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LIMITED TIME: The current meal plan has a special Thanksgiving menu + prep sheet + shopping list. We're also including a FREE ebook with this week's plan! The Holiday Survival Guide is our gift to you!
Everything is crazy easy and can be made ahead!! We like a fuss-free, healthy #plantproud Thanksgiving too :)
It's a really cool meal plan with a lot of great options, no matter your situation or schedule! Plus there's no leftovers and no waste! (even on the individual plan!)
And YES! Soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, no oil, no nuts, etc!
We are so THANKFUL for your support! The meal plans keep this website going. We couldn't have this free resource, our Facebook page, or the new cooking show without your financial support through the meal plans.
Get the details on this week's super special, never-done-before and awesome meal plan by clicking here.
I cook a feast on Thanksgiving. Keyword: FEAST. Every year, without fail, I make way more food than we (and our guests) could ever eat. I can't help it. I also stuff myself to the point of total discomfort trying.
This year, Thanksgiving is also coming twice for us.
Scott's parents visited us in California recently and since we can't be together on Thanksgiving, I whipped up a quick (yes quick!) Thanksgiving meal their last night here.
My in-laws, by the way, who normally don't like kale, liked the kale salad so much they asked for the recipe after having seconds :) woot!
I also made Pumpkin Pie (also in HHC) for dessert (made with sweet potatoes because I ran out of pumpkin, whoops!).
All together I had this meal finished and ready within an hour, including the time it took to bake cornbread. (I made the pie in advance). Had I planned a little better, I could have probably pulled this meal together in 30 to 40 minutes with prep and cleanup. (A good bit of time was spent fishing through my pantry and fridge to see what I COULD make based on my ingredients... I'm a terrible planner! I decided to do this dinner at the last minute.)
I also prepared 9 items for Thanksgiving last year, and even cooking everything LIVE on Ustream, I still did it in under 2 hours :)
Point is, even if you want to have a big feast, you don't have to spend all day in the kitchen! You just have to plan it right! (Which I'm learning...)
Here's my menu this year:
"Cheese" ball (HHLL)
Harvest Salad with Maple Dressing (HHLL)
Cranberry Sauce (HHC)
Tofu Turkey (HHC)
Thanksgiving Gravy (HHC)
Traditional Stuffing (HHC)
*with* "Sausage" (HHC)
Cajun Potato Salad (EHH)
Mashed Potatoes (HHC)
Harvest Cornbread (EHH)
Pumpkin Cheesecake (HHC)
Green Beans (steamed)
The secret to cooking all this food (and staying sane... and not making a huge mess... or spending ALL day in the hot kitchen) is to plan.
(and if you're me, REMEMBER TO PLAN!)
Now, I must give thanks to Ina Garten quickly: Last year I was browsing one of her books in B&N. It was new at the time and, well, because Ina doesn't cook anything I can eat, I didn't buy the book, BUT there was this one little tip that jumped out at me and changed my cooking life forever.
(Thanks to Amazon's "look inside" feature, you can see the exact page I'm talking about here. Scroll to pages 24-25).
Ina writes out a "game plan" for each meal she makes. It's extraordinarily detailed, down to "5:30p.m. preheat oven to 350F."
(Btw, as Ina will attest, writing your game plan down makes a huge difference! Write it down, don't just keep it in your head!)
When cooking big feasts or multi-dish meals, I'd always kept a handy list of the recipes I was making, and I typically gave some thought about when I should cook which dish (in what order) but I was never terribly specific about it.
Creating your game plan is a little like a long paragraph math problem... If Bill is 7 and Jane is 2 years older than Bill, and Carla is 1 year younger than Jane... how old is Sophie?
(I HATED those kinds of math problems!)
BUT I LOVE a good prep sheet. (p.s. we now have awesome weekly prep sheets with the meal plans, see an example by clicking here.)
Here's my game plan for Thanksgiving 2013:
It's not as specific as Ina would like (you'll see timestamps are missing) but this is partly because we have not yet settled on a final time for Thanksgiving dinner this year. (So I'll add timestamps later).
One quick note: I don't prepare anything ahead. I find if I make food ahead it gets eaten. I don't want to point fingers, cough cough, Scott, cough cough, but since a half eaten pie, or a cheese ball with a noticeably missing left corner isn't really ideal for serving guests, I make everything day of :)
The cheese ball, salad dressing, cranberry sauce, turkey mixture (unbaked), stuffing, sausages, potato salad, cornbread, and cheesecake can all be made ahead, and in the case of the cranberry sauce and cheesecake (or pumpkin pie) it would be wise to make them ahead since both need to chill for several hours.
If you're making the potato salad or sausages, you'd want to cook your potatoes and sausages ahead, too, so they are chilled for making the salad. (You'll see the sausages are missing from my prep sheet because someone else is making and bringing them to dinner).
The time estimates are how long something will actually take me to do it (start to finish) NOT the cooking time. I multi-task :)
My prep sheet:
Pressure cook (or boil) red potatoes (for potato salad). (2 mins)
Start cranberry sauce. (5 mins)
Prepare pumpkin cheesecake. Bake. (10 mins)
Rinse potatoes under cold water (or give ice bath), refrigerate to chill.
Let cranberry sauce cool.
Pressure cook (or boil) potatoes (for mashed potatoes) (2 mins)
Prepare cornbread. Bake. (7 mins)
Let pumpkin cheesecake cool.
Prepare cheeseball (5-10 minutes); refrigerate.
Toast bread (unless using stale bread) (for stuffing) (5 minutes; many rounds)
Chop stuffing ingredients (5-10 mins)
Prepare stuffing; set aside (bake later) (2 mins)
Prepare turkey mixture (5-10 mins); set aside (bake later)
Make mashed potatoes; transfer to pot, or back to PC to keep warm.
** once cool (about 1 hour) refrigerate pie and cranberry sauce.
Prepare potato salad; refrigerate until serving. (10 minutes)
Bake stuffing and "turkey"
Prep and cook gravy (10 minutes)
Steam green beans
Whisk dressing together, pour into serving jar and chill.
Prep salad ingredients. Toss together just before serving.
BTW-- Next week's meal plan (releasing on Wednesday, November 20th) will also have a special menu for those who are the lone veg-head or you just want to eat healthy. (No leftovers, no waste). AND the meal plan will also be flexible for those who are taking the day "off." AND if you're not celebrating, no worries, we have the regular 7-day meal plan option for you as well.
It's a really cool meal plan with a lot of great options, no matter your situation or schedule -- I'm stoked to share it.
Pot lucks, gluten-free, solo diners, and beyond: I have you covered.
Need a festive but healthy party platter? Here are a few ideas.