Holiday Meal Planner

Can you believe it is almost the end of October?! We will be planning holiday meals in no time!

I like to prepare a much as I can before the meal. You know those holiday Hallmark movies where the family is together in the kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each of them is preparing something. One person is making the pumpkin pie, another is preparing the turkey to roast, someone is peeling the potatoes. Yea well it doesn’t work like that in my family and I’m betting it doesn’t in yours either.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have some help getting things ready to serve but for one thing, my kitchen isn’t that big AND I do not have enough ovens for multiple things to bake at one time!

So I thought I would come up with a planner, to help me, and to help you. We all lead busy lives and some of you may be awesome at throwing a big sit down holiday dinner in a flash, but I am not. I need to and like to prepare ahead of time, so here goes:

HOLIDAY MEAL PLANNER

2-3 Weeks Before

  • Plan your menu. If you’re thinking of serving new dishes, practice cooking them prior to your dinner so you and your guests won’t be disappointed.
  • If you are going with the traditional turkey, decide if you are purchasing a frozen or fresh bird, place your order if necessary.
  • Inventory your plates, utensils, glassware and serving dishes. Start shopping if you need to replenish!
  • What linens are you planning to use? Make sure you have enough tablecloths, napkins, and placemats. Launder and iron now.
  • Will you need extra tables and chairs? Whether you are renting, borrowing or buying new, start now.
  • Most importantly (other than the turkey!), make yourself lists. Write down EVERYTHING! Your menu, wine/drinks, things to do, things to buy, you will be thankful you did!

One Week Before

  • If you have not done so already, prepare your grocery list. Then rewrite in the location order of your market or in the order as: produce, canned items, bakery, bread, pantry items, and so on.
  • Clean out your kitchen before you grocery shop. Make sure your pantry and fridge are free of any unused leftovers or outdated products. Wipe down the shelves in the fridge.
  • Inventory your spices and herbs, discard out dated or old containers.
  • Clean your house and decorate if you have not already done so. Eliminate clutter and if your family likes to play games, make sure they are ready to go.
  • Make a plan for your cooking preparations. Use a calendar if you like or just make a list.

Sunday Before

  • If you have purchased a frozen bird, and depending on the size, you may need to put in the fridge so it can start to thaw. Never leave the turkey thaw on the counter!
  • The recipe for my Turkey Rub is here.

Monday and Tuesday before

  • Shop for your groceries.
  • Tie up any loose ends from above that you have not yet completed.
  • Make the cranberry sauce. My recipe is here.
  • If you are cutting up and cubing your own stuffing, do that now.
  • I like to chop up any vegetables that I need on Tuesday. Whether it be the onion and celery for the stuffing and turkey, or veggies for my family to snack on as an appetizer.
  • I work full time and usually cannot take off the day before so I like to make my pies and cakes Tuesday evening when I get home from work.  My pumpkin Pie recipe is here. And my Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream recipe is here.

Wednesday Before

  • If you have not done so already, bake your desserts. Store in a cool place or refrigerate.
  • Prepare any appetizers that can be made ahead, cover and refrigerate. My Three Cheese Roasted Red Pepper Dip is here.
  • If your vegetables are not chopped and ready to go, do that now.
  • If you are cooking a fresh turkey, pick it up from the market.
  • Prepare any side dishes ahead that you can. I make my mashed potatoes now, place them in a large casserole dish, dot with butter and cover with foil.
  • If you are making your mashed potatoes tomorrow, peel and cut them now, place them in a bowl of water, cover and refrigerate.
  • Set up any extra table and chairs, set the table, place any table décor out now.
  • If you are planning to use a cooler for bottled water or beer and extra wine bottles, do that now and sit outside in a safe place.
  • If you’re planning on hot chocolate by a fire pit, my recipe is here. Or my Hot Cider Float recipe is here.
  • Inventory your lists and make sure you are on track!
  • Take a hot bath, pour yourself a drink and relax with a good book!

THE BIG DAY!

  • Prepare your stuffing and turkey and get them in the oven.
  • Reheat your sides.
  • Prepare the gravy.
  • Don’t forget ask for help getting things on the table!
  • And you are done! Enjoy your day and your guests and have a wonderful time!

