We all wish for peace around the world, but for the next 48 hours it would be nice if it just occurred in our kitchens.
No matter your culinary ability, there seems to always be some drama, mishap, misread recipe or glitch that sets the teeth grinding and blood pressure rising.
Some veteran cooks will tell you to go with the flow. Mistakes happen. Forget what your sister-in-law said last year about the casserole. Take a breath. Look at your list and feel better as you check items off of it.
Here are some do-aheads, even this late in the game, that can help reduce the anxiety:
1. Make sure the turkey is thawed by no later than Wednesday. Expect five hours per pound in the refrigerator, or about two days for a 10-pound turkey. Quicker thawing methods exist, but it's best to let a turkey thaw on its own.
2. Doublecheck your head count. Better to have too much food than not enough.
3. Call/email guests bringing food and make sure your list matches what you thought they were bringing! (We once had family bring six pies and one vegetable with eight people for dinner.) If you need extra serving utensils, tell them to bring their own.
4. Make as many side dishes and desserts as possible today or Wednesday so you won't be trying to figure out how to put everything in the oven when the bird's already in residence and taking up a lot of room.
5. Make or buy ice. Put a cooler (or a couple) filled with ice outside. Put wine and soda bottles outside to chill, too. It leaves more room in the fridge.
6. Set the table at least the night before. Cover with a clean sheet if you have pets you don't want roaming the tabletop.
7. Run the dishwasher Wednesday night and empty it.
8. Set out trivets, clean kitchen towels and serving pieces you'll need. Gather your cooking utensils together.
9. Designate a reliable and willing teen in the family to help keep the kids occupied. Have on hand coloring books, crayons, paper. Tell parents to bring a favorite DVD for after the meal so adults can sit and talk while kids watch a movie on a TV that isn't tuned in to a football game.
10. Tonight and/or Wednesday night, don't cook dinner. Order out. Sit down. Relax before the onslaught Thursday morning. It will all turn out just fine.
Here are a variety of additional Thanksgiving Day dishes -- just in case you need an extra or two.
Muffin Pan Potatoes Gratins
B size red potatoes
Freshly ground pepper
Garlic powder or 1 clove garlic
12 teaspoons finely shredded Romano, Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
12 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the potatoes very thinly with the skin on. A mandoline is best.
Spray a dozen muffin tins with cooking spray or brush them with unsalted butter.
Lay two slices of potato in each muffin cup. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder or garlic.
Add two more slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a teaspoon grated cheese per muffin cup. Add two more potato slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Keep adding slices and varying the seasoning as you wish. End with just salt and pepper.
Pour 1 tablespoon cream over each individual gratin.
Bake 30-35 minutes. Makes 12.
-- Adapted from the blog Kate's Kitchen
This sweet potato casserole has been on the Ruth's Chris menu for nearly 50 years. You can double this recipe and bake in an 8-inch square casserole.
RUTH'S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
For the crust:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, melted
Sweet potato mixture: 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (2 large potatoes, boiled or microwaved until tender)
1 egg, well beaten
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the crust ingredients with a fork in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine the sugar, salt, vanilla, mashed sweet potatoes, egg and butter in a mixing bowl, and beat thoroughly. Pour into buttered quart-size baking dish.
Sprinkle the crust mixture evenly on top, and bake 30 minutes. Allow to set for at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.
-- Provided by the Miami Herald
MOM PARSONS' CRANBERRIES
3 allspice berries
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
Grated zest of 1 orange
1. Make a sachet: Wrap the cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks in a cheesecloth square and tie it shut. Bring sugar, water and spice sachet to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring, until the syrup is clear, about 3 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook just until they begin to pop, about 5 minutes.
2. Remove the pan from the heat, add the grated orange zest and cool. Refrigerate 1 to 3 days before serving. Remove the spice sachet before serving. This makes about 2 1/2 cups cranberries.
Each 1/4 cup serving: 134 calories, 35 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 32 grams sugar, 1 mg sodium.
-- Epicurious.com and the Los Angeles Times
You can substitute a mix of broccoli and cauliflower (use about 4 cups of each) for the green beans in this recipe.
GREEN BEAN GRATIN
2 1/2 pounds trimmed green beans cut into 2-inch pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, peeled, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
2 1/2 cups 1 percent low-fat milk
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped thyme or parsley, optional
1 1/2 cups fresh whole wheat bread crumbs or 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs or 1/2 cup shredded fontina or Italian blend cheese
Position racks in upper and lower third of oven; preheat to 425 degrees.
Place the green beans on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Roast the vegetables, stirring once and until just tender and beginning to slightly brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add milk and continue to stir, scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until the sauce bubbles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
When the vegetables are done, remove from the oven. Preheat the broiler.
Transfer half the vegetables to a 2-quart, broiler-safe baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the vegetables. Add the remaining vegetables and top with the remaining sauce.
Combine bread crumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl. (Skip this step if you are topping with cheese).
Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture (or cheese) over the gratin. Place under the broiler and broil, watching closely, until the gratin is bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your broiler. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves: 8, each with170 calories, 7 grams fat, 23 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 303 mg sodium, 4 mg cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.
Cook's note: You can roast the vegetables up to 30 minutes ahead. Prepare the sauce, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Reheat gently over low heat until steaming before combining with the vegetables. For a cheesy sauce, add 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere, Swiss or cheddar.
-- Adapted from www.eatingwell.com by Susan M. Selasky for the Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen
Savory Butternut Squash Dressing
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or light cream
1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock or reduced-sodium broth
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
8 cups dried sourdough bread cubes
1. In Dutch oven melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add fresh cranberries; cook for 1 minute more. Add 2 cups chicken stock, the rice, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Drain.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Return Dutch oven to medium heat. Add remaining butter, squash, and thyme. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Add onion and celery. Cook and stir 3 minutes more. Sprinkle salt and pepper; set aside.
3. In bowl whisk together half-and-half, eggs, and 1 1/2 cups stock. Stir in cooked rice, squash, dried cranberries, sage, and bread cubes. Transfer to shallow 3-quart casserole dish. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover; bake for 30 minutes more or until golden. Makes 8 (1/2-cup) servings plus leftovers, each with 149 calories, 5 grams fat, 79 mg cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar.
From the Test Kitchen: Prepare up to 2 days in advance; cover and refrigerate. Reheat, covered, in a 350-degree oven, for 50 minutes.
-- Better Homes & Gardens