The mother of foodie holidays is coming, and if you are like me, you are already looking over recipes, planning menus, and planning your assault on your favorite grocery store or farmer’s market before all the quality stuff is gone.

Yes, my friends, Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away, and if you are a serious foodie, your preparations should be well under way. However, if you think you still have enough time and plan to wait until the week of Thanksgiving, please be prepared to go into panic mode and join the hundreds of fellow procrastinators who will be fighting over frozen turkeys and the last pie crust in the store. Let’s discuss a few tips and tricks to making your Thanksgiving stress-free and fun – with some great food too!

*First, and most important, do as much prep work and precook as many dishes as possible. This will reduce the time you spend in the kitchen and increase the time you spend with friends and family (or cheering your favorite football team to victory!)

*When shopping for your meal, don’t forget the staples – sugar, flour, butter, salt, pepper, and oil. What a tragedy to run out of a necessary ingredient in the middle of food preparation!

*If a turkey is on your Thanksgiving menu, make sure you buy the bird with enough time to defrost it (if bought frozen) prior to Thanksgiving Day. A large bird can take up to five days to defrost, and cooking a frozen turkey will add to your cooking time. Try visiting the meat section at your local farmer’s market – fresh turkeys are always a good option!

*If you do decide to pick up a fresh turkey from the Farmer’s Market, why not pick up some fresh veggies for your side dishes? Fresh veggies taste fantastic and will be a great addition to your meal.

*While we’re on the subject of turkey, don’t be scared to try alternative methods for cooking your turkey. You can put it in your grill/smoker and slow cook it for a wonderful turkey treat. You can also deep fry your turkey (PLEASE make sure to read and adhere to the safety precautions!) if you want a crispy skin – and those injectible spices really bring out the flavor in a turkey! For a Caribbean take on an American classic, try marinating your turkey in jerl spices before cooking. Spicy turkey, anyone?

*Have a small group for Thanksgiving? If your group is of 5 or less people, don’t kill yourself making a huge traditional meal only to be stuck with mountains of leftovers. Instead of making a whole turkey, make turkey chops or a turkey breast. Instead of a picnic ham, buy a pork tenderloin.

*Tired of traditional Thanksgiving food? Ditch the turkey and try some new options for your meal. Serve a beef brisket or a whole fish as your main entrée, and build your side dishes around them. Add an international theme to your meal and make dishes from different countries (or one particular country if you prefer).

*Want to cook your own meal and visit friends and family too? Make a Thanksgiving breakfast or brunch instead. We often get so caught up in making the perfect Thanksgiving dinner that we forget about breakfast!

*Feel like having someone else make your Thanksgiving meal this year? Many restaurants are not only open for dinner service on Thanksgiving, but they also offer prix-fixe meals for reduced prices. Check your favorite restaurants to see if they are open and make a reservation. There’s no prepwork (other than choosing your dining spot), no cleanup, and you don’t have to worry about houseguests who don’t want to leave!

*If you are serving wine with your meal, be sure that it will complement your meal – why pair the wrong wine with your fantastic meal? If you’re not sure what to get, stop in your closest wine & spirits shop and talk to an expert. They are very helpful in choosing the perfect accompaniment for your meal. Also, if you request your guests bring a bottle, it would help to provide them with a list of wines that will complement the meal as well.

*Choose one dessert that will bring your meal together, instead of the usual layout of desserts that are normally fixtures at your Thanksgiving table. Try making personal tarts instead of whole pies for dessert. They are easy to make, perfect for presentation, and are the perfect portion size.

*Don’t be afraid to serve a lighter dessert, especially after a huge meal. Here’s a quick but tasty suggestion: mix citrus fruits with mango and pineapple and serve with greek yogurt and a bit of toasted coconut. Light but delicious!

*No dinner is complete without dressing your table. A nice centerpiece a few decorations can go a long way in presenting a great meal. For a fun twist, you can purchase an Edible Arrangement for your table centerpiece – or try to create your own! It’s beautiful and edible!

So there you are, Turkey lovers – hopefully these tips will help you have a great Thanksgiving. Enjoy – and wrap a plate for me!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Fab Foodie