Thanksgiving Leftover Inspiration

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers! We purposely cook for 3 times as many people as we have just so we can have enough leftovers to last us until December. And I could probably eat the leftovers just as they are….plate after plate of turkey and stuffing. However, sometimes it’s fun to mix it up with the leftovers and make something a little different. Here are a few tips on organizing your leftovers and then a few recipes I found online that are creative ways to use up all that extra food!

Organizing Leftovers:

-After Thanksgiving dinner, do a brief fridge assessment. Is there anything you can get rid of, consolidate, shift around? Make sure the fridge is as clean as possible. This will create space for leftovers and also allow you to see the leftover containers better.

-Use clear storage containers or get your tape and marker ready. If you can’t see the food in the fridge, you are much less like to eat it or even remember what is in there!

-Try a new recipe using your leftovers to mix it up a little!

-If you make recipes that will last a while in the freezer, make several meals that you can freeze for an easy meal on a later date.

Turkey Pot Pie – A great use for both the turkey and leftover veggies. It’s also good if you were ambitious and planned to make a cherry pie and then decided not to, leaving you with 2 pie crusts (not that I know from experience)

Southwestern Turkey Soup – serve this with some leftover cornbread you might have from making stuffing.

Thanksgiving Leftover Wontons with Cranberry Salsa – Oh.My.Stars. My one Black Friday purchase this year will be Wonton Wrappers so I can make these.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and feel free to share any leftover recipes you have!



Thanksgiving Dinner Preparations!

It’s almost time for Thanksgiving here and I’m ready! I love food….not so much cooking….but the promise of Thanksgiving dinner makes me cook. With 2 kids running around, I need to make sure I’m well prepared for Thanksgiving because there’s just not a ton of extra time around here! Also, we live in a VERY small community with no grocery store, so there’s no running to the store for a forgotten item. I have to make sure I have everything I need ahead of time. Here are some of my tips and timelines for a stress-free Turkey Day!

3 Weeks Before (If you’re counting, we’re already heading into 2 weeks before, so do these things NOW!):

Finalize the menu. – This is a pretty easy one for me because we have all of the ‘old reliable’ recipes that we make every year. Sometimes I’ll throw in a new dish or appetizer, but for the most part, the menu stays the same from year to year. Last year I started making Holiday Binders to hold all of my info for each major holiday. For my Thanksgiving Binder, I had a section where I put all of our go-to recipes. That way, I never have to search for the recipes, they are all kept together:

Thanksgiving Folder (6)

-Finalize the Guest List – We are doing a small Thanksgiving dinner this year, so it’s much easier, but there were 13 of us at our house a couple of years ago, so it’s always good to pin down what you’re getting yourself into!

-Do an inventory on Chairs, Tables, Dishes, Glassware, etc. – Do you need a kid’s table, an extra crock pot, more wine glasses? If so, try to buy or borrow these things a few weeks out. It’s too stressful to be worrying about buying chairs 2 days before Thanksgiving…..but you don’t want Aunt Kim sitting on the floor. I’m a big fan of the dollar store for extra glasses, plate charges and small serving dishes. Ikea is another great spot for some kitchen and serving basics.

-Grocery shop for non-perishables. – I don’t like to go over budget on groceries, but it’s hard not to when it comes to large holiday meals. The way I stay under budget is to start purchasing a couple weeks before. That way I can go a little light on that week’s regular purchases to make room for Turkey day fixings. I have already bought any non-perishables, such as cream of chicken soup and canned pumpkin.

2 Weeks Before

-Clean out and organize the fridge and freezer. I continue to use up what we have for meals and I also rearrange, toss anything that’s past its prime, and clean the shelves.

-Grocery shop for frozen items – 2 weeks out is when I buy things like frozen broccoli for a casserole I make, the rolls we serve and of course….the turkey! I don’t want a turkey sitting in my freezer for weeks, but if you wait to long, you might not be able to find the perfect size you need. Keep in mind that if you special order a turkey or ham, you may have to place the order much earlier than this.

-Evaluate Decorations. – I don’t have too many Thanksgiving decorations, but I have a few things I put up. By this time, many decorations are on sale, so if you need a little something extra, it’s a great time to pick it up.

