Your Last-Minute Thanksgiving Survival Guide

We’re in the final countdown to Turkey Day and, because I know you probably need it, I’ve put together a list of last-minute Thanksgiving tips. Give it a read and make sure everything’s set for the big day!



The Table

Set the table ahead of time. If you don’t have matching china, no sweat. You can create a beautiful eclectic look by mixing and matching dinnerware, glassware, and stemware. Try to stick to a cohesive color palette, and maintain a few consistent elements (matching napkins, for example) to keep things looking polished.

Get scrappy with your table decor. Got a bag of frozen cranberries? Fill the base of candle jars for an easy, decorative touch. Have a pine tree in your backyard? Snip a few branches and arrange down the center of the table. You get the idea. You can even make placemats or a whole tablecloth out of brown craft paper, and let guests scribble down what they’re thankful for over the course of the meal.

Decide where guests are sitting, and make place cards. I’m generally pro-assigned seating when it comes to Thanksgiving. It’s just comforting knowing that family feuds won’t erupt, and conversation will (hopefully) flow feely throughout the meal. Place cards don’t have to be fancy, but they are something you can have fun with. Try writing guests’ names on fall leaves, or for a more adult crowd, making homemade labels and tying to airplane shots of Wild Turkey Bourbon.

Autumn setting with candles

The Mood

Light some candles. Tea lights and even white pillar candles are very inexpensive, and just placing these throughout the house can add a warm glow and a cozy touch.

Turn on the tunes. Here are some great Thanksgiving playlists.

Play a game. My family will forever be playing our classic salad bowl game, which contains elements of both Catch Phrase and charades, and offers enormous entertainment potential largely based on the amount of wine the group has consumed. This site also has a number of family-friendly, Thanksgiving-themed games.


The Drinks

Keep ’em cold. Remember to put cold drinks in the refrigerator (or outside if it’s cold enough) the night before the big event.

Stock a bar cart. Go easy on yourself and let your guests prepare their own drinks. Set up a bar cart with as many of the essentials as possible: bourbon, cointreau or triple sec, gin, rum, tequila, scotch, dry and sweet vermouth, and vodka. Make sure you have wine and beer available, too, as well as nonalcoholic options.

Mull wine. Add red wine and mulling spices to a crockpot, set to low, and forget about it. Bonus: your house will smell amazing.


The Food

Finish planning and shopping. Hopefully you have your menu planned by now. If you’re still doing grocery runs, make sure these essentials are on your list: butter, stock, fresh herbs, garlic, whipped cream, ice, and booze.

Take inventory. Pick out serving dishes and utensils for each dish, and label with sticky notes. Make sure you’re not forgetting anything, and that you have the right dishes for each menu item.

Dedicate Wednesday to cooking. Look through your recipes and figure out everything that can be done ahead of time, then do all those things! Check out the nifty timeline at the bottom of this post for help.

Recruit helpers! There’s no shame in putting your hubby and kids to work as long as they’re getting a fantastic Thanksgiving meal out of it!

Keep your apps simple. No one is going to hate on a well crafted charcuterie board or cheese plate.

Consider the casserole. Casseroles can be made entirely ahead of time, then popped in the oven once the turkey comes out for reheating. Rescue gluey potatoes or overcooked veggies by spreading in a casserole dish with some cream, topping with parmesan cheese or breadcrumbs, and crisping under the broiler.

Remember, it doesn’t all have to be homemade. No one is going to care if you use a store-bought pie crust or start with boxed stuffing.

Utilize your grill. If you’re running low on oven space, fire up the grill and use as a second oven or stovetop. Just please, make sure it remains outside the house.

Keep food warm. Pre-heat your serving dishes, utilize your slow cooker for things like mashed potatoes or dressing, and reheat sliced turkey in the oven with a ladleful of warm stock.

Serve dinner family-style or set up a buffet. Individual plating is just not realistic for Thanksgiving, and doesn’t fit spirit of the holiday in my opinion.


FATQs – Frequently Asked [Turkey] Questions

How early can I buy it? A frozen turkey can be purchased up to a year in advance. A fresh one should be picked up no more than two days before the big event.

How much do I buy? One pound per person, or a pound and a half per person if you’re counting on having leftovers

How do I defrost it? Allow one day for every four pounds of turkey (a 12-pound turkey will take three days to defrost, for example). Place the turkey on a large rimmed platter or in a bowl, and thaw in the refrigerator. It will defrost faster if you remove the neck and giblets from the cavity as soon as possible (you may need to defrost it for at least a day first before you can do this). Do not thaw your turkey at room temperature.

