Here in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. As I write this our dinner is done, the pumpkin pie finished off, tummies are full, and it’s nearly time to go to bed with that after-dinner sweet sleep. Many women are nervous about making Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It seems like so much work. It feels like there’s so much to do at one time to get everything ready for the table at once!
But it doesn’t have to be so hard!
I’ve been cooking turkey dinner with all the fixin’s for 19 years, and for the first several I was so exhausted by the time it was meal time I couldn’t enjoy it. But it doesn’t have to be that way! If you do a little bit each day for the week before, you will have only about 1 hour of work on the day of the event… and it will all be easy, nothing-to-clean-up kind of work.
Here is how I do it.
Before the Event
- Thaw your turkey 7-10 days before the event. Once it’s thawed (about 4-5 days in the fridge), season it and roast it as you normally would. This can be done in an evening after work, or during your Sunday afternoon nap. When the turkey is done, slice it and put it into a foil pan or casserole dish. I like to put the dark meat on one side and the white on the other. I pour some of the drippings, not too much, over the white meat. Then, with the skin of the turkey removed, I cover the meat with the skin, tucking in the meat so that it is all covered with either skin or drippings or both. (This helps keep the meat moist and delicious!) I wrap it well and put it in the freezer.
- Use the drippings and make your gravy right away. Make as much as possible! Leftover gravy is always good for turkey sandwiches, leftovers, etc. When the gravy is finished cooking and thickening (make it just a little thicker than usual) pour it into a Ziploc bag (once cooled) or into your slow cooker. Put that in the freezer too!
- If you are making casseroles, like sweet potato casserole, or green bean casserole, assemble them in the casserole dishes about 4 days before. Then stick them in the freezer.
- Three days before the event, get your desserts baked and ready.
- About 1-2 days before the event peel the potatoes. Put them in a large container of salted water. Make sure the potatoes are completely covered with the water. Refrigerate. This will cut the cooking time down considerably.
- The day before the event prepare the vegetables. If they need to be cooked from fresh (like carrots or green beans or squash) do that today. If you are preparing frozen vegetables, thaw them in the pot you will cook them in. They will cook much faster and it will save you time.
- This is also the perfect day to mix your juice so it will be cold the next day.
- The day before set out the plates, silverware, napkins, glasses, hotpads, serving utensils, etc. in a box or on part of your counter. Then as soon as you can – even if it is the night before – set the table as close to finished as you can.
- Before you go to bed, take all your frozen foods out of the freezer and store them in your oven or in your sink if you have space.
The Day Of the Event
- About 1½ hours before the event, preheat your oven and turn on your slowcooker to high.
- About 1 hour before drain the potatoes and fill the pot with water. Bring to boil on the stove top.
- Add your meat, casseroles, etc to the oven. Usually 350° is plenty, provided everything is thawed.
- You have one hour now to toss your salad, have a quick snooze, read a book, or get all dressed up for dinner.
- Finish setting the table if necessary.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, mash them if that’s how you are serving them. If they are done early, cover the top of them with foil, and wrap the whole serving dish in a beach towel. It will stay hot for up to 2 hours.
- Once all your food is hot and ready to serve you are done!
Have you ever cooked a turkey dinner? What are some tricks you have learned?
Carla Anne Coroy