Simplifying Thanksgiving Meal Prep

When Thanksgiving rolls around, it seems that your kitchen can just never be big enough for all the food prep that needs to happen. Every countertop is filled with appetizers or desserts waiting to be eaten. As the hot foods start coming out, dishes pile up around the sink, and everything gets shuffled around to fit the giant feast. Let alone space in the oven or stove top as you’re preparing the meal! Thankfully, some pre-planning and freezing can be a big help with preparation. Over the years, here are a few tips I’ve gleaned to help make things a little easier:

  • Bake pies a day or two before, wrap them well, and then refrigerate them. Because they are homemade and don’t have preservatives, you’ll definitely want to refrigerate them, and wrapping them well can keep them from absorbing odors and tastes from whatever else is in the fridge. Also, unbaked pies can also be frozen ahead of time. (Or better yet, order freshly baked pies from Wolff’s!)

  • Make mashed potatoes ahead of time and freeze them (recipe below)
  • If making your own stuffing, dice bread ahead of time and freeze it (I always keep a bag of bread scraps going in the freezer for future use in stuffings, breadcrumbs or cubed and added to meatballs). Onions and celery can also be sautéed and frozen until ready to mix in.
  • Find stuffing recipes here — (traditional) (sage, sausage & apple) (wild mushroom stuffing)

  • Other vegetables can be sliced ahead of time, such as green beans, peppers, cucumbers, etc. Sliced carrots should be stored in water to avoid over-drying.
  • Cranberry sauce is best when made in advance so that it can fully cool. Find the Wolff’s family recipe for cranberry sauce here.

This year in particular, I know I’m looking forward to making my dishes in advance whenever possible since I’ll be 36 weeks pregnant. Although I’ll just be bringing a side for our main Thanksgiving celebration, I usually like to make a small version of the whole meal for our family. Any time-saving steps I can take at this stage in the game really help!

Mashed Potatoes
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 3 lbs potatoes
  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ cup crème fraîche (Mexican crema, sour cream or cream cheese would also work)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. Wash and roughly peel the potatoes. Cut into large (2-3 inch) chunks. Place in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to let some of the starch come out. Drain the water and place potatoes in another pot of cold water on the stove top and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are soft and can be poked all the way through with a fork. Drain.
  2. In another large pot, melt the butter. Add the garlic and sauté.
  3. Add the potatoes once they are ready and mash with a potato masher or submersible blender. Add the crème fraîche.
  4. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Taste and add salt if desired (I found that the butter I used had plenty already).
  5. Serve warm. Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen (with crème fraîche -- I can't vouch for how other creams will freeze).