“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
When we think of a Thanksgiving meal, we think of roast turkey and cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies and beans, cheese grits and corn, sweet potato casseroles, mashed potatoes and stuffing – the list goes on and on!
Around the table loaded with all this bounty are your family and friends, which is what makes this particular festival so special. It’s a time for family and for being thankful for what you have.
For some of us, however, this holiday can end up being seriously stressful. Why, you ask? Well, the centerpiece of this holiday is the Thanksgiving meal. And preparing that meal can be seriously stressful.
So, to help you destress and enjoy your holiday, here are 25 hacks that will upgrade your thanksgiving meal to a whole new level of delicious, We invite you to check them out and tell us how you did :)
1. Plan Ahead
If you are going to have an elaborate Thanksgiving feast, then plan ahead. Trying to do everything on Thanksgiving is asking for trouble. Take time out days – if not weeks – in advance and make a list of all you have to do.
This list should include not just the groceries you need, but also what you need to prep the meal – pots and pans, crockery, cutlery, décor, etc.
2. Rope in Family and Friends
Do not try to do everything on your own! This is a time that everyone should enjoy – including you. Ask your friends and family for help.
A pot luck will lessen your load tremendously, and give you time to enjoy this special festival with everyone else.
And don’t feel shy about asking them to help with the cleanup after the feast is done.
3. Get Some Extra Cooling Space
A great way to get extra cooling space is to use your cooler. When you are preparing a feast, you will run out of room in your fridge pretty quickly.
Fill your cooler up with ice and store your drinks there. This means that you fridge will then have more space for the food.
4. Prep Cookware in Advance
When you have tons of cooking to do, it is best to be prepared in every way possible. This means not just getting the groceries beforehand, but also ensuring that you have all the cookware you need.
This not only makes things more organized, but also gives you a sense of control – you don’t need to be distracted by trying to figure out where you kept that baking pan or that casserole dish when you are running out of time.
5. Prepping Ingredients
You can save a lot of time if you cut your vegetables and other prep other ingredients the day before.
Prepping is what takes a lot of time, so if you do it in advance, then you can whip up dishes much faster on Thanksgiving.
6. Washing Potatoes
A lot of the most popular side dishes for Thanksgiving revolve around potatoes. You have mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potato casserole, potato gratin, potato salad – the list goes on and on.
So, when you have to wash a ton of potatoes for your Thanksgiving meal, here’s what you can do. Put them in your dishwasher – without the soap, of course! And, voila! All your potatoes are ready!
7. Baking Bread at Home
If you’re going all out for your Thanksgiving meal and are planning to bake your bread at home, you can make homemade brown and serve rolls days or even weeks in advance.
The idea is to prep the rolls way in advance, bake them halfway through and then freeze them.
Then, on Thanksgiving, all you need to do is bake them for just a few minutes and you have absolutely fresh baked, golden brown rolls for your holiday feast!
8. Pies for Thanksgiving
No Thanksgiving is complete without pies! However, getting the pie crust ready on time can be quite challenging. You can par-bake your pies a day or two in advance and freeze them.
To prevent your pie crusts from puffing up, you need pie weights. However, don’t go out and buy them! Instead, you can use what you have at home – pennies, dried beans, rice – they will all do the job without you having to spend extra money.
To make things even easier, you can bake open-faced pies, or even top them with whipped cream.
9. Cranberry Sauce, Anyone?
Many people end up buying canned cranberry sauce for their Thanksgiving feasts. However, this sauce doesn’t taste as good as sauce made from scratch.
The best cranberry sauces use fresh cranberries. You should be able to get it in your local supermarket when you get close to Thanksgiving.
Don’t spend hours over the stove making your cranberry sauce. Simply microwave your sauce, and you will save a lot of time!
10. Preparing the Turkey
The star of a Thanksgiving meal is the bird. Prepping the turkey correctly can save you a lot of time and give you the perfect roast. The first thing you should do is dry brine the turkey.
The traditional way to brine the turkey is time-consuming and messy. Instead, marinate the turkey using the dry brining method.
Prep your turkey about 3 days before Thanksgiving by drying it with paper towels, rubbing it with salted dry spices and then seal it in a plastic bag and store it in your fridge.
Then, on the big day, take it out of the plastic bag, and let it dry out in the fridge. You will have the crispiest, most golden skin, with the tenderest meat when you roast the bird.
If you’re not sure about roasting the entire bird, then cook only the breast pieces. You can even cook them in the crockpot so that they come out tender and juicy and give you the time to prep the other dishes.
11. Use Chicken Broth to Perk Up Your Turkey
Turkey is not an easy bird to roast. It takes time and practice, and even then, there are times that you may end up overcooking your turkey and it may end up being a little dry.
If your turkey has indeed turned out a little dry, pour some warm chicken broth over the bird before you serve it. It will not only moisten the dry meat, but also give it added flavor.
There are two advantages to this method. Number one – you will be able to heat up your turkey without drying it out even further.
Second, the chicken broth will give your bird an added depth of flavor and also return some juiciness to the meat.
12. Prep the Turkey Gravy in Advance
Don’t wait for turkey drippings to make your gravy. You can tick off another item from your to-do list on Thanksgiving Day by making the gravy days in advance and then freezing it.
All you need to do is use turkey or chicken wings for your gravy base, and you are all set!
13. Use a Thermos as a Gravy Warmer
Don’t wait for the last moment to heat up your gravy. Instead, you can heat up your gravy well in advance and put it in a thermos for it to stay hot until you need it for the feast.
This way, you don’t have to spend the last few minutes trying to heat up dishes for your Thanksgiving table.