-Do any Hosting or Hostee (that’s an official term) Tasks – If you are hosting, you can do things like make placecards, set out linens for overnight guests, or attached wine glass charms. If you’re going somewhere, you could write a thank you note, buy a small gift, or set out your dishes and recipe if you’re bringing something. Doing this ahead of time will make sure you don’t forget any small details.

Week of Thanksgiving

-Buy all perishable foods – Get everything else you will need to make your dinner.

-Thaw the turkey. Remember, it takes about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. The first year I hosted Thanksgiving, I COMPLETELY forgot to thaw the turkey. One day before and I had an 18 pound block of turkey ice in my freezer. Somehow, we made it work. Last year, I threw away the wrapper of the turkey when I started defrosting it….then I forgot how much it weighed. This was our solution:

Thanksgiving 2012 (6)

How to properly weigh a turkey

-Set out the serving dishes you will use for each recipe and put a sticky note with the name of the recipe.

-Do one more fridge clean out so you’ll have room to put leftovers (my real favorite part of Thanksgiving!).

-Make cooking a joyful experience. Pour a glass of wine, put on some great music and remember that things will never be perfect, so go with the flow! When I was little, our sheepdog ate our entire turkey that was sitting on the counter. It happens!

-If you have kids, either give them some crafts or involve them in the cooking. Either way, they will be occupied!

Thanksgiving 2012 (18)

-Be Thankful! -Remember, the message of the holiday is not just to eat a bunch of food. It is about reflecting on the things in our lives that we are truly grateful for.

Of course, there are countless other ways to organize for a large holiday meal. I have just found the above tips to be helpful for our family. What other ways to you keep yourself prepared for big holidays?


Thanksgiving Wrap Up

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving at our house. We stayed at home and it was just the 4 of us. It was calm and relaxing and full of fun and food. I wanted to give a little wrap up of the holiday and list some things that made it easier, as holidays have a tendency to be stressful.

First we had our Thanksgiving crafts, which we did over the last week and a half. There was, of course, the Cardboard Turkey Game:

We also did a leaf wreath, which we made out of aspen leaves from the yard and a paper plate with the center cut out.

Then I printed an acorn coloring page that I downloaded and Evan colored it and added some stickers.

I always take pictures of the kid’s crafts. That way I have them all on my computer in case something happens to the actual crafts. It’s also great because I am able to print or scrapbook the photos of items I don’t keep. Is it horrible that the turkey box is already on it’s way to turkey box heaven in the recycle bin? At least I have great photos and now I’m not stuck keeping a bunch of things I don’t need to keep.

The evening before Thanksgiving, I did as much prep as possible. I seasoned the turkey, peeled the potatoes, and made a casserole. I also set out the dishes, utensils and dry ingredients I would need for all of the other dishes along with a copy of each recipe. The prepping was great because it meant I didn’t have to do ANYTHING on Thanksgiving day until after noon when I put the turkey in the oven. Awesome.

We ate a light lunch, including a Turkey themed PBJ for Evan (inspired by Pinterest here):

Mine wasn’t picture perfect like all the ones I saw on Pinterest, but Evan loved it, so who cares? :)

It was actually a very relaxing day. And even though it was just the 4 of us at our house celebrating, we still made enough food to last until New Years.  :)

And of course I put together my Thanksgiving folder to help keep all of my Thanksgiving inspiration in one place. I made a folder for Halloween (which you can see here) and I loved it so much, I decided to do one for every major holiday.

So I started by making title pages for each category, such as Thanksgiving dinner, appetizers, crafts, decorations, etc.

I found inspiration on blogs, Pinterest, websites, magazines and our already established traditions. I printed photos of crafts I wanted to try, coloring pages for the kids,

recipes that looked good, and decorations I thought were pretty.

I also included the recipes that I have used for years on Thanksgiving. That way, I don’t have to dig them out of another cookbook because they are all in the Turkey Trot Folder!