What if I need to cook two turkeys? Rather than roasting two separate birds, roast one (and use it as your centerpiece), while simultaneously roasting a tray of turkey parts on a separate rack underneath. (Here’s a recipe). The parts will cook up nice and quick, and are easy to carve.

How long do I cook it?

Size of turkey Approximate cook time at 350 degrees
9 to 11 pounds 2½ hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 hours
15 to 17 pounds 3½ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 hours
21 to 23 pounds 4½ hours
24+ pounds 5+ hours

How do I know when it’s done? When the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Your Last Minute Thanksgiving Timeline

Use this timeline, courtesy of The Kitchn, to make sure everything gets prepped, cooked, and served on time:

Thanksgiving TimelineTake a deep breath; I have complete confidence in you! Remember, Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for the blessings in our lives. Even if you burn your casserole, forget the whipped cream, or drop some mashed potatoes on the floor, remember how much you did pull off, and most importantly, enjoy the company of the loved ones around you (who probably don’t care whether or not you burnt the casserole).



Recipes = Love = Life

More than 3000 years ago, the first recipes were scratched in cuneiform on clay tablets in Mesopotamia. Tongue in cheek, I think of this moment as the first modern marketing of recipes.

I wonder who was the Betty Crocker of Babylonian cookery? …Do we all know Betty Crocker was a personality invented in the 1920s by General Mills to share recipes, cooking tips, and help promote their products? Let’s move on.

Beer Recipe
The recipe for a fermented cereal beverage of the Sumerians. Not exactly traditional beer.  Credit:

Originally, recipes promised better nutrition, better health, and more food for the community. Preserving meats, boiling nuts, and peeling vegetables might have made someone a veritable foodie in ancient days, but it also might have made them a doctor.

While early recipes usually lacked full ingredient lists, cooking times, and clearly written steps, these recipes were important because they provided great value.

Doctor and Celebrity Chef
Don’t sell yourself short; you could be both! Credit:

My interest in recipes is not simple.

I’m in the business of marketing food products to people using recipes. I do business development for our application, Cookpanion, which helps people share recipes on Facebook.

When I went traveling for a few years, I built my networks through working on farms, our mealtimes, and through recipe sharing.

In my current residence, 10 neighbors and I have come together to try to make a cooking show/blog. We’re 4 shoots in, and hope to finish our pilot next week. No teaser yet :/ sorry.

For me, recipes are part of my everyday activity!  And what I’ve found interesting, this is true for billions of other people.

Man bites fish
Delicious fishes. Credit:

Here are some beautiful quotes I’ve culled that express to me why RECIPES = LOVE = LIFE

Recipes as Tradition

  • Culture

Italians are famous for their food culture; their recipes are handed down from generation to generation and children cook alongside their nonnas, who express their love to their family in a dish.

In my life food is also strongly tied to traditions and to culture….  Now that I am a mother I find that preparing food with my daughter is one of my favorite things.  I love that I can spend that time with her and mostly I enjoy sharing with her memories and traditions that are important to me through food.  I am hopeful that food will help me keep my Latino culture alive in my children.

  • Heritage

At that great moment of crisis, the Rabbis transferred the Temple in Jerusalem into the Jewish home, moving its rituals, personnel, sacred space, food, blessings and prayers to the family and the family Shabbat table.

  • Family

Food is synonymous with family life. Traditional and ethnic family recipes are often at the top of lists demonstrating what is passed down through the generations, according to research.*

  • Community

In her seventh book “The Way To Cook” Julia Child writes “Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” Family recipes are a way of keeping our ancestry alive, as well as a part of ourselves.

I have lived in many different places where I have made new friends, shared meals, and then recipes. I also have recipes from many familly members. These are not just recipes, they are also memories. Whenever I use a recipe, I think of the person who gave it to me and remember our times together.

Recipes As Memories of Shared Moments

  • Grandma

Some of my favorite recipes for family gatherings and special occasions came from my grandmother.  If food is love, then passing what you know about how to prepare it is passing on your love in way.

Mine are from my grandmother who has now passed away. I make them often and take them to special events. I feel a connection to my grandmother because of them.

I never knew either of my grandmothers, both died before I was born. But thanks to my mom, while I may not know my grandmother’s voice, I know her fluid handwriting well and the type of recipes she wrote down.

  • Holidays

The encounter got me thinking about the Holiday Season full of food and celebration. ALL of the wonderful recipes our family eats at this time of year come from someone else. They come from old college roommates, recipe books, grandmas, from friends and neighbors, and from wonderful blogs all over the internet.

