By Ash Stevens
Thanksgiving may very well be the most loved meal of the year. All those groans and satisfied bellies don’t come easy though. Hosts everywhere are gearing up for a marathon of chopping, basting, cleaning, and room arranging. No matter how you do it, it’s going to take hours of work to pull off that holiday meal. Fortunately, there are some tricks that can save you time in the kitchen so you can sneak in some more laughs and cozy chats with family.
Those fabulous holiday pies are a Thanksgiving must, and they require just as much love and attention as that giant turkey. Unfortunately, many of us only have one oven to pull off all our cooking. Dinner can be a bit of a challenge when you’re working with minimum appliances or cooking in a small kitchen, but a little planning can ease that holiday burden. Those adventurous enough to make their own pie crusts can make dough days in advance and leave it to sit in the fridge. The evening before dinner, pies can be baked and left out or placed in the fridge to heighten in flavor.
When it comes to table-famous casseroles like the green bean bake and sweet potato casserole, they can be prepped the day before so that they can go straight from fridge to oven. Gravy, soups, mashed potatoes, and bread roll dough can be done a day or even a week in advance. Be sure to check out Martha Stewart’s favorite make-ahead recipes for some time-saving ideas.
House guests make extra room more important than ever, so consider ways you can maximize kitchen space. Bulky toasters, blenders, and microwaves can be stored in an extra cupboard or bedroom closet to free up precious counter space. You can also rearrange your dining and livingroom area to provide plenty of space to move around. By pushing couches and other furniture against walls, the dinner table can be the center of attention with ample room to scoot off for seconds.
If you’re short on dining space, then consider turning the coffee table into a dinner-friendly spot. A few pillows will make for fun and cozy seating that will appeal to adults as well as children. Include your best napkins, dining candles, table runner, and maybe even a tablecloth, and no one will think twice about sitting down. And if the thought of setting tables is too much this year, then you can always keep it simple with a buffet. Set up a main table or counter with a lovely spread of food, and guests will be free to serve themselves and sit wherever they desire. Just be sure to offer up some chairs and cozy seating areas, and to offer napkins and coasters.
After hours of basting, baking, and kneading, you now have a table full of food to get you through the week. As wonderful as that will be for those tired feet and dried out hands, that requires finding space in the fridge. It often means days of boring turkey sandwiches too. Send off whatever you can with guests, but don’t feel like you have to give it all away. You can get creative with leftovers by making dips, sweet potato shepherd’s pie, turkey soup with stuffing dumplings, potato cakes, veggie frittatas, or turkey pie. They can be thrown together in a jiffy to save you time with meal prep throughout the week. Many of them can even be thrown in the freezer to save you fridge space. It will also spare the family from a potential overdose of Thanksgiving turkey.
It’s all too easy to turn to the TV to kill time, but why sink into the couch when you could be laughing it up with family? There are ridiculously-easy ways for you to add in some memorable holiday fun. Board games are always a blast, but you can spice things up with competitions like Best Awkward Family Photo or Sticker Stalker. You can also make your very own Thanksgiving bingo based on funny and random events that are sure to be seen sometime during the day (make an adult and child version to add in even more fun).
Now that you have some ideas brewing, it’s time to get started on those pie crusts and to lay out your dining plan. Enjoy your time with friends and family and make the most of those turkey-induced naps. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Ash Stevens is a gardener, a writer, and a fan of all things green. Her love for health and sustainability began with her journey into motherhood, and it’s grown exponentially ever since. She’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle through gardening, cooking, and spending time outdoors. If she isn’t writing or reading up on exciting green trends, she’s probably playing Connect Four or swimming in the river with the kids. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.