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Thanksgiving...Want to bring Something to Future In-Laws but will be Traveling the Day Before

I would like to bring a few "home made" dishes with me when visiting my future in-laws for Thanksgiving. We will be leaving Wednesday morning for along drive down to NC from NY and so I will be cooking Tuesday night (I have a decent size cooler so keeping things cold will not be a problem). Therefore, my dishes would be about a day and a half old by the time they were actually enjoyed. I know some things get better with "age" but because some of the dishes I'm thinking of making are first time attempts, I don't know if this will be the case. Should I be concerned that they will not taste right if they are a day or so old? I was thinking of making a side dish (maybe corn casserole or spaghetti pie), maybe some sort of appetizer (was thinking spanikopita stuffed in phyllo dough) and a desert of some sort (homeade chocolate chip cookies, pie, or cake). I guess my question, since I don't cook that often, should I scrap the idea and just buy some kind of desert on the way down and/or some flowers and scrap the idea of actually cooking?

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  1. Do you have a good way to keep them refrigerated if necessary on the drive and afterwards?

    1. Could you take something partially prepared and finish it there? That way it would be fresh when it came time to eat it.

      1. I would probably make something like cookies or a cake, since you have such a long drive down there. Or maybe some muffins for Thanksgiving morning? Do they enjoy sweets? I once made huge baskets of homemade cookies, fudge and the like for my then-bf's family only to find out later that they don't eat sweets. I was heartbroken!

        1. We are driving from Denver to Houston for Thanksgiving and have the same problem. One of my daughters is making pecan pies to take with us. I'm preparing the dry ingredients for my pies, dinner rolls and stuffing and will complete when we get to Houston.
          Think of something that you can get in NY but would be hard to find (impossible) in NC and bring that. Great cheeses for an antipasto platter come to mind.
          I love your idea of wanting to contribute. Great way to become part of the family. Happy Thanksgiving.

          1. Bring a coffee cake or banana bread for Thanksgiving morning. Don't bring any sides for the meal unless you clear it with future MIL first- you don't want to show up with something unexpected- and definitely DON"T anything that requires any sort of prep or cooking on-site. The adult women in my family get along very well, mainly because we never cook in each other's kitchen, especially on a high stress day like Thanksgiving!

            2 Replies
            1. re: DeeCee

              I totally agree that you should not bring anything to go with the meal without clearing it first. The banana bread idea is a good one. Another suggestion would be to make a breakfast casserole in NY, freeze it and bring it down to be used sometime during the weekend.

              1. re: DeeCee

                DeeCee is a wise woman. I am one of those people who doesn't want anyone else cooking in my kitchen, especially if I am turning out a big dinner like Thanksgiving. My kitchen is huge, but I will still move faster and more efficiently with NO ONE under foot, not even the dogs. Bitc_y yes, but that is just how I feel. I am sure that I am not the only control freak out there. Be sure to clear this with your future MIL before you arrive expecting to keep things in the crowded fridge, or to ask to warm things in the microwave and oven, since those will likely be in use already. I would steer toward baked goods and beverages -- you can't go wrong with those.

              2. Cheesecake is always better after a day or two and if you can keep it refrigerated it should be fine. One of my favorites this time of year is cranberry cheesecake. Let me know if you want the recipe.

                Gingerbread would also be a nice offering this time of year and would travel easily.

                1. Seriously agree with the "clear it with future MIL" advice. Definitely take flowers, but make it an arrangement that comes into the house all done, not cut flowers that need immediate attention with digging out a vase, clipping, water, fussing.

                  Is she doing a turkey? Maybe offer to make broth and/or soup out of the carcass. I'm guessing you're staying for the weekend or at least a couple of days. Shop for aromatics, cheesecloth, barley, mushrooms, whatever says turkey soup to you, while you're down there. If she serves roast beef or ham, same thing. Stock up her freezer and tell her it's your hostess gift to her and future FIL in thanks for the lovely Thanksgiving Day meal.

