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Simplify Your Thanksgiving Prep with These Expert Tips

by Mimi Council

Nov. 2, 2020

by Mimi Council

Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with loved ones to give thanks. But sometimes the pressure to host the perfect Thanksgiving meal can take over, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and unable to fully enjoy this special holiday.

This year, Thanksgiving may look a bit different. Even if it's an intimate meal with the immediate family you've been cooking for all year, we still want this holiday meal to feel special for you, which might mean still rolling out the turkey with all the trimmings regardless of how many chairs are around the table. Cooking a delicious and beautiful feast can help us feel just a bit more normal and remind us that there's still so much to be thankful for even during this strange, topsy-turvy year.

Whether you're a veteran host or cooking your first feast, take a few tips from me (who cooks for a living) and prep ahead with Organic Valley! These easy Thanksgiving prep-ahead tips will also allow you to spend less time in the kitchen on the big day and more time with family (whether that's your in-person family or on video calls) while still preparing the comforting meal that everyone loves.

2 Days Ahead

A square of sausage and vegetable egg bake on a white plate with sliced avocado, sliced oranges, and grapes.

Whipping up anegg bake in advance makes an easy Thanksgiving Day breakfast without taking up oven space. Photo bythe Real Food Dietitians.

Brunch

If you’re always trying to keep people’s hunger at bay until Thanksgiving dinner, a crustless egg bake is the perfect Thanksgiving prep-ahead breakfast, brunch, or lunch! It can be made and baked up to 48 hours in advance. Guests can warm up a slice in a toaster oven or microwave, and that way it’s not taking up precious oven space on Thanksgiving morning. Another trick is to make an egg bake in your slow cooker!

Egg bakes are an excellent vessel for veggies, meats, and spices. Mix it up by adding mushrooms, peppers, Organic Prairie Pork Breakfast Sausage, Organic Valley Pepper Jack Cheese, oregano, thyme, and basil. Or keep it simple with cubed Organic Prairie Ham and Organic Valley Cheddar Cheese.

A bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts artfully garnished with shredded cheese and bacon crumbles.

The leaves in sliced Brussels sprouts love to gather up all that wonderful ghee flavor in theseParmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. Photo bythe Real Food Dietitians.

Veggies

Vegetables are so easy to cut and store in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them. In particular, Brussels sprouts are a favorite on many Thanksgiving tables, but do you hate all the work of washing, trimming, and halving your sprouts, not to mention the mess of green leaves to clean up while you’re trying to prepare other dishes?

This Thanksgiving, prep your Brussels sprouts up to 48 hours ahead to save time the day-of. Wash, trim, and halve your sprouts, whirl them in a salad spinner, and then place them—salad spinner and all—in the fridge until turkey day. The excess water will drip off leaving you with perfectly washed and trimmed veggies just awaiting seasoning, sauteing or roasting.

Recipe: Try our Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon recipe!

A close up of pumpkin pie with florets of whipped cream on top, surrounded by yellow fall leaves.

Pumpkin pie is a staple on every Thanksgiving table. Be sure to top it with delicious homemade whipped cream!

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is the quintessential pie for Thanksgiving, but it can take up hours of oven time. So why not bake it in advance? 
How far in advance can you bake your pumpkin pie? Up to 48 hours! This will give you plenty of time to put care into rolling out that buttery, flaky pie dough and filling it with pumpkin and aromatic spices. Bake, let them cool completely, and then stick them in the fridge. Remove them from the fridge 1 to 2 hours before serving, and spend your precious time on Thanksgiving Day making fresh whipped cream instead.

You can whip up homemade organic whipped cream in just 5 to 10 minutes using Organic Valley Heavy Whipping Cream. There’s nothing better than fresh whipped cream on top of pumpkin pie!


1 Day Ahead

 An overhead view of an artful cheese board containing cheese, means, crackers, tips, fruits and nuts.

A classycheese board will elicit “oohs” and “ahhs” while giving folks something to snack on before dinner.