I wish you the Happiest and Loveliest Thanksgiving and Christmas!

PS: And remember, your holiday will not be perfect! Don’t worry if something doesn’t work out as planned, laugh about it! I can’t tell you how many rolls I have burned because I put them in the oven last and forgot to set the timer!!

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Shrimp and Corn Bisque

Now that the weather has FINALLY taken a turn towards autumn and the days and nights are a little cooler, it makes me want to be in the kitchen baking treats, bread and…making soup!

This bisque has been a favorite for a while now.  It’s very easy quick and easy to make and it is practically fool proof.

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You can add more cream if you like or substitute the light cream for heavy.  You could add cheese, more shrimp.  You could use sherry.  And you could always add kale or spinach too.

It is very versatile and easy to change up to what you are craving.

As always, I love some warm bread with my soup, and a glass of wine of course.

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So, first you want to devein your shrimp and remove the tails.  If you are using large shrimp, cut them in half so they are more bite size.

Dice up your potatoes into small cubes, again bite size BUT if they are small cubes they will cook quicker.  I use diced frozen potatoes, the work is already done for me!!

The corn I use is just frozen yellow corn,

Using the herbs is optional of course but I still have plentiful amounts of thyme and rosemary so I have been adding them to lots of recipes!  You could use whatever herbs you have on hand and love.

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Here’s the recipe:

3 cups shrimp, deveined and tails removed, chopped if shrimp are large

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cups potatoes, diced in small bite size cubes

1-1/2 cups corn

1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste

one 32 oz carton of chicken stock

1 cup light cream (or heavy cream if you prefer)

2 sprigs each of thyme and rosemary, strip the stems and chop the rosemary

slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken the soup

In a heavy soup pot, sauté the shrimp, onions and potatoes for about 10 minutes, salt and pepper.

Add the stock, tomato paste and corn, using a light simmer, cook until the potatoes are tender.

Add the cream, herbs and the slurry.  If adding kale or sherry you can add it now.

Once the soup has thickened, turn off the heat and serve.

Garnish with shredded cheese, bacon, sour cream, whatever you like.

Serve with crusty bread or I made Rosemary Focaccia bread to go with this soup.

Enjoy!

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Hamburger Vegetable Soup, More like Cheeseburger Soup!

This soup is yummy!

This soup whips up quickly and is so easy to make!

And I used to make this soup many many years ago when my kids were little. It was my go to soup on autumn days when my boys played elementary football.

And my daughter disliked it!!! But I still made it and everyone else loved it and I never had leftovers.  I remember one day inviting one of her friends to come over for dinner after the game and she specifically commented that I better not be making “that” soup again (*rolling eyes).

So, on with the soup, I snapped these pictures at work when I heated the soup for my lunch.  So please excuse the awful photo’s!!

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It’s just hamburger, onion, canned vegetable soup, sprigs of herbs and cheese. So maybe I should be calling this Cheeseburger Soup.

I still on occasion make it for myself, but I prepare it just a little differently.

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Now I like to add sprigs of herbs like thyme and rosemary. And cheese, but not just any cheese! I use that processed cheese that comes in a foil wrapper!!! And I am not ashamed of it either!

And man oh man is it even more delicious than when I made it for my little munchkins.

So, there is no way to mess up this soup, it’s just that easy. I usually plan on about a ¾ pound of hamburger and 2 cans of soup for 4 people.

Brown your burger and onion, add salt and pepper. When that’s done, pour in the cans of soup, herbs and the cheese. You can add as much or as little cheese as you want. I only like enough to make it creamy. You only want a light simmer, just enough to heat up the soup and melt the cheese, and then it’s done.

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Hamburger Soup

½ pound ground hamburger

½ small onion, chopped

Salt and pepper

2 cans of your favorite vegetable soup

Thyme, rosemary or whatever herbs you have on hand

½ cup processed cheese, cubed (more or less to your preference)

Brown the meat and onion. Then add the canned soup, cheese and herbs, bring to a light simmer. When the soup is heated and the cheese is melted, serve.

ENJOY!!!