It’s officially November and we are totally going for it. Halloween is over and this month begins the countdown to Thanksgiving (which may or may not be my favorite holiday). But just do me a quick favor and take a deep breath, okay? Because you so got this. Don’t let daytime TV scare you into thinking you can’t pull off a Martha-worthy Thanksgiving – The turkey! The timing! The sides! How will I do it?! Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a complicated mess. The secret is all in the prepping and planning (if that’s your kind of thing). Can you tell why I like this holiday so much? Food + Organization = YES. So make no mistake. If you are hosting, you DO need a plan.
Now here’s the wrench. What happens when you’re trying to host this beautiful, classic, Norman Rockwell meets Ina Garten Thanksgiving feast and everyone, EVERYONE, in your family is on some kind of special diet? Ugh. Why? Believe me, I get it. My freshman year of college I decided that right before Thanksgiving break was the perfect time to go vegan. Yes. I totally did this. We (like the collective “our society” we) no longer sit around a table where everyone eats turkey and stuffing. As modern hosts and hostesses we have everyone’s needs to meet. So if Aunt Carol decides that she is going low-carb this holiday season, and Cousin Joey is now doing the gluten-free thing, and then there’s Marla going vegan at the most convenient time, worry not. I have got you covered.
So can you actually host the perfect Thanksgiving and meet everyone’s special dietary requests at the same time? The good news is, you totally can!
Here’s exactly how to do it, step-by-step:
5 Days Before: Go Food Shopping. If you’re trying to meet different needs, your best bet is probably to shop at Whole Foods (or some place similar), where they are likely to have everything you’re looking for. The reason I like to go shopping the weekend before Thanksgiving is so I can get the best produce and I don’t have to fight off some hipster for my free-range turkey.
2-3 Days Before: Prep Your Turkey. Depending on what recipe you use, you may need to season the bird, or brine it, a few days beforehand. I’m making Ina’s Make-Ahead Turkey (which was a HUGE success last year) from her Make it Ahead Cookbook.
1 Day Before: Sides & Pies. You never want to try and make everything the day of. That’s crazy. I always prepare and refrigerate my sides and pies the day before Thanksgiving. Whether it’s prepping veggies for roasting, making mashed potatoes (store in casserole dish and bake day of), or making cranberry sauce, I always do it the day before.
Day Of: Count Backwards. Depending on what time you plan to serve dinner, you’ll want to count backwards to ensure you give yourself enough time to roast the turkey and let it rest. Chances are you’ll be playing musical chairs with your oven/stovetop/toaster, in order to get everything cooked at the same time. Remember that everything doesn’t need to be cooked in the oven. Our countertop Breville Convection Oven is a Thanksgiving MVP because it allows us to cook multiple things at once. Hello, perfect wedding gift! (S/O to Jen & Dave for the Williams-Sonoma Giftcard)
Day Of Non-Negotiables: Make Cranberry-Orange Muffins from the Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook and watch the Macy’s Parade. I said non-negotiable, people.
Alright, so I promised recipes & ideas that will make everyone happy. Now that we’ve covered my basic Thanksgiving game plan, here are my favorite ways to cater to everyone’s needs at the big feast.
Main Dish Vegan or Vegetarian: While for whatever reason Tofurky gets all the street cred, there are much better (and much tastier) options out there. We like Field Roast’s Celebration Roast (this is not an affiliate link, just a link to their site). For a meat-free product, it actually tastes very good. Bonus, it already has stuffing inside – so one less thing for you to do!
Gluten-Free Side Dish Ideas:
Roasted Acorn Squash with Maple Butter from Alexandra’s Kitchen (can also make vegan by using Earth Balance Vegan Butter)
Creamy Mashed Potatoes from The Pioneer Woman (can also make vegan using Earth Balance, Dairy-Free Cream Cheese, and Unsweetened Almondmilk)
Vegan Side Dish Ideas:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic from The New York Times
Olive-Oil Whipped Cauliflower from Whole Foods Blog
Vegan & Gluten-Free Dessert Ideas:
Vegan, Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie from Minimalist Baker
Vegan, Gluten-Free Apple Crisp from Well-Plated by Erin
+ Most of these ideas also work for those who try to eat low-carb (except the mashed potatoes, obv).
+The vegan side dish ideas also work for those who are gluten-free (big time saver)
+ If you have someone coming to dinner who sticks to a Paleo diet, they can eat the turkey, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower!
+ The dessert ideas are so delicious, everyone can eat them, vegan/gluten-free or not. You can of course also ask someone else who is coming to just bring a store-bought pie as well.
There you have it. If you have a whole Motley-eating-crew of people attending Thanksgiving dinner, fear not, for you can actually serve delicious food, and make everyone happy at the same time.
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