Getting Ahead for the Holidays – New and Improved FREEBIE for Simple Meals Members!

You might remember that a couple of years ago I spent the entire month of November detailing how we get ahead for the holidays so that we can (wait for it…) actually enjoy the holidays.

Call me selfish, but I like to actually enjoy eating my turkey instead of sweating over it while guests are walking through my door. And you and I both know I can’t talk and cook at the same time. It’s perfectly ridiculous how bad I am at doing both tasks simultaneously.

Here’s more proof (as if you need any): A few weeks ago a college girl stood in my kitchen with me while I finished preparing the meal I was about to feed a crowd of students. Dreamily, she asked, “So tell me how you and Matt met!” And I was like, “Matt who?”

matt and laura3

Oh, that Matt. I remember now.

I try to be a delightful hostess, I do. And it’s ridiculous how much I love feeding people in my home. But why do people ask such difficult questions like “Where’s your bathroom?” and “Is that your youngest son?” when I am trying to remember if I salted the green beans? I don’t have a PhD. You know who has the answers to your difficult and practically impossible questions? Google. Or better yet, Jesus. Jesus is THE answer. Ask and it shall be given to you. Read your Bibles, people.

So once again, as we head into a Merry Thanksgiving and a Happy Christmas season, I encourage us all to alleviate holiday stress and to give ourselves the best chance at enjoying our wonderful guests by doing everything we can ahead of time. Maybe you are better than I am at synchronized talking and cooking. Even so, we’ll all be blessed to have our creamed whipped and our potatoes mashed and our stuffing stuffed ahead of time.

Getting Ahead for the Holidays

Getting Ahead for the Holidays Cover2

This is an absolutely free resource we’ve created to be new and improved – made available once again for all Simple Meals members! Here are a few of the sample pages in this downloadable packet:

Make Ahead Holiday Sample

And rest assured, we included links so you can access all the recipes and instructions for how to make all of these wonderful holiday dishes ahead of time!

I can think of no better time of year to join Simple Meals. You know why? Because you have turkeys to bake and presents to wrap and carols to sing. This is no time for you to have to figure out what to feed your family on a regular Tuesday or to calculate how much chicken to buy.

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Simple Meals does all your meal planning, grocery listing, and recipe finding for you. The meal ideas are all perfectly simple and fast, and of course, they are family friendly.

Read more details here, and sign up today. You’ll get a complete weekly planning packet every Thursday morning in your inbox. The hard work is done. Simple Meals saves the day, every day of the week, for only $1 a week. Score!

It comes with oodles of freebies, and for this week and next, it will include this one, the Getting Ahead for the Holidays resource packet! (Current members: watch for yours to come in your regular Thursday Planning Packet email!)

Bonus: Now through November 15, get $10 off your first year’s subscription! No coupon code needed. Simply click through to order and the $10 discount will be automatically applied! Offer expires Wednesday, November 15.

Simple Meals Yearly Subscription
Your yearly subscription equips you with a 52 week's worth of meal plans, grocery guide, recipes, and bonus tips, plus you get over $60 worth of bonus eBooks! Your Simple Meals plan will arrive in your inbox each Thursday morning.
Price: $52.00

Freezer Cooking I’ve Been Doing to Prepare for Back-to-School

With a houseful of teenage boys, it’s difficult to get ahead.

I’m talking about food in this case, although I guess the same statement is true in every area of life in a household full of kids. (I’m looking at you, Laundry Pile. Dirty Dishes. Mail. Shoe Closet.) Bah.

This is why I did some freezer cooking a few weeks ago when three outa four of our boys were still at church camp. With hardly anyone here to eat, I actually had leftovers to put in the freezer. Yay me!

I took a few pictures along the way to share with you. Take note that not all freezer cooking involves making casseroles. There are many other ways to get ahead. For instance…

I had a cheese shredding marathon:

school food1

It only takes a few minutes and NO EFFORT to shred 8 packages of cheese when I use my food processor. I ran it through the shred piece, so now I have two big bowls of shredded cheese ready to add to everything we need for the next couple of weeks! (Yes, this will be gone by the time we start school. Whatever.)

