the hook, continue mixing until you have a smooth, shiny ball of dough wrapped around the dough hook, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1 ½ hours to rise. I use my warming drawer set on the proof setting for this.
Coat 2 (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch) loaf pans with vegetable oil. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If the pans are larger, your dough may not rise. If your pans are smaller, the dough may not cook properly.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Punch the dough down and shape into two round loaves. Place each loaf into a pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 to 45 minutes. If you are adding mix-ins into your loaf, now is the time. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board. Fold in your favorite items. (Mine is a brushing of melted butter with cinnamon and brown sugar.) Shape the dough into a loaf and continue with the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the bread until the tops are golden and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
This is breaking news! Did you know the pumpkin puree you got at the grocery store is NOT pumpkin? Apparently, it is a combination of all types of squash. WHO KNEW? I feel betrayed, lied-to, conspired against! Well, not really. The canned stuff is still pretty good, and has been a staple for all my pumpkin treats for as long as I can remember.
Now, you can make your own puree, from your very own pumpkins, but this seems just a little bit too over-the top for me.
So…. BRING IT ON, SQUASH… I can take it! Let’s open a can of puree and dive right in, shall we? I CANNOT WAIT, as home baked bread is a real holiday treat for me! I remember my early days in the catering business. Our signature corporate holiday baskets included at least one mini-loaf of pumpkin quick bread.
We baked hundreds of these each season. But I also love yeast bread, especially when it is laced with a bit of sweetness. I’ve told you the story of Sammy’s favorite “Sammy Bread”, a loaf of sour dough bread, sweetened with cinnamon-sugar and frosted with a sugary glaze. We look forward to placing a loaf in our basket every week from the Farmer’s Market.
I recreated it at home, with a can of fake pumpkin puree, wink wink. It’s SO YUMMY, toasted and slathered with butter, or battered and fried ala French toast. Use leftovers to create a toasted crouton for your bowl of ice cream, or as the lead ingredient in custardy pumpkin bread pudding.
But first, make this bread – it’s a recipe born of two cravings: pumpkin bread and cinnamon bread, married together in the sweetest fall recipe you could possibly imagine.
With Hazelnuts and Chocolate
Yield 1 loaf, about 12 slices
2 ½ hours before you can eat the bread!
¼ cup maple syrup, room temperature
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 ¼ cups bread flour
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
Pour the maple syrup into a measuring cup. Sprinkle with yeast. Add I cup warm water. Allow the yeast to bloom (foam) about 10 to 15 minutes.
Whisk together the flours, nuts, chocolate, spices and salt in a large bowl.
Place the pumpkin into a bowl. Whisk in the bloomed yeast. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to bring the dough together. Sprinkle your work surface with a generous amount of flour. Pour (the sticky) dough onto the flour and knead the dough until it comes together, and no flour shows through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Place the dough into a bowl coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover with plastic wrap and move to a warm place to rise for 1 hour. I use the warming drawer on the proof setting for this.
After an hour, remove the dough from its cozy hide-out and use a spatula to fold the dough onto itself while your turn the bowl, about 8 to 10 turns. Cover again with plastic and move the bowl back to the warm place to rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Coat an 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch with vegetable oil spray. Use a spatula to transfer the (still pretty sticky) dough to the loaf pan. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 31 to 40 minutes.