I can not think of El Día de los Muertos without craving Fiambre and on Christmas I have to have my Ponche de Frutas and my tamales. I don’t care if it’s still in the 80’s here in Florida, my ponche is as much a part of my holiday as the Christmas tree.

  • Returning home

I love the thought that the recipes are the link to home.”

Over winter break, Wraight will cook her daughter’s favorite meals, including tortilla soup, butternut squash bisque, spaghetti and meatballs, and a baked casserole of chicken and stuffing that was Molly’s grandmother’s recipe. “It’s warm and hearty food, and what I remember from my childhood,’’ says Molly.

The other is my greatgrandmother’s recipe for a particular type of bar that… (t)raditionally, we only make it for people in the family (sons and husbands) who have been gone for a long time (our family are mainly farmers and military) and who are returning, as a welcoming back treat. I still make it for when my brother comes home on leave or back from a deployment.

Army Food
Food in the army ain’t no home cooked meal. Credit:

The emotional pull of recipes and food is automatic in most of us. Two movie examples that show the range and have been long time favorites see Ratatoullie, and Like Water for Chocolate. But there is the other aspect of recipes that I alluded to in the beginning.

Good recipes can save lives. And this is something very important to me deep-down. Currently, I relate to Jamie Oliver around his Food Revolution. Many members of my family have had their lives greatly lengthened by changing their diets and habits.

Recipe Food Revolution
Healthy Food in Schools Movement Credit:

Initially, it is difficult when you discover sugar-restriction, nut/shellfish/gluten allergies, or a doctor recommends a particular diet, regardless if it’s paleo, vegan, or balanced. No one is saying it’s easy. Obligatory plug, *but Cookpanion can make it easier*.

However, you soldier on, find what works for you, and you get back to making the most of your life. In my family, we spend some time each holiday season sharing the recipes that each person has discovered during the year. This makes sure we’re all included around the table. It also helps us take into account each person’s changing dietary, health, or personal needs.

Family photos
We’re passing on traditions to these little tikes. What’s could be better?   Credit: My dad

Everyone deserves a nice meal during the holidays with the people they love. Sure, it may lack some ingredients, cooking times, and steps, but the value is strong. Share your recipes; share your love!

Grinch Smiling Eating
Nom nom nom Credit:

Additional Sources For Some Fun Recipe Reading:

  1. Food in the Internet AgeBy William Aspray, George Royer, Melissa G. Ocepe

An All-Inclusive Thanksgiving: How to Accommodate Every Type of Eater


Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. While some people cringe at the idea of spending four straight days in close quarters with their family, I find myself counting down the days until I get to head to the ‘burbs to reunite with the family for the long weekend. Wednesday night finds me and my mother feverishly cooking and baking (and sipping wine) into the wee hours of the morning. Thursday I awake (not too early) to the smell of boiling potatoes and the sound of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. We continue the cooking marathon until it comes time to gather with close friends for the big event. Food and laugher abounds. We eat and drink and eat and drink some more, pausing only for our customary viewing of The Grinch (to welcome the holiday season, of course) and a few rounds of salad bowl. I’m in heaven.

This year, our Thanksgiving table will probably be the most accommodating diet-wise that it ever has been, as we’ll have die-hard carnivores alongside vegans, vegetarians, oil-free guests, and eco-friendly eaters. With more and more families facing similar challenges, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to provide some insight and inspiration aimed at satisfying every type of guest at your Thanksgiving feast.

The Carnivore

If you’re going to have a meaty main on your Thanksgiving table, it better darn well be turkey. Below is a tried-and-true recipe that is guaranteed to be a hit. To console the environmentalist in the crowd, make sure to opt for a free-range, local heirloom turkey (it will taste better, too!). And for those who aren’t crazy about turkey (or have enough of a crowd coming that they want an additional protein), here is a beautiful glazed ham recipe. Note that both of these recipes are also gluten- and dairy-free.

Rosemary Rubbed Turkey
Rosemary Rubbed Turkey
Honey Bourbon Glazed Ham
Honey Bourbon Glazed Ham

The Vegetarian

I myself have been pescatarian for the better portion of my life and find that, with a veg-based entree option and plenty of side dishes (which there always are), Thanksgiving is easy and satisfying. I recently came across this hilariously brilliant “Vegducken” recipe that I will be including in this year’s feast in place of (or maybe in addition to) the classic Tofurkey. Pair with a satisfying vegetarian stuffing and you’re sure to please any meat-free guest. Also, be aware of recipes that have “hidden” carnivorous ingredients (chicken stock, bacon bits, etc) and, when possible, alter the recipe or make a portion of it veg so everyone can enjoy it.

