But when traveling to see said family is simply not an option (because you're on-call to work the next day), and it's up to you to provide all of the delicious food for your tiny family... Well, you have to learn to make do. Which is why, based on my recent experience of trial-and-error, I've come up with a simple seven-step guide to creating a successful Thanksgiving meal—and overall, a happy Turkey Day—for two.
Step 1: Draw out a Turkey Day menu and timeline.
Even though I'm not all that great of a cook, when it came to preparing for the Thanksgiving feast, I had time on my side: long before November arrived, I knew would be in charge of my own family's (read: mine and Scott's) holiday meal, so I planned accordingly. First on my to-do list, of course, was to draw up a solid menu. This was the fun part. While my typical Thanksgiving dinner of previous years consisted of comfort food with a Cajun twist, Scott grew up eating the traditional Thanksgiving dishes—roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, bread stuffing—which seemed like an obvious starting point. But, if I was going to do this right, I would need instructions to follow every step of the way. That's where Pinterest came in handy. Within ten minutes, I had chosen a recipe for the turkey and one for each side I planned to make. After skimming them all, I then came up with a strict timeline for the big day. (I've been known to spend hours on end putzing around in the kitchen, so having something to keep me on track was a lifesaver; it eliminated any potential stress from cooking so many things at once, and it helped ensure we ate before 8 PM.)
Step 2: Bake dessert ahead of time.Expecting to be in the kitchen for the better part of Thursday, I decided to cut my future self some slack by whipping up a scrumptious dessert the day before. Pumpkin pie seemed like a great choice because 1) unlike a cherry crisp or apple pie, it keeps well in the fridge overnight and is best served cold, and 2) it makes for a delicious Thanksgiving Day breakfast. Don't judge, mine was paleo. (Which brings me to another lesson learned... skip the paleo desserts on Thanksgiving. They may save you a few calories, but nothing beats the real thing.)
Step 3: Delegate responsibility.
Just because you've volunteered to be in charge of the Thanksgiving cuisine this year doesn't mean you have to do it all single-handedly. The key to also enjoying your day is recruiting assistance when you need it. For example, don't be afraid to nicely ask your husband to de-giblet and rinse the turkey as you prepare the stuffing. Because as much as you want to impress him with your mad kitchen skills, putting your hand up a giant bird's butt and pulling out loose body parts is not your idea of fun. Let's be real, that's what husbands are for. Plus, if he's anything like mine, he'll be happy to pitch in.
Step 4: Clean as you go.
This one's self-explanatory. The more dishes you wash before sitting down to dinner, the less you'll have to clean up afterwards, when you find yourself teetering on the edge of a massive food coma. Do yourself a favor and clean as you go. (I may have learned this the hard way...)
Step 5: Resist the urge to drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
Around 2:00 PM, while the turkey was roasting in the oven, the stuffing was cooking in the crockpot, and the potatoes were boiling on the stove, I figured it was the perfect time to throw together my version of this refreshing Holiday Sangria and take a break from the heat of the kitchen. Probably my biggest mistake of the day. A glass (or two) later of the bubbly drink, and I was not feeling my best. (Even though, I must say, it was absolutely delicious.) While I was more than able to finish up the last of the cooking—I had come thus far, and nothing was going to stop me now—the mess I made trying to light-headedly handle turkey gravy, mashed potatoes, and veggies was so overwhelmingly huge that I almost had a mental breakdown trying to clean it all up. (Thank God for my super accommodating, completely sober, and mentally stable Scotty, who did a wonderful job calming me down.) The moral of the story: don't drink on an empty stomach, even if it is a holiday.
Step 6: Fill up your plate... And go back for seconds.
This is the one day a year that you can eat all the carbs you want without feeling guilty. Why stop at one plate?
Step 7: Wind down with a movie, your beloved, and (finally) a drink.
By now, chances are you're pretty tired, painfully stuffed, and nursing a few battle wounds from the day's events (thanks to the new set of very sharp kitchen knives you received as a wedding gift). Once the leftovers are safely stowed away in the fridge and the dishes are washed and dried, feel free to take a load off by snuggling on the couch with your man and sipping on a glass of sangria. Because there's simply nothing better than relaxing after a rewardingly busy day. And, let's be honest, you've earned it. :-)
Happy belated Thanksgiving, my friends. Hope it was splendid!