I love Thanksgiving; well, most of it! It is a time to bring family and friends together and give thanks around a table of great food. I love the food that is cooked on that day; there is nothing better than the aroma of the roasting turkey and dressing filling the house on a cool Minnesota day.
Planning the menu is no big deal for Thanksgiving because mine doesn’t change from year to year. Of course there will be a roasted turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, some sort of vegetable or two, rolls, and the traditional pumpkin pie. Sometimes I break down and also make a pecan pie for my husband, as that is his favorite.
The part of Thanksgiving I don’t like is making lots of recipes all in one day and trying to get the timing down so everything is ready to be served at the same time. About 10 years ago, I discovered a great tip that has now become a part of my holiday routine: Make mashed potatoes ahead of time. Then heat the potatoes in the slow cooker on the big day. At the time, I wasn’t sure how that would work, but I put the idea to the test. I even made up my own recipe. Here is how to do this.
1. Two days before Thanksgiving, I cooked the potatoes in salted water.
2. On that same day, I mashed the potatoes, adding milk, butter, sour cream and some garlic powder.
3. Then, I put them in a food-safe, covered container before storing them in the refrigerator.
When Thanksgiving Day arrived, I put the mashed potatoes in the slow cooker and heated them on Low for several hours. That eliminated not only the cooking of potatoes on a very busy day in the kitchen, but also the last-minute mashing that needs to be done at the same time as carving the turkey and making the gravy.
My daughter, who lives with her family in California, now uses this “mashed potato tip” when she prepares a holiday meal and has passed it on to several of her friends. I suspect she forgets to tell her friends where she got this great tip! For a variation on this idea, check out this recipe for French Herbed Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes.
My husband and I have added a new tradition to our Thanksgiving Day in recent years by participating in the local annual Thanksgiving Day Walk to combat hunger.
Since that means I will be gone for several hours on Thanksgiving morning, I now do a lot more of the holiday meal preparation ahead of time. My cranberry relish is made several days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. The pork sausage, onions and celery for the dressing are cooked the day before and refrigerated in a food storage bag, ready for final assembly the next day. Pies are baked the night before Thanksgiving and the dining room table is set. With all that done ahead, I can go on the hunger walk, enjoy a latte after the walk, return home to get the turkey in the oven, and enjoy the rest of the day stress-free with family and friends.