For a lot of families, at least here in the Northeast, Thanksgiving doesn't just mean turkey with all the fixins', it means starting off the day by going to a high school football game in the morning.
Whether your son is playing in the final game of his football career, or you are just going to support the team against their traditional rival, adding the responsibility for preparing the Thanksgiving meal, making brunch for camped out family, preparing snacks to take the game and enjoy later while watching college and pro football on television, and baking holiday cookies, and you can understand why being a sports mom during the holidays can be a really tough assignment.
One way to make things a bit easier. says Katie Workman of the Mom100 blog and cookbook, is to include everyone - kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, and no matter what the age - in the kitchen, and to make dishes in advance.
How soon can kids help in the kitchen? The answer, says Workman, is NOW! And by that Katie (and I) means, now for the holidays, no matter how young or old! The benefits and memories to lending helping hands in making a family meal like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah are extraordinary, says Workman, and I couldn't agree more.
What kids can be expected to do as part of the team in the holiday kitchen, of course, depends on their age:
- Pour, dump, stir and sprinkle ingredients and spices you have gathered together.
- Whisk the eggs for breakfast.
- Wash the potatoes with a scrub bruch or scrub gloves for little fingers.
- Take out the pots, pans, measuring cups, and bowls you need.
- Cut soft vegetab
- les with kid-safe knives like ones from Zyliss or Curious Chef.
- Knead bread or roll the dough for pie crust
- Cut out cookies
Start working lessons on math and chemistry at this point. And if you don't know the answer to some questions - get them on the computer looking it up! What does baking soda do to a recipe? What is the difference between unsweetened and semi-sweet chocolate? Why does flour thicken the gravy?
But if the idea of getting them in the kitchen during the thick of it is too much - there is a lot more they can do to help and get involved.
- Make a menu on an easel or for each place setting
- Make a cornucopia for the table centerpiece
- Take guests coats
- Pass out canapes on a plastic tray
- Take drink orders (they love this!)
- Take photos - imagine the narrative your photos will tell when taken from their perspective! It will be the best holiday recap you've had
- And help with CLEAN UP!
Dishes to make in advance
For the mom looking to cut down on food prep after the Thanksgiving football game, here are some recipes Katie says can be made beforehand, so that anything that does need heating or to go in the oven can be done after returning home from the game:
- Goat Cheese and Chive Deviled Eggs: Even though a big meal is on the horizon, you have to put a few nibbles out ahead of time. These can be completely made ahead the day before and just pulled out right before guests arrive (best at room temp, not too chilled).
- Roasted Butternut Squash: Peel and cube the squash the day before. Toss it on the baking sheet with the butter and seasonings the morning of, fling it into the oven an hour before eating.
- Mashed Potatoes: Make the day before. Bring to room temperature a couple of hours before, heat on the stove over low heat before dinner, stirring in some extra milk to un-stiffen the potatoes.
- Sautéed Kale and Brussels Sprouts: Prep the ingredients and make the bacon a couple of days before. Make the whole thing day before, but undercook slightly. Heat in the microwave right before serving.
- Bulgur What, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Gratin: This is a great addition to a holiday meal, because it serves perfectly as a robust main dish for vegetarians, and simultaneously an interesting side for everyone else. It can be completely made ahead and either baked completely or reheated in the oven before serving.
- Simple Lemon-Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast: Katie uses this rub on a whole turkey, but the day before make the paste, rub up the turkey, stick it in the fridge, and the morning of, pull it out and put it in the oven. And here's the truth: turkey needs to sit for a while before you carve it, and it stays warm for quite some time, so do not feel like you have to time the bird perfectly to come out of the oven when you are ready to eat - it can sit for an hour or so, easy.
Traditional Thanksgiving recipes
1 6-pound pound turkey breast
Zest from one lemon
2 cloves garlic 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Rinse and dry the turkey breast. Oil a roasting pan.
- In a small food processor, combine the lemon zest, shallot, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Blend until it becomes a paste.
- Loosen the skin from the turkey breast, and using your hand rub the paste over and under the skin, covering the breast completely.
- Place the turkey breast in the roasting pan and roast for about 2 1/2 hours until nicely browned, and a meat thermometer shows an internal temperature of 160° F. Let sit for 15 minutes for the juices to redistribute, and for the internal temperature to continue to rise to 165°F before slicing.
What the Kids Can Do: If they are older, kids can peel and grate the potatoes with a handheld grater; frankly, this is one of the delightful benefits of having more mature children. "Ability to safely grate potatoes" should be listed as a milestone in child-rearing books, right up there with "first tooth" and "takes first step." To prevent scraped knuckles tell your kids to stop grating before they get to the end of the potato. Of course, kids can crack the eggs, and they can mix up the potato mixture.
5 pounds baking potatoes, peeled
3 large eggs
1 large onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour (optional)
Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 11⁄2 cups olive oil
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter (optional, but recommended)
Applesauce and sour cream, for serving
- Using a food processor or a handheld grater, grate the potatoes using the large-hole blade or side of the grater. Place the grated potatoes in a large bowl and let them sit while they release their liquid, about 10 minutes.
- In another large bowl, mix the eggs and onion. Using your hands, grab a handful of the grated potato and squeeze it over the bowl of potatoes, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Put the squeezed potatoes in the bowl with the egg mixture. Repeat until all of the potatoes have been squeezed and added to the bowl with the egg mixture.
- Stick your finger into the liquid left in the bowl that held the grated potatoes. You'll feel a firm layer of potato starch at the bottom. What you need to do is carefully pour off the liquid from the starch and then scrape up all of that valuable starch from the bottom of the bowl and mix it well with the egg and potato mixture (best to use your hands). This natural starch helps bind the potatoes together. If there is only a tablespoon or two of the starch, you'll also want to blend in the matzoh meal or flour. Season the potato mixture with salt and pepper to taste (be liberal, the pancakes will be quite bland without enough seasoning).
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon or so of butter, if using, in a large skillet (or use two large skillets to make the cooking go faster) over medium-high heat until the butter has melted and the fat is hot. Swirl the pan and then add spoonfuls of the potato mixture, as big or small as you wish, and gently press them into round flat shapes. Cook the potato pancakes until they are golden brown and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. You'll need to keep a close eye on the heat; too low and the potato pancakes won't brown properly, too high and the oil will start smoking. Adjust the heat as needed.
- Drain the potato pancakes briefly on paper towels and transfer them to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil and butter as necessary (you may want to dump out the pan, give it a quick wipe, and start over if you