Thanksgiving in October!

So be honest, how many of you out there know that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving about 6 weeks before we do in the US?  I’m not sure I would have ever learned this tidbit if I hadn’t married a Canadian, but interestingly enough Canadian Thanksgiving coincides with our Columbus day, which means we all have a long weekend at the same time.  That made it the perfect opportunity to invite hubby’s entire family down to see our new house in the burbs and have a big holiday meal at the same time 🙂  To add to the fun, we decided to invite my family as well, since our families very rarely see each other.  The grand total for the feast would be 10 adults, 2 big kids, and 3 toddlers, not a huge crowd for experienced entertainers, but until a few months ago I lived in an apartment where 6 people for a sit-down meal was tight.  I was excited to host my big holiday meal as entertaining is always the perfect motivation for me to try out new recipes – who better to experiment on than family?

When I sat down to start planning, I realized there was a bit of a catch here – I didn’t just need to plan a holiday menu, I needed to plan a long weekend meal plan since hubby’s parents and sister + her hubby and 2 kids would be staying with us.  That certainly complicated things a little more, but really just added to the challenge!  I decided I would selectively cook meals and plan other meals to bring in food (e.g., bagels, sandwiches, etc) or have people fend for themselves in a well-stocked kitchen (e.g., eggs, cereal, frozen muffins, and home-made bread for breakfast).  For this weekend I made EXCELLENT use of my extra fridge and freezer in the basement, planning a menu carefully so that I could get a lot of the work done in the weeks ahead.

Thought it might be helpful to share my ideas for do-ahead vs. freshly made options in case any of you find yourself in my shoes.  Most of the new recipes will be posted in the coming week or two, so stay tuned – I’ll add links to this post as I do!

Dinner on arrival:

Traditional Lasagna (frozen in advance) – absolutely delicious!

Home-made Dinner Rolls (frozen in advance) – I made the dough in my bread machine and par-baked the rolls before freezing.  They were delicious, but required some troubleshooting so I will try these again before sharing the method.

Caesar Salad – I decided to save myself a task and bought caesar dressing from Trader Joe’s, but did make home-made croutons a couple of days in advance.  That left chopping and washing some romaine hearts to be the only work for that evening.

Post Thanksgiving Lunch:

Chili (frozen in advance) – I’ve shared this one before, and I still love this recipe!

Cornbread (frozen in advance) – I tried a new recipe this time, and made both Cheddar Jalepeno Cornbread Muffins and Corny Whole Wheat Cornbread.

Thanksgiving Dinner:

Spinach Salad with Candied Walnuts, Crumbled Ricotta Salata, and Sliced Apples – I made the candied walnuts about a week in advance, and crumbled the cheese and sliced the apples in the morning so that the salad was ready to be plated by one of my wonderful assistants at dinner time.  Salad was drizzled with my standard balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to come!) that’s always in my fridge.

Simplest Roast Turkey with Red Wine Gravy (made that day) – something went wrong with the cooking time and/or my thermometer and the turkey wasn’t completely cooked when we cut into it.  Will need to test this one again before sharing.

Traditional White Bread Stuffing (made 2 days in advance and refrigerated) – there is nothing healthy about this recipe, but it is wholesome in that I made the bread myself and used all organic ingredients.  This method is a little labor intensive, but delicious and can be made ahead which is a big help!

Silky Smooth Mashed Potatoes (made that day) – I decided to go a little more decadent for the holiday than my typical Smashed Potatoes and tried out a new recipe that was a huge hit! 

Sweet Potato Pie (outsourced to my mom) – I don’t even want to know what goes in this – rumor has it there’s a lot of butter and sugar, and that’s before you even get to the pie crust and toasted marshmallows on top, but for me Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without it!

Waldorf Salad (outsourced to my mother-in-law) – this fruit & nut salad tossed with whipped cream is apparently a traditional side dish in hubby’s family, so my mother-in-law threw this together Thanksgiving morning.

Cranberry Sauce (store-bought) – I served this from a can.  I have made this recipe in the past which I think is delicious and is also easy to make, but hubby insists that people prefer the canned stuff.  I can’t really understand that; the stuff in the can grosses me out, but who am I to create more work for myself and have it not be appreciated at all?!?  In my defense, I did at least get the organic version at Whole Foods 😉

Thanksgiving Dessert:
oh, you thought there was enough at dinner??

One Bowl Brownies (made 2 days in advance) – still love this recipe, and I don’t think they suffered at all from being made ahead.

“Baked Bars” (frozen in advance) – this recipe for 7-layer bars was from a cookbook written by the guys who own the Baked bakery in Brooklyn.  They were unbelievably delicious, but the recipe is neither simple nor wholesome, so I don’t think I’ll be posting that one here!

Apple Crisp (frozen in advance) – I finally made my mom’s recipe myself, and it is delicious! 

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (cake frozen in advance; frosting made 1 day ahead) – this was a last minute addition to the menu when I got nervous about how well the apple crisp would freeze.  As it turns out, the crisp froze perfectly but the pumpkin cake was delicious anyway! 
Lemon Pound Cake (outsourced to my mother-in-law) – this cake is always a hit, and a special request for my dad who wouldn’t have been excited about any of the other sweets.

Fruit Plate (outsourced to my mother) – putting some fruit on the table negates how unhealthy the rest of the meal is, right? 🙂

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