Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thanksgiving Preparation

Thanksgiving is only three weeks away. Yikes! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  I call it the 4-F Holiday for family, friends, food and football! I’m hosting again this year, should have 10 in attendance.


We all look forward to the annual Thanksgiving meal and, like most families, the menu doesn’t deviate too much from year to year. For whatever reason, Thanksgiving is not the time to try new things, we must keep to the traditional food items or the family starts to revolt!  There must be pumpkin pie on the dessert table and canned cranberry sauce for my picky husband!

It’s a labor-intensive holiday with so much of the dinner coming together at the end.  It can get quite hectic in the kitchen trying to get the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and the multitude of side dishes, all on the table at the same time. This doesn't count getting the house in order, the shopping and table setting. I’ve learned there is plenty I can do ahead of time (even weeks ahead) to make it a little less stressful. It's supposed to be a day of celebration and thankfulness, not a day to be worn out and stressed out! I thought I’d share my tips with you and would love to learn your tips, too.

Get a  confirmed guest list:  Once I know the number of people attending I can determine if I need additional seating and tableware as well as knowing how much food to plan for.  If I need additional items to accommodate people, I reserve with our local party supply store or make arrangements to borrow from friends and family.

Prepare a menu:  With a menu in place I can begin grocery shopping.  I can also delegate parts of the meal.  The hostess doesn't have to do it all!  Thanksgiving is more of a potluck-style meal, anyway, so don’t be afraid to ask your guests to help.  Mom always brings the homemade rolls, other guests contribute some side dishes or appetizers.  If your guests don’t cook, have them bring a bottle of wine or sign them up for dish washing duty!

Decorations:  I like to set a pretty table, though my family doesn’t really care, it’s all about the food to them!  Days in advance, I get the linens out, make sure they are clean and ironed. I order flowers a few weeks in advance, opting to have them delivered to save me from running another errand.  I compare my menu to my serving dishes, often putting labels in a dish so that people helping me know what goes where. I set the table(s) the night before.

Shopping:  Again, using my menu, I go through the list of ingredients needed and compare to what is in my pantry.  Many grocery items can be bought ahead of time (flour, sugar, spices, canned goods, etc.)  The stores often have these products on sale now and raise the prices during the hectic Thanksgiving week. I put my husband in charge of getting our beverages. By buying ahead, all I have to buy immediately before Thanksgiving are my perishables.

Meal preparation:  There are many parts of the Thanksgiving meal that can be made ahead. I buy turkey wings, roast them, then make stock and freeze it (recipe here). Pie dough can be made ahead of time and frozen into discs. The night before you want to bake a pie, just put the frozen discs in the refrigerator so they thaw. Some pies, especially something like an apple pie, can also be prepared and frozen, all you then have to do is bake it! I have friends who prepare a make-ahead gravy and freeze that.  Ina Garten has a great recipe. Cranberry sauce can be made a few days ahead.  Veggies for the dressing and side dishes can be prepped and stored in Ziploc bags.  In the weeks before the big day, don’t throw away stale bread; cube and toast it, then store it so it stays dry (or freeze) to use for your dressing.

Plan ahead and make things as easy as possible, so you can enjoy the day with family and friends. The Christmas season, and all the madness that goes with that, officially starts the next day.  There are only 7 Mondays until Christmas!  Double-Yikes!



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