Count Down to Thanksgiving!

Twice Baked Bourbon-Hazelnut Sweet Potatoes.

Thanksgiving can be a little overwhelming for first time hosts. Heck, Thanksgiving can cause anxiety in award-winning chefs...don't feel bad if the thought of it gives you hives!  Here are some helpful tips to get you off on the right track:

1. Pour yourself a glass of wine before you start planning.
2. Design a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but let your creative juices flow on the side dishes.
3. Organize the meal with your cookware, oven, and range in mind. How many sauce pots, pie pans, and baking dishes do you have available? Assign them to your dishes. Take the number of ovens and burners you have into consideration. That might help you decide between mashed sweet potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, or sweet potato pie!
4. Write down your menu, gather your recipes, then make a thorough grocery list. You don't want to be running back to the store at the last minute!
5. Make a checklist of dishes to cook, and other preparations to be made. Try to plan what you are going to do on the days before, so your checklist isn't as daunting Wednesday night!
6. Whenever anyone offers to bring an item, be ready to hand something off with a big "THANK YOU!" Some good items to delegate (or buy pre-made WITHOUT AN OUNCE OF GUILT)...
Your rolls! Homemade rolls or biscuits are wonderful, but if you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner on your own—this is one area to save time and work.
Desserts! If you have a GOOD bakery nearby, buying your pies is a real time saver. Guests bringing food often like the idea of making let them!
Appetizers. Put light snacks out to keep your family/guests happy, while you’re wrapping things up in the kitchen.
7. Completely clear the table of all dishes from previous courses before serving dessert. That way, after dessert you can RELAX!

Here is the order in which I usually undertake Thanksgiving dinner...
4-6 Days Before-
Shop and put the turkey in the fridge to thaw. DO NOT WAIT TO THAW YOUR TURKEY!
2 Days Before-
Brine the Turkey. That's right, BRINE IT! People, even so called experts, may try to tell you this is unnecessary, but from my experience (which in fairly substantial in the turkey department) you can't get a bird as juicy and flavorful, with a GREAT crispy skin, without brineing it. Don't argue, just trust. *wink* I usually buy a brining bag, then put the whole bagged turkey in a bucket--a precaution against looming holiday disaster!
Prepare Sweet Potatoes, Make Cranberry Relish, Make Pumpkin Pies, Cut bread cubes for homemade stuffing and let sit out uncovered to dry
1 Day Before-
Remove the turkey from the brine a full 24 hours before roasting, so the skin can dry out. Place it in a roasting pan in the fridge uncovered to speed up the drying process. Dry skin = crisp golden skin!
Clean the house. (Or hire someone to do it!)
Set the table.
Prepare the stuffing.
Make some iced tea, or other beverages.
Thanksgiving morning-
Pour yourself a glass of wine...yes at 7 am or whatever time you start! It's one day a year, people, and it will help keep your stress level down.
Prep the Turkey EARLY and get in the oven (Don’t forget to turn and baste!)
While the Turkey is Roasting-
Prepare any side dishes that needed to be made fresh.
Pull out any items that may need to be reheated, and let them come to room temperature.
Remove Turkey from Oven, COVER, and- 
Bake the side dishes.
While side dishes are baking make-
Gravy, Green Veggies, and warm pre-made items.
SIT DOWN AND ENJOY YOURSELF! And secretly revel in the fact that you pulled in off and everything looks lovely, AND is hot at the same time!
Last, a favorite sweet potato recipe that is quick to put together (other than the roasting time). It's a GREAT make-ahead. Plus it's nice to have some side dishes that are prepared for individual servings--they just look pretty that way!


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