Almost as important as shredded cheese is the double batch of frozen cookie balls I made. These won’t last long once the boys discover them, but I love that they can take out a few and bake them for an afternoon snack. I used this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

school food2

If you don’t have any of these Silicone Baking Mats,
I encourage you to read more about why I love them here!

I made two bags of our favorite Apricot Chicken. I’ll dump this into the crock pot on a busy school day. (This is a recipe from our Eat Right Away Collection. These are a must have because they save so much time!)

school food3

You know I didn’t do all of this, all on the same day, right? No way. But, there was a day I made not one but SIX batches of homemade whole wheat tortillas. That was a tortilla making record for me!

Malachi helped me use the tortillas to make 24 Lazy Dogs and 24 Meat and Cheese Burritos. We still had leftover tortillas for a few quesadillas, so I felt very accomplished that day.

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Another time, I cut and cooked 5 pounds of bacon to have on hand for salads and scrambled eggs. More on that later. :)

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I mixed up a double batch of Blueberry Muffins and froze the batter so we can bake the muffins fresh on a school morning. I love this time saving technique!

frozen muffins

Last, I made a double batch of Giant Breakfast Cookies. Instead of baking them, I froze them into unbaked cookie balls. This means we can take out a few and bake them fresh any morning we want/need them. I’ll share specifics on how to do this another day soon!

breakfast cookies1

I’m hoping to make a triple or quadruple batch of this Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip for the freezer during the next few days. That will be great to have on hand for Nachos, Spicy Mac and Cheese, or Simple Taco Soup.

Now your turn! Have you done any freezer cooking lately? What have you been making in an effort to get ahead before school starts?

2-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce ~ It’s Too Easy

cranberry sauce

Why? Why do we make it hard? And the most important question of all, who loves how the cranberry sauce from the store plops out of the can and remains forever in the shape of the can? How do they do that, anyway?

Don’t answer that. I already know. It’s made with gelatin. I could make my cranberry sauce with gelatin too, if I wanted. It might be kind of fun, actually. I could use a tin can to make a cranberry sauce mold and I could plop it out on Thanksgiving morning. It would bring back fun memories of my childhood, because that was one of my favorite holiday jobs. I could re-live that suction sound it made as the jellied variety of cranberry sauce came out of the can. That would be way, way, way better than my memories of the sound a can of biscuits makes when it opens. I can’t even handle thinking about that one. (I’m a canned biscuit big baby scaredy cat chicken.)

So homemade cranberry sauce. It is so easy. I’d never even made it before last week because I figured it might be hard. Really, Laura? You put cranberries and sugar in a pot and you cook it for a few minutes to create cranberry sauce. Well, I had no idea.

This recipe is a total no-brainer. It’s as easy as Stir-and-Pour Bread. In fact, this sauce tastes very good on top of a slice of that particular bread. I promise to continue to make all of our real food cooking as easy as possible.

Please note though that while this is easy and made with real food – this recipe is very full of sugar. I tried to cut down the sugar – you know – to prove like so many other recipes that all the sugar is ridiculous. Unfortunately, this dish mocked me to my face. (Literally, to my very puckered up face.) It was like, “I dare you to cut the sugar down and not make weird faces. Go ahead. Try it. Heh. Nice face.”

Fine. My face was unbecoming. Make this cranberry sauce of the low sugar variety at your own risk. Keep your camera handy. Your cranberry sauce face photos will be a delight for years to come.

Whatever your sugar content choice, I promise you will love how ridiculously easy this side dish is to make. I will be making mine a couple days before Thanksgiving so that I can simply pull it out of the fridge to serve. I got my fresh cranberries for 99¢ so I was very excited. You probably wanted to know that.

