Cristina Ferrare
It can be a daunting task to shop for all the food, cook the meal, set the table and have it all come out at the same time, nice and hot. Cristina Ferrare shares three things you can do now to help take the stress off the chef.
People ask me all the time for ideas on how to take the stress and strain out of the holiday meal. Here is the truth: No matter how much you plan, things always twist and turn at the last minute. But if you're flexible and follow a few short tips, you can make it a bit easier on yourself.

1. Grocery Shopping
Make out your menu first, then write your shopping list and post it on the refrigerator door with a felt-tipped pen nearby in case you think of an item that you forgot while making your original list. (If I don't write them down immediately, I end up forgetting them and having to make an unwanted run back to the market.) If you do forget a few items, it's always easier and less stressful to stand in the express lane and not have to deal with grumpy people who are agitated because they couldn't find parking and have been waiting in a long line just to check out! Not pretty.

Here's my shopping list.

Tuesday before Thanksgiving, pick up your fresh organic turkey and all your other grocery items that you need for your meal early—I mean, when-the-market-opens early. If you go later that afternoon or on Wednesday, it will be a nightmare trying to find parking and getting in and out of the market.

Here's my Thanksgiving dinner checklist. PDF  

2. Bake Ahead and Freeze What You Can
I always bake the week before and freeze the desserts.

Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer without the frosting. Make the frosting and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. The day before or morning of your meal, take the cake out of the freezer to begin defrosting and frost the cake while it's still cold.

Cookie Dough
I freeze cookie dough and use my recycled plastic egg cartons to store them in. The night before I need them, I take them out and bake them right from the freezer. It's best to bake them at a low temperature of 325 degrees—that way the cookies will bake and brown beautifully without burning the bottoms!

Cristina's advice on pies and picky eaters
Cristina Ferrare's Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Pecan, apple and fruit pies freeze well. Just add an extra 15 minutes to the bake time if baking right from the freezer. You can make them the night before or the morning of. Whip up some whipped cream to top off your freshly baked pie!

Pumpkin, custard and cream pies do not freeze well.

The good news is you can freeze pie dough. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and then foil, and store it in the freezer. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator when you are ready to use it. You should roll out your pie dough while it's still cold for easier handling and a crust that will be flaky. You can prepare the pumpkin pie filling two days before and keep it in an airtight container until ready to pour. Frozen pie dough will keep for up to three months.

Side Dishes
You can make the stuffing, sweet potatoes and creamed spinach the week before and freeze it.

Don't forget to make my special marinade for the turkey. You can make it four days before you need to use it and keep it in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Adapt the Menu
"Well, good luck with that," was my first reaction when family members turned vegetarian and some new friends said they were gluten-free. In fact, my daughter, Alexandra, cannot eat wheat—it literally makes her sick to her stomach. So this year, I am going to add a gluten-free stuffing to my Thanksgiving meal. You won't miss the bread at all!
Sending "A Big Bowl of Love" and happy Thanksgiving blessings,


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