* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving's Past

Thanksgiving and Christmas photos are somewhere in Allen's picture stash so generally cute pictures that I *can* find are the order of the day.

It's been a bit since the last post.  There are actually 2 more Scotland posts, maybe a pretty, funny, happy, real and the Irish Thanksgiving post to come.  Over the last few weeks we got back from the Scotland trip, Allen left for a week in the US, Noah got pink eye which is so much more fun with laundry limitations!, we're hosting a houseguest and we're having Thanksgiving for 12 (the butcher got a turkey killed just for me! and he's spatchcoking it!)  So, I've been a little busy.  I'm hoping things settle out a bit next week and I can catch up.  But, until then, I was thinking about Thanksgivings past.  While Thanksgiving abroad is a challenge, I am no stranger to having no idea how to manage to get a holiday meal on the table.

Megan age 2, Noah around 7 months
We have taken a fairly firm stance on not traveling for holidays since we started having children.  This worked out, in large part, because our families are reasonably geographically close and we were the only ones with children for quite a while.  Of course, this also meant that we needed to be happy to host whomever wanted to come for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So, I've been producing a reasonable holiday meal spread in the midst of newborns, nursing, and pregnancy while chasing a toddler and dealing with morning sickness.
Megan finally had enough hair for pigtails at age 3.
We had a photo shoot.
I want to share my secrets.

First, take help from any corner.  Did you know that Cracker Barrel will let you buy large quantities of most of their side dishes as well as their pies and some mains?  This will save you the year that you are flattened by morning sickness.  Make a list of what you would like to serve.  Put a star next to anything that takes more than 2 steps and start farming them out to anyone who dares ask "can I bring something?"- that includes the green salad- way too much chopping.  If anyone has a special request or something that is just vital to their holiday meal experience, they are welcome to bring it along.

Noah 5 days with our wedding rings
Second, consider how to make the meat someone else's job.  Your husband can take on the very manly task of turkeying.  I suggest you have him smoke that bad boy up on the grill.  Alton Brown makes it simple and it will taste beyond compare.  If you are going the ham route ordering is the easiest way.  But, the grocery store hams also taste good with a simple glaze and require little in the way of tending.  I like Nigella's but I don't do the whole boiling in ginger ale step- I just follow the reheating instructions on the package and top it with the glaze.

Charlie with his great grandfather age 6 months
Third, the slow cooker is your friend.  I always make green beans and just let them hang out until we're ready.  Snip 1/4 pound or so of pancetta or bacon into your slow cooker and flip it to high.  Cook the bacon until it's fairly crispy- about an hour or so.  Fill your crock 1/2 full or so with the flat green beans (italian green beans) from the freezer section- don't add them to the hot crock straight from the freezer or you will crack your crock.  Cover those with a mixture of roughly 1/2 and 1/2 chicken broth and water.  Cook on low for a few hours- you are looking for them to soften up and heat through but they can also hang out for a while.  Periodically check for salt or butter needs.

Charlie 20 months, Megan 1 week
Fourth, you don't have to have rolls AND stuffing- they are both bread.  But, if you feel strongly, might I suggest the Pioneer Woman's rolls?  They start with the frozen kind and lend themselves to being neglected- they need around 5 hours to rise, after all.  Plus, they stay warm for quite a while with no effort since they are in cast iron skillets.  I unabashedly go with a boxed stuffing.

Noah 1st Birthday
Fifth, consider your veggie needs.  If mashed potatoes are a must, ask your mother or MIL to take them on while you nurse the baby or go lie down.  I tend to sidestep both salad and potatoes by going with roasted root veggies.  You can chop as you get time and/or assign someone else to chop.  I usually go with a mixture of veggies including sweet potato, rutabaga, turnip, beets (although consider a separate pan because they will turn everything pink), carrots, onion, and garlic you can also add in cauliflower and broccoli.  Since the turkey is making hay in the grill, you have the oven.  Cut everything into roughly the same size except the onion- that should be in wedges, toss with olive oil until everything looks a little shiny and ready for a day at the beach, sprinkle with a good bit of salt and fennel seeds and pop into a 425' ish oven for about an hour or until everything is tender and caramelized.  Make about twice as much as you think you need- I use the turkey roasting pan (see grill).  The veggies shrink plus they are super tasty and go fast both at the meal and as leftovers but go easy on the turnips and rutabaga because they do taste strong.  Assign someone else to check on them every 15 minutes starting at the 45 minute mark because you will be nursing the baby and/or calming an overstimulated toddler and/or laying down.  They are forgiving.  You can lower the heat to bake the rolls if needed, it might just take them a little longer to finish cooking.  You also have those green beans floating around and never underestimate the power of frozen corn with a good dab of butter.

Charlie 3,  Megan 2
Someone in your family likes to experiment with recipes.  That is your cranberry sauce maker.  Uncle Knorr makes a wonderful gravy.

Finally, dessert.  Farm it out!  Ask someone to bring a couple of pies, let Sara Lee do the lifting or make a quick stop at Cracker Barrel.  If you want, you can actually manage to make homemade whipped cream while holding a baby with colic as long as you have a stand mixer.  Add a capful vanilla to the coffee grounds when you do the after dinner coffee if you want to get all fancy.  If you really must, make your pumpkin and pecan pies a couple of days ahead.  They will keep and you are kidding yourself if you think you'll have time the day of.

There will be a day when you are ready to do a full on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  For now, make your goal to make it to the end of the day without crying.  It can be done!


  1. Becky!!! Awesome post! I'm earmarking it for future reference!! Thankful to have found your blog and glean advice and wisdom from a seasoned momma. Rita is 22 months...and tantrums, meltdowns and such have begun. Prayers appreciated!

    1. Thanks so much, Suzette! Ah, yes, and I bet you are approaching the always fun 2 year sleep regression. Prayers have been and will continue to be said. :-)