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Holiday Helper: What Thanksgiving Dishes Can Be Made Ahead? And What Should Be Cooked Thanksgiving Day?

Holiday Helper: What Thanksgiving Dishes Can Be Made Ahead? And What Should Be Cooked Thanksgiving Day?

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Q: What can be made ahead? And what should be cooked Thanksgiving day?

A: The smartest approach to preparing for the big day is to think through your menu in terms of tasks: Some dishes can be entirely prepared ahead and simply reheated on Turkey Day; others can be broken into components and finished just before serving.

For instance, sweet potato and most casseroles, stuffing, and mac and cheese can all be fully cooked ahead, chilled, and reheated before serving. With sides like salads, you can prepare many components (wash and chop lettuce and veggies, toast nuts, make vinaigrette), but store them separately and toss together just before serving. There are others still, like mashed potatoes and the bird, that need to be done from start to finish just before you plan to serve them.

More Holiday Help:


Thanksgiving Preparation Timeline and Tips: Guide to Thanksgiving Planning

This is the ultimate guide to planning a healthy, happy Thanksgiving. From turkey selection and meal planning, to prep work and tips to make life easier on Thanksgiving day. This year may just be the year to hone your holiday cooking and party planning skills!

Instead of relying on grocery store prepared foods or catering companies to supplement your holiday meal, consider the money that can be saved by selecting some great diabetic Thanksgiving recipes with a well defined timetable of tasks.


This planning guide starts a few weeks before the holiday feast. Your food budget will be rewarded and your guests will truly savor a traditional Thanksgiving meal (or you can try some more unique Thanksgiving recipes.

Four to three weeks ahead:

  • Prepare the guest list and ask everyone to RSVP at least two weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • Find out if your guests have special dietary requirements.
  • If extra tables, chairs, glasses or dinnerware will be needed, ask family, friends or neighbors if you might borrow the items for the day. Or find the best value with a rental company and place your order.

  • Decide on the final menu and collect all recipes. To avoid an overloaded oven or range top, select a few recipes that taste good at room temperature.
  • If it is the custom in your family, ask your guests if they would like to bring an appetizer, side dish or dessert. Assign cooking projects to family members who offer to help.

  • Shop for hardy vegetables such as onions, winter squash, carrots, potatoes, parsnips and turnips (read: Fall Produce Guide: What’s in Season, Nutritional Info and Diabetic Recipes to Try.).
  • Buy heavy cream now as it may be hard to find right before Thanksgiving.
  • Clean the turkey platter and other serving dishes. Use post-it notes to define the foods to be placed in each serving platter and bowl.
  • Calculate how long it will take the turkey to thaw. This is the easy formula: for each 4-1/2 pounds of frozen turkey, plan on a 24-hour refrigerator thaw time. For example, if the turkey weighs 16 pounds, the refrigerated thaw time will be 3-1/2 days. Place the frozen turkey, in the original wrapper, in a 2-inch deep roasting pan. Thaw the turkey, with the breast side down so the juices will flow into the breast. A thawed turkey may remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Plan accordingly.
  • Start making extra ice for the beverages.
  • Clean the house.
  • If you are using fresh flowers or fruits for the table arrangements, they should be purchased today and the table arrangements assembled.
  • Make pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, cookies, rolls and breads or cornbread for the turkey gravy or stuffing. Refrigerate desserts with custard-like ingredients. (The desserts may be brought to room temperature before serving.) Even if you are serving apple or pecan pies, the pie crust could be made today with assembly and baking late tomorrow.
  • Prepare menu items such as cranberry sauce, soups, appetizer dips and other items that improve in flavor as they are held in the refrigerator.
  • Assemble casseroles (such as sweet potato or green bean) they can be stored uncooked in the refrigerator and baked on Thanksgiving Day.
  • If you are making homemade stuffing, cut and cube bread and place it in a single layer on a baking pan to dry.