2-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce

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5.0 from 1 reviews
2-Ingredient Cranberry Sauce ~ It's Too Easy
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups fresh cranberries (12 ounce bag)
  • ⅓ to 1 cup sucanat or sugar
Instructions
  1. Rinse cranberries.
  2. Combine cranberries and sucanat in a small sauce pan.
  3. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes. Your work here is done.
  4. Place cranberry sauce in a serving dish, cover, and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Ten Minute ~ Two Ingredient Cranberry Sauce

Make this several days before serving if you wish. Yes! It is another make-ahead dish to save you time on Thanksgiving or Christmas (or some Friday in February). Add this recipe to your Getting Ahead for the Holidays Check-List.

Have you tried making Cranberry Sauce? Ever tried it low sugar? Whoa. Who loves the canned, jellied cranberry sauce suction plop? Ah, the memories.

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While I’ve got you, I am pleased to announce the three Getting Ahead for the Holidays winners of the $25 Gift Certificates good toward any of our eCourses or downloadable items in theHeavenly Homemakers Shop!

  • Jane J.: bnwalker@
  • Shelby: sixforemans@
  • Karen: kloumc21@

Winners, email me (laura at heavenlyhomemakers.com) and I’ll send you a certificate!

Getting Ahead for the Holidays ~ My Food Prep Timeline and Checklist

If I think about it too hard, I will realize that prepping for a holiday meal is an enormous amount of work to put into one forty-five minute eating session. Thankfully there will be fellowship, gratitude reflection, and best of all: leftovers. This work is all worth it because of the leftovers. (I mean fellowship. I only do this for the fellowship.)

Getting Ahead for the Holidays means that most of my hard work is complete by Thanksgiving morning. I can simply rewarm food, put together last minute dishes, and enjoy all my people. That’s the point, after all. Enjoying our people. Reveling in all God has given. Totally being thankful for leftovers. (I can’t help it.)

This year, we will be hosting Thanksgiving with some dear friends, gathering as many into our home as can fit (and then some). I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. I’ve already started cooking. Sharing the Getting Ahead for the Holidays series with you has helped with my own planning – so thank you! This has been fun!

Getting Ahead for the Holidays Food Prep Timeline and Checklist

Below, I’ve outlined my ideal plan for knocking out everything on my to-do list. Will it all happen exactly according to plan? It never does. At least the list helps keep all my thoughts in one place!

One Week Before Thanksgiving

Two Days Before Thanksgiving

One Day Before Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day

  • Enjoy a large cup of steamy coffee in my recliner for a very long time (because I can)
  • Everyone on their own for breakfast (probably cereal)
  • Mix dry ingredients together for Stir-and-Pour Rolls (for easy, no-brainer mixing about an hour before meal time)
  • Set out butter to soften for rolls
  • Plates, silverware, cups, and napkins set out

About 1 1/2 hours before serving time, I will bake or re-heat prepared foods. I will make gravy. I will bake the rolls. I will speak complete sentences and have actual conversations while doing this. I will. (Well, I’ll get back to you on that.)

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

I would love to hear what all you are planning to prepare ahead this holiday season!

Getting Ahead for the Holidays

How To Make Your Own Frozen Pies

Last I checked, Sara Lee charges over $3 for her frozen pies. I don’t blame her. I’d charge $5. But when I make my own pies, it can cost as little as $1 and I know what ingredients I’m including. Plus I’m making mine with love and all that. (Priceless, no doubt.)

Making a frozen pie is as easy as making a not frozen pie. Not that making a pie is easy. Nor is it really hard. You just have to commit, you know? You have to be like, “Today I am going to mix together and roll out pie crusts. I’m just going to do it and get this job out of the way. Everyone will love the pie. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Let’s do this.”

Then, after you mix and roll your crusts, you add whatever filling you want (pumpkin, apple, etc). You wrap them well, and you freeze them.

This is exactly how Sara Lee does it. Only she puts hers in a box. We’ll skip that part.

