We all know that with the holidays comes stress from trying to make everything perfect. Okay, maybe that is just me? But I really love to have everything come together just right so I will stress myself out about having everything perfect. Last year I changed everything about how I approached the holidays. I made some serious decisions that started with our Thanksgiving feast. I realized that our holiday traveling really did me in – so that was cut. I realized that being around lots of family or friends also added to my anxiety (not that I don’t adore my time with them, but I have a hard time being around large crowds for long amounts of time) so that was scratched too. Another biggie? Food preparation. Since this was our first Thanksgiving away from our families and I had never cooked a turkey before, I knew I was in for a bit of a shock. So here are a few tips and tricks to make your Thanksgiving “perfect”. I’m hoping to give you and your spouse a little extra time to relax together and actually enjoy the holiday.
#1 Plan ahead to have a Plan
Would a professional football team show up to their biggest game of the season without being prepared? (I’m using this football analagy since it ’tis the season) Most certainly not. Nor should you approach your holiday season without having a plan ahead of time. Get a list together of all the dishes that you are planning on serving. Compile your recipes and your shopping list. Take inventory of any additional items you may need for decorations, platters, utensils, etc. and add them to your list. I always do this at least 2 weeks in advance, but a week will do. Have a list for the dishes you can make in advance and a list of what you will need to make the day of. Being organized and prepared is half of your battle.
Be sure to print out your Thanksgiving shopping list below.
#2 Get your shopping done in advance
Why do we always wait until the day before Thanksgiving to go grocery shopping? It never fails that you will always find yourself running to the store the day before. You’re battling with the hoards of people, long lines, and causing yourself even more stress. Plan your grocery shopping for Tuesday morning at the latest! This will ensure that your grocer won’t be out of the tradional items that you need, but your produce will still be fresh enough for your Thanksgiving meal. Many grocery stores now offer online ordering and most deliver for free. So if you don’t have time to make it to your grocery store, take a little time and let your fingers do the shopping.
#3 Prep, Prep, Prep
You really should run your home kitchen as if it was a restaurant kitchen. Cut things up in advance, put them into ziplock baggies or containers that are well marked and place them in your fridge for when you’re ready to cook with them. Clean and chop carrots, celery, onions, spinach/lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. My rule of thumb is to do it once I have returned home from the store. Before I put all of my produce into my fridge, I prep it for the meal I will be using it for. Your meals are now half complete.
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This brings me to the importance of having a really good knife. You’ll get the same amount of work (or chopping) done in half the time with a quality knife. Sharp knives take the work out of chopping. If you do the simple slicing motion without having to put pressure on your knife or fight to keep it in the position you want it to go…you have a decent knife in your hands. Your knife should be fairly heavy (weighted), balanced, and strong. (Just like your man *WINK*). Here are my favorite choices:
If you cook a great deal like I do, these are well worth the investment. They will pay for themselves 10-fold.
#4 Involve your hubby and/or kids
This is my husband doing his best Iron Chef imitation. Pretty hot, if I do say so myself. hehe
This was a big one for me! In order to prepare a feast up to par with my mother’s Thanksgiving digs, I really needed help. Luckily my husband really loves helping me in the kitchen. We are a great team and it’s something that we enjoy doing together (Hello, date night!). If your husband isn’t so keen on kitchen duty, assign him something else that will help you. Such as cleaning the house (hehe), or entertaining the children, or setting the table or he can even wash the dishes while you are making a mess cooking. That way you’ll be getting some time with your hubby while you cook!
Another fun option is to make your meal kid friendly and let them be involve in the cooking process. Both of my boys love to help me and I have to say I’m not always so grateful. It can feel like I’m spending more time teaching than actually cooking. However, there are some fun kid recipes out there for them. One of my favorite websites to find kid friendly recipes and activities is Disney’s Family Fun.