“Saute Wednesday” or One Day Ahead:

  • Set the tables – both the dining table and the buffet table. Arrange the chairs. When setting the table, be sure to remember the salt and pepper shakers, butter plate and all the serving utensils.
  • Set up a coat rack with extra hangers. If rain or snow is forecasted, be sure there is a space for umbrellas.
  • Buy the salad greens and perishable vegetables. Wash leafy greens, spin, dry, and store by packing in paper towels in a sealable plastic bag in the refrigerator.
  • Wash, trim and cut fresh vegetables. Wrap in damp paper towels and place in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare garnishes and wrap them in damp paper towels and place in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator. Label the garnishes for their intended uses so a volunteer kitchen helper can help with the final plating of the foods.
  • If you ordered a fresh turkey, pick it up from the store.
  • Cook the turkey broth with the turkey giblets and wing tips. The broth will be a great flavor enhancer with the stuffing/dressing and gravy.
  • Set up the beverage bar with the necessary napkins and glasses.
  • Chill beverages. If the refrigerator space is limited, chill the beverages in an ice cooler.
  • Bake fresh sweet potatoes so they will be ready for the final recipe preparation tomorrow.
  • Complete any remaining baking, such as apple or pecan pies. Cover and store fruit pies at room temperature.
  • Calculate the turkey cooking time and temperatures (plus cooking order) for tomorrow.
  • Delegate some party tasks such as taking coats, serving drinks and helping with outside cooking.
  • Make sure the turkey is thawed completely before you go to bed for the night.

Thanksgiving AKA “Turkey Day”

First tasks of the day:

  • Prepare stuffing for the turkey and/or the dressing to cook in a baking dish. If you choose to stuff the turkey, stuff loosely, allowing about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. As soon as the turkey is stuffed, place it in a preheated 325F oven.
  • Prepare the beverage garnishes (lime wedges, lemon twists and olives) cover and refrigerate.
  • If the table arrangements are based on fresh fruit, assemble the centerpieces.
  • Prepare the cleaned vegetables for cooking – peel and chop. Cover the ready-to-cook vegetables and put them in the refrigerator.
  • Boil and mash potatoes they can be reheated just before serving. Consider holding the warm mashed potatoes in a slow cooker. They will stay warm and creamy up to two hours. Or make mock mashed potatoes instead using cauliflower.

Second tasks of the day:

  • An hour before the turkey is done, begin cooking fresh vegetables and get other foods ready to go into the oven (stuffing, rolls, etc.)
  • Open red wines so the wine can breathe.
  • Put the butter on the table so it will soften.
  • Prepare the relish tray. Cover and return to the refrigerator.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and dressing. A whole turkey should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165F throughout the bird. Most home cooks enjoy the dark meat at a higher internal temperature of 175F to 180F. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The stuffing should reach 165F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate baking dish.

While the cooked turkey is resting:

  • Put a foil tent over the turkey and allow the turkey to rest for 20-25 minutes before carving begins.
  • Bake casserole dishes of stuffing/dressing in the preheated oven.
  • Warm other foods – including mashed potatoes, soups, casseroles and rolls.
  • Remove cold desserts from the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature.
  • Cook frozen vegetables.
  • Ask a volunteer to fill the water glasses. and preheat the gravy bowl with hot water so the gravy will stay hot.
  • Place all the food on the table or buffet. Ask for volunteers to help with last minute preparation such as opening white wine and placing foods in warm serving bowls.
  • Be thankful you are surrounded by family and friends on this most American of holidays.

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Is your turkey refusing to defrost? Need to get a pound of lard out of your mother-in-law's stuffing recipe? Trying to cook for a crowd with two burners and a crockpot? Do you smell something burning? r/AskCulinary is here to answer all your Thanksgiving culinary questions and make your holiday a little less stressful!

Welcome to the eigth annual r/AskCulinary Thanksgiving help discussion and the eigth anniversary of our weekly discussion posts.

As always, our usual rules will be loosened for these posts where, along with the usual questions and expert answers, you are encouraged to trade recipes and personal anecdotes on the topic at hand. Obnoxiousness and misinformation will still be deleted, though.

Volunteers from the r/AskCulinary community will be checking in on this post in shifts throughout most of the day, but if you see an unanswered question that you know something about, please feel free to help.

How am I supposed to let something dry out in the open without ants getting at it? I'm making candy thats like 70% sugar and the last step in the recipe is just 'leave it on a tray for 3 days' but when I tried that last time, it got infested within the day.

Also I thought the title was a typo, but it popped up like 3 times in the post as well: *eighth.

Right, I know this is over, but I have a question about a dish I made. I ALWAYS make this dish, honey carrots, with little effort and this is the first time it's been off.

Basically the baby carrots I used have an aftertaste. It's just a weird, carroty after-taste that you sometimes get with carrots, but this time it's intense?

Maybe it was just the brand. Carrots were fresh and rinsed. I also used raw honey instead of regular if that makes any difference. Also after boiling the carrots sat around for a bit before I sauteed them in the sauce (honey, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, black pepper, some dried garlic, smoked paprika and a pinch of msg (which I have never used before as well).

How do I not get overwhelmed? I ended up not making my biscuits, sweet potatoes, and creamed corn because I was too overwhelmed.

