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Getting Organized for Thanksgiving with Food Network's Melissa d'Arabian

I had the pleasure of speaking to Melissa d’Arabian of the Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners this week about her Thanksgiving planning. I first met Melissa when she was on The Next Food Network Star in 2009. I loved that they chose a mom for their next star, someone who appeared so easygoing, like she could be the neighbor down the street.

Among other things, Melissa talked about how she manages Thanksgiving and the holiday season to stay stress free and organized for the big dinner. With four kids, a husband from France who isn’t used to the traditional American holiday fare (or even Thanksgiving in general, for that matter) and a busy shooting schedule, this cooking mom has a lot going on, yet she still manages to do it all. Here are her tips.

1. A lot of the typical foods you need for Thanksgiving will go on sale a week before Thanksgiving like turkey, cranberries and canned green beans. The items that won’t go on sale are the everyday items like sugar and flour. Be sure to stock your pantry before the holidays when you can catch sugar and flour on sale, and then stock up on the holiday fare as the sales hit and the turkey day approaches.

2. Do as many side dishes as you can on the stove top. If a dish must go in the oven, do it the day before. Preheat dishes like sweet potato casserole in the microwave and finish in the oven while the turkey is resting. “The turkey resting time is the time to give everything its last hit in the oven.”

3. Don’t worry about making pies in the morning. Do them the day before and give them a boost right before serving so they have that just-baked taste.

4. Incorporate children by making sure there’s choices for everyone. Make sure there is enough food to eat, even if they aren’t going to touch the stuffing or the green bean casserole. “Honor the fact that they have taste buds and that their opinions count…but I’m also not going to become a short-order cook.”

5. Make ahead as much as possible. The important things to make on the day of are the salad and the turkey. Manage your refrigerator space so that there is room for dishes that are made ahead. If you need extra space to thaw the turkey or store dishes, place your condiments and everyday items in an ice chest or cooler and set it aside until after you’ve cleared the holiday stuff out the next day.

For all your Thanksgiving leftovers, be sure to catch Melissa on Ten Dollar Dinners this Sunday, November 14th at 12:30pm ET/PT where she’ll share turkey taquitos and cranberry salsa to change up the flavor profile of that turkey dinner. Then tune in to Top 10 Thanksgiving Problems Solved on Saturday, November 13th at 9pm where Melissa will count down common Turkey Day questions as searched on FoodNetwork.com along with Aaron McCargo Jr., Aarón Sánchez, Alex Guarnaschelli, Chris Cosentino, Claire Robinson and Sandra Lee.

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