around the tableThanksgiving is a weekend filled with friends, family, and food. It means guests staying over, lots of meals to prepare, and of course, the big daddy of dinners, Thanksgiving. My 3 keys to surviving and thriving on this holiday weekend include, 1) advance planning, 2) making a few items ahead of time, and 3) maximizing your left overs, with turkey extending meals!

These tips apply to Thanksgiving or any festive holiday get together!

Advance Planning:

The weekend before Thanksgiving is when I plan my menu, decide which recipes to make, not just for Thanksgiving, but also for the weekend. I don’t know about you, but I tend to make certain dishes every year, so I have a holiday shopping list that I refer to every year as a starting point.  It’s really important to organize yourself. Make sure you don’t over or under-buy ingredients that get used for multiple recipes.  Things like whipping cream, butter etc.

I do my big shopping excursion at Costco to get the bulk items I need for the next week or so. Things like onions, potatoes, yams, canned goods, beverages, nuts, butter, sodas, spices, chocolates, and even frozen party food. I shop locally or at specialty stores for things that need to be fresh, or for things that just don’t require bulk buying. I almost always mix homemade items with ready to bake appetizers. I also like to have a stash of chocolates, or gourmet cookies, just in case someone pops by, or if I feel like throwing an impromptu get together with the neighbors.  In fact, sometimes when I’m just too tired to cook and shop, we’ll have appetizers for dinner!

Who wants to cook on Thanksgiving Eve?! Our family gets together with friends for an appetizer potluck.  This year the theme is Mad Men, so we’re all dressing up as ad execs and 60s housewives. Of course, we’ll be drinking martinis and manhattans. If that sounds like fun to you too, you can check out my Appetizer Recipes and cocktail ideas. Watch our video on “How to Make the 3 Ms” (Manhattan, Martini, and Margarita)

 Make Ahead Menus Ideas:

IMG_3451I love Cranberry Chutney because it’s a cut above cranberry sauce in a can. It’s easy to make – all in one pot. Ingredients include green apples, bosc pears, onions, crystalized ginger, golden raisins, hazelnuts, cinnamon and spices. Cranberry Chutney stays fresh in the refrigerator for weeks. It’s delicious as a side dish for any kind of meat, even salmon. It makes a great hostess gift packaged up in a simple mason jar with a pretty ribbon, and you can bring it to a holiday potluck. You can easily double or triple the recipe, and just have it around throughout the holidays.

Pie Crusts – The holiday season is when everyone likes to get their “pie-on.” Even the occasional IMG_3572home cook is up for the challenge of baking a homemade pie and pie crust this time of year.  Since, I make pies for Thanksgiving, parties, and Christmas. I make my pie crusts in advance, and store them in the freezer until I need them. I have a delicious pie crust for pecan and pumpkin pie. Any pie really. Adding sour cream and ice cold water to the crust makes it easy to work with for a perfect crust every time. You can even throw toasted pecans or hazelnuts into the food processor with the flour to add a  nutty taste and texture to your pie dough. Find my Perfect Pecan Pie and Crust Recipe here.

Piece of pieIf you’re looking for an alternative to pumpkin pie, I have the ultimate pumpkin pie recipe for chocoholics. Fudge-Bottom Pumpkin Pie with ginger graham crust and heath bar chunks. You can find this and all my Dessert Recipes here!



Holiday entertaining also includes the kids. When you want to get them away from their screens and electronics, a great idea is to give the kids an

Cut- Out Sugar Cookiesactivity and a treat all in one.  So I keep holiday cut out cookies in the freezer and pull them out at a moment’s notice. Kids of all ages love to decorate cookies, and of course eat them. So I make a couple of batches of  Soft Sugar Cookies, bake them, and then freeze them undecorated.  They’re ready to use any time. All I have to do is whip up some royal icing and spread out the sprinkles!

Caramel SauceHomemade Caramel Sauce is the perfect make ahead dessert, and lasts for a couple weeks in the refrigerator. You can make it in advance. Then  serve it over just about anything from ice cream, brownies, pumpkin, or apple pie.  You can turn almost any dessert into a salted caramel treat. Just drizzle a little homemade caramel sauce over it and sprinkle with fleur de sel, which is available in any grocery store or specialty shop.
Last but not least, to survive the Thanksgiving weekend, you have to have a turkey extender plan, to keep everyone loving their left overs.

Have a Turkey Left-Over Extender Plan

As a general rule of thumb, the ideal turkey size is 1 pound per person. To ensure plenty of leftovers, you want to plan 1.5 pounds per person. Extend your turkey leftovers into family meals throughout the weekend with recipes you’ll find on our Turkey Left-Over Extenders Menu.