The feast is delicious and fun, but the greatest gift of the day is time enjoyed with family and friends. How do you maximize that time? Here are a few things that work for me.
1. Roast the turkey in a covered pan. It will cook faster and stay moist without basting. I used my grandmother’s graniteware pan for years until rust holes developed, and then bought another. A rack is difficult to clean and unnecessary.
2. A slow cooker is like a slow, moist oven – perfect for stuffing.
3. Pumpkin pudding has the best part of pumpkin pie – the filling – and is an easy solution for gluten-free diets, low-fat diets, and those who don’t like to make pie crust. It can also be made dairy-free and/or vegan with minor recipe tweaks.
4. Cranberry sauce – the homemade kind, that’s basically cooked, sweetened cranberries – freezes well if the refrigerator is full in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. I cook cranberries with some chopped dates, and then sweeten a little at a time by taste as it cools, just enough sugar or honey to brighten the flavor. I like the tartness to contrast with all the other holiday foods.
5. Day-after-Thanksgiving easy dinner: after the big meal, put the turkey carcass in the slow cooker with water to cover overnight, on low setting. Strain and return to slow cooker in the morning, adding chopped soup vegetables. In the midafternoon, add rice or barley and season as you like. Just before serving, add the last scraps of turkey that came off the carcass and fresh parsley, if available.