Cranberry sauce is another great one to make the day before, or even earlier. I think it tastes better when it has time to sit in the fridge. I used to never make my own cranberry sauce until I discovered it’s so incredibly simple to make! It’ll impress your guests too when you tell them you made it from scratch.
Here’s the cranberry sauce recipe that I like to use.
This time I just used whole orange peels instead of orange zest, then pulled out the peels when the sauce was done. It gives a more subtle orange flavor than the zest. You could also add a cinnamon stick in there if you’d like, instead of powdered cinnamon.
Plan a Schedule
It really helps to have a schedule of when to do what. That way you don’t forget anything, burn anything, or leave too many things until the last minute. First of all, determine the cooking time for your turkey and plan around that. I used this site. I like to plan to have it out of the oven around an hour before dinner time, so I have plenty of time to make the gravy, remove the stuffing, and carve the turkey. It’s good for a turkey to sit for a while before you carve it so the juices get absorbed back into the meat to make it more moist. I just put tin foil over it to keep it hot.
This year, my bird was 10 lbs, so I planned on 3 1/2 hours of cooking time. I wanted dinner to be on the table by 7, so my schedule went something like this:
1:30pm- Pull the turkey out of the fridge (I used a fresh turkey, so no thawing necessary). Prepare the stuffing. Preheat oven.
2:00pm: Stuff the turkey.
2:30pm: Put the turkey into the oven
5:00pm: Pull out the mashed potatoes, yams, broccoli and cauliflower casserole (which I had made the day before) from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature.
5:30pm: Set the table (or better yet, get husband to do it).
6:00pm: Turkey comes out of the oven (check the internal temperature to make sure it’s cooked). Remove from the roasting pan and place on a cutting board. Cover with foil and let it sit. Turn oven to 350F.
6:10pm: Make your gravy with the pan drippings.
6:20pm: Put the potatoes, yams, and broccoli-cauliflower casserole into the oven.
6:30pm: Scoop the stuffing out of the turkey, place it in a serving dish and cover it.
6:40pm: Get husband to carve the turkey. Check the food in the oven to see if it’s heated through. If not, put it back in for another 10 minutes, or to speed things up, use the microwave.
6:50pm: Start getting food on the table. Don’t forget the cranberry sauce!
7:00pm: Dig in!
Okay, so that schedule may seem hectic but a lot of it is just taking things in and out of the oven. It’s really not bad at all. Don’t be afraid!
Help is a Good Thing
Get your spouse or other relatives to help as much as possible. If they offer to bring something, take them up on it. If people ask me what they can bring, I usually say appetizers, wine, or dessert.
I find that everyone seems to like to congregate in the kitchen, so we set out appetizers and wine on the kitchen counter so people can snack and visit, and maybe lend a hand with the meal if they want.
It’s Okay not to Make Everything from Scratch
Do yourself a favor and pick at least one part of your meal that you buy pre-made. For me, this is usually dessert. I bought a pumpkin pie this year. I did whip the whipping cream myself after dinner while my husband made the coffee and tea, but that was the extent of my efforts. It was nice to have one less thing to think about.
Make the Most of Leftovers
When your meal is over and you have a ton of leftovers, put them to good use. I use the turkey bones to make stock, and then make a turkey soup, like this one.
If you have a lot of mashed potatoes left, make gnocchi! I make more mashed potatoes than I need just so I can have enough leftovers to make it.
Cranberry sauce is excellent in muffins. I tried this recipe the other day and it was fantastic!
If you’re looking for holiday dinner recipe ideas, check these ones out from Life Made Delicious:
Good luck with your next turkey dinner; I hope these tips have been helpful.
What are your tips for making holiday meals easier?
Disclosure: I am part of the Life Made Delicious Blogger Program through Mom Central Canada and I receive certain perks as part of my affiliation. Opinions are my own.