Another thing I did was print a page with directions for cooking the turkey. I realized that I did not want to spend another year trying to read the directions while trying to avoid touching the raw turkey wrapper they are printed on. (Sidenote….My Thanksgiving tip is to take off the wrapper around the turkey while it is completely in the sink. On Wednesday night, I cut a small slit in the wrapper and expected to gently pull it off as I held it over the sink. You know how you try to gently open a bag of chips and then the bag explodes and chips go everywhere? Well, that happened to me. Except it wasn’t chip crumbs…it was raw turkey juice….everywhere.)

Anyways! So now I have a great resource for all my Thanksgiving projects. I plan on adding to it every year as I find new inspiration and try new recipes. You can find many of the ideas I put in the folder on my Thanksgiving Pinterest Board. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Now on to Christmas!





T.H.A.N.K.F.U.L. for my Kiddos

I”m excited to be a part of another edition of Collectively Creative, thought up by the incredibly organized Kelly over at Cobwebs, Cupcakes and Crayons. The theme for this month is, appropriately, being Thankful.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I did a project using the letters in the word THANKFUL. I took each letter and did an activity with my kids represented by that letter. It was a little harder to do with my younger son since he’s only 9 months old, but we included him as much as we could!

We’re so busy that we don’t often get a chance to sit down and just talk, even with out own children! So Evan and I made some hot chocolate and had one of our ‘Hot Chocolate Chats’. If it’s not too cold, we like to sit on the front porch, but it was snowing and freezing this weekend, so we cuddled on the couch and talked about our day and what we were going to do for the rest of the weekend.

Sometimes we get so caught up in activities and schedules, we forget that the most important thing is just being together.

I talked with the kids about Thanksgiving and then they helped me go through our cookbooks to look for recipes and make our grocery list for Turkey Day! Evan got his own paper and a crayon so he could make his ‘list.’

I had to do this anyways so I just asked the kids to help. We played ‘Cookbook Dominos’ and lined up the hardback books upright and pushed them down like dominoes. Our 3 year old thought it was hilarious and it was even an activity our 9 month old could do.

I decided to do an art project that was also a game to get the kids in the Thanksgiving spirit.

This was a really cute cardboard box turkey project that I will post about soon!

This one is all about food. Evan helped me cook breakfast one day and Owen just ate!  Evan loves to help cook, even if it just means putting things back into the fridge. He also likes to pour and stir, so I try to include him as often as possible.

Then we went grocery shopping as a family to get all of the things on our list. I don’t have photos of either of these activities, but it’s nice to put the camera down every once in a while (which I don’t do often!)

The kids and I looked through some of the pictures we’ve taken in the last few days and are getting them printed. We also looked through Thanksgiving photos from the last few years and printed them for our new ‘Thanksgiving Through The Years’ album.Here’s one from last year:

I also sat and showed Evan some family videos on the computer. He loves to look at videos of our adventures. By adventures, I mean him running back and forth across the house chasing the dogs.

For this activity, Evan got to choose whatever sounded fun to him and that’s what we did! Evan wanted to roast marshmallows so we roasted them in our fireplace. It wasn’t quite the same as a campfire, but it was a lot of fun and Evan loved it!

We spent a day without computers, cartoons and video games. That is QUITE the accomplishment for us! I have to admit that there was football on tv. However, me and the kids busied ourselves with other activities and got out of the ‘technology zone’ all day long! It was great (and a little difficult). It was definitely worth it though. I need to add that to my weekly routine!

My kids love music so we spent a while listening to kid’s songs on a couple of kid music CDs we have. It allows us to dance, sing and learn about instruments. Again, there are no pictures because you don’t really need to see a picture of me dancing to ‘Sally the Camel’, do you?

This project helped me to look at different ways I could interact with my kids and I think we all benefited from it in a lot of ways. Probably my favorite part was the ‘unplug’ project. It actually gave me time to do all of the other things on the THANKFUL list. I am definitely thankful for my kiddos!

There were a lot of other bloggers who participated in Collectively Creative this month to share how they were all thankful. Click on the links below to see their posts and be sure to check out the rest of their sites while you are there!

Our Family’s Thankful Journal (Cobwebs, Cupcakes & Crayons)
Creating a Thankfulness Photo Album (Organizing Living Essentials)
Vegan Creamed Corn Cornbread (The Pancake Princess)
Thanksgiving Requests (Ponytail Kind of Day)