8 Culinary Tips for a Delicious and Easy Thanksgiving Meal
This post written by guest blogger—Kristen Marciochi
While Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to spend with friends and family, making the dinner can be time consuming and overwhelming. These little tips, however, will make cooking your meal easy and reduce your clean up time to make your Thanksgiving truly memorable!
1. Save money and time by preserving left over herbs from your Thanksgiving prep
Herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary are delicious in Thanksgiving dinners, but I often find that I have too much. For the longest time, my left over herbs were wasted, but now I freeze them and can use them later (for Christmas dinner, for example). In order to freeze Thanksgiving herbs, wash them and pat them dry. Remove large woody stems, and lay flat on a baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour, then place frozen herbs into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
2. Make perfect whipped cream every time
By freezing your mixing bowl and mixer attachment you can make perfect whipped cream everytime. With all of the heat in the kitchen while prepping for the Thanksgiving meal, it is essential that you keep the mixer as chilled as possible, so popping it into the freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour will allow for the perfect temperature for whipping cream.
To brighten up your cranberries and other festive side dishes, add orange juice or orange zest. It is a refreshing way to add a bit of festive flavor to the meal and requires almost no effort. Orange juice and orange zest are also delicious when mixed into butter or mixed with egg wash and brushed onto piecrusts.
4. Use your steamer
Avoid a soggy mashed potato disaster by cooking your potatoes in a steamer instead of boiling them, and allow them to cool completely before beginning to mash them (this allows all of the extra steam to evaporate so that it doesn’t water down your Thanksgiving day staple). Plus, for even creamier and more complex mashed potatoes, mix 3 cups pureed roasted cauliflower in – it gives lots of flavor and creaminess without lots of butter and fat.
5. Keep your guest happy and hungry
Make a few appetizers that will keep guests out of the kitchen and out of the way, but not fill them up. With olives, nuts, and easy spreads, you will get rave reviews without any fuss. For example, sliced bread and an easy spread like Apricot-Pistachio Spread or Maple-Cinnamon Cream Cheese will please guests until mealtime without filling them up.
6. Toast your grains
To make the best side dishes and stuffing, toast your grains and bread before hand to give a richer, nuttier flavor. Quinoa, rice, and amaranth should be toasted for about 1 minute, or until fragrant, while bread stuffing can be toasted for up to 5 minutes, or just until golden. This simple step makes for heartier dishes that are absolutely delicious.
7. Save on clean up with liners
To save clean-up time and sanity after the big meal, prep with aluminum foil, parchment paper, and slow-cooker liners. By lining baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper, you eliminate a stuck-on mess that is a pain to clean up after Thanksgiving dinner. Also, by placing a slow-cooker liner into your Crock Pot, you cut down on clean up and soaking time. Although this seems like an obvious step, it is something that cannot be skipped when making a big meal.
The slow-cooker is the perfect kitchen tool for Thanksgiving dinner. You can make everything from candied yams to spiced cider yams in a slow cooker. It allows you to get a head start on Thanksgiving dinner, but doesn’t heat up the kitchen the way the oven and stove do. For example, when trying to make cranberry sauce, throw 4 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen), 1 cup sugar, and ½ cup water or orange juice (see above) into your slow cooker on low for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. It doesn’t get any easier.
Let us know what tips you use to make your holiday meals stress-free and delicious in the comments below!
Kristin Marciochi is a teacher and fan of healthy cooking. When not walking her Great Dane or reading a good book, Kristin can be found experimenting with different recipes in the kitchen. Her blog, Shelfishness is a fun way to share original recipes, music, and books.