Appetizers

What to do when family comes barging into your kitchen hours before Thanksgiving dinner is ready? An impressive and delicious cheese board will tie appetites over until the main event!

Prep this Thanksgiving Cheese Board the night before by slicing Organic Valley Cheddar, Pepper Jack, and Monterey Jack Cheeses and Organic Valley Summer Sausage, then add some fresh fruit and fancy olives. Wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

When three o’clock rolls around on Thanksgiving Day and tummies are rumbling before dinner, pull out this beautiful cheese board and just add crackers. Your guests will devour this simple yet oh-so satisfying snack.

Ingredients for a healthy broccoli salad in a bowl viewed from above on a marble countertop.

Ahealthy vegetable salad can be just the ticket for lightening up a heavy Thanksgiving meal. Photo bythe Real Food Dietitians.

Salad

Washing and chopping veggies for a salad can take more time than it may seem. This Thanksgiving, prep your salad 24 hours in advance to save time and counter space.

Simple veggies like lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers can all be chopped and tossed into a salad bowl the night before. Make sure to cover with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out. Store pungent or juicy veggies like tomatoes and onions separately. On Thanksgiving day, give everything a good toss and top with Organic Valley Shredded Cheese for a salad that will impress all your guests!

A man places a large bowl of mashed potatoes topped with butter on a Thanksgiving table surrounded by people.

Mashed potatoes are a staple for any Thanksgiving dinner!

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a very important part of Thanksgiving dinner. Some people come for this side dish alone! And when you make multiple pounds from scratch, it can eat up a lot of time!

This Thanksgiving, make your mashed potatoes the day before. Follow your recipe and after you’ve mashed, seasoned, and added Organic Valley Milk and Butter, leave potatoes in the pot and cover with the lid. Cool to room temperature and place in the fridge. Remove an hour before serving time and put over low heat on the stovetop, stirring occasionally. When hot, remove the lid and add in a little extra Organic Valley Milk and Butter, then mash by hand or whip with an electric mixer and watch them come together perfectly. You’ll be known for the creamiest and most luscious mashed potatoes ever!

Bonus: Need to free up some stovetop space? Once your mashed potatoes are reheated, transfer them to a slow cooker to keep warm while you (or guests) prepare other dishes.

<p>Savory fall spices, toasty pecans, and salty bacon perfectly balance the sweet potatoes in this delicious<a href="https://www.organicvalley.coop/recipes/sweet-potato-casserole/" target="_blank">Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole</a>! Recipe by<a href="https://therealfoodrds.com/" target="_blank">the Real Food Dietitians</a>.</p>

Savory fall spices, toasty pecans, and salty bacon perfectly balance the sweet potatoes in this deliciousThanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole! Recipe bythe Real Food Dietitians.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Spice up your sweet potato game this Thanksgiving with this easy Sweet Potato Casserole recipe that is sure to get everyone excited about sweet potatoes. Plus, it’s topped with bacon!

Prepare everything except the topping the day before and store, covered, in the fridge. On Thanksgiving Day, remove the dish from the fridge, mix up the topping, sprinkle on top, and bake. Everyone is sure to love this sweet and salty casserole that will take just 5 minutes to top before it goes into the oven on Thanksgiving Day.

I hope these make-ahead tips help make your Thanksgiving prep easier this year so that you’ll be able to spend more time with your loved ones, whether that's in-person or virtually this year.


We love to see your creations!

Be sure to tag @organicvalley in any drool-worthy Instagram photos from your Thanksgiving meal!


Mimi Council of Dessert'd

Mimi Council is the owner and baker at Dessert’D Organic Bake Shop. Mimi and her desserts have been featured in SHAPE Magazine, The FeedFeed, The Nest, 100 Layer Cake, Green Wedding Shoes, and ESPN, among others. Mimi is an editor at The Feedfeed, where she focuses on making high-altitude recipes available within the food community. Mimi is an author of the books Cookies for Everyone and The Mountain Baker, and is a freelance recipe developer and writer.