This post is chuck full of pie-making tips, recipes, and instructions. Shall we begin?

How to Make a Whole Wheat Pie Crust

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1.0 from 1 reviews
How To Make Your Own Frozen Pies
 
Author:
Serves: 1 crust
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅓ cup Palm Shortening (or butter)
  • 4-5 Tablespoons cold water
Instructions
  1. Place flour, salt and shortening in food processor.
  2. Blend until shortening is cut throughout the flour and the mixture resembles crumbs.
  3. Drizzle in the water while the food processor is still whirling.
  4. Continue until a ball of dough forms.
  5. Roll out your dough into a circle on a well floured surface.
  6. Fold the circle in half. Then fold it in half again.
  7. Place your dough in your pie dish with the folded corner in the center.
  8. Unfold the dough, shape it into the dish and make the edges pretty. (see tutorial video below)
  9. Poke your dough a few times with a fork to keep it from poofing up in the oven.
  10. Bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Or, fill it with pie filling and bake as directed in specific pie recipe.

How to Shape a Pie Crust

You can look through a picture tutorial on this post to see the specifics of how to roll a pie crust and place it in a pie pan.

Want to watch me shaping a pie crust a few years ago? Watch the video below. (Click here if the video doesn’t show up for you.)

How to Make a Frozen Pie

How to Make Your Own Frozen Pies

To make a frozen pumpkin or fruit pie, make it according to the directions but do not bake. Wrap the unbaked pie very well in plastic wrap. You might even consider putting the wrapped pie into a freezer bag for extra freezer protection. Label the pie. Freeze for up to three months.

To bake your frozen pie, take it out of the freezer and put it directly into a cold oven. Turn on the oven and bake as directed allowing a little extra baking time if necessary. See how easy this is?!

apple pie freezer 2

If you plan to make a cream pie, bake your crust as directed, allow it to cool, then wrap and freeze. Thaw crust and add your cream filling before serving.

Holiday Pie Recipes

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

2 cups canned or frozen pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar or sucanat
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
1 ¼ cup heavy cream

Whisk together all ingredients. Pour into unbaked pie crust. Freeze if desired. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pie comes out clean.

pumpkin_pies

Apple Pie Recipe

5-6 apples (any variety)
1/4 cup sucanat or brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Wash and slice apples. Stir in sucanat and cinnamon. Make a double pie crust recipe. Place one crust on the bottom of a pie pan. Spread apple pie filling into the unbaked crust. Place the second pie crust on top. Seal and shape as shown in the video above. Freeze if desired. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes.

I usually have prepared Apple Pie Filling in my freezer, making this super simple.

Dutch Apple Pie Recipe

Make as directed above, only make a single pie crust. Top apples with crumb topping recipe found here.

apple_pie_palm_shortening_sm

If you’re hoping to Get Ahead for the Holidays, I highly recommend making your pies soon and putting them into the freezer to pull out for easy baking the day before your meal!

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

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Simple Meals is here! It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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Real Food Green Bean Casserole (a Make-Ahead Dish)

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If I had to choose a favorite holiday dish, it would have to be Green Bean Casserole. It’s not something I remember eating when I was growing up. I discovered it sometime after Matt and I got married. So yum.

The recipe I learned to make? It was the one with canned cream of mushroom and french fried onions. Man, I loved that stuff.

Once I learned more about cooking with real food ingredients, I knew that the canned cream of mushroom soup and French fried onions didn’t make the cut. But this casserollllllle! How to make a real food version?

gb_casserole

I learned long ago how to make cream soups. French fried onions had me stumped though – mostly because of the time I felt it would take to create them. Then all my plans to keep my real food kitchen simple would be out the window.

Finally I figured out how I could make this casserole without mushroom soup or French fried onions. It goes without saying, then, that this casserole is very easy to make. Just wait until you see how easy!

