Thanksgiving Prep

In this segment, which aired in November 2008 on Better TV, I show how to cut the chaos of holiday meal-time with easy steps, tips, and tools that anyone can use. Cut cooking time in half but still enjoy all those classic home made, family recipes that everyone loves and looks forward to for the holidays.

Chop It

Every home cook knows that chopping vegetables can be time consuming. But fresh vegetables add flavor and texture to old fashioned recipes.

  • Chopping veggies can be fast when you use a mini chopper or slicer or attachment on the food processor. Most holiday dishes like stuffing, soups, and sauce use plenty of chopped veggies like garlic, onions, carrots and celery. Just bag the chopped veggies the night before.
  • Take it a step further by putting together your casseroles the night before, like Thanksgiving Stuffing, so they are ready to bake the next day.

Blend It

Blenders aren’t just for smoothies and mixed drinks! You can make fast soups, pudding and jello desserts, sauces, marinades, and even pasta sauce, all in the blender. Whip them up the night before and chill, drizzle, or marinade ready for the next day. Here’s another recipe idea: Dust off your blender and make some of your soups and dressings silk smooth.

Zip It

Use a zipper lock bag to store all your dinner prep and label each bag with a sharpie. The next day, just grab and saute, stir, toss and mix your way to a faster holiday meal .

  • Use zipper lock bags to store premade stuffing or mashed sweet potatoes, marinade meat, store icing and dressings, anything that you might be transferring to a fancier dish later. Save bags that just have veggies in them and use for that nights left-overs.
  • Disposable zipper lock bags are particularly great for desserts – You can even pip fillings and frostings for cookies or cakes straight out of the bag!

Wrap It

Use plastic wrap or wax paper to roll up home-made cookies dough for easy slicing and baking for the next day. I love wax paper because it’s easy to handle and inexpensive too.

You can roll out pie dough directly onto wax paper to chill or overnight storage in the refrigerator. I use it often to bread chicken and to roll out dough instead of dirtying a dish or countertop. For easy-to-slice ginger cookie dough, just roll in wax paper and refrigerate. Anyone can slice it the next day to bake off fresh cookies.

Assemble It

Use the fast steps above the night before, but make the morning of the holiday even easier on yourself. One thing my Granny taught me about cooking holiday meals – prepare just a few things the day before your meal can really take the pressure off. So getting those casseroles, meat dishes, and baked goods started the day before leaves you plenty of time for socializing with your guests the next day.

Here are dishes that can even be completely assembled the night before. Just refrigerate in their baking dish and pop into the oven a few hours before dinner.


  1. maryann johnson says

    Jen, how right you are about giving the gift of food for the holidays,I have been baking cookies for 2 weeks and ziplock them, all will go in gift baskets to family and friends.Happy Holidays Maryann

  2. Great idea Auntie!

    Home baked treats are a great idea and taste so much better than that processed stuff.

    lots of love!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and every year I like to get into the mood – extend the holiday, as it were – by reading “Thanksgiving novels”. Unsurprisingly, those stories are mostly about family, about coming together to heal old hurts and getting thanks for the gift of love.

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