It’s that time of the year….but don’t let it become a burden. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Most people don’t find that a surprise because I love to cook….but actually it’s my favorite because I love to watch my family and friends enjoy and be comforted by the food I prepare. I love to rekindle childhood memories with special recipes…I love to create new memories with special people and new recipes. Now don’t mistake my excitement and enthusiasm for a stress free Thanksgiving. I do find it very stressful…..but I also have a few tried and true tricks up my sleeves to get myself through it.
First of all the best advice I have is if you are a person who does not enjoy the planning, prepping and preparing of food….don’t do it. Bring the meal in. Just because your guest may think you should cook it all yourself that doesn’t make it pleasurable….and that just doesn’t make for a good holiday. There’s nothing wrong if you don’t enjoy cooking such a celebrated meal. Try making it a pot luck, try buying a smoked turkey which has already been cooked, or if you must cook it yourself, prepare dishes you are comfortable with and enjoy making.
Now if you are like me and could spend all day in the kitchen the following are some of my tricks of the day.
- When planning your menu keep in mind that if you are serving more than 8 guests that the serving size of each dish will be less than if you are serving only a few guest. So when preparing your side dishes there is no need to expand or double the recipes. With so many options, people take less of each.
- Turkey size, plan on 1 pound per person. This will give you plenty for your guest and some leftovers. (Remember to look for those grocery store sales. I got my 10 pound turkey for only $5.00. How? Well most markets will give you big discount on your turkey if you buy a particular dollar amount in groceries. In my case I only had to spend $25 to get a turkey at 49 cents a pound. Take advantage of this) Don’t forget your turkey may take 5 to 7 days to defrost and should be defrosted in the refrigerator.
- Make a list of every ingredient you will need to prepare the dishes on your menu. Include staples as you may need to pick more of them up. SHOP EARLY! Don’t wait until the days before the holiday….it’s crazy in the markets and you don’t need that added stress.
- Do all of the cutting, dicing, chopping and assembling the weekend before Thanksgiving. Then freeze your sides to be finished on Thanksgiving day. (That’s what I’ll be doing this weekend. It makes Thursday run very smoothly. This is my schedule for Saturday and Sunday: Saturday – chopping and dicing of all veggies for the stuffing, toasting of the stuffing bread, assembling and baking my graham cracker ginger snap pie crust, then I freeze it to be used on Wednesday night when I will make my pumpkin pie. I will bake my beer bread and corn bread and freeze these also. On Sunday – sauteing my mushrooms and onions then assemble the green bean casserole and freeze, to be cooked on Thursday in the crockpot. I will make my cranberry sauce and baked mashed potatoes and freeze them also. Now on Thursday I will bring everything to room temperature and finish the baking process in the oven. But the key: No assembly required and no unnecessary dirty dishes.
- Ask people to pitch in. Whether they bring a side dish, the dessert or bring the beverages, it all helps to relieve the stress. (Here’s the help I’m receiving. My Daughter-in-Law will be making, in my kitchen, upon her arrival a corn pudding. Mark’s niece will also be cooking when she arrives and she is making our macaroni & cheese. Mark’s sister’s are also pitching in. One will bring a dessert, the other beverages.
- Create a cooking and oven timeline. How long will each dish take to finish off in the oven or on the stove? What serving dishes and utensils will be needed? Get them out and set aside. Now schedule each dish as to when it should be in the oven, how long it has to cook and when will everything be done. DINNERTIME!
- Last piece of advice……set the table or tables early. Set everything, including the silverware, glassware and decorations. Now cover it with a clean sheet. This will keep your beautifully set and decorated table clean and in place until the special day.
I hope my tips will help you relax and enjoy this wonderful holiday. Remember, if this is your first Thanksgiving…it’s do-able, it can be enjoyable and remember it’s just family and friends so it’s no problem.