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Thanksgiving is heading our way…OY VEY! (getting ready for the big day) Post 2 of 2

18 Nov

Thyme and Gruyère icebox crackers

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, yes it is a TON of work but when it is all ready and the table is set it is the best feeling. (for me at least)  I know it can be stressful, battling your way down the grocery isle trying not to get your feet run over. Going around in circles looking for ingredients that have migrated to the end caps. Freaking out because the turkey is taking three days to thaw, and you are trying desperately to rip the frozen bag of giblets from the icy cavity.  I get it, really I do so instead of freaking out let’s just take a deep breath and start slow. I am going to help you get on track for the holiday, get somewhat organized and start NOW!!! It is less than a week away and whether you do the whole spread or take one or two dishes to a potluck, I can help.

Not only do I love this holiday but it is also one I tend to take total control of. (This is not a positive attribute of my personality) Asking people to bring a dish was/is not my style, I’d rather work myself to a nub rather than ask for help. Those days are over…this year I asked my guests to bring a dish (ok maybe I sent them a particular recipe and instructions, habits are hard to break) I plan on not stressing out and having a great time this year. Part of the reason for this post is to test out my method and see if it worked, I will keep you posted after the big event!  If you haven’t checked out my previous post on my marinated cheese appetizer check it out first before you jump in to this post.

Tying it all together

1. Make a huge coffee or tea carve out some alone time and scour the net for recipes and ideas.  (I know, I know…the kids, just wait until they are asleep) your husband or wife may become a Thanksgiving widow for a bit, it’s ok they will get you back in a few days.

Decide on the style of turkey too, bbq, roasted, Turducken or store prepared.  This year I am going to make a version of  Michael Symon’s Juicy Turkey Cooked in Cheese Cloth found here.

Don’t forget appetizers, just easy ones, your real focus needs to be on the meal.

2. Print ALL of the recipes even of you are just using them as a guide, you may need to check for ingredients or a quick tip. It will save you time in the long run. We all know finding a recipe you saw online 2 weeks ago will be a fruitless effort.

3.  Pick a cocktail and stick with it, don’t bother with a million bottles and ice filled coolers.

4. Make a comprehensive grocery list, one you keep adding to daily. Add things you think you will remember but won’t like whipped cream or  coffee and tea for dessert course. I love my printable grocery list, I have a small one for normal weeks and a large one for holidays or work when I am writing recipes or styling photos. Printable grocery list Sheet1

5. Decide what can be prepared ahead of time, cranberry sauce and turkey stock. I have a Foodsaver and that comes in handy for times like these.

6. Decide on your decorations, whether it’s just leaves from the yard and some votive candles or crafts galore add all the items to your shopping list. Get the kids involved here, do a paper place mat with a turkey hand print or name tags, something easy and fun.

7. Two days before get out all your serving dishes and utensils and label each one with a slip of paper reminding you what food will go in what dish. You really don’t want to be running all over looking for dishes when everyone is ready to eat.

8. 2 days before check your turkey to make sure it is thawing well.

I am a total traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving so our menu is pretty standard, I will post a bunch of my recipes below as ideas or inspiration for you.

Our Menu


Bread cornucopia (made 2 days before) filled with

Gruyère and Thyme crackers (made ahead of time) , assorted nuts in the shells, figs with honey

marinated Dry Jack cheese (made 5 days before)

The cocktail

Prosecco Pomegranate Sparkler

The meal

Turkey (prep day before)

Stuffing (prep day before)

Gravy (made ahead of time)

Roux for thickening gravy (made ahead and frozen)

Cranberry sauce (made ahead and frozen)

Mashed potatoes (made by a guest)

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows (made by a guest) (yes, for real)

Bean casserole (made by a guest)


Pumpkin pie with Biscoff cookie crust (made ahead and frozen) whip cream

Pumpkin cakes with Praline and toasted marshmallow topping (made day before, topping added just before serving)

Ice box cake (brought by guest)

coffee and tea

I have already done a few thing to get started, If you love lots of gravy then make a turkey stock to stretch the drippings with. Turkey necks and butts, yes I said butts or as mom used to call them,  “puppicks” or as Zedi used to call it…the part that goes over the fence last.  Anywho….Make a nice reduced stock with lots of veggies that you can use to moisten your stuffing and as a base for your gravy. Also after Thanksgiving add the carcass to your leftover stock to make delicious soup base.

