For most of us, the thought of cooking a huge meal like Thanksgiving dinner is scary and overwhelming. How do you even thaw a big turkey, let alone cook it? Will all the food be done at the same time? Will there be enough for everyone, even if Uncle George comes?
Here are a few steps you can take to make the cooking simpler, but the biggest thing to remember is that Thanksgiving is about relationships and family. The food doesn’t have to be perfect; everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch in order to have a wonderful time with family and friends. Sweet memories can be made over a dinner that is prepared with love, even if it isn’t magazine beautiful.
1. Make a list. Don’t rely on your memory for all the recipes you’re making. Make a detailed list, including beverages, appetizers, sides and the main dish. Include the location of the recipe or print and clip the recipes to your list.
2. Bake a whole chicken or turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. Yes, you can get a great deal on whole turkeys right now. It’s the most frugal way to feed a crowd or stock your freezer with leftovers, but if the thought of dealing with a whole bird strikes fear in your heart, skip it. Opt for a more manageable chicken or turkey breast instead.
3. Make use of the slow cooker. Doing so frees up oven space and allows you to get things cooking earlier than you can if you bake in the oven. You can fill you slow cooker with mashed potatoes, hashbrown casserole, sweet potatoes and apples, or green bean casserole. If you opt for a chicken or turkey breast, you can cook the meat in a slow cooker. Or fill the crock with hot spiced cider. You may want to borrow a slow cooker or two for the day!
4. Prep foods ahead of the big day. Breads, rolls, cookies and some casseroles will wait in your freezer until needed, so fix those several weeks early. Chop veggies and bake pies the day before.
5. Plan the times for cooking/baking recipes. Schedule when each dish needs to be in and out of the oven and write the schedule down. This reduces the amount of thinking you have to do on Thanksgiving day and frees your mind to enjoy being with guests.
6. Use pre-made or convenience items. Not everything has to be homemade. Focus on making family recipes and a special dish or two from scratch, but fill the rest in with store bought items.
7. Ask your guests to bring a dish to share. A time-honored tradition in many families.
How do you simplify cooking Thanksgiving Dinner?
Tiffany King keeps all the cooking simple for holidays and everyday. She shares easy, quick recipes on her blog Eat at Home. You can also find over a year’s worth of free menus with complete grocery lists and printable recipes.