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Days before/after a holiday

What do you cook to feed a crowd on the days before or after the actual holiday? I have my actual holiday meals planned out for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I don't want to give up visiting with my family members to do massive prep and cooking for the entire 3-5 days (leftovers only buy me 1 dinner). Last year I made this becuase it's hearty and homey and easy: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mi...
Woudl love some new ideas because I have more days to cook this year.

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  1. Our tradition is Chinese food the nights before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    It's all takeout, no prep or messing up the kitchen. We have our order down finally so we don't have leftovers with an already full fridge. It's so fun! I can't believe the holidays are already here again!

    2 Replies
    1. re: thedryer

      We do the same. I used to try to prep something while I was doing my other prep but it just added to the stress and mess and took up precious fridge space. We finally decided that nothing sounded better than dumplings and lo mein anyway!

      1. re: thedryer

        This just brought back a funny memory! When we lived in Missouri, we usually spent Thanksgiving with some good friends in Columbia (and we actually lived there for a couple of those years). We'd always do Chinese takeout the night before Thanksgiving. One year, we managed to drop/explode a huge amount of hot/sour soup on the way into the house. The men were put to work cleaning up the ginormous mess whilst dear friend and I continued on with our Thanksgiving kitchen foreplay. It never failed that Thanksgiving day would include some period of time spent without power after an unfortunate squirrel fried himself on the old above-ground power lines in their neighborhood. Those were good times!

      2. When I'm expecting guests, I'll load up the freezer with made-ahead dishes: frozen chili, lasagna, quiche, etc. That way, we have choices between eating out, whipping up quick omelettes, or nuking the frozen entree. Saves a lot of time and work, especially if the guests are there for days and we expect to be out of the house a lot.

        1. Typically we used to do vegetarian for pre holiday Thanksgiving and Easter because my Aunt doesn't eat meat. Typically mushroom pizza ordered in. Homemade eggplant Parmesan and or stuffed shells. Sometimes crabcakes ordered in and a ham to pick on all weekend of Easter.

          We are away visiting relatives at Christmas. Christmas Eve is our big holiday to cook. No leftovers allowed Eccles a few coveted stuffed shrimp we may eat in the morning of Christmas Day. Now we drive from CE in MD to PA for Christmas lunch. I have been making a Christmas dinner and we open presents just the two of us while we eat that and watch a Christmas movie. Next day we head to CT for several days of eating. Home by New Years.

          1. Hearty soups and chowders, which can be made weeks ahead and frozen. Good bread or rolls, be they homemade or bakery-bought, good butter. If you want to get "complicated" (joking), some fixings for a sandwich bar.

            1. Our tradition, brought to us courtesy of my BIL, is to immediately strip the turkey carcass of meat, then start a stock which gets used the next day for mulligatawney soup. I make my soup a little differently than he did but end result is a nice, spicy soup to be eaten for one or more meals.

              The night before T-day, we usually grill burgers.

              1. We don't have crowds to feed - but we do have the two of us.

                The rule of thumb is to have dishes which are not like the "main event" which, in this house, is the Christmas turkey. We reckon the festives go on for three days after that. One meal will be turkey leftovers. One will be something pre-cooked and just needs defrosting - a stew or similar. And then there's takeaway. That means that everything is extremely easy and will cope with surprise visitors who may need feeding.

                1. Sausage and peppers... if you add potatoes it's a one dish meal ...i use four or five types of peppers, onion, garlic, delish

                  1. My Mom and stepfather always had a big meatloaf made before Thanksgiving. Veggies were different than what would normally be served at the Thanksgiving table, so it wasn't a repeat the next day.

                    And meatloaf sandwiches were the late morning meal since Thanksgiving dinner was usually around 4:30 or so.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I love cold meatloaf sandwiches! That's a great idea, and easy to make ahead and throw in the oven whenever.

                      1. re: jboeke

                        Exactly. Mom or my stepfather would have it all prepped and ready to go and hanging out in the fridge before I got to their house. I'd arrive and be asked to make the apple pie for the holiday dinner. When that was done in the oven (or sometimes in conjunction with baking the pie) the meatloaf would go in.

                        And my brother and I couldn't wait for our early lunch on Thanksgiving, as we both love meatloaf sandwiches. :-)

                    2. How big a crowd and what ages? Could you delegate - ask each adult to handle the decision and prep for one meal during their stay?

                      Our family tradition was soup for Christmas Eve -- chili and one other (often French Onion).

                      Sloppy Joe sandwiches for the day before Thanksgiving.


                      A wide-assortment of good-quality frozen appetizers, or even really junky ones you'd never get otherwise.

                      Crockpot Italian Beef / French Dip sandwiches

                      Baked Potato bar


                      3 Replies
                      1. re: MidwesternerTT

                        It varies between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but mostly 6 adults and 2-4 kids all 5 and under...so there will likely be ckicken nuggets and sweet potato fries in the oven too if the menu isn't kid-friendly (not a big deal).
                        Soup is a great thought for Christmas - but here in Atlanta it can sometimes be 75 degrees on Thanksgiving, so I probably will plan something else then. I have a great halibut soup recipe that I could prep in advance and just add the fish during reheating that day.

                        1. re: jboeke

                          We live in the south too so we do a lowcountry boil ..all can be done outside so no mess to the kitchen.

                        2. re: MidwesternerTT

                          The baked potato bar, tacos, or top your own pizzas is perfect since everyone (including the kids) can customize the meal how they like it and there is minimal cooking involved. Store bought pizza dough can be divided into individual sizes and even baked off ahead of time