Gobbledy-OOPS.. Thanksgiving on the Fly– Real Food For the Holiday FAST and EASY Courtesy of Chef Vanessa!
It’s the day before Thanksgiving and you suddenly realize you are having guests and YOU are supposed to cook — because none of your friends know how to cook. Before you freak out and bury your head under the pillow (or head to the airport), take a deep breath. B R E A T H E!! You don’t have to resort to frozen TV dinners to serve dinner and NO KFC does not count as Thanksgiving dinner!
(food images courtesy of BHG.com’s
Chef Vanessa is here to SAVE the day!! She’s a wizard in the kitchen and a whiz for holidays. Just make sure that you are reading this literally Here are a few words of wisdom from Chef Vanessa:
The thing about Thanksgiving is that you have to get up very early in the morning to get your rather large turkey prepped, stuffed and in the oven. Then you wait around for about 4-5 hours before you get to cook anything else. If you’re a glutton for punishment like I am, then good on you! If you’re not; and would rather have a more relaxing lie in, then how about doing this instead–
Order a pre-cooked Turkey from a store such as Wholefoods. These just need to be warmed in the oven (takes an hour or two depending upon the size of your bird), then spend about an hour preparing your fabulous side dishes. You can prepare about 4 things very easily in this time and they will have your personal touch. Your guests will think you’ve spent days getting ready.
Here’s a few of my favorites:
Creamed spinach — prep time 15 minutes — cook time 30 minutes
– dice one small onion and two cloves of garlic and saute in 2 tablespoons olive oil for about 3 minutes until translucent
– Add in frozen spinach (one large family size bag serves about 4 people) and about 1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg and a good pinch of salt
– Cook on medium until the spinach is just cooked through
– Put the spinach mixture in a food processor and add 1/2 a cup of grated parmesan cheese, 4 tablespoons cream and blend until this is a nice puree.
– Season to taste and then put back on in the saute pan to warm through again, or you can put into an oven put dish and finish in the oven for 15 minutes
Good ole mashed potatoes — prep time 15 minutes — cook time 30 minutes
– Peel 4 large Idaho potatoes and dice into one inch cubes
– Put potatoes into a large pot of salted water and bring to boil. Cook potatoes until fork tender
– Drain potatoes and add about a tablespoon of butter (yes I said butter) and about 1/4 cup of milk. Mash potatoes thoroughly until smooth.
– Optional — you can add finely diced garlic if you like or finely chopped chives for extra flavor. Leaving the skins on the potatoes will give a nice rustic appeal as well as be extra good for you and save you time because you just have to scrub the potatoes instead of peeling them (a double bonus).
Roasted vegetable medley — prep time 15 minutes — cook time 45-60 minutes
– Here’s where you can get really creative. Pick 4-5 of your favorite vegetables, wash them, dice them and put them onto a baking tray tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little chopped garlic. Bake for about 45 minutes until the vegetables are just beginning to caramelize (a fancy turn for browning) on the edges.
– Some of my favorite veggie medleys
o Leek, yams, red peppers, zucchini and shitake mushrooms
o Red onion, yellow squash, asparagus, baby tomatoes and black olives (toss with a little chopped basil at the end)
Maple pecan sweet potatoes — prep time 15 minutes — cook time 30 minutes
– Peel 4 large sweet potatoes, dice into cubes and cook in a pot of salted water
– Once fork tender, drain and then mash with a little butter and maple syrup.
– Season with a few good grinds of black pepper and a handful of crushed pecans
– OK, I know you want to add marshmallow to this (go ahead, I wouldn’t want to disappoint your grandmother)
Simple green beans — prep time 10 minutes — cook time 15 minutes
– Top and tail your green beans (cut of the top and bottom of the bean) and then cut in half if regular beans or leave whole if French beans
– Cook in a shallow pan filled with salted water until a knife is just able to cut the beans
– Drain immediately and serve.
The best stuffing ever!! — prep time 30 minutes — cook time 60 minutes
– Now here’s where I get really creative. I’m sure you probably have a family recipe that you’re welcome to use, but I’m going to share with you a few of my secret ingredients to the most amazing stuffing ever! This stuffing is pure decadence! You can prepare this in a loaf pan for your guests to enjoy.
– Dice one large onion and 4 cloves of garlic. Cook in a shallow pan with a little butter until the onions are translucent. Allow to cool.
(don’t dice too well? Try a food processor for a couple of taps on the button. Just don’t turn it to mush!)
– In a large bowl mixed together the following ingredients:
o Cubed bread (store bought stuffing mix is fine)
o 4 oz ground pork (optional if you don’t like pork)
o 8 oz pate — find this in the gourmet section.
o 1/2 cup chopped chestnuts (these can be found at specialty stores or the gourmet section or trader joes if you have one)
o 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
o 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme
o 3 tablespoons brandy
o the onion and garlic mixture
o 1 cup (depending upon amount of bread) of chicken stock
– I find that it’s best to get a little messy and use your hands to mix the stuffing to get it really well blended.
– Make sure the mixture is moist but you don’t want it too wet.
– Place in a loaf pan and bake in oven for about 50 minutes. You don’t want it to get too dry, just cooked through. Delicious!
Add a store bought gravy and cranberry sauce and you’ve got a fantastic and easy Thanksgiving!
See thanks to Chef Vanessa, it can REALLY be that easy!!
Do this NOW before the big day.. and if this is Thursday morning, (boo hiss) get on the phone and be prepared to pay a bit more for some help but you can do this. Trust me you can do this, it can be done and you can even talk to various supermarkets to buy the entire meal in a box or even some restaurants. The trick is to have some things that you have made yourself so that everyone thinks you did it all.
Make sure you get some candles out. Ask someone to bring a couple bottles of wine and dessert and voila, instant holiday dinner without a whole lot of fuss — courtesy of CHEF VANESSA!!