By Terrie Ortwein
Thanksgiving is early this year. Speaking of early, does it seem like everything is early lately? The snow seemed to come early. And, of course, it’s getting dark early. But I guess that happens every Fall doesn’t it? (Doesn’t mean that we have to like it though!!!) Thanksgiving dinner will be upon you before you know it so there are plenty of things you can do “early” so the granddaddy of all meals is less daunting and more enjoyable for all.
Many items on your Thanksgiving dinner menu can be prepared early. The biggest and most time consuming items are your desserts. There isn’t enough room in the oven for the turkey, the rolls, the sweet potato-marshmallow thingy, plus the pies anyway, so you have to make the desserts early. Bake off those pies a day or two prior to the big day. The desserts are important and they actually deserve a day committed to just themselves. If you are planning to offer breads, rolls or biscuits, most can be made in advance as well. A quick warm up in the oven while you are carving the turkey and those dinner rolls will be as good as new. Biscuits can be made and shaped in advance, frozen, and baked last minute with little to no fuss required on the big day.
Prep and/or make your veggie side dishes early. Most can be made in advance and reheated or finished on the big day. Most potato dishes can be made in advance and reheat very well such as mashed potatoes or potato gratins. Any casserole type dish falls into this same “early” category: that sweet potato-marshmallow thingy, the dressing, and green beans can be blanched and then sauteed the day of dinner.
And that splash of red for the plate that says Thanksgiving Dinner like no other item, the cranberry sauce, should be made early too!!! If you aren’t a big fan of traditional cranberry sauce, try this recipe for Cranberry Salad. It’s loaded with lots of fresh pineapple and pears and has just the right amount of acidity to balance out the richness of your Thanksgiving Dinner.
Oh, and one final thing that you MUST do early….thaw that bird. Now!
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Happy Thanksgiving!!
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (14 oz.)
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups fresh orange juice (approx. 2-3 large oranges)
1 cup chopped Bartlett pears (about 2 small pears)
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
½ cup thinly sliced celery
½ cup chopped toasted pecans
Bring the cranberries, brown sugar, and orange juice to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop and mixture thickens, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the Bartlett pears, pineapple, celery, and pecans. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill salad 4 to 24 hours.
Note: Salad can be made up to 3 days in advance. The salad is great served with other proteins such as ham, pork chops or chicken.