For me, I get as much done as possible before hand. Ie stuffing made day before tastes just fine. From your list sweet potatoes and creamed corn could have as well.

With estimating how long things take, I work in breaks for myself. Just 10-20 minutes sitting down off your feet helps reset.

Also a lot of stuff uses similar ingredients. assembly line it. it'll speed things up.

You definitely have to move some stuff up to the day before to ease the stress. What I find really helpful is visually laying out what your process is going to be. I write out (on paper) everything I have to make in the order it should be made. You could go even go all the way and time these out but I don't go that far.

It also helps to group together tasks. If you have to chop a bunch of stuff for several recipes, you will save time doing that all together instead of doing 1 recipe at a time. Take advantage of the time things spend in ovens or on the stove to clean and do more prep. Ultimately it's all about time mananegement, but everyone has different styles that work for them.

mostly experience, but also planning ahead

Those three dishes sound like things that could've been made ahead, and reheated on the day of. You don't need to make everything on the day, really turkey is the only thing that has to be made fresh. Yeah, fresh baked biscuits are going to be better than day old biscuits, but with everything else going on, no one is gonna notice that your biscuits aren't fresh made.

Overall I thing my stuffing turned out well. Question though about having made it a day ahead. The recipe says the following:

(Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Mix eggs into stuffing.

To bake all stuffing in pan: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 15x10x2-inch baking dish. Mix 1 1/3 cups broth into stuffing. Transfer to prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Baked it last night and then added the broth right before baking. Should I have put the stuffing in a huge bowl and then added the egg in day of and baked it this morning instead? It wasn’t quite as moist but still tasted yummy.

9:1 ratio of liquid to bread seems really low. Iɽ bet that has more to do with it than when the egg was added.

What did I do wrong on my spatchcocked turkey.

12lb organic bird, not injected with anything, purchased fresh not frozen. Dry brined with 3 tbsp salt for a little more than a day and let it hang out uncovered in the fridge. Followed Kenji's recipe (https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/11/butterfiled-roast-turkey-with-gravy-recipe.html) and popped it into the oven (I did 450F but since I used convection setting, the temp was adjusted to 425F by the oven to compensate). After 1 hour the thighs were already 165 and pushing 170-180 in some parts, the upper part of the breast was around 150s, but the deepest part of the breast was still hanging out in the 135-140 range.

I cut the thighs/legs off and popped the rest of it back in the oven and flipped the bird upside down to try and cook the inner breast. The inner breast barely budged past 150 even after another hour, meanwhile the outer breast continued to cook.

Result: Good (but not great) thighs/drums, dried out wings, awful dry and stringy breast except for a small portion of inner breast which was somewhat acceptable. Skin was nice and crispy without being overkill.

I was debating whether to give it an initial blast at 450F and then drop the temp down to 350 or so, or to follow the recipe. I trusted Kenji's advice to leave it at 450 the whole time. Maybe this was the problem?

Maybe the convection oven did it?

Was thinking of flipping the turkey mid-roast next year, any experiences with this?

Anything else I'm overlooking?

Please help. I've been trying to nail a decent turkey for the past several Thanksgiving but one thing or another always screws up :-(


Southern Collard Greens Recipe w/ Smoked Turkey Legs (soul food style)

Collard greens have been cooked and used for centuries. The Southern-style of cooking of greens came with the arrival of African slaves to the southern colonies and the need to satisfy their hunger and provide food for their families. Though greens did not originate in Africa, the habit of eating greens that have been cooked down into a low gravy, and drinking the juices from the greens (known as “pot likker”) is of African origin. The slaves of the plantations were given leftover food from the plantation kitchen. Some of this food consisted of the tops of turnips and other greens. Ham hocks and pig’s feet were also given to the slaves. Forced to create meals from these leftovers, they created the famous southern greens. The slave diet began to evolve and spread when slaves entered the plantation houses as cooks. Their African dishes, using the foods available in the region they lived in, began to evolve into present-day Southern cooking


How to Make the Best Cheeseburger Macaroni

You only need 20 minutes and one pot with a lid to make a crave-worthy Homemade Hamburger Helper from scratch!

  1. Place a large pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Add the ground beef and cook thoroughly, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it browns. Mix in the tomato paste, Dijon mustard, and seasonings as you cook the beef.
  2. Once the ground beef is fully cooked, add the macaroni noodles and beef broth.
  3. Stir well, and then cover the pan and simmer until the pasta is cooked to al dente. There is no need to stir while the pasta is covered and cooks!
  4. After the pasta is done, carefully remove the lid and stir in the half & half and shredded cheese.
  5. Continue to simmer and stir for another few minutes, uncovered, until the sauce is cheesy, thick and creamy smooth.
  6. Serve warm!