                  1. We will be traveling the day before Thanksgiving also....a 6 hour car trip. I am taking 2 kinds of cranberry sauce/relish (one cooked, one uncooked) which can be prepared way ahead. I am also taking Cook's Illustrated Best Green Bean Casserole, which I will make ahead in 2 8x8 or 9x9 pans instead of the 9x13 pan. This makes is easier to fit into the coolers. I will add the onion topping just before it goes into the oven. I also take lots of frozen cookies, etc. to last the weekend. We are gathering with lots of family, so there are lots of people to share the preparation with. Another idea is to take dips, veggies, chips, etc. for before dinner. They travel well.

                    1. I'm in a similar situation (heading to NJ from MA). What I plan to do is make cranberry sauce and probably a pie to bring down with me. If the idea of cooking gets too overwhelming you can always bring a bottle of wine.

                      1. I agree about talking to your in-laws first. If you want to bring a dessert, I'd recommend something where you can bring it in the baking pan so it's easier to transport, eg something in a bundt pan or aluminum pans. You could try this chocolate pound cake that Candy posted here a while ago. It's great the next day, once it has a chance to sit and flavors meld. And, you could bake it in the pan, turn it out to cool but put it back in for the trip. Even if you don't cook much, this is an easy recipe, hard to mess up.


                        1. I would can some cranberry sauce and apple or pumpkin butter. They are all amazingly simple, no-fail cooking and the canning means that will last.

                          1. Wow...thanks everyone! I forgot to mention that my family will be joining us as well! First time my parents are meeting his family. Anyway, my fiancee's family are very laid back and extremely sweet. The gathering will be pretty large, between 20-25 people. I think his mom's take on things is the "more the merrier". Anyone have side dish recipes and/or appetizer recipes that they know for a fact will travel well? I've got the cheesecake covered...it's my father's request from NY and I will be bringing him his favorite. Everyone loves sweets (and food in general) so I also like the idea of banana bread. Does anyone have a great recipe? Also, what about a breakfast casserole? Any good recipes on that front? I do make a good quiche, so maybe I could make 2 of those and bring as either breakfast or appetizers?
                            In terms of cheese platter, my mom's got that covered as her conbtribution. We will of course also be bringing a couple of bottles of wine (which will be very much needed). Thanks again!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ChowDiva

                              A lot of banana bread recipes in this thread. My favorite is the one I posted from America's Test Kitchen, with full fat yogurt.


                              As quiche goes, can you make mini ones and then freeze them? They reheat well and are great for appetizers.

                              1. re: ChowDiva

                                I second the idea of one poster for the veggie tray.

                                I am doing a seven or eight hour drive to my sister's for the holiday, along with hubby, my son and our dog (such fun!) and after some discussion we agreed that I would bring some of the wine, along with items for a veggie/crudites/pre-dinner snacks plate. She is expecting 20 or so of us. A lot of the family will be coming in the day before and hanging around all day on Thanksgiving, but my daughter is coming in the day of along with World's Cutest Granddaughter and SIL, so we figured light snacks such as crudites will be the perfect solution to 'having 'to watch football while we wait for daughter and cook dinner....A crudites tray may not show off your cooking skills, but I'd bet it will be appreciated!

                                One nice thing about a crudite or appetizer plate is that you can pick and choose items that keep well in a cooler or don't need refridgeration. Olives, carrot sticks, raw brocolli, cherry tomatoes, perhaps some pickles, nuts, jicama, red and yellow peppers....there are lots of possibilities....bringing ingredients for a dip won't be tough either. (you can always pick up the more perishable ingredients for a dip as you get closer).

                                If you go that route, you might even consider packing a small cutting board, vegetable peeler, and a favorite knife and such, perhaps in a picnic basket if you have one, or in the cooler itself, particularly if you aren't sure about the size of future MIL's kitchen or how she feels about others in it. That way, you could find an out of the way spot to do prep without feeling you are in the way.

