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Thanksgiving Dinner Do-Ahead List

November 25, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

thanksgiving dinnerThanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is just days away. A holiday about food and gratitude is oh so right. If you plan and prepare properly, you’ll be able to add “feeling relaxed” to your list of things for which to be thankful.

Since last year at this time, I have gotten many questions from readers about planning and timing for Thanksgiving dinner. There are many things you can do and make ahead of time that will give you time to actually enjoy the time with your guests. Thanksgiving day should be relaxing, even if you’re in the kitchen all day.

Before you play host, check out my tips on holiday entertaining. 

Not everything lends itself to making ahead of time, but here are some things that absolutely do:

  • Gravy – Some of you think making a gravy without pan drippings is sacrilege. But, standing at the stove, dealing with drippings, deglazing a pan and making gravy right before dinner while the rest of your food is getting cold is a pain. This year, make this one. It’s delicious, safe for your gluten-free guests, and can be frozen until the big day.
  • Stuffing – Most stuffing recipes require a lot of chopping, so this is one to do ahead of time. However, it’s best to just assemble the stuffing the day before, but wait to actually bake until the day you’re serving it. In addition, make sure you allow ample time for your torn or cut up bread to dry out, preferably overnight.
  • Salad dressing – Make your vinaigrette ahead of time. It will taste great after sitting overnight, and you can cross it off the list.
  • thanksgiving dinnerPie crust – The flakiest pie crusts start with a very chilled dough. You can make pie crust dough way ahead of time and freeze it, or make it the night before and chill it in the refrigerator. Let the dough sit at room temperature for a few minutes to make rolling it out much easier.
  • Desserts – Not only can pie crusts be made early, but many desserts like cakes, pies, galettes, cookies, bars, and ice cream can be made a day in advance.
  • Cranberry sauce – You can and dare I say, should make your own cranberry sauce or cranberry relish. It’s easy to make and chill ahead of time.
  • Turkey brine – Whether you’re making a wet brine or a dry brine, this needs to be planned in advance because you will need to brine your turkey at least overnight.
  • Centerpieces – Don’t overlook this! Even if your gathering is casual, you should have something pretty on the table. Start foraging your yard several days ahead of time for interesting branches, evergreen swags, leaves and more. You can also buy cut flowers and incorporate pretty fruits and vegetables into your centerpiece.
  • Music – It’s a party so put some thought into a great playlist – Mr. President can give you some tips!

It makes sense to mention here that mashed potatoes, most vegetable side dishes and homemade biscuits or dinner rolls should only be made on Thanksgiving day. But, all of these dishes can be made with a glass of wine in hand, great music playing and guests gathered in the kitchen until it’s time to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. You can even put your guests to work – a little!

With just a little planning, your Thanksgiving dinner will go off without a hitch. You can relax and focus on the true meaning of the day – pumpkin pie. Oh, I mean gratitude…for pumpkin pie!



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