The year’s biggest food celebration is upon us: Are your Ziploc bags ready?
Bringing zip-top plastic bags to hold leftovers from whatever Thanksgiving you are attending is one of those last-minute tips that you’ll be happy you thought of on Thursday.
I’ve got about a dozen of those last-minute tips and leftover ideas to share, so let’s start at the end.
1. Maybe you’re attending a leftover-free Thanksgiving, but at all the ones I go to (or host), guests are always dividing up the extras at the end of the night. I give away most of my plastic food storage containers over the course of a year, so this year, I just started putting casseroles, potatoes, ham, turkey and even (cooled) turkey stock in heavy duty plastic bags. Yes, it’s a single-use plastic, but if it helps avoid food waste, I’m all for it.
2. Even if you plan to make the gravy, have a bag of packaged stuff as a backup, just in case you don’t have enough drippings (or time) to make the real thing. Hot gravy served on hot food is what you’re after, and if you’re stressing over gravy while the rest of the food is getting cold, the homemade gravy won’t save the meal.
3. Use that Instant Pot, if you have one: for mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, steamed sweet potatoes and from-scratch pumpkin pie filling. Turkey stock is particularly good cooked in a pressure cooker. We even have a recipe on Austin360.com for turkey breast, stuffing and gravy all made in a single multi-cooker.
4. If you’re a guest and want to bring flowers for your host, buy (or put) them in a vase. No host has time to make a pretty arrangement while trying to get dinner on the table.Pull off a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner with this turkey day menu and timeline
5. If you’re hosting, don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. Chances are, you have someone coming over who would be happy to swing by the store to grab ice, rolls, Cool Whip, napkins or extra butter. When people ask if they can help when they arrive and you could use a hand, take them up on the offer. If they offer to help with the dishes, let them. People love feeling part of a team.
6. A reminder: Turkey needs to get to 165 degrees between the thigh and the breast meat before you should serve it. (And no, 130 degrees isn’t close enough, despite what your know-it-all family member who is ready to eat might say.)
7. Ham is pre-cooked, so you’re just heating it up and glazing it with either the sugar/syrup package that came with the ham or whatever sweet liquid you have on hand, from Coca Cola to Champagne or even honey or brown sugar simmered with water and a tablespoon or two of cornstarch to thicken it.
8. Foil is your friend. You can slice up the meats and put them in serving trays long before it’s time to eat, but you’ll need to cover them tightly with foil to keep them from drying out. The same is true with side dishes that might need a last blast of heat in the minutes before dinner.
9. Don’t forget about non-alcoholic drinks. For a quick festive beverage option, shake a few tablespoons of cranberry sauce with water or juice in a sealed jar and then strain into a pitcher of lemonade or apple juice. I used this method to make last-minute cranberry kombucha at Friendsgiving this year. We also included an infused water recipe that will make any meal feel a little special.
10. If you know you’re going to have leftovers, have a plan for how to use them and make space in your fridge and freezer to store them.
11. Mashed potatoes can be used to make croquettes, shepherd’s pie or baked potato soup. Casseroles can be mixed together to make an empanada filling. Ham is good for breakfast or on sandwiches. Use that ham bone or chopped piece of ham to season a pot of red beans. In my house, turkey goes into dumplings, tortilla soup, pozole, white bean chili, turkey pot pie or tetrazzini.
12. For better texture, use your oven to reheat leftovers. They won’t taste exactly like Thanksgiving Day, but the dry, hot air will crisp up the edges of a ham hash or stuffing. I used leftover cheesy jalapeño cornbread muffins as the base for a broiled egg bake, but leftover sage stuffing would have been equally as delicious.Thanksgiving weather forecast: Big storm could disrupt travel in central USA
Raspberry, Ginger & Cardamom Water
Cardamom belongs to the same botanical family as ginger and turmeric and so shares the same health benefits of easing digestion and treating nausea. Be sure to freshly crush whole cardamom pods for your infusions; once crushed, cardamom quickly loses its powerful aroma.
— Georgia Davies
1 thumb of ginger
4 cardamom pods
5 cups of water
Thinly slice the ginger. In a pestle and mortar, bruise the ginger slices and cardamom pods to release their fragrance then tip them into a large jug. Halve the raspberries and add them to the spices, then fill the jug with the cold water. Leave to infuse in the fridge for at least two hours before drinking.
— From “Infused Waters: 50 Simple, Gorgeous Drinks for Ultimate Hydration and Health” by Georgia Davies (Quadrille, $14.99)10 most popular Thanksgiving side dishes
Turkey Pot Pie
Okay, we get that this doesn’t sound like a weeknight meal, but we swear it is. If you have the chicken or turkey stock already made, you can throw this together using a store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Or, if you insist on being an overachiever, make this on a weekend and split the pie into smaller portions in individual containers (like larger ramekins or little foil trays), and freeze them. Just move what you’ll want the next day into the refrigerator to thaw overnight, then bake it when you need it. It’s rich, so an acidic salad goes super nicely alongside.
— Editors of Munchies
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
12 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
3 cups shredded chicken or turkey
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, defrosted
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces frozen puff pastry, thawed but refrigerated and chilled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots and onion and cook until the carrots are soft, about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook for another 3 minutes, then add the flour. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then slowly add the reserved stock and the milk. Cook, stirring, until thick, 6 to 7 minutes.
Stir in the reserved shredded chicken or turkey and the peas and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish and spread in an even layer. Top with the puff pastry and cut a few 1-inch slits in the top. Brush with the beaten egg and bake until the pastry crust is puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. Serves 6 to 8.
— Adapted from “Munchies Guide to Dinner: How to Feed Yourself and Your Friends” by the editors of Munchies (Ten Speed Press, $30)