7 Thanksgiving Shortcuts to Be Thankful For

Save time this holiday season with these go-to Thanksgiving prep tips and tricks.
By: Foodlets
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Photo by: Tara Donne ©FOOD NETWORK : 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Tara Donne, FOOD NETWORK : 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

When you’re hosting a big crowd for the holidays or even cooking for a crew of kids — a pair of daunting tasks if there ever was one — this list is for you. And if you’re doing both like I am this Thanksgiving, this one’s for you. And because many of the dishes can easily be made days in advance (or more), you can knock out most of the cooking well before Thanksgiving Day arrives.

Make and Freeze: Apple Pie 

Prepare an unbaked apple pie, like this one from Food Network Kitchen, then pop it into the freezer until you’re ready to bake. The trick: Wrap the whole thing in three layers of plastic wrap, then place in a gallon-size freezer bag or add another layer of aluminum foil. Tips:

  • Take the pie out of the freezer and put directly into the oven, just add 20 to 30 minutes of baking time.
  • Use a metal or ceramic pie plate; glass may not be sturdy enough to go from the freezer to the oven.
  • Pumpkin (or any other kind of custard) pie won’t work as well, but in that case, you could make the crust and freeze it ahead of time.

Sausage and Herb Stuffing; Ina Garten

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Stuffing practically begs to be made ahead of time. With all the juice from the sausage, plus chunks of sweet Granny Smith apples, this dish won’t have a chance to dry out when you reheat it on turkey day. Store with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to three days in advance.

Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy; Anne Burrell

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Prep in Advance: Brined Turkey

Get a head start on turkey prep by brining the bird a few days early. Anne Burrell lets the turkey chill in an apple cider brine for two to three days, then moves it to the roasting pan (uncovered in the refrigerator) the night before she cooks it.

Photo by: Picasa

Picasa

Make Ahead, Assemble Later: Turkey-Shaped Cheese Ball

This one’s an adorable snack for Thanksgiving Day. Make and shape the cheese ball, then add pretzel sticks (aka feathers) just before serving. Bonus: This is a nut-free cheese ball recipe that's perfect for anyone with allergies.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Use the Slow Cooker: Mashed Potatoes

There’s nothing like a dish that cooks itself politely while you tend to other things. These mashed potatoes simmer slowly and are finished with sour cream and fresh chives before serving.

Photo by: Picasa

Picasa

Make Ahead, Store for a Week: Balsamic-Maple Syrup Salad Dressing 

This salad dressing is magical. It made my four kids love kale salad. But it works just as well over any greens, so make a batch up to a week in advance, store in a jar and give it a shake before dressing your salad at the table.

TRISHA_YEARWOOD_SWEET_POTATO_SOUFFLE_H.jpg

TRISHA_YEARWOOD_SWEET_POTATO_SOUFFLE_H.jpg

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Assemble the whole delicious dish, cover, then pop it into the fridge. When Thanksgiving arrives, put the casserole on the counter while your oven heats up, allowing it to warm up a bit. You may need to cook for 10 extra minutes if the sweet potato souffle is still cold when your oven is ready.

Charity Curley Mathews is a mom to four kids under the age of 7 and the founder of Foodlets.com: Mini Foodies in the Making…Maybe, a site full of simple, real food ideas for toddlers, kids and families, plus all the advice you need for eating together in peace. Usually. She’s a contributor to The Huffington Post, InStyle and eHow. Follow Foodlets on Facebook or Pinterest and you’ll never miss a new recipe or tip.

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