by Dalia Guerra

    Holiday dinners should not be full of stress, but instead should be a happy time to spend with family and sharing moments to create memories.  I will share a few tips on how to have a not so stressful holiday dinner.  To prepare for my Thanksgiving dinner I had to come up with a plan and make that plan work for me.   I had to plan for ‘surprises’, for example a burnt casserole and make a schedule for the preparation days.  Three weeks before my dinner I made a list of every ingredient I would need for every dish I was serving and if I was doubling the recipe I would double the count of what I needed.  The second thing I did was split that list and make another two lists.  One was for the ingredients I needed that I could buy ahead of time, the nonperishable foods, and the other one was of the ingredients I had to buy fresh.  I checked to see if I had any of the nonperishable foods in my pantry and checked off what I had.  Next, I bought all the foods on the nonperishable list.  If anything was out of stock I would put it on the other list to get later.  The good thing about making a holiday dinner 5 days earlier is that you are more than likely to find everything you need than if you waited until 1 or 2 days before to buy what you need.  I also bought the foil pans for the side dishes and casseroles ahead of time.

      One week before the dinner I made a schedule of the times I would need to cook every dish and also made a schedule for the day before.  I estimated the cooking time of the dish and cooked the foods that took the longest first of course, i.e. the turkey.  The day before the dinner I bought the things I needed on the list and then I decided that the desserts I was making could be prepared a day before so I made those.  I also cut up the vegetables I was putting in the stuffing and baked the corn bread.  I put everything in the fridge until the next day.  That was pretty much it for that day.  

      On the day of the dinner I sautéed the cut up mixture of vegetables and made the stuffing.  I put the turkey in at 8:30 am.  I made breakfast for the kids and the prepared for the day.  I had the whole day to prepare for the 7 pm dinner time.  I made the two casseroles and placed them in the refrigerator along with the ham until it was time to bake them.  I cut up the potatoes and put them in the pot of water on the stove but didn’t boil them until about 40 minutes before dinner time.  The two casseroles and ham took 45 minutes to bake so I baked them an hour and a half before dinner time and by then the turkey was done.   Last but not least, I baked the dinner rolls 10 minutes before sitting down to eat so they were hot and fresh.  By being this prepared it worked out perfectly.  I was able to spend time with the kids and even rest up a bit.  My mother always made a Thanksgiving lunch and we are 10 in the family, plus the children so it was a big gathering.  It was stressful for my mother, even though we helped her prepare the food and made sure to have everything done by noon.  My mom would start at 3 or 4 in the morning of Thanksgiving Day.  She stood back and watched me prepare Thanksgiving dinner this year and said she doesn’t know why she didn’t think of ever doing a dinner rather than a lunch. 

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