Nov 7, 2011

7 Make Ahead Thanksgiving Food Ideas

This year, I'll be hosting Thanksgiving for the first time ever. So not only am I planning already, but I'm trying to come up with ways I can spend the least amount of time in the kitchen on the actual holiday; I'd much rather spend it with my family. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prep for Thanksgiving now:

1. Pies. I've made up some apple pie filling and popped it into the freezer (see recipe, below). I may also make up some fruit or pecan pies and freeze them before baking. Just wrap well in plastic wrap, then in two layers of heavy duty foil. Bake without thawing for 15 to 20 min. in a 425 degree F. oven, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. for the remainder of the baking. Unfortunately, pumpkin pies don't freeze well (commercial pumpkin pies are flash frozen), but you can bake the crust ahead of time; bake until just beginning to brown, then wrap up and freeze (in the pie plate).

2. Bread. For best results, whip up the dough and freeze it after the first rising. Later, thaw, let rise in a warm location, and bake. You can also bake cornbread and freeze it. An easy way to reheat it is to thaw it in the fridge, then pop it into a brown lunch bag and nuke it for about a minute.

3. Cranberry sauce. If you want it homemade, make it up to four days ahead and store it in the fridge.

4. Stuffing. Assemble it the day before, minus any liquids.

5. Mashed potatoes. You can make them the day before and refrigerate them. Reheat in a covered pot, adding milk, if necessary, to make them the correct consistency. Or, cover the potatoes with foil and reheat for 20 minutes in a 350 degree F. oven. I've heard (but haven't tried this trick myself) that you can freeze mashed potatoes. Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours before reheating.

6. Soup. Soups not containing dairy can be made ahead and frozen for months. You can also make soup up to three days ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. In many cases, this improves the soup's flavor.

7. Gravy. If you use home made or store bought stock, you can make the gravy up to two days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.

* * *

Apple Pie Filling

6 lbs. apples (peeled, cored, and sliced)*
2 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Pour the apples into a large bowl, stirring in the sugar, flour, and spices. Let this mixture sit about 30 minutes, or until you can see apple juices in the bowl. Pour into a large pot and cook over medium heat until it begins to thicken. Pour into freezer containers, if desired.

* To prevent the apple slices from browning, you may place them in a bowl of lemon water during the process of peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. Then dump them in a colander, rinse, and drain before proceeding.


  1. Ooo...I know it will be good! And you'll have lots of good fellowship. Enjoy!

  2. I love having a deep freeze... guess I'll be starting on some of these projects this week! :)