Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a big job, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful. Even the chef should get to relax and enjoy the holiday.
By far the best way to make sure your kitchen ( and Thanksgiving Dinner) is an enjoyable experience for everyone (yes, even the cook) is to have a solid plan in place and stick to it. Being prepared is essential for me so I don’t end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed around the holidays. So I thought I would share some of my favorite tips to keep Thanksgiving dinner as stress-free as possible. Food wise, that is, you are on your own with the in-laws!
- Lists help me stay organized and on task. Start with the guest list, once you have a rough idea of a head count move on to the menu , and finally make your grocery lists.
- While I am creating my menu I find it is the perfect time to take stock of my pantry. I like to figure out what I need, and what I already have. When you are ready to do your shopping don’t forget to stock up on cooking conveniences, like disposable pans, Hefty Storage and Freezer Bags, and wraps and foils.
- While I am cooking keeping the kids entertained can be a huge help, little ones underfoot in the kitchen can really throw a monkey wrench in your plans. Be sure to check out some of these fun Thanksgiving ideas and recipes for kids.
- I like to do the bulk of my shopping early. Remember even some fresh produce can be bought in advanced. Need green beans for that famous casserole? Pick them up a couple of weeks in advanced blanch, and pack them into a Hefty Freezer Bag.
- My favorite stress saving tip is to “make-ahead” as many dishes as possible. Having as much prepared in advanced is huge! Really, don’t underestimate how far this simple sanity saving act will go. Most dishes can be partially prepped in advanced, and some dishes can be completely made ahead of time and frozen, like my Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce. To get a head start on your holiday baking, make sure to check out this great guideline for Thanksgiving Prep from Hefty!!
Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is seriously one of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal, not just because I can make it way before and pop it in my freezer. I really love the addition of orange juice and zest, it really gives these tart berries a fresh taste. The cinnamon stick adds a hint of spiced flavor, in a very complimentary way, all the flavors come together beautifully in the sauce.
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 cup white sugar or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup waterCinnamon stick
- Rinse the cranberries. Discard any soft or underripe berries and stems.
- Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and add the cranberries, 1/2 cup white sugar, orange zest, orange juice, water, and cinnamon stick. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue boiling over medium heat until the berries burst and break down, forming a sauce, about 15-20 minutes.
- Taste for sweetness. If it's too tart, add more sugar - a tablespoon at a time - until the sauce tastes sweet enough for you.
- Remove from the heat and let cool. Spoon into your serving container to serve or store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for 3-4 days. This cranberry sauce also freezes beautifully, just place the sauce in an airtight container or a Hefty freezer bag and transfer to the freezer. Before servings, move to the fridge to thaw for about 24-48 hours before the big meal.