Why do I need roux?

Because using cornstarch to thicken gravy doesn’t add any flavor or sheen.  A roux is a cooked mix of equal parts flour and a  fat such as butter or oil, Roux is used to  thicken sauces, and soup.  Roux can be made light, medium, dark or black-ish, for turkey gravy a light roux is fine. I never season my roux because the dish I end up using it in may already be too salty.

Roux recipe

cooking time 5-10 minutes
Will thicken aprox 6 cups sauce
6 tbsp flour
6 tbs butter and or turkey drippings
Heat up a small skillet, add butter and melt. Before it browns add the flour and stir constantly until the smell of fresh biscuits wafts up. When you smell the biscuits it is done. Now, you can add this to your gravy hot. Always add hot roux hot to hot liquid.
To store, freeze in an ice cube tray.
Fast method:
But…if it’s been in the freezer take it out and let it thaw a bit.
My trick is to take the slightly frozen roux and put it inside a small whisk. Slowly whisk it into the hot liquid, barely simmer it until thickened.

Turkey stock for gravy and stuffing

Make Ahead Turkey Stock

(adapted from Bon Appetite)
  • 4 pounds assorted turkey wings, backs, butts and necks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 3 carrots, sliced in coins
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 onions, sliced in 1/2 moons
  • Giblets (heart, gizzard, liver) of 1 turkey
  • Thyme
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • bay leaf
  • 1/4  lemon
  • 10 garlic cloves smashed

Preheat oven to 450°. Spread turkey wings and turkey neck on a rack set in a large heavy roasting pan. Brush with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil; roast until browned, about 1 hour. Chop carrots, celery stalks, and onions; toss with 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil. Arrange around turkey parts. Roast until vegetables brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a large pot. Add giblets and 1 gallon water and remaining ingredients. Bring to a slow simmer, and cook, skimming surface occasionally, for 3 hours. Strain into another pot and reserve the necks for their meat to be used in soup. Reduce the stock about 20 minutes more, cool down and freeze or refrigerate.

Gruyère and thyme icebox crackers 

(adapted from Martha Stewart)

If you grate the cheese first in the food processor then empty bowl and start recipe it will be much less work. You can avoid  a dirty grater and grating your knuckles too! These are delicious, I wish I had made two batches!

Thyme and Gruyere icebox crackers

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, de-stemmed
  • 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup finely grated (2 1/2 ounces) Gruyère cheese
  • 1/4 cup plus
  1. Combine flour, salt, pepper, and thyme in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add cheese; pulse until combined. With machine running, add the milk; process until dough comes together and is well combined.
  2. Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape dough into a 2-inch-wide log. Wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Or freeze until  one hour before you are ready to bake them.
  3. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Slice chilled log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer slices to a parchment-lined  or non stick foil lined baking sheet. Bake immediately, rotating sheet once, until crackers are golden brown and firm in the center, 15 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Thyme and Gruyère cracker dough


Fresh Cranberry Sauce

I also made my fail proof Cranberry sauce ahead and froze it in a food saver baggie.  If you buy two oranges you can probably get enough juice from them with out supplementing.

  • 12 oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 3/4 cup orange or tangerine juice
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (scant)
  1. Place all the ingredients in a sauce pan, stir and cook on medium-high for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced, stirring occasionally. Sugar burns easily so keep a good watch.  The cranberries will pop that’s a good thing. When almost reduced to the consistency you want remove from heat, it will thicken as it cools. Cranberry sauce can be made days ahead and brought to room temperature or slightly heated before serving.
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