Sunday, December 14, 2014

Make Ahead Christmas Dinner Planner - The Kitchen Witch ~ Make Ahead Recipes for Christmas Dinner

The following is my annual Christmas Dinner Planner for roast turkey. I have put it together after years of trial and error.

The end result being the following dinner: Crispy, creamy cranberry brie phyllo triangles, succulent roast turkey with easy and savoury pan gravy, fluffy buttery mashed potatoes, old fashioned stuffing with cranberries and toasted almonds, turnip and apple puree, sweet potato casserole, roasted Brussels sprouts, bean and mushroom medley, hot, buttery buns right from the oven, and a warm cake with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

I can honestly say I follow these directions included in this blog - step by step - each and every time I cook a turkey dinner and they have never led me astray. The recipes are guaranteed to provide your friends and family with an absolutely delicious Christmas dinner. At the same time, because much of the meal is made ahead, the cook will be able to enjoy the day instead of being stuck in a messy kitchen.

I hope this planner is helpful to you.

Please let me know what you think.

Merry Christmas!
The Kitchen Witch

If you're just stopping by and want my printable planner and recipes without the whole blog. Click here for the PRINTABLE PLANNER.

Planning and timing your food preparation in advance will result in delicious food and a relaxed cook.

With all of the prep done ahead of time - including setting the table, getting cranberry sauce into bowls, laying out serving spoons etc. all you will have to do on the big day is follow your schedule.
Starting with links that will take you to all the make aheads:

Cranberry Brie Bundles

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes (can be made two days in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate)

Green Bean and Mushroom Medley (the vegetables are par boiled in advance and sauteed five minutes before they go to the table )

Sweet Potato Casserole (can be made two days in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate)

Apple Turnip Mash (Some years I choose to make this side instead of sweet potatoes. I actually prefer it but my son is a die hard sweet potato casserole fan - can be made two days in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate)

My recipe for Sausage and Apple Stuffing can also be made in advance - and I have to tell you, it is one of the most popular recipes on this website. It does my heart proud to know cooks all over the world use my stuffing recipe and love it. I know you will too!

Apple Sausage Stuffing

Our Christmas dessert is one of old fashioned those tried and true recipes that take few ingredients, very little effort, and turns out AMAZING every single time!

Hot Caramel Cake or Pudding Chomeur, (can be made a day ahead, cover tightly and refrigerate)

For something a little fancier but equally delicious, how about trying my Pear Upside Down Cake with Maple Mascarpone Cream! 

Christmas is all about old fashioned memories. I like to use my vintage corning ware casserole dishes both to store and serve.

Make aheads give the cook time to enjoy friends and family!

    The next day, you will begin by prepping and stuffing your turkey.

    Below is a cooking chart to let you know how long you will be roasting.

    8 to 12 pounds -- 2 3/4 to 3 hours
    12 to 14 pounds -- 3 to 3 3/4 hours
    14 to 18 pounds -- 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
    18 to 20 pounds -- 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
    20 to 24 pounds -- 4 1/2 to 5 hours

    Stuffed Hours8 to 12 pounds -- 3-3 1/2 hours
    12 to 14 pounds -- 3 1/2 - 4 hours
    14 to 18 pounds -- 4-4 1/2 hours
    18 to 20 pounds --4 1/2 - 4 3/4 hours
    20 to 24 pounds --4 3/4 - 5 1/4

    If in doubt, use use a meat thermometer (available at most grocery stores and kitchen shops) to determine the correct degree of doneness. Turkey is done when meat in the thigh reaches 180°F or (meat in the breast in finished at 170°F).

    Setting the Table
    Because I'm an anal retentive neurotic, the setting of my holiday table in advance has become a bit of an obsession.

    No matter, though.

    Any good host will tell you that once the table is set, you have created the mood, and mood, after all, sets the tone for all else to come.

    As an experienced host, I know that the most seemless of dinner parties are always that way because of careful planning...

     The PLAN- this plan is based on a dinner start for 6:15 pm, after cocktails at 5:00.

    10:00 am - Begin the dinner rolls cover the dough, set aside in a warm place for the first rising. Your dough will sit on your warm stove top and simply do it's thing all day. You will let this dough rise three times - which just means it grows about twice it's normal size - kind of like me after eating this dinner. You will simply put your fist into the middle of the dough to take the air out and then let it rise again.

    11:00 am - Remove the giblets from the turkey and cover with 2 cups of chicken stock, 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1/4 cup fresh poultry herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) and 4 cloves of garlic. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour. Strain and set the broth aside to use for the gravy later.

    Prep the turkey - Rinse the turkey and then dry it really good inside and out. Next, mix a half cup of softened butter with 1//4 cup of chopped fresh poultry herbs. Add a tbsp of cranberry sauce and 1 tbsp of orange zest. Roll in plastic wrap kind of like a cigar, refrigerate until firm and then cut into discs. Using your hands, place the discs under the skin of the turkey all over and massage to soften. Salt the cavity liberally and then stuff with the dressing you made the day before. Sprinkle the turkey with liberal amounts of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Put breast side up onto a roasting rack in your roaster and cover with lid or tin foil.

