Twelve years ago, my grandma came into town for what could have been a very lonely Thanksgiving. My mom had passed away literally one year and a few days prior: my dad had no interest in celebrating, my boyfriend (now husband) and brother both had to work. I will never forget thinking how did we go from such a lively, wonderful family who embraced holidays...to this?
I became determined that year, to learn how to make a Thanksgiving dinner - the realization that if someone didn't learn and do, the tradition would expire - so I would do it! There I was: 25 years old, in my newly purchased condo with a tiny galley kitchen, my Nana by my side, enough food to feed an army and a quiet afternoon to cook and learn.
We set out to make all of the traditional dishes - Turkey, green bean casserole, cranberries, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pies. It was a wonderful day filled with bittersweet memory sharing, learning, talking and eating. We made so much food that a few days later I had the opportunity to pack it up and bring it to the homeless....but I learned it all - how to cook a turkey, how to make a pie - that was the year I took the family tradition and began.
My vision was clear - I would become the person who hosted Thanksgiving because if I didn't - who would? I have been hosting ever since - inviting friends who may not have a place to spend their holiday and enjoying every moment of having the people I love surrounding me for a whole day! It has been wonderful, and something I really look forward to every year. But, since that year in 2006 where I learned the rules of the Thanksgiving road...my life has changed exponentially. I have a demanding full time job, a home to keep up, two children, laundry coming out of my ears and very few moments of solitude or spare time. It was this busy-ness that led me to what I am going to share with you today.
How to simplify your Thanksgiving Planning and meal prep.
Two years ago - I had run out of time, recognized how much money I was spending on spices and seasonings that I used once a year (I would inevitably buy one year, forget about them and rebuy the next), I really enjoyed the process of preparing dinner, hosting Thanksgiving, providing a place and food for whomever I had run across that needed that in their lives that year but wanted to simplify it so I could get the best of both worlds - the gratification of fixing the meal AND the ability to spend time with my family and friends on that day instead of being distracted and worn out after all of the preparation.
I headed over to Williams Sonoma to look for my 'once a year addition' to my Thanksgiving settings (every year I add a piece to commemorate the year and grow my serving collection) and I noticed they had pre-packaged spices and mixes.... I thought -what the heck, let's give it a whirl - and picked up a few things.
1.) Truffle, Asiago, & Garlic Mashed Potato Seasoning (for 4lbs of potatoes, serves 10)
2.) Cornbread Stuffing Mix (One Box Serves 10-12)
3.) Turkey Gravy Base - Classic Recipie (Makes 1 Qt.)
4.) Autumn Fruit & Spice Turkey Brine Kit - includes brine bag, blend and rub.
Each of these can be found here and range from $10.95 - $26.95
Dinner was served and my family was raving about the dinner. "The best Thanksgiving dinner you've ever served!" came from multiple people. It was a win, win. I had enjoyed my day, had great conversation, still had the opportunity to cook and the food was delightful. Needless to say this has become my tradition. Each year now, I head over to Williams Sonoma pick out my new tableware piece and grab my staples.
We would love to hear about your tips and tricks to make Thanksgiving Prep and Planning easier!!! Always looking for great tips, if you have one please leave it in the comment below.
Whatever you do this Thanksgiving an however you chose to prep - make sure to enjoy the moments, engage in the conversation, listen to the things your family is grateful for. These lovely days where we come together are so few and far between. Embrace them, enjoy them, and practice gratitude - may we all be a little more full in both our bellies and in our hearts.
Here are some of our photo's from years past!
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I love Pinterest. I love baking. I always had these dreams of baking cookies with my girls but the reality of the situation scared the sprinkles out of me! (I'm not normally this cheesy but I've had a glass of wine.) But I decided to give it a go - the easy way.
I don't know where you are, but in Missouri it's either been 200 degrees outside or raining; which has caused a bit of cabin fever. So... on one desperate day, I decided to take the plunge and bake with my twin toddlers. I began with (2) pudding packs and some Netflix to keep them occupied while I set up (I know - more sugar - don't judge me).
What I put together in preparation for our cookie baking activity was REALLY simple and only took 5 minutes:
I broke off a good amount of dough and had them roll it into a ball. Once we had a ball, I encouraged them to decorate ball with the sprinkles I had set out. They ate some, the sprinkled some, and they spilled some; but all in all the cookies got decorated. We baked the cookies and watched..and watched...and watched...until they were done.
This was such a fun and simple activity. It took all of the stress out of the equation and allowed us to have fun, bake cookies and provide that super important element of independence. My girls had a blast and the mess was minimal (the placemat's are clutch).
These two-year-old's created the most beautiful imperfect/perfect cookies I had ever seen, and they were PROUD. They weren't quite the perfectly trimmed, cookie cutter cookies I had imagined but they turned out GREAT! Once they cooled we picked out our favorites and set them aside for some special people and then dug in (no sugar intake limits on this fun day!). I gave them their special straws and a glass of milk and it made for a really fun afternoon.
So instead of postponing your perfectly envisioned baking day - start here! Try it! No fuss, just fun and delicious cookies. Perhaps by Christmas we'll be ready for more intricate projects. In the meantime? This was AWESOME! I will absolutely be doing it again soon!
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Do you have fun go-to activities for rainy days? We would love to hear about any fun idea's - we're always looking for something fun and productive to do!
I am terrible at boiling eggs. This little experiment left me asking why this isn't the way we were taught to do it, it seems so much easier! In addition to being easy, as the mom of toddlers it allowed me to let them 'help' without the fear of a splash of scalding water hitting their tiny little hands. This was so simple, super fun and perfect for keeping hard boiled eggs on hand and ready to peel for a salad or meal, deviled eggs, egg salad, etc. Here's what you need:
A Muffin Tin.
Large Mixing Bowl.
A Dozen Eggs.
Ice and Water.
Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Place the raw eggs into the muffin tins, NO WATER (just the dry egg)...one per muffin space (nice that there's twelve - huh?). Bake them for 30 minutes (**note - if you use large or extra large eggs bake for 35-40 min.) Take them out of the oven and toss them (gently) into a large bowl of ice water to shock them. Once cooled, peel and eat! Yup, it's that simple!
My girls loved gently placing the eggs in the tin and then peeling them, the first 2 were a mess before they caught on but a small price to pay for an awesome project to keep them busy and 12...errrr 10 peeled boiled eggs prepped for later. Enjoy!
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