Butternut Squash Vegducken
Butternut Squash Vegducken
Sourdough Stuffing With Mushrooms, Apples, & Sage
Sourdough Stuffing With Mushrooms & Apples

The Gluten-Free Guest

With a staggering 29% of the adult population currently avoiding gluten, this is one potential accommodation worth paying attention to. Luckily, gluten-free products are everywhere today. For classic gluten-bearing dishes like stuffing, I recommend preparing a small portion with gluten-free bread, which can be found at many major grocery chains. You can also easily replace all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour in baked goods and gravies, and replace traditional dinner rolls with homemade gluten-free cornbread. It’s also courteous (and easy) to keep your protein free of gluten (see section 1: The Carnivore) and offer a variety of accommodating side dishes.

Chocolate, Pear, And Hazelnut Tart
Chocolate, Pear, And Hazelnut Tart
Gluten-Free Sour Cream Cornbread
Gluten-Free Sour Cream Cornbread

The Vegan

Don’t freak out if you have a vegan joining you for Thanksgiving–it will be ok. I’ve been test-driving veganism myself recently, and I’m feeling amazingly calm headed into the holidays. My biggest challenge has been replicating my mother’s dairy-laden mashed potatoes, but I’ve landed on a recipe that’s fantastic. I will be contributing a beautiful cashew milk cheese to the appetizer platter, subbing vegan butter into my favorite appetizers and desserts, and preparing a protein-rich quinoa dish loaded with squash, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds. Doesn’t sound half bad, right? Just like I mentioned in the Vegetarian section, beware of unsuspecting non-vegan products like gelatin, non-organic cane sugar, and even wine.

Mom's Famous Mashed Potatoes, Turned Vegan 
Mom’s Famous Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes, Turned Vegan
Quinoa Salad With Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries & Pepitas 
Quinoa Salad With Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries & Pepitas

The Low-Fat Foodie

Those who are watching their fat intake have every right to a fabulous Thanksgiving, and it’s easier than you may think to offer heart-healthy versions of some of our favorite holiday dishes. Serving a salad? Serve the dressing on the side and whip up an easy oil-free alternative. Roasting veggies with olive oil? Steam some instead for a fat-free option. Mashing potatoes? Reserve a portion and mash with fat-free sour cream and roasted garlic. You get the idea. It’s even possible to roast turkey without oil or butter. I’m not saying you have to do it all, but making a few changes here and there can really make a difference to the low-fat guests at the table.

Lightened Up Gravy 
Lightened Up Gravy
Black Forest Trifle 
Black Forest Trifle

The Eco-Friendly Eater

Greening up your Thanksgiving dinner is easier than it sounds. Shopping organic and using fresh veggies over canned ones is a great place to start, as commercial canning of vegetables uses the same amount of energy as 8.5 million refrigerators running for an entire year. Being mindful of disposable kitchen supplies is another easy way to stay eco-friendly. Break out the real china and glassware to cut back on waste, and consider using cloth napkins instead of paper. Encourage guests to bring reusable tupperware for leftovers, and use towels rather than paper towels to clean up (inevitable) messes in the kitchen.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce 
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Fresh Green Bean Casserole 
Fresh Green Bean Casserole

Thanksgiving is all about being grateful, and cooking for people can be a pretty incredible way of showing gratitude and giving back. So think of the extra effort here as a gift to those you love, and serve a meal that everyone can enjoy equally. Cheers!


6 Foods The Pacific Northwest Should Be Savoring Right Now

Fall Produce_All

November is upon us. The days are cooler (not to mention wetter), the sun is long gone by the time we step foot in our homes at the end of the day, and the holiday commercials are already in full swing. Luckily I’m still finding myself in the “oh this is so cozy and nice” mindset most of the time. I’m baking up pumpkiny treats on a biweekly basis, making good use of my Nexflix account, and enjoying listening to the pitter patter of rain outside my window.

Besides all the classically cozy aspects of fall, there is a whole bounty of delightful new Northwest produce that, if you don’t already have in your kitchen, you absolutely should. Here are six peak-season picks worth trying:

1. Asian Pears

Asian pears are those beautiful light golden, faintly dotted fruits that begin to show up in markets in the late summer months. They have the shape and crunch of an apple paired with the grainy texture and delicate sweetness of a pear. I love eating them all on their own, or sliced and paired with a little almond butter or a nice pungent cheese. They also make a wonderful addition to salads and slaws thanks to their firm texture. Finally, Asian pears work beautifully in many apple- and pear-friendly baked dishes, and tend to release even more sweet liquid than these neighboring fruits. Besides its awesome flavor and versatility, my favorite part about this fruit is its shelf life! Asian pears will happily sit in your crisper drawer for up to four weeks, or on your countertop for up to two weeks.