Green Bean Casserole

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Real Food Green Bean Casserole (a Make-Ahead Dish)
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen green beans
  • 2 Tablespoons minced onion
  • 3 Tablespoons butter (if needed)
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • Sea salt
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Steam green beans until tender. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, saute onion and butter together until the minced onion is lightly toasted.
  3. Turn heat down to low.
  4. Stir in cornstarch, then add milk.
  5. Turn heat up to thicken cream sauce, stirring constantly until sauce is thick and bubbly.
  6. Stir in cooked green beans, salting liberally.
  7. Pour the mixture into a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
  8. Top with grated cheese.
  9. Cover and bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.
  10. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes more.
  11. Serve.

To Freeze Green Bean Casserole:

Make the casserole as directed in the recipe above. All it to cool completely. Cover and freeze for up to three months.

To bake and serve, thaw casserole in the refrigerator and bake as directed. OR, cover the frozen dish with foil. Place it in a cold oven*. Turn the oven on to 250° and bake for 2 hours. Turn the oven up to 350° to continue baking to heat through.

*Be sure your oven is cold when you put in the frozen dish! Otherwise, the pan will crack because of the extreme temperature change.

Real Food Green Bean Casserole ~ a Make-Ahead Dish!

There is a One-Dish Meal version of this casserole in my Oh, For Real Cookbook called Hearty Green Bean Casserole. It includes hamburger and it is awesome.

Note that if you use corn starch instead of wheat flour to make the sauce for this recipe, it will be completely gluten free.

I think this will soon become one of your favorite holiday dishes! Then, of course, you will find yourself making it many times all year round. No need to wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas for this one!

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

Getting Ahead for the Holidays

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Simple Meals is here! It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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Oh Good Gravy ~ How to Make Turkey Gravy

I’ve probably told you about the first time I made gravy for Matt (who was my boyfriend at the time). It was so thick he had to spread it onto his potatoes with a knife. I’m pretty sure it was flavorless. He still married me a year later.

Thankfully, I’ve improved my gravy-making skills. I think it gets easier with practice. Sometimes I still mess it up. I’ve been known to strain out lumps while distracting my guests by sending them outside to look for the black squirrels we sometimes have on our property. Straining works, and black squirrels are fascinating.

Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions (with pictures!) to make your gravy-making experiences easier.

While this series is called “Getting Ahead for the Holidays,” gravy is actually one part of the meal I save for the last minute. This still isn’t hard though. Here’s why:

  1. I’ve already made the broth for this gravy a couple of days before the holiday meal when I made the turkey. Therefore, I just have to rewarm some broth and whisk it into gravy (details below).
  2. I’ve made so many of our other dishes ahead of time that I have plenty of time to make gravy just before serving the meal.
  3. Turkey Gravy can be made in only about 10 minutes.

Why do I wait until the last minute to make gravy?

Because it tastes best this way. You can make it ahead of time and rewarm it before serving (we do this with leftover gravy, after all). But I prefer to make a fresh batch for a special meal on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

How to Make Turkey Gravy

Oh Good Gravy

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Oh Good Gravy ~ How to Make Turkey Gravy
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Turkey broth
  • Cornstarch, arrowroot powder, or wheat flour (about 2 Tablespoons for every 2 cups of broth)
  • Cold water (about ⅓ cup for each of your 2 Tablespoons of corn starch/arrowroot/flour)
  • Sea salt
Instructions
  1. Spoon cornstarch (or arrowroot or flour) into a small jar or glass.
  2. Add water to to the jar and whisk smooth with a fork.
  3. Pour broth into a medium saucepan. Heat to boiling.
  4. Slowly pour cornstarch (or arrowroot or flour) and water mixture into boiling broth, whisking while you pour.
  5. Stir at medium to high heat until gravy thickens.
  6. Turn down the heat and allow the gravy to simmer for a minute or two.
  7. Salt to taste and serve your gravy.