                                Of course, since I live in CA and my route (Merced to Vegas) will take me through the heart of the Central Valley, I can supplement my appetizers with whatever catches my fancy at any roadside stands we pass....don't know if that will be an option on your drive, but it might make the drive a bit more fun.....

                                good luck!

                                1. re: ChowDiva

                                  How about taking a variety of breads? Banana, strawberry, cinnamon, lemon poppy, cranberry orange or gingerbread. They look great when presented in a nice basket lined with cloth napkins and jars of marmalade, preserves and/or compound butters. Great by themselves for breakfast or in addition to what she has planned. Or they might enjoy some real NY bagels with all of the fixings!

                                  If his Southern Mom is anything like mine, she'll have the oven full by 5 a.m. Breads or bagels might be the most unobtrusive and appreciated offerings. Best wishes for the first of many happy holiday with the In-Laws!

                                2. It helps to know that everyone is laid back and that your family is going too. Before you posted that, I was going to say that Thanksgiving can be "loaded" in the sense of some people not wanting any changes. Culturally, there are some huge differences between NY and NC in terms of food!

                                  If you like the banana bread idea, I'd suggest expanding it. If you have a number of people who will be around for more than just Thanksgiving dinner itself, a number of quick breads can help fill out breakfast options or just be a little snack. I've done an assortment of breads for holiday gifts -- banana, pumpkin, cranberry, lemon-poppy, etc. These would travel well. There have been a couple threads on the best banana breads...I haven't picked my favorite yet.

                                  I usually go light on appetizers at Thanksgiving, since there's so much coming later! I've done butternut squash soup or a corn chowder. If your future MIL is open to soup, those could be made ahead.

                                  Side dishes tend to be fairly "fixed" in many families for T-day. But is there a favorite tradition in your family you'd like to share? It's a good way to help the families get to know each other. Cranberry sauce or relish are definitely easy to do, easy to do ahead, and would travel well in a cooler. There have been some threads on those too.

                                  Good luck with the travels and the blending family!

                                  1. Along with cocoa-based chocolate baked goods and lots of other batter breads, gingerbread (or soft ginger cookies) seem to age well. They can be made before heading down to avoid taking up kitchen real estate and you don't have to worry about refrigerating for the trip down. Once you're there, they'll be ready to enjoy, or they could be frozen to enjoy later in case the menu is meticulously planned.

                                    1. Because sweets are OK, would recommend Grammercy Tavern Gingerbread (the recipe with Guiness) made with parchment paper lining a 9"X5" loaf pan (so it is not hard to get out). It keeps and travels well. Spanikopita will not travel well, cooked or not. However, I'm told Costco has very good pumpkin pies!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Joebob

                                        Peanut brittle, fudge and divinity, packed into wax paper-lined tins, can be made ahead and will keep for a while. Watch these come rolling out about 11 pm!

                                      2. 1. Soup, such as Butternut Squash, or Pumpkin. There was a thread a week ago about Butternut-Crab Bisque, and there are tons of good recipes on epicurious
                                        2. Butternut Squash Lasgana- assembled at your house then baked when you arrive
                                        3. Red cabbage slaw- lasts 24 hours but longer might push it- endless variations but here's some pretty ideas http://www.tastespotting.com/search/r...
                                        4. Cranberry relish- a little different than cranberry sauce, so wouldn't overlap what's already being served http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                                        5. Cranberry Salsa and Chips - http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                                        6. Salad dressing- maybe a pomegranate vinaigrette or something fun

                                        Good luck, hope your efforts are appreciated, sounds like a fun get together! Oh, maybe a flat of persimmons or other exotic winter fruit, depending where they are in NC they might not have access to all you do in NYC

                                        1. What did you end up bringing? I hope you didn't bring the bagels - too difficult to travel with on the plane!