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Shopping on Thanksgiving? Here's make-ahead-meal tips from a chef

As stores carve into holiday traditions with early openings on Thanksgiving, the pressure may be on to get meals onto tables early to allow for shopping for hot bargains

You don't need to have a fast feast, though.

South Florida chef and caterer Lenore Nolan-Ryan shares make-ahead meal secrets so you can then seek out hot doorbuster deals and enjoy enjoy Thanksgiving, too, or vice versa.

Here are  Nolan-Ryan's trickes for a stress-free holiday.

Early bird

Do as much as possible on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so you don't spend the holiday in the kitchen.

"Even set the table ahead of time," she suggests.

"Whatever you make can be made the day before and reheated," Nolan-Ryan adds. "Everything tastes better when the flavors have time to marry anyway."

Yes, that includes the turkey. Stuff and roast the bird on Wednesday.

"Then let it cool, and slice it against the grain, and arrange it in a disposable foil pan," says Nolan-Ryan, who owns Lenore Nolan Ryan's World Class Catering and Cooking School in Fort Lauderdale. "Add a little chicken stock and a few nuggets of butter. Seal with foil and refrigerate it overnight."

An added bonus: You'll already have the turkey carved.

On Thursday, about an hour before eating, take the pan out of the refrigerator and let sit for 20 minutes on the counter to reach room temperature. Then, slide the covered pan into a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

"Once the turkey is roasted, use the pan juices to make the gravy, too, and reheat on the stove," she says. "The turkey just needs to be warm. The gravy should be piping hot."

Half & half

Another option is to get someone else do the cooking, or part of the cooking.

"You roast the turkey but order the side dishes from someone else," says Nolan-Ryan "Or get the desserts from a bakery."

Line 'em up

Buffets are a great, no-fuss way to feed a crowd.

"But before you dive right into the food, gather everyone around the table and serve a salad or soup before everyone lines up for the buffet," she says. "That way, you can all sit down together, hold hands and share a moment of gratitude before the serious eating starts."

Relax and enjoy

Since you saved all that time preparing the turkey and the table on Wednesday, now you enjoy a leisurely feast on Thursday.

"Take your time in between courses. It takes days of preparing, so to have it all be over in 30 minutes is just not fair to the hostess," Nolan-Ryan says. "Relax and enjoy the meal."

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