3 days until Thanksgiving! Are you ready?
Getting ready might mean:
- prepping a feast for a houseful OR
- making a single favorite dish
- buying a few bottles of wine because your family doesn’t trust you near an oven
For me, it’s a full Thanksgiving dinner. We live far from all of our family and it’s not practical to travel with a family of 5 for a long weekend. So we do Thanksgiving at home. Over the years we’ve had various guests join our holiday and some years it has just been the 5 of us. This year it’s 7 – our family and a few guests. I love cooking a Thanksgiving dinner. There’s something wonderful about spending a whole day (plus some) bustling around the kitchen making delicious things I normally don’t have time for.
What makes Thanksgiving special is also what makes it difficult to execute – it only happens once a year! When you only do something once a year it’s a lot of work when you do it.You can do a few things this year that will help you in future years. Every year when I sit down to think about our dinner I make three lists (and sometimes a bonus 4th)
- Shopping List
- Timing Plan
- Serving Dish Plan
And then… I KEEP them to reference from year to year. Welcome to my Thanksgiving Dinner binder!
Like most families there are some staples – turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes.
Some newer additions – apple cranberry sauce, bourbon pecan pie.
And I usually try something new each year to see if there’s a new favorite for our table.
Each year I make a menu. It’s simple – just handwritten on a blank sheet of paper. I like handwriting it so I can add to it or make changes on the fly. I make sure to include EVERYTHING I’m serving – that includes butter for rolls, drinks, appetizers. If someone will eat it that day – it goes on the list. Even the bowl of olives that must be on the table at any holiday meal.
The Shopping List
This is actually a 3 part process.
Once I have a menu I make a shopping list. I write down every needed ingredient for every dish on the menu – even if I know for sure that I have it on hand.
After I have the whole list down I walk through my kitchen and check off anything I have enough of so I know I don’t need to buy it.
Now that I have it narrowed down to what I need to purchase, I rewrite the list organized by store and part of the store. So I’ll have everything from Sam’s Club in order that I walk through the store, then everything from the supermarket by department, and everything for a specialty store (liquor store, home store, etc)
I know what I’m serving, I know what I need to buy, now I make a plan for when everything is getting made. Somethings are a few days prior turkey brine gets done on Wednesday. So do pies usually. If dinner is at 4 pm I want the turkey out of the oven by 3:30 pm and so I need to get it in the oven by 11:30 pm. That’s easy enough to figure out but what about cranberry sauce and stuffing – when do those get made? I write it down. It makes me feel less stressed knowing that I’m not forgetting something and that things will be ready at the same time. Some dishes are done a little early and go in a crock pot to stay warm.
So those are the lists. Some years I make a 4th list especially if we’ll be having many guests who I know will want to help in the kitchen. And that is:
Serving Dish Plan
If may sound over the top but think about it for a second. For a usual dinner you might have 2-4 dishes on the table. You don’t need to give much thought to which bowl is used for which item. But Thanksgiving can have 3 times that many dishes! So I make a list – basically a 2nd menu that has each dish and which serving dish it should go into. Then I get out all of those dishes the night before and have them ready to go.
After I’m done, I put the lists in the binder and put it with my cookbooks ready for next year. I also keep in there any recipes I’ve printed out that I use repeatedly. I’ve been using the same print-out of Martha Stewart’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Turkey Brine recipe for many years – and it shows the “love” of those many years of messy hands.