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Holiday Food Make-Aheads

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'Tis the season to be cooking furiously in the kitchen, right?  I know the feeling!  I am preparing to host Thanksgiving at our house this year.  In our 15 years of marriage, I have hosted Thanksgiving only once--for my husband's family.  We have almost always eaten dinner at my parents' house on Thanksgiving Day and then usually at one of Vince's family's homes the day after.

However, this year my parents are in the process of moving near us--they move here next week!  I am SO excited!  My sister moved here in September and now my parents are coming~it's a good thing:)  So while everyone else will be unloading the moving truck at my parents' new home just down the road from us, I will be busy in the kitchen roasting a turkey and making all the sides.

Since I don't want to be completely overwhelmed and stressed out I have been doing as much as possible ahead of time.  Believe it or not, there is A LOT you can do ahead to make Thanksgiving Day much easier on yourself.

Here is our Thanksgiving Menu and what I am doing ahead of time:

  • Relish Tray: pickles, stuffed peppers, pickled peppers (no prep)
  •  Butternut Squash Soup: (made ahead and frozen--this soup's flavor actually improves by making it a few days ahead anyway)
  • Fruit Salad with Special Dressing (salad made the day of, but all but the final ingredient in the dressing can be made a day or so ahead)
  • Green Salad with homemade Sweet Onion Dressing (dressing made ahead)
  • Roasted Turkey (roasted the day of)
  • Cornbread Dressing in the crockpot (cornbread baked ahead and frozen)
  • Homemade Cranberry Sauce (made ahead and frozen)
  • Mashed Potatoes (made a few days ahead and frozen--reheated in the oven the day of)
  • Giblet Gravy (my mom is teaching me how to make this--made the day of)
  • Green Bean Casserole (the roux for this is made ahead then casserole assembled the day of)
  • Corn Casserole (made a day ahead and refrigerated)
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts (made the day of)
  • Fresh Bread (made ahead in the bread machine and frozen)
  • Pumpkin Bread Pudding (pumpkin bread baked ahead and frozen, sauce for pudding made a day ahead, assembled the day of)
  • Pumpkin Pie (pie crusts made ahead and frozen)
When you actually look at your recipes it's quite amazing just how much can be done ahead of time--if not a week or so ahead, then definitely a day or so ahead.  And anything made ahead really reduces the stress and pressures of all of that cooking on the actual day, which leaves you to actually enjoy the day more!  Now I like that!

I leave you with my awesome make-ahead mashed potatoes recipe that was shared with me years ago by a precious lady where I once worked (I've made just a couple of adjustments over the years).

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs. potatoes
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper
Boil potatoes until they're ready to mash.  Add cream cheese, butter, and sour cream; mash until well mixed (can use an electric mixer if you like it extra smooth and no lumps).  Add a dash of onion powder and garlic powder, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Put potatoes in a 9x13 baking dish.  May be frozen for about a week or refrigerated for up to 3 days.  When ready to reheat frozen mashed potatoes, let dish sit in refrigerator overnight or on the counter for a few hours.  Cover the top of potatoes with a few butter pats, cover with foil and place in an un-preheated oven at 350F for about 45 min-1 hr. or until heated through.    When reheating refrigerated potatoes, simply let the dish rest on the counter for a little bit, dot the top with butter pats, cover with foil and place in an un-preheated oven at 350F for 30-45 min or until heated through.  Stir and serve!

I would love to hear about how you make your holiday dinners less stressful--and any make ahead tips you may have!  Leave a comment below!


Nicole said…
Thank you for the crockpot dressing recipe. I am going to use this! Also, those mashed potatoes are called "party potatoes" at our house. They are our FAVORITE! In fact, my daughter's 18th birthday is Sunday and I asked her what she wanted for dinner. She said, "Anything that goes with party potatoes!"

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! How special that your parents are moving close to you! We moved 4 block from my parents in August (after living 4 hours away for the past 12 years and then 2 hours away for the many years before that). Holidays are SO MUCH MORE SPECIAL now!!
Langworthy said…
Thanks for all the yummy recipes! It is always interesting to see what everyone enjoys on holidays! I may try the dressing recipe as well. We love the potato recipe, have made it for years. I usually put them in the crock pot before serving to warm them up and keep them warm. Happy Thanksgiving!

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