Nina's Fresh Batch

Even the cook should enjoy a stress-free Thanksgiving. So, with the big day full of expectation only weeks away, I reached out to friends and followers and asked what challenges they faced. There were many concerns over keeping food warm and how to accommodate guests with various dietary restrictions.  Here are some suggestions and tips.


1. Decide on a menu, clean out the fridge, and go shopping

If family and friends are contributing, coordinate what they are bringing and be very specific. You want to avoid 7 pumpkin pies and only one side dish!

Once your menu is set, write out grocery lists. You should divide the list into perishables and nonperishables to make shopping and storing easier. Shop now for non-perishables and frozen items and about four to five days in advance for perishables.


2. Keep your gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan guests happy.

Consider a rice based stuffing instead of the traditional bread stuffing. 

Make a hearty vegan dish for both the vegetarians and the vegans. Kills two birds with one dish. :) Martha Stewart has a great recipe for stuffed acorn squash I plan to make for my vegan kids and everyone else. 

Make a gluten-free pumpkin pie substituting gluten free spice cookies in a cookie crust recipe.

Prepare baked apples and serve with sugar free ice cream for diabetic guests

Serve vegetables such as sting beans or broccoli dressed simply in olive oil and lemon. Acceptable on just about any diet.


3. Make your pies now...really!

You can assemble pies ahead of time and freeze them. They actually bake better this way. Because the bottom crust begins baking before the filling has thawed, it doesn't have a chance to soak up the excess juices that would normally make it soggy. I learned this trick from my sister Ellen. She baked a frozen blueberry pie this summer and it turned out great! Expect to bake the pies about 20-25 minitues longer. This method works well on fruit pies and nut based pies such as pecan. Pumpkin doesn't fare as well, but you can roll out the bottom crust and freeze it directly in the pie tin. I do not recommend putting a glass pan straight from the freezer into the oven, as it can shatter. Metal pans are a better choice.


4. Test drive a new recipe.

Read thru any new recipe you plan to try and familarize yourself with the directions. If you have the time, test the recipe to make sure it works and is worthy of a spot on your Thanksgiving table.


5. Write the menu down and post it in a prominent place.

It's easy to forget a side dish in the oven or the cranberry sauce in the fridge. 


6. Set the table ahead of time.

Taking care of this task in advance saves you a little bit of stress on the day-of. If you can, shoot for a few days ahead. 

Pull out the serving platters you plan to use along with the serving utensils and adhere post-it notes indicating what dish will be served on it. I know this sounds a bit over the top, but this way saves time and the stress of rummaging thru cabinets trying to find serving platters you haven't used since last year.


7. Set-up your coffee maker so it's set to go when it's time for dessert.

Do the same with the creamers and sugar bowls. 


8. Start your holiday with a clean kitchen.

Empty dishwashers and trashcans. Line your bins with more than one bag so that you have a fresh bag ready to go when one becomes full. 


9. One oven? Use one temperature to cook your side dishes.

Most Thanksgiving sides cook at 350º. Some, however, calling for 325º or 375º can still be cooked at 350º - so go ahead and toss in more than one dish at a time. Just be sure to program separate timers and add extra minutes to account for the oven door opening.


10. Get everything on the table still warm.

Use the microwave—it’s insulated, so it will keep dishes warm for up to half an hour—just don’t turn it on.

Pour gravy and soups into a thermos to keep them steaming hot. 

Use warming trays. My friend Lisa Harris from Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookies swears by them.












Written by Nina Lombardo — November 05, 2014


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