For some people, it's just a bonus day of football.
For others it is so much more.
It's curling up on the sofa in pajamas with a cup of hot coffee in the morning with Matt Lauer and Al Roker watching balloons and floats meander down the crowded streets of New York City.
It's memorizing the advertisements that come in the day's paper and mapping out the strategy for Black Friday shopping.
It's about digging out some of that Christmas stuff because now the holiday season has begun in earnest.
But for almost everyone, Thanksgiving is most definitely, all about the food.
Thanksgiving is the best when you are a kid. Your cousins come over and you get to play, hang out and run through the kitchen grabbing snacks until the big payoff: Stuffing, potatoes, turkey and pie.
Rob Hiller, meat manager at Cub Foods in Baxter, stocked frozen turkeys into a floor cooler Thursday in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
But when you're an adult, especially if it's your year to host the big dinner, it can be a lot of work, too.
If the crew is coming to your home this week you've probably already put some serious thought into what that means. You've been mulling over your menu, figuring out when you're going to find the time to shop, mentally listing all of the things that need a good cleaning in the areas your guests may roam, and trying to remember where the ladle for the punch bowl might be.
No need to fear - there are a few handy tips and shortcuts to creating a meal your guests are sure to gobble up (no pun intended).
Diane Hoglin has been a food columnist at the Brainerd Dispatch for 23 years. She said doing things ahead of time may be the most important ingredient to keeping the day stress-free for the host.
Mary Nagorski agrees. She teaches family and consumer science at Crosby-Ironton High School. She has a big garden in the summer and canning and freezing saves time and money for her the rest of the year. A lot of the ingredients for her holiday spread will come right from her own pantry.
Both women have bread machines and they will put them to good use over the holidays. Hoglin said she has actually already made her buns and bread for Thanksgiving and Nagorski will bake homemade bread and cinnamon or caramel rolls for her guests.
Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
1 large head romaine lettuce, torn (about 10 cups)
1 cup cashews
1 cup Craisins or dried cranberries
1 apple, cubed
1 D'anjor pear, cubed
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
2/3 cup oil
1 tablespoon poppy seed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
In a large bowl, toss all salad ingredients. Process all dressing ingredients (except the poppy seeds) in a blender. Stir in poppy seeds and refrigerate until serving. When ready to serve, pour dressing over the salad and toss.
5 pounds potatoes
2 (3 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoon onion salt
2 tablespoon butter
Peel potatoes and cook until tender. Drain and mash. Add remaining ingredients and beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Cool. Place in a greased casserole, cover and refrigerate. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley flakes. When ready to use, set out at room temperature for an hour and then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. The potatoes also can be placed in a crockpot at a low setting for 5-6 hours. Use within 1 week.
- Submitted by Mary Nagorski
Another tip? Be realistic with the time that you have, and don't choose Thanksgiving to experiment with a new dish, advises Nagorski.
"I like to use tried-and-true recipes that I've used year after year," she said. "And I like to serve meals buffet-style, I think that's easier in a big group."
Hoglin honors a family tradition each year by making lefse for the holiday.
Her secret to good lefse?
"Use real butter. Use real cream," said Hoglin. "Boil the potatoes and rice them to get all of your lumps out. When you're rolling it out if there's little pieces of potato in it, it will rip. Roll the dough into little golf balls and keep them chilled in between batches. They will roll thinner and much nicer than warm dough."
If your guests are coming from far away and spending a night Nagorski suggests preparing their breakfast in advance too by making an eggbake casserole. In the morning you can pop it in the oven and serve it when it's ready.
Sometimes the best thing about Thanksgiving is the opportunity for families to sit down and eat a hot meal all together.
For that reason it should feel like a special occasion.
"Set the table with centerpieces, and create a real mood," said Nagorski, "it makes it special, even if it's just leaves or candles." She said the key to a memorable holiday meal is a beautifully set table, a special centerpiece and china and glassware you use for special occasions. It is a time for families to sit down to a meal together and enjoy the conversation, share stories and of course, enjoy the food.
Save time and eliminate last minute stress by shopping ahead. Whether you go today or early this week, make the trip either earlier or later in the day. The stores won't be as busy and the lines will be shorter. When it gets closer to Thanksgiving, make a second trip to the store for fresh vegetables and other last minute items.
Nagorski said she will make pie crusts and freeze them ahead of time so they're ready to just fill and bake. She also said cheesecakes are great to make ahead of time for dessert and can be refrigerated or frozen.
Chop onions, cut celery and other vegetables a day or more early to save time on preparation. Hoglin said she will mix her yams ahead of time and refrigerate them until it's time to put them in the oven. She also makes her own croutons for her stuffing.
"When I get home on Wednesday night that's my holiday night," said Hoglin. "I get as much done as I can. I wash my turkey and make my dressing. The next day all I have to do is roast my turkey, set my table, boil my potatoes and make gravy."
When the guest list is finalized estimate around a pound of bird per person if you're making the traditional turkey. Allrecipes.com offers a countdown with things to do until the big day for both advanced cooks and those apprehensive first-timers.
If you get up Thursday morning and the turkey is still frozen, soaking it in water will finish the job but it may take awhile. If you're still running behind when it's ready to roast, cooking it unstuffed will knock off about a half hour or so in roasting time.
If small children are included in the day be sure to have some entertainment on hand for them. Things like videos, Legos, and coloring books will keep them entertained for the afternoon, preferably far from the front of the television set and all of those football fans.
If all else fails, you can pre-order a Thanksgiving dinner already made for 8 to 10 people from a local supermarket deli. For between $40 - $50 you can get 10-12 pound turkey, and a few assorted sides and let someone else do most of the work.
Whether you tell your guests that part or not is entirely up to you.
SHEILA HELMBERGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5886.
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