Thanksgiving Checklist 101: Yes, it’s Time!
To borrow a phrase uttered by a friend this week on social media. “Don’t fight me about this!” The difference between her statement and mine lies in one key fact. She made the comment while posting photos of her already-decorated Christmas tree, thereby bypassing Thanksgiving. I’m here to make the argument that Thanks-giving and all its glory should be given its due. I feel it’s my job to share a few time-saving ways that might help you appreciate Thanksgiving before Christmas takes over our world.
First, a segment on The Today Show on how to prep for Thanks-giving now caused me to rewind the DVR and take in some simple, but truly valuable tips shared by a cooking expert.
Calling her list, “Thanksgiving Checklist 101,” she ran down a list of easy-to-accomplish tasks to make the big day a little easier:
1. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer, throwing out old leftovers and out-of-date condiments to make room for the good stuff to come. While you’re at it, give the shelves a thorough cleaning by scrubbing with a mixture of warm water and baking soda. OK, I added that last sentence, primarily because it’s something I really need to do.
2. Here’s a tip I thought was absolutely genius. Review your baking recipes and measure out dry ingredients, i.e., 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder, etc., Then store each pre-measured ingredient in a separate airtight clear container. Use a Sharpie to label each container with the ingredient/amount. Stack the containers in a clear box labeled “Thanksgiving baking,” set aside and you’ll be ready to go when it’s time to bake.
3. Make ahead more than you ever thought possible. Items like cranberry sauce, dressing and mashed potatoes can be made now, providing extra time for the turkey and last-minute baking nearer to Thanksgiving. Pour cranberry sauce in a clear, airtight container, label and place in the fridge. Dressing can be stirred together and frozen in a tightly-covered baking dish, then defrosted and fully baked just before the main meal. Mashed potatoes can be completely cooked before being frozen in a flattened Ziploc bag until the big day.
I saved the best for last: pies. I recommend baking your own, especially if adequate preparation and baking time exist. However, sometimes additional guests arrive or there simply isn’t time for pie-baking. That’s where store-bought pies come into play. After doing a little research, I can attest that supermarket pies are more than acceptable for this important pie-specific holiday. Many bakeries and delis sell delicious fresh pies, but for this taste test, I concentrated on frozen varieties.
Marie Callender’s Lattice Apple and Southern Pecan Pies are heavy favorites among everyone that sampled a variety of pies for my pie taste-testing session. I purchased both pies and for comparison purposes, Mrs. Edwards Pecan Pie. The unscientific taste test was unanimous. Marie Callender’s pies are quite simply, really, really good.
First out of the oven was the lattice apple pie. With a crunchy, sugary crust and dense filling of thick chunks of apples and the right amount of spices, it was the best frozen pie I’d ever tasted. Placed in your own pie plate, it could pass as homemade.
Likewise, Marie’s pecan pie lives up to its own billing as a pie “brimming with a sweet and luscious filling topped with plenty of crisp pecan halves and pieces in a flaky, made-from-scratch crust.”
Mrs. Edwards’ version was acceptable, but lost votes due to a so-so crust, semi-soft whole pecans and a gelatinous caramel filling.
Other frozen varieties food reviewers gave high marks are Whole Foods’ Vermont Mystic Apple Pie and a Marie Callender’s pumpkin pie, which I didn’t include in my test.
Next week I’ll share a few classic recipes as well as tips on, from personal experience, how to cook Thanksgiving dinner and live to tell the tale.
If you’re still determined to bake your own pie, send me an email and I’ll share my grandmother’s unparalleled recipe for Dutch apple pie.