You’ll notice my recipe gives the option of using cornstarch, arrowroot powder, or wheat flour to thicken your gravy. Any will work. I prefer cornstarch because it’s easiest. Arrowroot powder works well but can sometimes result in a gooey gravy. Wheat flour works well, but I’d rather avoid it so that people with a gluten or wheat intolerance can still enjoy it.

Trouble Shooting Your Gravy

  • If it isn’t thick enough for your liking, simply stir 2 Tablespoons cornstarch/arrowroot/flour into about 3 Tablespoons of water – making a consistency just thinner than paste. Stir it into your gravy while it is hot, whisking until smooth. This should thicken it up as it cooks.
  • Lumpy gravy? Whisk like you’ve never whisked before.
  • Still lumpy? Strain out the lumps the best you can. Pray your guests like lumpy gravy. Hey, you never know.

Here is a picture tutorial to show you the specifics of making Turkey Gravy:

Step One: Pour broth into a medium saucepan.

gravy2sm

Step Two: Spoon cornstarch (or arrowroot or flour) into a small jar or glass.
(Surprise, surprise…I use  a jar.)

gravy1sm

Step Three: Add cold water to cornstarch/arrowroot/flour and whisk smooth with a fork.

gravy3sm

Step Four: Bring broth to a boil.

gravy4smStep Five: Slowly pour cornstarch (or arrowroot, or flour)/water mixture into boiling broth, stirring while you pour. (I usually use a whisk. On picture taking day, I used a wooden spoon. Either one works, but a whisk usually helps in case lumps want to form.

gravy5sm

Step Six: Stir at medium to high heat until mixture thickens.
Turn down the heat and allow the gravy to simmer for a minute or two.
Salt to taste.

gravy6smWhat has been your gravy making experience? Do you find it easy? Hard? Lumpy?

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

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Simple Meals is here! It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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Can You Make Mashed Potatoes Ahead of Time?

Oh yes. You can. You can make mashed potatoes ahead of time.

potatoes_2

Now, there are some things you’ll need to avoid. Here are two mashed potato tricks that do not work:

1. Do not boil potatoes with the plan to mash and serve them later.

While this seems like such a good idea, this will turn them into a sticky, gooey mess.

2. Do not make mashed potatoes and freeze them as-is.

I’ve never had success with this. Plain mashed potatoes freeze fine but thaw weird. They are always watery and unappetizing. These are not the kind of potatoes I want to include on my holiday table. If you do freeze them as-is, you must cook the frozen/thawed potatoes in a pot to steam off excess water that has formed in the freezing process. More info to come.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes ~ What Works, What Doesn't.

Ways to prepare this side dish favorite ahead of time:

1. Scrub or peel the potatoes and put them into a pot of cold water.

Want to get the prep work out of the way on a busy day filled with meal preparations? Typically I pull my family into the kitchen the night before the holiday meal. Together, we scrub and chop potatoes. We put them into a large pot, cover them with cold water, put on a lid, and leave them until boiling and mashing time the next day.

potatoes

2. Make mashed potatoes, then use your crock pot to keep them warm.

What I find very helpful is to follow all the instructions detailed in #1 to prep the potatoes the night before. The next morning – hours before our meal – I cook, drain, and mash. I then put them into a crock pot (with butter, always) on the “keep warm” setting until serving time. In the meantime, I can wash and put away the potato pot, then focus on other meal prep that needs to be done.

3. Embellish the mashed potatoes before freezing them.

While mashed potatoes don’t freeze well as-is, they do freeze well if you add some goodies to them. Take a look at the recipe below for all the specifics! When made like that, they do freeze well. Or, at the very least, you can make them a few days before your holiday meal, refrigerate them, then bake them on serving day. This is the method I plan on using this holiday season.

cheesy_mashed_potatoes

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes are always a huge hit. You can’t go wrong with sour cream and cheese right?

