Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving, The Realistic Version

*FOODMENT* If you are actively dealing with NVP, just skip this entry entirely!

This past week, while we were vacationing in Flagstaff (and when it was mostly too cold to be outside), we got the chance to watch one of our favorite TV chefs whip up a Thanksgiving meal. With proper advance preparation, he promised that his plan would result in only four hours in the kitchen on Thanksgiving to produce the feast.

With all respect (and really, I love this guy), that "quick and easy" meal would have had me in the kitchen at least twice that time, and most of it in either near-tears or extreme irritability.

And really - four hours? While trying to entertain family and guests, watch two children (one of whom will doubtless be in a state of uber-hyperactivity) and gestate another, and deal with fatigue from having been up several times the previous night due to one cause or another??

Definitely asking for a meltdown. And lost tempers. And at least one fight with the hubs, which always makes an event so happy and meaningful.

And so, without further ado, I present my set of tips for a quick-and-easy non-meltdown-producing Thanksgiving, fitted especially for the family with young children.

Tip #1:

Make it a potluck. One person cooking for the whole gathering is an enormous burden. Spread the love. And hopefully get some other poor sucker to make the turkey and dressing. (I'm on my ninth married Thanksgiving and have yet to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.)

Tip #2:

Use disposable serving/baking dishes.

This one will have people up in arms, due to either the environment or degradation of cultural ideals. But there are several times in life when disposable is just plain good. (Other times are while moving, while dealing with NVP, or in the immediate postpartum.)

If you want to take the heresy to the next level, use disposable plates and cutlery. I won't say whether or not I've done this, but if I had done this, it might have been absolutely wonderful.

Don't get me wrong - I love proper serving dishes. But there are some times in life when ideals go out the window. I'm discovering that living with small children is one of those times. 

Tip #3:

The biggest one of all:

Don't cook.

On Thanksgiving, at least! Advance cooking rules. This really saves my sanity, especially as there is no better way to provoke bad behavior in hyper five-year-olds than to spend four hours in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning rushing about and saying "Don't bother mommy right now! I need to cook!"

All mothers in the audience are already wincing and nodding in agreement. 

Here are a few links. Make in advance, then freeze!:

For dessert:

Libby's Pumpkin Pie - The recipe says not to freeze; I have no idea why, because it worked just fine - just thaw for 8 hours in the fridge.

Pumpkin Cheesecake


Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes - Make up to three days in advance and refrigerate, or freeze.

Cranberry Sauce - Make several days in advance. Just a note, I have never had any luck with this recipe as written - it comes out very runny. If you like a good stiff cranberry sauce, add the berries at the beginning (instead of after boiling the syrup) and boil considerably longer than the recipe calls for.

Sweet Potato Casserole - Freeze, thaw overnight in fridge, then cook covered to heat (will take longer than called for) and uncovered to brown.  

There are tons of other make-ahead recipes; just Google it! You get the picture. When my sister-in-law hosted Thanksgiving, she even made the turkey and dressing the day before - and it was great.

Tip #4:

Just a side note: When life gets really stressful, don't feel badly about cheating (storebought) or bowing out. When I had my round of true hyperemesis, we ended up bowing completely out of both Thanksgiving and Christmas because I couldn't even handle food (let alone eat it). That's okay. Last year when some friends of ours were recovering from the swine flu over Thanksgiving, they bought their dinner from the grocery store. That's okay. And when there are pregnancies, illnesses, new babies, and young children in the house, sometimes the easiest way out is the best. Period! Don't feel badly when shortcuts are necessary.

Several years ago, I hosted Thanksgiving for DH's side of the family. We split the cooking among three families, so each family only had to make a few things. We all used disposable baking/serving dishes. I made all of my dishes in advance. I won't say whether or not we used disposable plates/cups/cutlery.

It was the nicest Thanksgiving I've ever had, and the one in which there was the least irritability ("Ack! I've got three pots boiling over on the stove! Don't bother me!!!"), the least despair ("We've eaten and now we have a good solid two hours of dishes to do. Kill me now.") and the most family time spent together celebrating the holiday. It was wonderful.

Enough heresy for the day. I'll check in soon - maybe even report in on our vacation, which actually did finally happen!! Love to all!

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