Thanksgiving Prep



Contributing Writer
Vicki McGraw

Good Grief!! Thanksgiving is next week! Are you ready? Anxious? Worried? Over-whelmed? Or maybe a little bit of everything is running through your head these days. I know my mind starts spinning when I think of the fast approach of the holiday season. There are so many things to do, places to go and expectations to be met, many of us miss the joy and spirit of the holidays because we are so caught up in our to-do lists!

As I write this weeks’ edition of Join Me in the Kitchen, I have about a two weeks to prepare for Thanksgiving, and, as I always do, I have been making lists…shopping lists, guest lists, to do lists. I am lost without my lists! I am a traditionalist, so my menu will be just what you would expect…turkey with all the trimmings. I plan to buy my turkey this week. It is very important to allow sufficient time for your turkey to thaw completely. As I’m sure many of you have heard me preach before, you never want to leave a frozen turkey sitting out on the counter to thaw! That practice is an open invitation to bacteria growth and spoilage. The best method is to thaw your turkey under refrigeration, allowing one day refrigerated thaw time for every 3-4 pounds of turkey (for example, give an 18 pound turkey about 5 days in the fridge to thaw completely).

Included on my shopping list for this week are all of the non-perishables I will need for my holiday feast. Canned goods and baking ingredients can be bought ahead for day-before preparation. I will wait until the beginning of next week to buy my fresh veggies and other perishables, but I will start my prep a couple of days ahead of the big day. Potatoes (and other veggies) can be peeled and cut for later cooking, simply put them in a large container, cover with water and refrigerate until it is time to cook. Stuffing bread can be cubed, stored in a zip bag and frozen until the day before you need it. I actually like to do this all the time with ”ready to toss” breads and rolls…you know the kind, past fresh enough to eat, but really too good to throw away! I simply cube it, place in a zipper bag and toss the bag in the freezer. It is perfect for use not only as stuffing, but for homemade croutons, strata, or even to make bread crumbs.

Because oven space will be at a premium on Thanksgiving, I like to use my crock pot and roaster to keep dishes like mashed potatoes and stuffing warm. Both of these dishes can be fully prepared the day (or two) before and simply reheated in the crock. And here is another great trick to warm your pies (that you baked the day before). After taking your last pans out of the oven, turn the oven off, and slide your pies in. The cooling oven will warm your pie to a perfect temp while you eat your main course!

I always use my grandmothers’ china for holiday meals, so this weekend I will get it out of the china cabinet and make sure nothing needs to be washed (or replaced) before I need it. Being the picky person I am, I will label all of my serving dishes with what will be going in them so that I don’t have to scramble for a bowl or platter at the last minute. I will also make sure my favorite tablecloth is clean and ironed and that I have a stash of my favorite wines ready to serve when the guests arrive.

With a few lists and a bit of pre-planning, the day before Thanksgiving will be a breeze. By the time the big day arrives, I plan to do the last minute stuff, sit back and enjoy my family!

Robert’s Favorite Smashed Roots

  • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small rutabaga, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large turnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 whole garlic bulb
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-1 ½ c milk
  • 4 T butter

Cut top off garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil and generously sprinkle with pepper. Wrap in foil and bake at 350* for 30-45 minutes (until very soft).

While garlic is roasting, place all diced veggies in a large pot of salted water and boil until very tender.

Drain cooking water from veggies, squeeze roasted garlic into pot, add butter, salt and pepper and begin to mash (I like to use a potato masher rather than an electric mixer to achieve a “smashed” rather than creamy consistency). Add milk as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

This can be prepared a day or two ahead and simply reheated before serving.

To read more of Vicki McGraw’s commentaries on good cooking, fine recipes and perfect party treats, visit and click on Join Me in the Kitchen’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.