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Simplify T-Day with Planning

With Thanksgiving still a few weeks away, there’s plenty of time to get a jump on holiday meal planning. While taking the time to plan may seem like an effort you can't afford, it really does pay off — whether you are cooking up an elaborate meal or looking to make things as simple as possible (takeout, anyone?). Regardless of your plans for Thanksgiving, here are a few ways to simplify for a stress-free holiday while still making sure you’ve got a menu full of flavorful dishes to delight your guests. Try new recipes. Plan your menu. Start making lists. If you’re considering trying out a few new recipes, why not take them for a test run before the big day? We’ve got a selection of our holiday favorites: everything from appetizers to sides to desserts — including vegetarian, gluten-free and non-dairy options. Once you’ve got a few new recipes in your repertoire, you can start planning your menu, thinking about any special dietary needs your guests may have, and you can start working on those shopping and to-do lists. Check out our Holiday Meal Planning Tips for lots of great advice for creating the perfect holiday menu. Considering making a completely vegetarian meal? We’ve got you covered with our Holiday Guide on cooking Vegetarian for the Holidays. Shop twice. Cook once. Menu plans help simplify because you can easily create shopping lists from them. With a shopping list in hand there’s no confusion, plus, you can break a huge list into manageable chunks. I try to shop for all non-perishables 2-3 weeks ahead (that means now!), and all perishables just a few days beforehand so it feels less overwhelming. Ask for help. Serve buffet-style. Chances are, some of your guests will be happy to bring their favorite dish – or, if they aren’t cooks, they’ll most likely be happy to pick something up. Plus, if you serve buffet style you can incorporate ingredient cards with the cook’s name on them, so guests with special diets can easily navigate the buffet and ask the cook directly for more information if necessary. Contact everyone on your guest list, and ask if they’d be willing to contribute food for the meal. Let them know how many their dish should serve, and encourage them to write out the ingredients beforehand. Let us do the cooking. The simplest suggestion yet! Did you know that you could order some or all of your entire holiday meal online or at our in-store Holiday Table? Some years, trading time spent stressed out by cooking for time spent with friends and family can be worth every penny. What are some of the ways you simplify your holiday meal planning and preparation during the holidays?

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Heather says …

I have ordered a fresh heritage turkey & understand the fresh birds cook faster than frozen. What is the recommended cook time per pound &temperature? I 've ordered a 20 lb bird. Thanks!

Heather says …

I have ordered a 20lb. fresh heritage turkey & understand the fresh birds cook faster than frozen. What is the recommended cook time per pound &temperature? Thanks!

says …

@Heather Indeed fresh does cook faster than frozen and Heritage/Heirloom Turkey's also cook faster thanks to their smaller size. The link below offers in-depth cooking instructions for all sizes of Heritage Turkeys. Your 20 lb bird will most likely take about 3 hours in a 350 degree oven. Make sure you check your bird for doneness. Your thermometer should reach 160 degrees. At that point, remove the bird and let rest with a loose foil cover for about 20-30 minutes. Happy cooking! http://www.marksdailyapple.com/heritage-turkey-and-mashed-parsnips/

Cornelia says …

A few years ago, I figured out it was WAY less stressful to present the big dinner on Friday, not Thursday. My sons both attend other feasts on Thursday, I work on Wednesday, and no one really wants to eat 2 turkey dinners on the same day. So I use Thanksgiving for some prep work (like the fancy 3 layer pumpkin chiffon pie) and everyone enjoys an unrushed turkey dinner on Friday. We all love it. Especially me, since I don't have to jump up at 6 a.m. to start making a dinner everyone will be too stuffed to eat!

Kathy Cole says …

I use a "Make Ahead Gravy" recipe from Food Network, which I make on Wed. night, I buy extra turkey gravy from Whole Foods. Then I have plenty of gravy for Thanksgiving and for leftovers! I save any drippings from the turkey to add to the WFs gravy.

Dianne Dauphin Johnson says …

I make my cornbread oyster dressing two weeks before the holiday and freeze it. I thaw it, take a wooden spoon handle and punch holes in the dressing, and pour a can of chicken broth over it. Then bake until heated through. I bake my turkey the day ahead. Take it off the bone, put it in a 9 X 13 casserole dish, and pour a can of chicken brother over it. The next day I pour the chicken broth off and heat up the turkey. This makes for very delicious moist turkey. The first time I did this, I was told it was the best turkey they had ever eaten. No turkey mess to clean up on the big day. This is so easy. I buy extra turkeys to take to families who have lost a loved one.