Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season evoke such a sense of nostalgia. Unlike Chandler Bing, I was fortunate enough to have a childhood with wonderful memories of family and good food. Though I want to recreate the memories of my childhood, the idea of cooking a feast with a two and three-year-old “helping” is enough to send me into panic mode. Of course, I’m happy to have them involved. I just don’t want to be intermittently fishing Cheerios out of the gravy while making sure my daughter isn’t adding more salt to any already well seasoned while trying to time and cook each dish properly. On top of it all, I want to enjoy the holidays as much as everyone else. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so.
Thankfully, my momma taught me well. When it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas, she has shown me a few tips and tricks throughout my many years of watching her cook. I have learnt my own hacks along the way and, also, elicited the help of some of the best bloggers out there. Here are our combined hacks, tips, tricks, and recipes for Thanksgiving or Christmas! Be sure to check out my Thanksgiving Pinterest Board for more 🙂
Start prep day(s) in advance: When it comes to prep, my mom always told me start days early. This year I made soup a few days ahead of time and froze it. The bread for stuffing can be cut well in advance and frozen too. Then I cut all my vegetables the day before. Kristen Hewitt of Mommy in Sports suggests making sides the night before like any casseroles and sweet potatoes. Then, bake them next day. She also bakes pies days beforehand and freezes them.
Plan your cook times outright by writing them down: Susie and Kate at Twitchetts have a simple printout to set your day up for success. See it here.
Remember, there’s no shame in delegating: When people offer to bring something, don’t worry about the polite, “You don’t have to.” Most people offer because the want to help. Take them up on it!
Super Simple Decor
Make a super simple centrepiece: Buy ornamental corn husks. Slowly unfold the cornhusks and then place them in a vase.
Surround the vase with gourds and you’ve got yourself a simple, festive looking centrepiece for under $4. We added our toilet paper roll owls for added embellishments.
Make stylish placemats: Even the kids can help with these gorgeous placemats (seen below) from Canadian Mom Eh!
Simple Food Hacks
Make soups creamy with pureed potatoes: Any soup you want to have a creamy consistency without the saturated fat of cream, pureed potatoes will do the trick!
Lock in the flavour and juiciness of your turkey: Growing up as the daughter of a butcher (and having to help out at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year), I cannot tell you how many times I heard the words, “425°F for the first hour. 375°F after that.” This will make for crispy skin on the outside and a moist turkey on the inside. Calculate your cook time by this measure: 10 minutes per pound for unstuffed turkeys and 12 minutes per pound for stuffed ones.
Thicken and flavour your gravy with cream of chicken soup: Campbell’s, for instance, is only 3% fat. But the flavour and consistency will make for tasty gravy without a lot of trouble. Just add some pan juices, bits of turkey, a little bit of chicken or turkey stock, and whatever spices you may have. Et volia! Simple delicious gravy!
If you’re making anything with squash, save the time peeling: Cut your squash in half lengthwise and place it face down on a greased pan. Cook into the skin is wrinkled and the squash is cooked through. Then spoon the squash out and prepare as desired!
Activities to Keep The Kids Entertained
- Set up an easy, fun game of pumpkin ring toss, pre-organize a scavenger hunt, or choose from the other wonderful kid-friendly Thanksgiving games from My Kids Guide.
- Have the parent outside of the kitchen do a T is for Turkey Craft and/or a toilet paper or pinecone turkey seen Thanksgiving activities for kids here.
- Sue Parke from Sparke Fitness recommends painting pumpkins with chalkboard paint, letting them dry, and then giving them to kids with chalk! Love this idea 🙂
Have a Plan for All Those Leftovers
- With a very picky three-year-old, I cannot go too bold in flavours, that’s why I love this turkey stock recipe from Thanksgiving activities for kids here.
- For ideas from turkey pizza to a casserole to taquitos are more, Canadian Mom Blog has you covered.
Not sure what to make? My Thanksgiving Pinterest board is jam packed with side dishes, desserts, and more!
Do you have any tips for the Holidays? Please share them below!