Make-Ahead Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Make-Ahead Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
 
Author:
Serves: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1 cup milk (more or less as needed)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
Instructions
  1. Scrub and cube potatoes.
  2. Boil them in water until tender.
  3. Drain water and mash potatoes with milk and salt until smooth.
  4. Stir together the mashed potatoes, butter, and sour cream.
  5. Spread into a 3 quart casserole dish.
  6. Sprinkle cheese on top.
  7. Refrigerate until you are ready to bake this dish.
  8. Bake in a 350° oven for 45 minutes.

Freezing Instructions:

Make the potatoes as directed in the recipe above. All it to cool completely. Cover and freeze for up to three months.

To bake and serve, thaw potatoes in the refrigerator and bake as directed. OR, cover the frozen dish with foil. Place the frozen dish of potatoes into a cold oven*. Turn the oven on to 250° and bake for 2 hours. Turn the oven up to 350° to continue baking to heat through.

*Be sure your oven is cold when you put in the frozen dish! Otherwise, the pan will crack because of the extreme temperature change.

What has been your experience with making potatoes ahead of time?

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Simple Meals is here! It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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Make-Ahead Turkey ~ Yes You Can!

There are people who wake up in the middle of the night to begin cooking their turkey for a holiday meal. There are people who baste and stuff and rub down their bird. These people are so very nice and dedicated to poultry perfection.

And then there’s me.

huge turkey 1

That is one huge bird.
Read the whole tale here.

I cannot find it within myself to do any of this to my turkey. I’m just not as devoted of a holiday baker as some. I’m a plop the bird in a pan, add nothing to it, cover it, put it in the oven, and take it out a few hours later kind of girl.

And…my favorite turkey baking tip of all: I cook my bird before the holiday. Like, two days before, usually.

I bake it, de-bone it, prepare all the broth, dispose of the carcass – basically I do all the messy, tedious, laborious turkey work ahead of time. Then on the day of the holiday feast, I take out my big dish of cooked meat, pour on a little broth, cover it, rewarm it, and we eat it. This is stress-free turkey baking.

My turkey always still tastes delicious.

That’s why I keep doing it this way.

No, our table doesn’t hold a big un-carved turkey. There is no turkey carving tradition at our house. For those who love traditions like this, I say go for it! Baste and carve and enjoy that special tradition.

But for those who find the turkey to be tedious, you might instead consider making it ahead of time.

But won’t the meat be dry?

Not if you don’t over-bake it in the first place.

The trick is to drizzle broth over your cooked, de-boned meat (I’d say one-two cups of broth per 9×13 inch dish full of meat), then cover the dish well. I warm it on Thanksgiving day for 30-45 minutes in a 300-350° oven along with other dishes that are baking. I pull it out and have a steaming, moist, delicious pan of turkey.

Make-Ahead Turkey

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4.7 from 3 reviews
Make-Ahead Turkey
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 Turkey
  • 1 Large Roasting Pan
  • Foil if necessary
Instructions
  1. Place the turkey in the refrigerator for 3-4 days until thawed.
  2. Remove the bag of giblets from the inside of the turkey.
  3. Empty the giblets into your roasting pan as they help make a good, rich broth.
  4. Place the bird, breast side up, into a large baking pan or roaster.
  5. Cover with foil or with your roaster lid.
  6. Cook at 325° for 15-20 minutes per pound.
  7. You know your turkey is done cooking when the red thing pops up, or when the legs start to pull away from the body. It should be golden brown and slightly crisp looking.
  8. Be sure to save the broth that formed naturally!
  9. Allow the turkey to cool, then de-bone completely. Store meat in baggies or in covered pyrex dishes in the refrigerator.
  10. Save turkey carcass to make another round of broth for gravy, soup, and other nourishing meals.
  11. On serving day, drizzle a liberal amount of broth (one-two cups per 9x13 inch pan of meat) over turkey, cover and warm in 300°-350° oven for 30-45 minutes or until meat is hot and steamy.
  12. Serve right away.

