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Thanksgiving is about family and togetherness, but it is also a food holiday. The pressure is on to make a delicious and memorable meal...all the while, being thankful and honoring the spirit of the holiday. This is the gateway to the holiday season. Thanksgiving is the time to pull out all the culinary stops. It is the time to make an impression. Of course, and most importantly, it is the time to be thankful.

While thinking about some of the logistical pitfalls of this glorious holiday, I decided to share a few tips that should help relieve some of the pressure as you embark on creating a fantastic food memory for your family and friends.

Make a (5-Day) Plan.
        Think ahead and plan out five days in advance. You can begin making side dishes such as cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole earlier in the week that can be refrigerated until the day of.

 

Make a Storage Plan. Your oven will be crowded, and so will your refrigerator. Take advantage of resealable bags. They lay flat, they stack and they’re see through so you can see what’s in them. Also if you’re marinated something, you use less marinade when using a resealable bag.

Buy in Bulk. Don’t forget to plan for the leftovers. Use some of the bulk items for the big day, and some for the next day to stretch the leftovers into something new. For example, cubed stuffing makes great croutons for a Turkey Caesar Salad with a few dried cranberries.

Make a “Day of” Plan. Because the oven is crowded on the big day, balance the menu with cold, room temperature, stove top reheat and oven reheat dishes. This will help with multi-tasking and assure that cold dishes are cold and hot dishes are hot when ready to serve.

Organize the clean up. If you are planning a large party, designated a dump area for the dirty dishes, ie the garage or the laundry room. Have a separate bin for plates, glasses and flatware. This will make the clean up much easier and the kitchen won’t be overwhelmed with after-dinner clutter.

Set a Budget and Shop Early. Start early to take advantage of Thanksgiving savings. One of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes is Sweet Potato Pie and sweet potatoes are in season and cheaper this time of year.

Remain Happy and Calm. Happy cooking makes a much better meal. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. Thanksgiving is a day of togetherness. Let your friends and family help share in the meal preparation.

Be Traditional, but Get Creative. The holidays are a tradition, so don’t stretch too far away from America’s favorite table trimmings including mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and stuffing. But, don’t be afraid to gives these dishes a creative twist. Consider adding sour cream and parmesan cheese to mashed potatoes or including dried cranberries in your green bean casserole.

My husband and tech advisor, Matthew, wanted me to share some online tools and smartphone/tablet apps that can help with your planning and organization. The nice thing about a number of these tools is that you can share items and work collaboratively with others. For instance, you can build your menu and then collaborate with others to clarify who is doing what and when.

Springpad
        -- All-in-One Organizer/Digital Memory

Evernote
        -- All-in-One Organizer/Digital Memory

 

Astrid -- To Do Lists/Task Management
Wunderlist -- To Do Lists/Task Management
Any.Do -- To Do List/Task Management
Remember the Milk -- To Do Lists/Task Management
ToDoIst -- To Do Lists/Task Management

OurGroceries -- Grocery Shopping List
GroceryIQ -- Grocery Shopping List

I hope that these tips help you have a stress-free, or at least less-stressful, Thanksgiving.

Cook with love. Give thanks. Have a great holiday!