It's heeeeere! Officially ready to start planning for Thanksgiving? YAY!
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so as you can imagine I am always heartbroken on Nov. 1st when I see everyone go straight from halloween to Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the whole holiday season! But I just think it's a little disrespectful, to the joy-filled, FOOD-filled day that is Thanksgiving.
Anyways. If you're here, that means you probably care. You're my people.
Unlike some of my other posts on this page, I'm not going to do an hour-by-hour breakdown on how to prepare your meal. Why? Because it totally changes depending on your menu! And I know most people have some set dishes (mom's mashed potatoes, traditional pumpkin pie, etc.) and I clearly don't expect you to make everything on this list. I mean, I don't even have a turkey here!! (I'm scared.)
What I am going to share are my tips and tricks to make your life just a little bit easier. They can be used no matter what you are cooking or however many you are cooking for.
So let's start with the food, shall we? (Yes.)
Like always, I try really heard to come up with side dishes you can make on the stove. I have one oven. My parents have one oven. Most kitchens I find myself in on Thanksgiving have one oven. Since the turkey generally takes up most of that space, I like to make as much as I can on the stove to avoid too much conflict.
This year, not only do I have a bunch of stove top side dishes for you, but a few you can and SHOULD make ahead of time!! Nothing is better than having a few dishes done before you even wake up on Thanksgiving, so I highly suggest finding a few things you can prep early.
SO. Here are some of my new recipes this year:
Brussels sprout salad with bacon and apple cider vinegar. A crunchy, salty, mostly raw (!) salad with everyone's favorite fall vegetable. Make this one a day (or two) ahead to let those flavors mingle perfectly. You can serve at room temperature or even warm it up a bit. Dealer's choice!
Creamy caesar braised greens. A mountain of spinach and kale, cooked in a creamy caesar-style mix. Such a good side dish to turkey!
Brown butter green beans. Literally the easiest green beans ever! Cooked in brown butter and topped with crunchy, garlicky bread crumbs. So good.
Roasted vegetable orzo. Serve as a side dish or a vegetarian/vegan main. Filled with super caramelized roasted vegetables and a roasted garlic dressing, everyone will obsess over this one. Make a day or two in advance and just let it sit in the fridge while you get everything else ready day-of. Serve warm or at room temp!
Maple cardamom apple galette. Because pies are hard! Can easily be made in advance and briefly warmed up before serving.
Chewy pumpkin blondies. The perfect little bite after a big meal! Make this one a day or two in advance too. Yes!
And now, a few of my favorite tips and tricks:
- Plan ahead. Okay, yes this is a given. But you'd be surprised how many people I know who start planning just a day or two before. Even if you make the same dishes every single year, I still suggest sitting down AT LEAST one week before and writing it all out. How many people are you feeding? How many side dishes do you need? Desserts? And (this is very important) think about your oven vs. foods that need the oven. If you need to think of some stovetop side dishes, now is the time.
- Practice new dishes. Don't make something for the first time on the big day. Even if it's a recipe from someone you completely trust, you never know how it will turn out in your kitchen. We all have different ovens, pans, even salt! Give the new dishes a try over the next few weeks to give you time to tweak if needed.
- Consider appetizers! I know this might seem blasphemous to some, but if you're like my family and don't eat Thanksgiving dinner at 2 p.m., I would definitely plan on having a few little snacks leading up to the big meal. I'm a big fan of a cheese board (shocking, I know) and maybe just some nuts or chips. But you can also make some small appetizers, or even grab a few of your favorite frozen snacks! Anything you have will be perfect, and will keep guests happy even if you've had a few too many drinks while cooking and are off schedule a bit. Not that I know anything about that, of course.
- Delegate. This is a hard one for me because I have a hard time asking for help. But recruit a couple of people to help you, even with the little things: cutting garnishes, peeling vegetables, DISHES. But when I say "a couple of people," I mean it. Too many cooks in the kitchen and it might just stress you out even more. Find your people and kick everyone else out of the kitchen if you have to. Not only will it make your life that much easier, it will be more fun to have a few people in the kitchen with you!
- Think about the little things. It's the tiny little details that will trip you up. A couple of things I like to do the night before:
- Set the table. This is an easy one, I know. This is a great time to choose your wines (if applicable) and set them out as well.
- Take out all the platters you're going to serve food on, along with serving utensils. Keep them on the counter so they are easy to reach. Bonus points if you label them!
- Make a batch drink like sangria, margaritas, etc. Keep it in the fridge and then take it out when your first guest comes (or whenever you're ready for a drink). Even if you have someone as a designated bartender for the evening, it's nice to start with something easy.
- Prep breakfast. EAT BREAKFAST, OKAY?!
- Don't be afraid to serve dishes at room temperature. A huge concern on Thanksgiving is always how to make sure everything is hot and ready at the same time, but I'm here to tell you that maybe everything doesn't need to be hot?? Certain things like mashed potatoes and stuffing should definitely be warm, but others like brussels sprouts and squash will be just fine even if they are not steaming hot.
- Don't spend the entire day cooking. Seriously, don't do that to yourself. Even if you know you'll spend most of the day in the kitchen, make sure to find some time to chill. Take 30 minutes in the morning to have coffee and read. Take a break and have a drink with family. Build in time to get ready! You'll be so glad you did when everybody sits down to eat and you DON'T feel like you want to take a nap in the mashed potatoes.
I know some of these seem like common sense, but I swear it's common sense that flies right out the window when you're making a big meal like this. As I always say when it comes to entertaining, trust yourself and have fun!
P.S. If you're looking for a few more recipe ideas, I've got you covered: