Giada De Laurentiis’ Tips for  a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week is Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count…Without Stressing Out by Giada De Laurentiis (Pam Krauss Books). In addition to being a bestselling cookbook author, De Laurentiis is a Today show correspondent and an Emmy Award-winning Food Network star. She also has her own restaurant, Giada at The Cromwell Las Vegas

Giada De Laurentiis (Photo: Quentin Bacon)

Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count…Without Stressing Out is “my biggest book yet,” says Giada De Laurentiis. She describes the recipes as a mix of healthy dishes for fueling a busy life and indulgent treats that are perfect for splurging on holidays, special occasions, or anytime you need a little pick me up. But while the food is designed to maximize happiness, De Laurentiis also aims to minimize stress.

“I’ve tried to be especially conscious, in this book, about time-saving strategies and making dishes that can be repurposed for pack-along lunches the next day, or transformed into another dish down the line,” explains De Laurentiis. “We’re so busy and these shortcuts and tips make it easy to eat great, healthy, and truly delicious food most of the time.”

When it comes to stressful meals, Thanksgiving surely tops the list for many. Born in Rome and raised by Italian parents in Los Angeles, De Laurentiis didn’t start celebrating Thanksgiving until she was a teenager. But once the De Laurentiis family embraced Turkey Day, they did so enthusiastically and De Laurentiis says it’s now one of her favorite times of year.

Turkey Breast “Porcetta” (Photograph: Andrew Purcell)

To keep the holiday from turning overwhelming, De Laurentiis suggests making “as many things ahead of time as possible, so there are no traffic jams in the oven.” She also supports taking a potluck approach: “If people volunteer to bring something, I let them!” It’s so much easier on the cook, says De Laurentiis. Plus, “everyone likes to show off their specialties at this time of year and it makes the meal feel much homier.” 

When it comes to planning the menu, De Laurentiis describes her holiday feast as “American traditional with an Italian accent.” Classic holiday dishes include smashed root vegetables and brown and wild rice dressing with mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. For the main event, De Laurentiis returns to her Italian roots. Her turkey breast “porchetta” is deboned, stuffed, and rolled, which makes it wonderfully tender on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. This simplified approach to the holiday bird eliminates the hassle of roasting a whole turkey, and it’s really easy to slice and serve, so carving becomes a far less stressful endeavor.

To complete the feast, De Laurentiis recommends adding a lighter option like a salad of bitter greens. And she always makes cornbread, not for stuffing, but as a side: “It’s one of my weaknesses!”

Beyond the food, DeLaurentiis likes to decorate the holiday table with personalized place cards and she usually enlists her daughter, Jade, to help out. This year, they’re decorating cookies with candy corn, pretzels, and chocolate chips, and placing one at each place setting. And the great thing about cookies is that they can be baked ahead, which means they won’t add stress to your holiday prep.

Visit Yahoo Food throughout the week for recipes from Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count…Without Stressing Out.

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The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez
My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl

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