Friday, November 20, 2009
Thanksgiving Countdown - Relax and Be Organized
Here is a re-post of my Thanksgiving Countdown blog from last year.
Preparing Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful, especially if you want all the traditional dishes on your table plus one or two more innovative items. Thanksgiving is the one holiday where we feel the pressure of serving all the traditional foods our guests remember from their childhood not to mention that everything has to be warm and ready to serve at one time.
Here are my guidelines to help make this a (less) stressful day:
10 days prior to Thanksgiving day:
Order your turkey now (either fresh or frozen) to avoid the last minute rush and to avoid getting a frozen solid turkey the day before you have to cook it.
One week prior to Thanksgiving day:
Plan your entire menu - from appetizers, drinks, and snacks to all the traditional dishes. Remember that people will arrive early to watch football and they will need drinks and munchies to nibble on while dinner is cooking. Most of the time, lunch will not be served since the Thanksgiving dinner is such a large meal, but people do get hungry. Try and serve a light and healthy snack around lunchtime.
Gather together your table linens and make sure everything is clean, pressed and ready to set the table. Don't set the table now but it's a good idea to be prepared in case you need to purchase any new linens.
Pull together all the dishes, serving pieces and crystal that you will be using on Thanksgiving day. Wash and polish any serving pieces. I usually set everything on the buffet and cover with clean dish towels to keep everything dust free.
Pick up your turkey today if it's frozen. Start the defrosting process by placing the turkey in the refrigerator where it will thaw naturally for the next three days.
SHOPPING DAY! Shop for all the remaining items you need for the Thanksgiving meal - potatoes, stuffing ingredients, gravy, cranberries (fresh or canned), pie ingredients, vegetables, snack items and drinks.
Pick up your fresh turkey today and refrigerate promptly.
Start cooking! I usually prepare the pies and our traditional jello and fruit mold on Wednesday so there's not as much to do on Thursday. Cut up the celery, onions and any other items you like in your stuffing.
Set the table. Lay out your buffet the way it will appear on Thanksgiving night. This will ensure that you have enough room for the large turkey platter and all the other serving pieces. I put the dinner plates on the table rather than stack them on the buffet since this leaves more room for the serving pieces.
Prepare the stuffing first if you are going to stuff your turkey. Otherwise, get the turkey in the oven. The time you do this will depend on what time dinner is being served. Plan on cooking the turkey 20 minutes per pound so if you have a 22 pound turkey, it will take approximately 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Check out Butterball Turkey's great website for more tips and suggestions.
Next up is the mashed potatoes. I use a wonderful recipe from Martha Stewart's cookbook that creates a creamy delicious dish. A tip I picked up last year worked wonderfully for me - when the potatoes are done, place them in the crock pot on low to keep them warm while everything else is cooking.
Sweet potatoes come next in the line. I don't usually prepare these but you will know from your recipe how long they take to prepare.
Stuffing is next on the list unless you've already prepared this dish. Keep the stuffing refrigerated until you're ready to cook it. Since I only have one oven in my house, this happens as soon as the bird comes out of the oven.
Next up - vegetable dishes. These can usually be cooked on the stove top or in the oven along with the stuffing while the turkey is setting.
The last item is the gravy. You can either make this from the pan drippings or buy it in the jar. Make sure it's warm and ready with the other dishes.
When the buffet is set and ready to go, put the pies in the oven to warm while everyone is eating the main course. Coffee should be ready to go as well - if you prepare the coffee maker ahead of time you only have to hit the start button after dinner while everyone is groaning about how much they ate!
Most importantly, enjoy the day spending it with the people you care most about in the world. Take a minute to remember what you're thankful for - good food, a roof above your head and friends and family who love you.