Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner 101

My Gramps used to always tell me, "It ain't bragging if it's the truth." So I'm not bragging when I say, after being in charge of Thanksgiving dinner for over 20 years, I'm basically a boss at it. It's something I've mastered through trial and error and here's the thing- it's not rocket science. If you want to be involved in the fun of this holiday, and not just stuck in the kitchen, the key is going to be time management. You need to work smarter, not harder. I have served Thanksgiving dinner for up to 21 guests, but the hardest one I ever tackled was the year it was just Graham and me. Why? Because I didn't have a plan. I was trying to wing it - no pun intended.  You, my dears, do not have to wing it. You, too, can be your own Turkey Day Boss. I'm going to give you the inside scoop on how to make this meal as yummy and as stress free as possible. Cause you're cute and I'm awesome like that.
thanksgiving images free | Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! - This Lil Piglet:
Here's the timeline I follow every year. I've also linked up any pages you might need along the way to save you time and effort.

One week before Thanksgiving
* Call your friends and family to make sure you have a hard number for dinner. Say "Yes, thank you", if they offer to bring something, but make it specific. Wine is always an easy option for your out of town guests, but if they have a family favorite they want to bring instead, say yes! That's invariably going to be one of the best things on the table.
* Plan out your menu and make out your grocery list. Complete your grocery shopping. As far as how much to buy, I always use this guide from Whole Foods and it has never steered me wrong. It's a bit heavy on the wine recommendation, but I've never had anyone complain. I'll leave that part up to your discretion.
How much to serve at Thanksgiving Dinner:
* Hit Costco and load up on napkins, paper plates, plastic cups, and heavy plastic silverware. It's always better to have it on hand and not need it, than the other way around.

Four days before Thanksgiving
*Clean the house. If you have boys like me, DEEP clean all the bathrooms.
*Iron any table linens if you're using them. Decorate and set the dining room table- including any place cards, stemware or silver. Break out all the "good china" and "fancy stuff" you've been saving for special occasions. Don't worry about making it look all Martha Stewart. She won't notice - she wasn't even invited.
Rosemary place card holders:
I love the idea of these place cards- simple but darling!
15 Gorgeous Thanksgiving Centerpieces and Tablescapes {The Weekly Round UP} - This Silly Girl's Life:
And how easy would this be? Just a bunch of candles and pumpkins from Wal-Mart, but it looks like a million bucks.

Two days before Thanksgiving
*Chill any beverages you'll be serving. In our house, I keep it simple. I serve wine, lemonade, water and Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice at dinner. We mark every special occasion in our house with Welch's. Bubbles just seem to make everything feel more swanky.

One day before Thanksgiving
*Make any dessert or pie you may be serving. For us, this will include GrandMary's Chocolate chip pie, pumpkin pie, and these pecan pie bars from  the Mix and Match Mama.
The great thing about these bars is they actually taste better than the pie.  A cinch to make and serve, it'll become a regular on your Thanksgiving Day table- I promise!

*Put all pickles, olives, butter, and cranberry sauce in their serving dishes. Cover them with plastic wrap so they're all ready to go when you need them. That way, tomorrow, all you have to do is uncover them and put them on the table.
*Clean and prep your turkey, place it in a roasting pan, and cover with foil. Put it back in the fridge. Last year, instead of cooking my turkey the traditional way, I tried spatchcocking it and I'm never going back to the old way again. This is what the term "spatchcock" means:
Spatchcocked Roast Turkey
It's a method of cooking a turkey where you remove the back bone and cook the turkey flat. It roasts in half the normal time -win! But the real kicker is the dark meat and the white meat are perfectly cooked and ready to serve at exactly the same time. I admit, I was a skeptic at first, but hand to God, it's the truth. You have to try this.

* Make your Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes (these are the best!) and Campbell's Green Bean Casserole (making sure to leave the fried onions off until you pop them in the oven tomorrow).
*Have your sweet husband or teenager swing by the grocery store after work and pick up some rolls from the bakery. The amount is up to you, but I usually start with 6 dozen. I know this seems crazy, but in all the years I've done this, I've never- not once- had to throw away a single roll. I'm not sure what that says about my family in particular, but I'm pretty sure it's not good.

Thanksgiving Day
We usually eat around 3pm in the afternoon, because this gives me the most flexibility to serve everything when the turkey is ready. If you like to eat later than that, just bump up the times by a few hours and you should be fine.
*Preheat your oven first thing in the morning.
*Have the kiddos do a quick scan and pick up of the house. If you have boys, make sure you check to see that the bathrooms are still clean. Do not trust their sweet faces when they say everything looks fine. I'll spare you the details, but trust me when I say some of my extended family members may never be the same.
*Cook the bird.
*Put the butter, cranberry sauce, etc. on the table.
*Cook the sides.
*Pop the wine, turn on the game, and begin gabbing.
*When everything's ready, have people grab their plate and serve themselves in the kitchen.  This way, they can pick and choose for themselves, what they want, before heading into the dining room. Once everyone's seated, say the blessing, pop open the Welch's and let the festivities begin.


Whew! I had no idea this post would end up being so long! If you're still reading this, thanks for hanging in there. You've shown you definitely have the stamina to pull a Thanksgiving Dinner together. And if, on the big day, your energy begins to wane and you're afraid you can't make it to the finish line? Give me a call. I'm sure I'll have an extra roll on hand to help you carbo load.

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