• Jessica Sherry

Thanksgiving Leftovers

The meal is done. The dishes are washed. The leftovers are sorted. The oven has cooled, and my delicious snacking meatballs are now a fond memory. Another Thanksgiving meal has reached it’s dramatic, delicious end (you know, pie). All the lovely houseguests have packed and departed.

So, what now?

I mean, after a well-earned nap. Seriously. When the last guest left, I crashed on the couch, hard. I didn’t even realize how tired I was. Exhaustion is a sneaky little bugger.

So, after a long winter’s nap (as my father-in-law would say), it’s time to get down to reflecting on what worked with all my Thanksgiving and houseguests plans, what didn’t, and what to change next year (or for Christmas if a repeat performance of guests and food is in the works).

So, where to begin…

Let’s start with salt. Going lower-sodium wasn’t as difficult as I expected. Lately, we’ve been trying to lose weight, eat healthier, and reduce salt intake so we can lower blood pressure. That’s a tall order on a regular day, let alone on a holiday for feasting. By making more things from scratch, using no-salt-added and lower-salt products, and not following the recipes when it came to adding salt, we made our meal more heart-friendly and less like a guilty pleasure. More on that COMING SOON.

Next, we embraced the leftovers, and it paid off for everyone. Because I had fewer guests this year than most, I debated doing double batches of my most popular dishes—specifically, sausage stuffing and calico beans (Recipes coming soon). No one wants to throw out uneaten deliciousness. I worried my guests’ appetites wouldn’t match my overzealous supply. In the end, I decided to go for double batches. Better to have too much than not enough, right? Though we didn’t eat as much for the Thanksgiving meal itself, the extras ended up going home with my guests, spreading the Thanksgiving love to THREE HOUSEHOLDS over the entire WEEKEND! Cleaning out my fridge was awesome in itself, but to know my Dad, brother, and son are sharing and still enjoying my food gives me warm and fuzzy feelings all over. So, when in doubt, double up, sista.

Also, I finally exhausted my supply of single-serving storage containers. Buying these babies for holiday feasts was a genius move, if I do say so myself. I WILL be buying more. They’re perfect for spreading food love and stacking in the freezer.

Moving on to guest rooms, I came up with a little welcome basket of goodies I thought would be a big hit. I included bottled waters, mints, hand sanitizer, sample-sized lotion and tissues, and some light reading. I patted myself on the back for being so… boutique hotel-like. Guests check in, but they don’t check out. Ha, ha, ha. But what I thought was a seriously genius move ended with an absence of reviews (just like my books, ha!).

Welcome Basket

My Dad never noticed his—next time I’ll make it more obvious. My brother thought the idea was cute (and he’s always the true test). My son and his guest drank the waters but said nothing about the basket. Oh, well. It’s not about accolades but comfort. No one wants to roam around someone else’s kitchen for water in the middle of the night, right? Providing a few essentials was such an easy thing, I’ll do it again.

As always, having a cooking schedule, Thanksgiving plan, and prepping for houseguests well in advance came in handy in reducing stress and getting things done. Mine worked pretty well this year, though being indecisive about double batches at first made for more grocery trips than usual. So, next time, I’ll have a plan and stick to it.

Another good thing to plan… TV and movie options. We often scramble at the last minute to find suitable entertainment for everyone. There are only so many times you can watch Chopped, right? Just kidding, Ted Allan. I could watch Chopped all day, every day. Anyway, with COVID concerns keeping us home, there’s a lot of downtime around the house. So, instead of twiddling our thumbs over what to watch, we prepped our cue with options and felt ready to entertain. In this department, I suggest sticking to things that are lighthearted and fun (and won’t cause fistfights, disowning, or dramatic exits). AFV and Holy Moley are laughable options. Expedition Unknown came in handy with my Dad. You know your guests, so it shouldn’t be hard coming up with a shortlist. This is NOT the time to force your family members into whatever show you’re addicted to right now as an excuse to watch it. Okay? (Unless it’s late and you’re drinking and your brother is Michael and the show is Ted Lasso—then, it’s perfectly acceptable).

My biggest (new) hit this Thanksgiving was Snacking Meatballs (Recipe Coming Soon). I always put out nibbles for guests when they arrive or between meals to keep the ravenous beasts at bay until dinner’s ready. Calm down, you hungry fiends! Usually, it’s chips, dips, and veggies. This year, I prepped a ridiculous number of meatballs a few days before along with my homemade BBQ sauce. I Ziplocked those suckers up and threw them in the freezer. Then, when I heard their tummies rumbling between meals, I sauced and heated the meatballs for a heartier snack. It only took minutes to get it ready. Having those on hand saved me from preparing a Thanksgiving lunch before the big dinner, and, well, they made everyone so happy. Snacking meatballs will be a new tradition in our house. Yay, snacking meatballs!

Finally, we did something else a little different this year—we cleaned immediately after our guests left. Usually, I let the linens sit for a minute while I turn into a couch potato, but this time there was a cat involved in our festivities, forcing me to jump on the after-guest clean-up (I love cats, but I’m allergic; I felt like an itchy, teary mess—totes worth it for a little Luna love, of course). While I didn’t love giving up my couch to clean… again… it turned out great. It felt better to get all that done instead of letting it hang over my head.

Now, it’s Monday and I’m back to writing… as it should be. And tonight, I will be drinking leftover Trulys, eating leftover pie, and catching up on MY TV, thankful that Thanksgiving went great (and is over).

What are some tips and tricks for handling your Thanksgiving? What will you do differently next year? What genius move did you make that’s now a new Thanksgiving tradition in your house? Please, don’t say snacking meatballs… I thought of it first! Share all your secrets below. Yes, all of them.