Thanksgiving Shortcuts and Other Holiday Tips

To help ease your holiday planning, read a few tips--some common sense--and a few uncommon ideas, too.

by Dani Yokhna

Before the holidays land on our front porches with a thud and beg for attention, let’s see if these few tips (including a few recipes!) can help. Try this food gift idea, too>>

Planning Ahead
I inherited a little, but not enough of my mom’s common sense (like knowing when to plan ahead).

But like Mom says, if you want a smooth-sailing Thanksgiving, “… just plan ahead!”

  • Make foods that can be refrigerated ahead of time (dressing, Jell-O-type, salads, squash, etc.) Check out a recipe for root vegetable kabobs below.
  • Create a schedule–including times for what to do when.

Soup’s On!
Check out this other tip from my mom:

“The other thing I’ve done to make life easier is put the bones from the meat into a large pot and start the soup making the same day.

“After the meal is over and most of the cleanup done, this will make ALL the cleanup in one day, because you can clean the meat from the bones and discard along with the other cleanup mess…all in one trash bag.

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“Then divide the left-over meat into portions for casseroles, sandwiches and soup makings.

“It does make for one long day, but the following days are easier because your meals are ready to go (who doesn’t love a leftover turkey sandwich).” — Sharon Rasmussen

Color Your Thanksgiving Green
Cherie Langlois and her family would really like to make some eco-friendly changes this year. Here’s the plan:

  • Stay home. We often travel to visit relatives for Thanksgiving, burning lots of fossil fuel in the process, but this year we’re planning to stay home.
  • Buy a local, pasture-reared, organic turkey, if at all possible (and if we can afford it!).  Next year, I’d like to raise a few organic, pasture-reared turkeys myself.
  • Try to use more local foods in preparing dinner, including my own stored harvest from this year (I’ve certainly got lots of potatoes and squash!).
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper, save the turkey carcass for soup, and in general keep the environmental mantra Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in mind as we prepare dinner and clean up. — Cherie Langlois


Cranberry, Walnut and Gorgonzola Salad
with Honey-Mustard Dressing

From Cherie Langlois:
Thanksgiving meals always seem so heavy on simple carbohydrates, meat and sauces, I decided one year to create this healthy, simple salad.

For the salad:

  • 1 head of lettuce (red or green leaf), washed, dried and torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 green pepper, washed and chopped (you can also use red pepper, or both)
  • 1 cup of sweetened, dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts, broken into pieces (you can substitute pecans, if desired)
  • 1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:

  • 5 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.  Combine salad ingredients and toss with dressing (or pass dressing with salad).

Grilled Root Vegetable Kabobs

From Lisa Kivirist:
Break out of the traditional root vegetable recipe box and break out the grill one last time this season with some unique kabobs as a Thanksgiving side dish. 

Kabobs make a particularly easy dish as all the marinating and prep work can be done beforehand. All you need is to quickly roast them on the grill before serving.

Make a hearty batch as this flavorful approach to root crops adds up to tasty leftovers. Grilled beets, turnips and rutabagas taste surprisingly good cold; they also work great on an open-faced sandwich with grilled cheese on top.


  • Approximately 8 c. of peeled root vegetables or other vegetables cut into one-inch chunks (make sure the chunk is big enough to skewer onto a kabob stick).  Experiment with different types of root crops, like roots, beet and turnips.  John Ivanko displays the roasted root kabobs
  • Feel free to add in vegetables other than root crops, such as pepper and cherry tomatoes.
  • 1 16 oz. jar Italian salad dressing
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • Wooden skewer sticks

Boil the root crops under tender but not mushy (you need to pre-cook the root crops before grilling as they will not fully cook on the grill)).  It is best to boil the beets separately, otherwise they will color the other vegetables purple.  You do not need to pre-cook vegetables other than root crops.

Mix together salad dressing, garlic salt, marjoram and thyme.  Feel free to experiment with other seasonings.

In a large bowl, mix vegetables and marinade.  Let sit for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  
Stir often to help marinade reach all vegetables.

Soak wooden skewer sticks in water for one hour. Skewer vegetables, aiming for a colorful variety of vegetables on each stick. Grill until hot and cooked through.  Baste with remaining marinade.

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