    12:00 pm - Turkey goes into oven at 325. Cover and baste every hour If there are a lot of pan juices, remove them as you go and set aside for your gravy.

    1:00 pm - Remove all of the side dishes you prepared earlier from fridge and set on counter.

    3:00 pm - Prep Brussels Sprouts (follow this link to the recipe) set aside until ready to roast.
    3:30 pm - Remove Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes and the other sides from fridge and set on counter.

    3:30 pm - Remove turkey from oven. Using your baster, remove all excess pan juices and set aside to use for gravy. Remove cover from turkey and return it to the oven to really brown up for the last half hour of roasting.

    3:50 pm - form the dough you made for the rolls in the morning into buns. It will have risen three times by now. Cover and set aside to rise again.

    4:00 pm - Turkey comes out of oven. Put on platter, cover with tin foil, leave to rest. (Don't worry, it won't get cold).

    4:05 - Put pan drippings into a fat seperator. if you have one - it's an easy way to remove excess fat from your gravy.

    Leave about 1/4 cup in the bottom of your roaster pan.

    4:10 - Add 6 tbsp flour to the pan drippings to make a roux, getting as much flavor off the bottom of the pan as you can. Add the de-fatted pan juices, one tbsp cranberry sauce, and the broth you made earlier with the giblets. (add less if you have lots of pan juices) While that heats up, scrape all the good brown stuff off the sides and bottom of the pan. Get every last bit of flavour off that sucker!
    Whisk, whisk whisk! Bring to a boil and thicken with more flour if needed. (If adding more flour shake it up with more chicken stock or extra giblet broth so there are no lumps)

    When it's a nice consistency, transfer to a sauce pan and keep on low until ready to eat.
    Pop your cranberry brie phyllo triangles into the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 400.

    4:20 - Reduce oven to 350, Wash your roasting pan and put it away. No more mess, no more mashing, no hot steamy kitchen, gravy's done.

    4:30 - Put potatoes into a 350 oven.

    4:35 - Relax, put out some appetizers. We always have the cranberry brie triangles and a nice prawn ring with cocktail sauce.

    4:50 - Put turnip mash, and sweet potato casserole into the oven alongside the potatoes give potatoes a stir while adding a little warm whole milk or cream at their halfway point. This will give them a nice creamy consistency)

    5:25 - Remove veggies from oven (making sure they're heated all the way through), cover with foil and a t-towel, leave to rest on the warm stove top (don't worry, these won't get cold either)

    5:30 - Increase oven heat to 400. Put brussel sprouts in to roast.

    5:35 - Carve the turkey

    5:55 - Put your buns in the oven (I always wanted to say that) They just go in alongside the brussel sprouts. Both buns and Brussels will take another 15 minutes.

    6:05 - Saute the bean and mushroom medley.

    6:10 - Pull your buns and Brussels out of the oven, uncover everything else, stick a ladle in the gravy, and serve. (We usually just do it buffet style as that seems easiest)

    6:15 - Toast the cook and Merry Christmas!

    Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given--when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes."~ Joan Winmill Brown, American author and editor.



    Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

    Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

    Facebook Twitter YouTube


    1. Your table setting is stunning! I follow almost exactly the same timeline as you do for a big turkey meal! I agree, whatever you can make ahead makes the day of so much nicer.

    2. What a great, and well thought out plan! Thanks for some new ideas for Christmas dinner!

    3. OK so tonight I was thinking I really need some new recipes. I seem to make the same thing week after week. I found your blog from Pinky's and I am now following. I could really use a kitchen witch!

    4. I am just now reading this post and I laughed out loud at your description of yourself as "an anal retentive neurotic", but it was a nervous laughter as I am the same! Unfortunately my husband, who likes to overtake my dining room table with his laptop and various bits of scholarly work, doesn't understand this, which makes me even MORE neurotic because I can't get to the table to do what I need/feel/want with enough time to change it if I don't like it.

      I love the inspiration table you've chosen here. I'm going in an entirely different direction with my table by filling the center with apothecary jars of candies, plus white candles of various sizes and silver and gold ornaments. In my head in looks reality it could be hideous.

    5. What a great post! I am going to try your stuffing recipe for Christmas...I have never made stuffing before and often get chastised for it, so I'm giving it a go!

    6. I too, am an anal retentive neurotic. My name is Barb but that cute guy I married calls me Lana! That is Anal spelled backwards! He said he does so that when we are entertaining ( and I use the term "we" loosely) and I have, in his words, "over Martha Stewerted Martha Stewart," he can look at me and say, "Lana, enough!" I have 8 friends in our loosely formed Lana Club and they have 8 friends and so forth - at last count there were 88 Lana Clubs world wide - feel free to call yourself Lana 89 and form your own Lana Club. As far as I know all the members, with the exception of one gay man, are women. Cheers ...barby