Plan Thanksgiving Like a Boss

By Debbie Koenig

We’re hosting a small Thanksgiving this year, the first at our house upstate. As we approach the one-year anniversary of home ownership, I’ve gotten pretty used to cooking up there — but this’ll be my first big-deal meal.

Logistically speaking, going upstate makes Thanksgiving considerably more complicated than usual. I don’t own duplicates of all my cooking equipment, so I’ll be schlepping what I need from home. Plus the nearest large supermarket is a half-hour away, so I won’t be able to just run out and get anything I need. I’ve got lists upon lists at this point, and they’re growing daily. While I’m guessing you’re not facing quite the same logistical challenges, if you’re cooking, you’re definitely going to need to plan.

First up: The menu.

  • Figure a pound of turkey per person when you buy the bird — and consider ordering ahead to get what you want.
  • Check out the latest issue of Weight Watchers Magazine for my how-to called “Master Turkey Gravy,” and make the recipe for turkey stock well ahead of time. (Heck, do it this week and freeze it!)
  • To give yourself plenty of options for your SmartPoints® budget, include multiple vegetable sides rather than starchy ones. Sautéed String Beans with Almonds, for example, has just 2 SmartPoints value per serving.
  • Make the squash ahead of time for this Kale and Roasted Squash Salad (also 2 SmartPoints value) and you can toss everything together just before serving.
  • I’m a stuffing girl, so I consider it my main indulgence for the day. For at least five years, I’ve been making Whole Wheat Stuffing with Pancetta, Chestnuts, and Parmesan. It’s got a whopping 12 SmartPoints value per serving, but to me it’s 100% worth it. Choose your own favorite Thanksgiving item, and make the most delicious version you can. As long as you plan ahead, you’ll be fine.
  • While I’m glad to have a reliable list of Thanksgiving favorite recipes to choose from, I also like to add something new to the table each year. This time I’m choosing between Fresh Pear–Cranberry Chutney and Spice-Roasted Butternut Squash and Onions. That chutney is really more of a salsa — it’s served raw — but I love the idea of having something spicy with my turkey, and I can make it one day ahead. The butternut, on the other hand, offers warm spices rather than heat, and it strikes me as perfectly autumnal. Plus, each is only 1 SmartPoints value per serving. Hmm, maybe I should make both….

Read over all your recipes well ahead of time and make sure you have the equipment you need. Do two of your choices use the same size pot? Plan your schedule carefully, or borrow what you need from someone who’s not cooking.

The other big thing I always consider at Thanksgiving is my tendency to eat my emotions. When I’m with my extended family I regress back into a teenager, and teenage Debbie ate everything in sight at big gatherings. I’ve learned to plan a walk sometime during the festivities, usually before the meal. That helps me to clear my head, and remind myself to eat only what I really want. Whatever technique works for you, build that into your day. And if at any point you find your emotions taking over, excuse yourself for a few minutes. You’re in control! You’ve got this.

Follow Debbie on Connect @debbieskoenig

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