21 Of the Best Ideas for Vegetarian Christmas Dinner .Change your holiday dessert spread out right into a fantasyland by offering conventional French buche de Noel, or yule log cake.&hellip

I have been a health insurance broker for over a decade and every day I read more and more “horror” stories that are posted on the Internet regarding health insurance companies not paying claims, refusing to cover specific illnesses and physicians not getting reimbursed for medical services. Unfortunately, insurance companies are driven by profits, not people (albeit they need people to make profits). If the insurance company can find a legal reason not to pay a claim, chances are they will find it, and you the consumer will suffer. However, what most people fail to realize is that there are very few “loopholes” in an insurance policy that give the insurance company an unfair advantage over the consumer. In fact, insurance companies go to great lengths to detail the limitations of their coverage by giving the policy holders 10-days (a 10-day free look period) to review their policy. Unfortunately, most people put their insurance cards in their wallet and place their policy in a drawer or filing cabinet during their 10-day free look and it usually isn’t until they receive a “denial” letter from the insurance company that they take their policy out to really read through it. The majority of people, who buy their own health insurance, rely heavily on the insurance agent selling the policy to explain the plan’s coverage and benefits. Don’t you think it would be better to put that extra $200 ($2,400 per year) in your bank account, just in case you may have to pay your $2,500 deductible or buy a $12 Amoxicillin prescription? Isn’t it wiser to keep your hard-earned money rather than pay higher premiums to an insurance company?

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I have been a health insurance broker for over a decade and every day I read more and more “horror” stories that are posted on the Internet regarding health insurance companies not paying claims, refusing to cover specific illnesses and physicians not getting reimbursed for medical services. Unfortunately, insurance companies are driven by profits, not people (albeit they need people to make profits). If the insurance company can find a legal reason not to pay a claim, chances are they will find it, and you the consumer will suffer. However, what most people fail to realize is that there are very few “loopholes” in an insurance policy that give the insurance company an unfair advantage over the consumer. In fact, insurance companies go to great lengths to detail the limitations of their coverage by giving the policy holders 10-days (a 10-day free look period) to review their policy. Unfortunately, most people put their insurance cards in their wallet and place their policy in a drawer or filing cabinet during their 10-day free look and it usually isn’t until they receive a “denial” letter from the insurance company that they take their policy out to really read through it. The majority of people, who buy their own health insurance, rely heavily on the insurance agent selling the policy to explain the plan’s coverage and benefits. Don’t you think it would be better to put that extra $200 ($2,400 per year) in your bank account, just in case you may have to pay your $2,500 deductible or buy a $12 Amoxicillin prescription? Isn’t it wiser to keep your hard-earned money rather than pay higher premiums to an insurance company?


French toast is always a hit at breakfast or brunch. This baked version swaps in croissants for regular bread and sweetens things up with some fruit preserves.

We can’t decide if this creamy casserole should be a side dish or a dessert it’s that sweet and delicious. With brown sugar, maple extract, a healthy pour of Jack Daniels, and a crispy pecan crust, we’d happily eat this casserole for dinner and dessert!


Nana’s Southern Chicken and Dressing

&ldquoFirst you boil a chicken&rdquo. That&rsquos exactly what you do &ndash of course you could buy a roasted chicken and use canned chicken stock but it will not taste the same. We have strict family rules about our holiday staple and (don&rsquot laugh) here are just a few:

1. While we may have turkey or ham or both, we always ALWAYS have chicken and dressing.

2. Chicken and dressing must be made one week in advance and frozen until the night before when it thaws in the fridge and then is baked the morning of Thanksgiving. It makes a HUGE difference in texture and moistness.

3. Dressing must be baked in an iron skillet &ndash it must be.

4. You must use the &ldquoright&rdquo cornbread mix &ndash I do not mean the brand, I mean the kind. Don&rsquot get the kind with sugar.

5. Dad always had chili powder sprinkled on top of his as I do and Top Girl as well .

6. Top Girl always eats leftover dressing with mayonnaise mixed in and canned cranberry jelly on the side.

7. Too much sage or salt makes it awful so the youngest person in the kitchen test tastes it before freezing.

8. Mr. Picky Eater must have jarred Heinz Roasted Turkey Gravy to go on top of his &ndash not homemade giblet gravy.

I think that&rsquos it. Whew! It is a list that has grown over the years but we love our chicken and dressing more than anything during the holidays. Lawyer Boy, Wonder Boy, Son-in-law and now Rocket love it too.