14. Stuffing as a Side Dish
No turkey is complete without stuffing. However, there is only so much stuffing that you can push into one bird. So, a better idea would be to make double the stuffing. Whatever doesn’t fit inside the turkey can be served as a side dish.
All you need to do is bake the stuffing alongside the turkey. This way, your guests will be able to enjoy all the stuffing they want.
15. Rest the Bird Before Carving
To make your turkey even more juicy, let it rest for at least 20 minutes before you serve it. Ideally, you should let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes.
When you roast any fowl, the juices collect in the middle of the bird. So, when you rest the bird, the juices can flow back to the extremities so that all parts are tender and juicy.
16. Make Turkey Soup with Leftovers
Don’t throw away the turkey carcass after your feast. You can make delicious turkey soup for the next day or freeze it for the future.
You can put the left-over turkey carcass in a pot, along with stock vegetables and simmer it for a few hours.
Strain the broth and add vegetables and the leftover turkey meat to it. Then, simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender.
17. Peeling Garlic
If you like to use a lot of garlic in your cooking, then this hack is especially for you. Garlic no doubt gives a wonderful flavor to the food, but peeling those cloves can be quite a pain.
Here is a wonderful hack on peeling garlic in just seconds! All you need to do is place all your garlic cloves in a mason jar and give it a good shake. According to Martha Stewart, you just need to shake the jar vigorously for about 17 to 20 seconds.
However, for the rest of us who may not be as robust, it could take up to a minute, but that’s still much faster than peeling each individual clove!
18. Using Your Slow Cooker
Your slow cooker could be your savior on Thanksgiving Day! There are so many things that you can use it for. You can cook a few dishes in it or you can even use it to keep your food warm.
For example, if you’re looking for a way to keep your mashed potatoes warm, but also fluffy and creamy, then put them in the slow cooker after you’ve made them.
Turn on the cooker and low, and your potatoes will still be lovely, fluffy and warm until it’s time to serve them.
You can even use your slow cooker to make that leftovers soup.
19. Cheese Platter Snack
While you’re putting the finishing touches to your Thanksgiving feast, you can offer your guests a cheese platter to munch on. The fancy term for a cheese platter is Charcuterie Board.
But like they say, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. So, call it whatever you like, this is a delicious appetizer that will keep your guests from starving while you get ready to serve the main course.
20. Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs
Are you planning to use hard-boiled eggs in your dishes for Thanksgiving? They do taste delicious in a potato salad or as devilled eggs. However, peeling those hard-boiled eggs can be a painful and lengthy task. Well, here’s a hack to help make this difficult task easier.
Simply put your hard-boiled eggs in a mason jar along with some water. Then, shake the bottle vigorously for about 15 to 20 seconds. The shell should come right off with no hassle at all!
21. Make Dessert Beforehand
Dessert is the final touch to a perfect feast. So, you cannot miss it. The good thing is that you can make the dessert a day before and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it.
If you don’t want to do the traditional pumpkin pie, you can try a frozen pumpkin cheesecake pie. This dessert is a mix of ice cream, cheesecake and pumpkin pie. It’s incredibly simple to put together and there’s no cooking required.
22. Thanksgiving Décor
No Thanksgiving is complete without the decorations to go with it. You don’t have to buy expensive pieces of art to get that lovely festive look. One idea is to use plastic vegetables and fruit and spray paint them with glitter paint.
You can get plastic pumpkins, pears and other fall vegetables and fruit at your dollar store. Then, you tape of the stems and spray the glitter pain on these items.
Let them dry and then spray a clear coat to make sure the glitter does not rub off on hands.
You can also reuse last year’s decoration pieces, but place them in different places to get a whole new look. Place some flameless candles among your recently painted fruit and vegetables and you will get this lovely glow that will elevate that warm, cozy family feel to your celebrations.
You can take printouts of lovely thanksgiving pictures, frame them and place them in different parts of your living room. You can fill glass jars with uncooked popcorn.
23. Dressing Up Your Table
Since the biggest part of Thanksgiving is the feast, you need to also decorate your table. Once again, you do not have to spend a load of money to create a beautiful dining table. Here are a few simple things you can do:
Use a tablecloth to give your table a more formal look. Use real food and fruit as accent pieces.
For example, a bowl of full of walnuts on top of which a pumpkin sits can really add character to a table. You can even make your own cornucopia with fresh fruit.
You can use rustic table mats made out of old paper bags or even craft paper. You can add pinecones to decorate your table. However, bake them a little so that you can get rid of any insects that may have made those cones their home.
24. Set Your Table in Advance
With so much to do on Thanksgiving Day, it is better to set your table the night before. That way you have the time to set up your table to your satisfaction.
What this will also do is help you fix the dining table and area and give you an idea of what needs to be added or removed.
You get a chance to clean and arrange your cutlery and crockery in your dining area. You will then know what is missing or if anything is broken or damaged and needs to be replaced.
25. Lay Out a Buffet for More Space
If you don’t want to overload your table with all the food you have cooked, lay out a buffet. You can add some decorations around the food to give it a festive Thanksgiving look.
Having a buffet will give you two advantages. First, you will have more space on the table for guests to be seated more comfortably. And secondly, you can really do up your dining table and make it look really beautiful.
The last thing you must do before you start to eat is to give a word of thanks for the many blessings you have been given. If you are celebrating your Thanksgiving with family and friends, then you are very lucky person indeed.
There are many, many people in the world who do not have the good fortune to be blessed with this tight network of love.
It doesn’t need to be a prayer. You can simply thank your guests for having made the effort to come into your life, and also appreciate the many blessings that have been showered upon you.