Thanksgiving Tips and Gratitude

Everyone has their own special way of making and attacking a Thanksgiving meal. Since my family finds comfort in the tradition and flavors that appear together every year, I tend to stick to the same menu adding or changing one or two side dishes or adding a dessert.  Which BTW shameless plug… most of our traditional recipes are found in the Fall chapter of Lush Life (including wine pairings). The best part of making the same things over and over is that you hone your skills and if you screw something up you get the chance to make the same darn dinner again next year! I do try to mix up the table in a way that feels unique and special. Over the years I have developed a few tips that keep me from feeling overwhelmed on the big day…

1. Clear out your fridge and get rid of all leftover food and any weird condiments you haven’t touched in six months. I mean it, like right now! If you can’t remember when you bought it, it’s most likely not good anymore.  You’ll be happy to have all that space for your turkey day leftovers instead of a random jam from 2020 (you know it’s in there). While you are at it tackle tossing things from your freezer, too. Also, taste your oils and make sure they are not rancid. Chances are if they haven’t been used for a while they are no bueno. When cooking one tends to use them in just about everything and you don’t want to ruin your meal with an ingredient that doesn’t taste great.

2. You probably already do this, but use post-it notes to determine what dish goes in what serving platter or plate. Pick your serving spoons, forks, and tongs in advance as well.  Choose smaller platters, or even plates, for a fuller-looking dish of food on the buffet.

3. Make your stock, pie crust, and croutons for stuffing in advance. You can get turkey backs and necks at the grocery right now for both stock and gravy—because too much gravy is never a bad idea. Homemade stock is economical and it actually tastes good, unlike the most cardboard versions.

4. Tape your recipes and your menu to the cabinets. This is great if you just happen to be drinking Bloody Marys in the a.m. (and mid-day) you are forgetful and can’t find the stuffing recipe and/or remember what in the heck you are supposed to be doing.

5. Use useful table decor. To decorate the table I often utilize potted plants and herbs which are so seasonal and pretty. After Thanksgiving those plants go right in the garden. I add pops of color by collecting seasonal grocery store blooms and items like pomegranates, nuts, and persimmons.

6. Gather all your recipe ingredients in a designated trays or baskets so you have everything all together and you’re not rummaging through your pantry looking for something you thought you had but you actually threw away (see tip #1).

7. Don’t try to be everything to everyone just make good choices. If you have someone who is vegan or gluten-free you don’t have to add a bunch of dishes to your standard menu. Instead, simply think about swapping out the butter for olive oil and/or put dressings on the side so main and side dishes can work for all. Or, ask them to bring something to add to the meal so you’re not worried about making something your unsure of.

8. Do as much as you can on Wednesday including setting the table (then go out to dinner on Wednesday night, even if it’s pizza!). No dishes in the dishwasher is a good way to start your Thanksgiving morning.

9. Don’t fall into the “I’m going to be a short-order chef all day” trap. Put out a serve-yourself breakfast and forgo lunch!

10. Buy an air-chilled kosher turkey they is pre-brined or better yet a heritage bread turkey at the farmers market—super rich tasting and best yet no brine needed.

Wishing you all a very safe, healthy, and joyful Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for the incredible support I have from readers and friends. The blog has taken a bit of a back seat during the long-awaited publication of Lush Life and I have been overwhelmed by your encouragement and excitement. Thank you for hanging in there through the process and for tagging along. I am excited to work on new recipes and to continue to grow (literally and metaphorically) together. Cheers to you and yours!

– Val