Once I lived in Kansas City where I worked at a hospital that prided itself on having a real live culinary chef on staff. I worked on Thanksgiving Day and ate in the cafeteria like everyone else. I was young and silly enough to think that everyone ate like my family did. When I got that &ldquostuffing&rdquo on my plate, I thought it looked odd but when I put it in my mouth I very nearly spit it out in front of God and everyone. It had apples, nuts, and raisins in it&hellip&hellip&hellip&hellipWhat the heck was THIS. Everyone oohhed and aaahhhed over it so I tried to act hip and sophisticated but in the end I longed for my Nana&rsquos dressing and vowed never to have another holiday that was without it. So far, I have kept my vow.

This is real live Southern Chicken and Dressing &ndash at least in my family so if you make it, I hope you enjoy it! Before I give you the recipe, a lesson about cornbread mixes.

See this? There are three kinds of mixes Buttermilk Cornbread, Cornbread, and Corn Muffin Mix.

Now, looking on the back you can see Sugars: 0gms in the two on the left but 5gms in the Corn Muffin Mix. DO NOT use corn muffin mix. There is nothing worse than sweet dressing &ndash at least for us.

7 Cups of cornbread crumble

1 boiled and deboned chicken with meat shredded
4 Cups of white bread crumbled
5 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon. black pepper
3 teaspoons ground sage
4 Cups of chicken broth
3 cups of milk
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 Cup celery finely chopped

1-2 Tablespoons of oil
Salt to taste
Directions:
First you boil a chicken
While chicken is cooking, set out white bread to dry out a little

Debone chicken and discard skin as well
Strain chicken stock and set aside
Make cornbread in iron skillet as directed on pan
Let cornbread cool completely and then crumble it and the white bread to equal ingredients above.

Wipe out the iron skillet with a paper towel and then put oil in followed by the onion and celery. Let it cook until both are soft.
Add the onion and celery to the crumbled breads then all the liquids, sage, pepper and finally the eggs because if they go in last, the liquid will have cooled the celery and onions and it will not scramble them.
It&rsquos going to look more like bread soup than dressing but it&rsquos supposed to be soupy.

Add the deboned chicken here &ndash as much or as little as you like. Mother does not like any in hers but Mr. Picky Eater likes a whole lot with his.
We have the youngest person in the room taste it because then because their taste buds work best but since it has raw eggs in it &ndash you make your own choice. Make sure it has a subtle flavor of sage and the salt is enhancing not overpowering.
Dip it into the dish or iron skillet.

(these next few steps are if you want to do it like our family, if not skip strait to the oven sentence)
Wrap it in heavy duty foil and place in freezer until the night before, then put in fridge to defrost, then the morning of the celebration:
Place in a 350F oven and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Watch to make sure it does not burn on the bottom because it will not get burned on top before it gets burned on bottom and I do not know why &ndash a clear glass Pyrex dish should help with that.


Bring it out and let the eating begin!


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Get dressed an hour before your helper friends arrive. Then instruct them on how to put out the appetizer trays: cheeses and charcuterie can sit for an hour before guests arrive. Unveil seafood and any creamy dips at the last minute.

There! You did it! No more worries because from now on friends and family will be arriving and you’ll have help with the rest. Congratulate yourself, enjoy your guests, don’t let any little mishaps take over the day and keep that foxy smile going with a sweet little secret: remember, you’re treating yourself to dinner or a getaway weekend when this is all over.


MAKE AHEAD GOULASH Recipe

This Goulash recipe tastes even better the next day, so feel free to make it in its entirety and reheat when ready to serve. Alternatively, you can prep some of the ingredients in advance:

  • Carrots: chop the carrots and place them in an airtight container days in advance. You can also chop the mushrooms but remember do NOT rinse them, simply brush them with a cloth.
  • Potatoes: once you cut the potatoes, starch is released which will cause them to brown, so make sure you submerge them in water to prevent this discoloration. Simply place the potatoes in a bowl or airtight container, cover with water then cover with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Beef: chop into 1” pieces the night before. You can even sear the beef the night before. Make sure your beef cools to room temperature before sealing in an airtight container or zip bag and placing in the refrigerator.
  • Assemble: this makes for a hassle free, no fuss dinner! Follow the recipe up to cooking in the oven, adding all of the ingredients to the pot. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator until ready to cook. When ready to cook, bring to a simmer before transferring to the oven.