Simple Make-Ahead Turkey ~ Easy, Moist, Delicious

Additional Turkey Tips:

  • Adding a few onions to the turkey while baking is an effortless way to add more flavor.
  • Be sure to save the broth that forms naturally while your bird bakes.
  • Do not wait until your turkey is cold to take the meat off the bones. This makes the job much harder!
  • After you’ve taken all the meat off the bones, save the bones and put them into a stock pot. Fill the pot with water, carrots, onions, and any other veggies you like. Salt liberally. Cook on low for 4-6 hours to create a wonderful broth. Strain out bones. Blend the veggies until smooth and stir them back into the broth for added richness.
  • Use turkey broth for gravy. Use it to make Turkey and Noodles a few days after Thanksgiving. Use it for any soup or recipe that calls for chicken broth.
  • While making your turkey ahead of time is wonderfully helpful in cutting down work on your holiday meal serving day, you don’t want to make it too far in advance! I recommend making it on Tuesday or Wednesday, then serving it on Thanksgiving Thursday.

What’s your turkey tradition? To carve, or not to carve? To baste, or not to baste? Ever made a turkey ahead of time?

Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:

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Simple Meals is here! It’s saving my brain (and many of yours too!). If you haven’t joined yet, now’s the time. Get all the details here!

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Getting Ahead for the Holidays – Join Us!

There is oodles of info out there about how to have a simple season and how to relax and enjoy the holidays. I am all for it. Why go overboard and make life complicated? Pinterest can keep its 14-step recipes and perfect looking hand-crafted gifts. I’ve gotta stick with the basics.

But still. Making a holiday special means that I’m going to do extra work on top of all my normal work. There’s no way around it. No matter how simple I keep our holiday festivities, the cookies don’t bake themselves. Packages don’t arrive if I don’t order them. The turkey stays frozen when not baked. I could go on.

Now, I can keep things simpler if I buy pre-made food and gift packages. Sometimes I do. Sometimes in the name of saving my sanity, I feel that it’s worth the extra money and the gross ingredients (don’t read the label, don’t real the label, what you don’t know can’t hurt you, do not turn that package over!). But overall, I want to save money and put delicious real food on the table. While keeping life simple. Is it even possible?

Thus, we begin a fun two-week series here called:

Getting Ahead for the Holidays

This is the best way I know to keep life simple during the holiday season. If I do everything last minute, I enjoy nothing. But if I do a little each day in advance, prepping food and gifts and decorations – I can actually enjoy myself. What a lovely idea. Food can be put on the table (the good kind) without me standing on my feet for hours at a time. I can save dozens (or maybe even hundreds?) of dollars. Food tastes better. Gifts are more meaningful. I can actually look at the people around me and maybe I can even smile.

Getting ahead saves my holiday. Want to join me?

Getting Ahead for the Holidays Invitation

Most of the posts I’ll share will involve food prep suggestions and recipes. This doesn’t surprise you, I’m sure. Decorating is not my gift. Food though? I  love it! Nothing will be fancy; everything will be tasty. It’s all real food.

Would you like a peek at the menu we’ll be working through?

holiday menu plan

All of this (with the exception of the Stir-and-Pour Dinner Rolls) can be made in advance. Some can be made many days in advance. Some should be made the day before. All of the recipes are simple. I’ll walk you through the entire process of methods I use to make these foods efficiently so I can enjoy time with family and guests!

Make plans to join us here. If you want, subscribe so you won’t miss a post:

Daily Newsletter

Weekly Newsletter

There will be recipes, printables…and I’m thinking there should be prizes. What do you think? Should there be prizes? Yes. Let there be prizes.

Every time you see this banner on a post:

Getting Ahead for the Holidays

Leave a comment on that post.

There will be many posts in the coming days where you’ll spot that banner. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win! What will you win?

How about we give away three $25 Gift Certificates good toward any of our eCourses or downloadable items in the Heavenly Homemakers Shop? Three! Sound good?

Let’s get the comments rolling with this question:

Which of the recipes in the Holiday Menu above are you most excited to see first?