No matter how hard we plan for them, the holidays always seem to sneak up on us. Whether it’s forgetting an ingredient or a place-setting, something always seems to slip our minds when it comes to planning ‘the feast.’ Fear not, talented chef and lover of healthy comfort food, Pamela Salzman, has provided us with some great tips to prep, stay organized and stress-free this season so you can spend more time focusing on the important stuff and actually enjoy the food and company. To help us do that, check out her to die for (and easy) recipe for butternut squash hummus.
Although Thanksgiving is arguably the biggest cooking day of the year, with some advance planning and organization, your Thanksgiving can very easily be a happy one! Here are a few tips to keep in mind over the next 48 hours, plus one of my favorite light bites to serve before Thanksgiving dinner, this Butternut Squash Hummus. It’s beautiful, tasty, seasonal and the perfect thing to nosh on before the main meal. Although the recipe is straightforward and easy, you can also cheat by pureeing a little roasted butternut squash and store-bought hummus in the food processor. Spread it on a plate and add all the suggested toppings for extra deliciousness!
Plan your menu now
Determining the Thanksgiving menu requires a bit of strategy. It’s easy to go overboard, so be realistic with what you can accomplish. Make sure you have a balance of cooked and raw dishes (no matter how big your kitchen is or how many ovens you have, it’s never enough on Thanksgiving); protein, starches and vegetables; and ingredients (make sure not every recipe has dried fruit and nuts in it.) Know what dishes need an oven and when, because if you’re making turkey and you have one oven, you won’t be baking too much in the hours before dinner. But also consider using an outdoor grill or slow cooker to keep food warm, a toaster oven for baking small dishes and a separate countertop turkey roaster, which will all free up the oven.
Organize your recipes
Once you decide what you are making, photocopy every recipe and place each one in a plastic sleeve and into a binder. You will save yourself from wasting time flipping through magazines and cookbooks as well as countertop space.
There is no rule that says you have to make everything yourself especially if it’s going to put you over the edge. Accept your guests’ offers to bring something (but be specific so you don’t have multiple people showing up with the same thing) or buy a few pies from your local bakery.
Create a schedule
The most important thing you can do is to create a timeline of what needs to be done when. Work backwards from the time you would like to serve the meal up until today, because there’s plenty you can get done well before Thanksgiving.
The key to your success in executing a big meal for a big crowd is prepping in advance. Things you can do well ahead of time include shopping for non-persihables, ordering a turkey, ensuring you have enough serving pieces and the right equipment. Several days before T-day you can make cranberry sauce and salad dressing, wash herbs and lettuces, buy perishables, and chop vegetables.
Remember that the holiday is about giving thanks, bringing people together and creating a day of enjoyment. Your guests will have a better time with a happy, relaxed host than one who is stressed out about perfecting every detail.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH HUMMUS
Serves 4 to 6
1 ½ lb butternut squash, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1 ½ -inch chunks
½ cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed if canned
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fine sea salt
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for rubbing on squash and drizzling on dip
½ cup crumbled feta cheese or pomegranate seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp of raw pine nuts, lightly toasted and tossed with a light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt
pita chips or root vegetable chips as an accompaniment
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Place the squash on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with a little salt and bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Transfer the cooked squash to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, additional salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons olive oil and puree until smooth and creamy.
Spread the dip onto a plate or shallow bowl and crumble the feta on top. Sprinkle with the dried oregano and the pine nuts.