..but I’m completely prepared for Thanksgiving.
As in, I am hosting and the entire dinner (aside from the turkey herself and a couple pies) is made and chilling in my freezer, ready to be baked up on Thursday.
I have never felt so alive.
Well, ok, perhaps there have been other events in my life that have been more thrilling, but when you’re staring Thanksgiving week in the face (especially as the hostess) it can be daunting and tiring.
But not for me. Not this time.
I saw the idea for a “Make-Ahead Thanksgiving” on Instgram of all places (www.MomAdvice.com) and the brilliance of such an idea brought to me a thrill of anticipation and joy such as I’ve never known. (Fine, exaggeration police, you caught me again-lay off, I’m excited!) I’ve made meals ahead of time plenty in my life, in fact I made a month’s worth before I had Boo, but I’ve never considered trying it with Thanksgiving.
So here is the list of what I do NOT have to make on Wednesday or even Thursday:
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Crumb Topping
- Green Been Casserole (just have to add the fried onions before I bake)
- Pie Crust for those pies my Mother-in-Law and I get to make the day before–bonding at it’s best
- Gravy (this was a long process last week and the result is rich, dark gravy made from chicken legs (I used the leftover meat for pot pies-also in the freezer as an easy meal to pull out later this week)
- Orange-Cranberry Sauce
My parents are bringing the mashed potatoes, and the turkey will be ready to brine Wednesday and will have my undivided attention on Thursday. All I have to do is remove these aforementioned casseroles from the freezer on Wednesday and pop them in the oven while the turkey rests on Thursday. Say What?!
I know it’s awfully silly to be so excited about this. But hosting Thanksgiving is a joy of mine that is frequently dulled by the enormity of it all. I am not an organized gal. Not even a little bit. So no matter how much calculating I do and no matter how many lists with time lines and such I make ahead of time, dinner never seems to come together quite right. Even so, it’s always tasty and mostly warm by the time we all sit down together.
The dishes. Oh, the dishes.
Dishes alone are the main reason I decided to take such a risk and cook most of the dinner ahead of time. I have everything in throw away casserole containers. We will bake our lovely meal, lay it before family and loved ones, give thanks to God who deserves all glory and gratitude, and I will enjoy that dinner without the dishes mocking me from the kitchen counters, sink, stove, and any other conceivable place one can think of to stash dirty dishes in the chaos of the holiday.
One last thing (and a recipe). I love to have a special breakfast on holidays, but usually that just adds more to my too full plate. I was overjoyed to discover a year or so back how easy it is to have cinnamon rolls ready to bake with minimal prep the night before. Here is my favorite cinnamon roll recipe with our favorite frosting.
Cinnamon Rolls (from a recipe card I received in the mail years ago)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 pkg quick-rising active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup warm water (120*-130* F)
- 6 TB softened butter, divided
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
1. Combine 2 cups of flour, granulated sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl, Stir in water, 2 TB butter and egg. Beat until smooth; gradually stir in remaining flour until soft dough forms and dough no longer sticks to sides of bowl. (Go with your gut when dealing with flour in yeast breads-but for this recipe 3 cups is almost always exactly right). Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. (It doesn’t poof much, so don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t rise dramatically)
2. On lightly floured surface (actually, I have better luck with a healthy dose of flour), roll dough to a 15 x 12-inch rectangle (I have never accomplished this. I’m just not that fancy) Spread with remaining butter (add in a little more if your heart desires-mine usually does). Mix brown sugar with cinnamon; sprinkle over surface. Starting with the short side roll up tightly. Cut into 12 slices; place cut side down in greased 13-x9-inch pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap.
Now, either let rise on your counter another 30-40 minutes until double in size, or stick in your fridge as is. If you choose to bake that day, uncover buns and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
If you choose to bake the next day, just take the pan out of the fridge the next morning and let the pan come to room temperature, about 30 minutes or so. Bake as directed above.
Our favorite frosting: Caramel (adapted slightly from Mel’s Kitchen Café)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (I use whole milk and it’s just fine)
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, cream or milk, brown sugar and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla. Pour over warm cinnamon rolls.
What are your holiday (or big dinner) prep secrets? Do you have everyone line up in the kitchen or do you set the table and pass the dishes around? I day-dream about having candles and pretty place setting, but realistically my family is lucky when I get the table wiped down. I do have china I pull out just for holidays and it’s lovely. But I don’t decorate more than that. How about you?