Thanksgiving meal all about preparation

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    By REBECCA NEYENHUIS

    Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and it has long been my goal to be the next Martha Stewart, so I was thrilled with the opportunity to give a little holiday advice to any first time cooks, hosts and hostesses.

    Preparation is the key to a successful meal. Unlike finals, you can’t cram for Thanksgiving. Gather the recipes, determine the needed ingredients and purchase them. Turkeys take a while to defrost, so plan accordingly. Things like rolls and jello (what Mormon meal is complete without it?) need to be started the night before. Have a game plan.

    Thanksgiving often takes on a potluck feel because the oven with the turkey is unavailable for baking other things. Stuffing can cook at the same temperature and gravy made from the turkey drippings is excellent, so I recommend the preparer of the turkey also make stuffing and gravy.

    Traditional Thanksgiving fare usually includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, sweet potatoes or squash, jello, corn, and apple and pumpkin pie. Every family has their own twists. Call up your Aunt Beth for that fantastic sweet potato recipe. Besides the traditional food, Thanksgiving should be fun, so try a new recipe or two. One of my favorites is Cranberry Fluff, my mom’s ultimate Thanksgiving discovery.

    Don’t be afraid to improve upon the past. My family are instant potato people. When I came to college, I decided to transcend the flakes, and learned to make fluffy, actual mashed potatoes. My special secret is tons of butter! I have dazzled myself with my cooking skills, which stems from my ability to read a recipe, then disregard it and add things until it tastes right. Don’t be afraid to do the same.

    Pre-meal relish trays are also an excellent idea. My family has done vegetable trays, cracker trays with meats and cheeses, fruit trays and nut dishes. I have really fond memories of running around my grandmother’s house with olives on my fingers while the women were bustling around trying to get the meal on the table. The relish trays are a warm-up for the rest of the meal. They whet the appetite and get your team ready for the real action.

    If things go wrong, don’t panic. Butterball has a hotline, mothers are just a phone call away, and chances are you know how to order out for pizza. No meal is flawless, but some can come pretty darn close. Remember your game plan and keep your heads up out there!

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