Holiday Meals Without the Hassle

thanksgiving

Last year, for the first time, I took over Thanksgiving duties. I bought cookbooks from Ina Garten and Martha Stewart. I scoured every magazine’s long list of Thanksgiving menus and time-saving tips. After assembling my menu for brunch and dinner, I wrote my grocery list, ordered the all-natural turkey from Whole Foods Market, and grinned — Thanksgiving was still four weeks away, but I was already prepared.


Of course with all my planning, things did not go as planned. My brunch menu was too sweet for everyone. I made a yummy french toast casserole with praline topping and raspberry syrup from Paula Deen. That would’ve been fine, except I wanted to go overboard. I also made some brown sugar bacon (I didn’t use this particular recipe, but for a good brown sugar bacon with a twist try Katie Lee Joel’s version — experiment with the amount of brown sugar because it can be too sweet for some people. Also, watch the bacon while it cooks in the oven so it doesn’t turn black and brittle). Individually, the dishes would have been a great success, but together, everyone’s teeth were hurting from the sweetness.

Dinner wasn’t any better. I decided to wow everyone and make everything from scratch, and that included mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and a sausage stuffing that only my step-daughter and I devoured. The potatoes took forever to peel, the creamed corn didn’t seem creamy enough, and the sausage had gotten burnt because I had to deal with a emergency that involved two young children and one toy. The turkey looked beautiful in the oven — brined for one day and glazed with an organic maple syrup that I could sip with a straw. Trying to get the turkey out of the pan was a challenge because of all that sticky maple syrup, and it was a heavy bird — 14 pounds! The worst, however, was trying to make the gravy. Let’s just say Martha Stewart couldn’t even help me with that one.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted, and I had a million dishes, pans, and pots to clean. Everyone had a great time eating, and if they had any complaints they knew to keep it to themselves. I did all this while recovering from the flu, and I swore that Thanksgiving 2008 would be cooking-free. We are heading to a restaurant this year. Thank goodness I didn’t have to think about Christmas dinner last year — that would have put me over the edge.

Forget slaving in the kitchen for days trying to prepare a meal that will be eaten under half an hour. Instead try these food items that you can simply order online or over the phone and relax — not a lot of effort is needed on your part! Don’t forget to read what the online retailer’s policy is for shipping — many of them have special shipping requirements for shipping perishable foods. Also find out what the shipping costs are so you’re not surprised when you go to pay for everything. You should also find out what their refund policy is in case your food should arrive and it is spoiled.

Turducken

For those of you who have never heard of it, turducken is a Cajun specialty. A semi-boneless turkey is stuffed with duck breast and chicken (deboned, of course). Many places, such as Cajun Grocer, will also stuff the turducken with different things like cornbread and rice dressing, seafood jambalaya, and sausage stuffing. The Cajun Grocer also offers a quaducant — quail, duck and pheasant. You can also order side dishes like green bean casserole, crawfish dressing, sweet potato casserole, and New Orleans style bread pudding. Other online stores that sell turducken are Cajun Stuff, Cajun Creations, and Nola Cajun.

Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma offers a fantastic selection of gourmet dishes that will make family members cheer your name. The Willie Bird Smoked and Peppered Turkey Breast is incredibly moist and is so flavorful, you’ll wonder why you never ordered this before. You can also order a complete menu of prepared side dishes that include Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Rustic Golden Mashed Potatoes with Leeks and Sour Cream, Maple-Glazed Autumn Vegetables, Chestnut and Fennel Dressing with Wild Mushrooms, and Cranberry Sauce with Cider and Cinnamon. Just thaw, heat, and serve! If turkey isn’t your thing, Williams-Sonoma also offers grass-fed beef, game cocktail tamales, whole ham, and Niman Ranch Crown Roast of Pork. There are also delectable pastries, cakes, confections, creme brulee, panettone, and stollen.

HoneyBaked Ham

A Baked Ham and Turkey arrives at your house (or you can pick it up at one of their stores) fully cooked and ready to be eaten. Order a traditional HB Ham or try something different like a barbecue pork roast, beef wellington, prime rib, and sliced beef brisket. Don’t forget appetizers like HoneyGrands, which is sweet bread stuffed with chopped HoneyBaked Ham, American Cheese, and honey mustard. Try side dish combinations like Broccoli Rice Casserole, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Green Bean Casserole. There are also desserts like the Cheesecake Sampler, Red Velvet Cake, and Tuxedo Mousse Cake.

Harry & David

Harry & David isn’t all about gift baskets and gift towers. This holiday season, order their pre-seasoned, pre-cooked (just heat and serve) Oven Roasted Turkey with sage garlic and black pepper. There is also a Whole Spiral Ham or Turkey, Steak and Lobster Feast, Chesapeake Crab Cakes, and Gourmet Cocktail Franks-in-Blankets. Harry & David will not disappoint with their array of desserts like Pear Ginger Upside-Down Cake, Hawaiian Pineapple Macadamia Nut Cake, and Almond Chocolate Layer Cake.

Saks Fifth Avenue

And you thought this retailer only sold clothing and accessories! This year, order a gourmet meal starting with a Pendulum Smoked Turkey that is already fully cooked and can serve up to 10 people. There is also The Perfect Bite Co. Sweet Potato Corn Soup, Butternut Squash Gratin, Rosemary & Mushroom Stuffing, and Cranberry Cherry Marsala Sauce. Again, if turkey makes you yawn, try the Stuffed Lamb Crown Roast from Allen Brothers, Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company Maine Clambake, and Joe’s Stone Crab Dinner.

Don’t forget that most local grocery stores offer holiday meals that are very affordable, and there are always restaurants that are open on the holidays; look through the newspaper, ask around or call your favorite restaurant to find out if they are opened during the holidays. This holiday season, the meal possibilities are endless and almost effortless.

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