Blue Cheese & Asian Pear Crostinis by Camille Styles
Blue Cheese & Asian Pear Crostinis by Camille Styles

2. Beets

Not only do beets add a gorgeous pop of color to any dish, but they offer a delightfully nutty, mildly sweet flavor that pairs beautifully with other fall flavors. Plus they’re loaded with health benefits! This superfood is high in vitamins and minerals, plus it’s detoxifying, energy-boosting, and can even help your mental health. Try tossing peeled, cubed beets with a little olive oil and salt, then roasting until tender. Serve with a generous sprinkle of goat cheese, a handful of spicy greens, and some chopped hazelnuts. Perfection. Beets can also be enjoyed raw (grated into salads or sliced thin and sprinkled with sea salt) as well as boiled, steamed, pickled, or even puréed and used in baked goods.

Roasted Beet And Orange Salad by Baked Bree
Roasted Beet And Orange Salad by Baked Bree

3. Cranberries

Cranberries are another uber-healthy fall food that is packed with antioxidants and nutrients. The trick with this one is to not get carried away with the sugar that is so often needed to counteract the berry’s intense tartness. Dried cranberries make wonderful additions to baked goods (cakes, breads, muffins), salads (I’m obsessed with the cranberry / pumpkin seed / roasted squash combo), cereals and oatmeals. Fresh cranberries can be candied, turned into delicious juices and syrups, roasted and served alongside roast pork, turkey, or chicken, or simmered into sauces and jellies. Cranberries can also be used to make some fabulous cocktails (freeze a few extra and use as festive ice cubes in said cocktail to up your game even further).

Cranberry-Pepper Jelly by Epicurious
Cranberry-Pepper Jelly by The Bon Appetit Test Kitchen

4. Mushrooms

Most of us have experience with the more commonplace mushroom types (button, portobello, crimini),  but this time of year you’re likely to encounter all kinds of strange and beautiful varieties, each of which lends itself to different cooking methods. Portobellos, for example, are thick and hearty; they make excellent meat substitutes and are great for grilling. Hen of the wood mushrooms, on the other hand, are delicate and feathery, and will benefit from just a light sauté with butter, shallots, and thyme. Which reminds me, if you haven’t tried sautéed mushrooms over buttered toast, you must go try this immediately. You can also enjoy mushrooms raw, roasted, stir fried, stuffed, or even breaded and fried. The sky’s the limit.

Gordon Ramsay’s Wild Mushroom Risotto
Wild Mushroom Risotto by Lori de Mori, Epicurious

5. Radishes

Radishes are those crisp, peppery, bright pink bulbs that you have probably seen at the farmers market, or found thinly sliced atop salads or tacos. These gorgeous little root vegetables make great snacks, and are perfect for dipping in creamy hummus or fresh ricotta drizzled with a little olive oil. They’re also great in salads (both green and mayo-based), on sandwiches (try pairing with goat cheese, mashed avocado, and crisp sugar snap peas!), or atop appetizers (crostini with pesto and thinly sliced radishes = heaven). But what most people don’t realize is you can actually make delicious cooked radishes, too. Simply roasting them with butter makes for a divine side dish, while grilling them or baking them into crispy chips are both equally tasty methods.

Radish Cucumber Salsa by Jennifer Andrews, Ricotta and Radishes
Radish Cucumber Salsa by Jennifer Andrews, Ricotta and Radishes

6. Rutabaga

Although often confused with turnips, rutabaga is actually a direct cross between turnips and cabbage, and has a sweet, starchy, just mildly bitter flesh. While it can be enjoyed raw (sliced thin and used as crudités or grated into salads), it really shines when it’s cooked. Roasting, sautéing, or baking the root veggie yields a nutty, sweet-savory flavor that pairs beautifully with other warm, smokey, earthy flavors (think chipotle, nutmeg, kale, Italian sausage…). You can also use rutabaga pretty much anywhere you would use potatoes: mashed, in gratins, for french fries, or added to soups and stews.

Rutabaga and Celeriac Puree with Seared Scallops by The Kitchn
Rutabaga and Celeriac Puree with Seared Scallops by The Kitchn

Alright my friends, you should now be equipped to prepare some truly fabulous fall dishes. Enjoy!!