Thanksgiving Week Action Plan

thanksgiving-week-planning-tips

Thanksgiving is just a little over a week away!  Since this will be my first year hosting Thanksgiving, I want to make sure things go as smoothly as they can.  So I am doing what I have done for other major events like this in my life … creating an Action Plan!

thanksgiving-week-planning-tips

One week before Thanksgiving: Finalize grocery shopping list for Thanksgiving Day meals, and schedule the order with the local grocery delivery service called Peapod. I try to avoid the supermarket during crazy times of the year (like Thanksgiving or Christmas weeks!). I’ll probably just have to make one trip to Trader Joe’s that week, since they have much more reasonable prices on things like cheeses. I’ll schedule the order to be delivered on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Sunday before Thanksgiving: Clean out fridge.  Monday is the last “garbage man day” beforeThanksgiving, so I want to make sure that we purge any old food items from the fridge to make sure we have enough space!

Monday:

  • Peapod grocery order that I placed the previous Thursday will be delivered.
  • Ensure that all recipes are printed, put into protective sleeves, and readily accessible for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday prep.
  • Prepare french baguette dough and biscuit doughs. Refrigerate dough.

Tuesday:

  • Pick up “Thanksgiving Survival Kit” from local produce store. A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from our nearby produce store called Nall’s, that they are offering a “Thanksgiving Survival Kit,” which includes items like rolls, celery, carrots, cranberries, fresh herbs, and all sorts of other yummy things for $40 per kit. I jumped right on that offer!
  • Bake one serving of baguette dough prepared the day before, and and bake some cornbread. Allow to air dry for the next few days for stuffing. Will use the remaining baguette dough on Thanksgiving
  • Create prepared “recipe bags.” I’m still debating whether this one will be worth the time, but I’m considering creating pre-packaged “bags” of ingredients for each meal I will make on Thanksgiving Day. For instance, pre-chop the celery, onions, and herbs, and grab a stick of butter, etc., them put them into individual plastic baggies. Then I would place each individual plastic baggie into one larger baggie, and label it as “stuffing.” That way, when it’s time to make the stuffing, I can just grab the bag and toss. While the amount of time will probably be equal, it might make Thanksgiving Day prep and cleanup go a lot faster
  • Set up folding tables and chairs, set tables to the extent possible (tablecloths, vases for centerpieces, charger plates, etc.)

Wednesday:

  • Pick up turkey order from butcher.  We ordered our turkeys fresh from an amazing local butcher that we use all the time.
  • Purchase flowers from local produce store for simple centerpieces.  Similarly, if Trader Joe’s doesn’t look too ridiculously crowded, I may buy the flowers there, since they are located right by the butcher where I’ll be picking up the turkeys.
  • Begin turkey brining process.  Let turkeys sit in brine until Thanksgiving Day.
  • Commence Baking? Depending on how I’m feeling about food preparation progress, I may bake a few goodies, like some banana bread, chocolate cake, or and/or cookies. We’re ordering pies from a local pie shop, so we’re all set on dessert, but I’d like to add a few homemade goodies to the dessert table if possible. However, if things are feeling rushed or overwhelming on Wednesday, I’m going to skip the baking.  I’ve done these marathon baking sessions before around Christmas time, and they really only take about 2 hours, including cleanup.
  • Finish setting table
  • Set up “beverage area” to the extent possible, putting out glassware, beverage tub, etc.
  • Do a quick cleanup of house

Thursday (AKA Turkey Day!):

  • Put Turkey #1 in oven for roasting
  • Put apple cider in our coffee urn (which we purchased to have warm beverages at our wedding) for slow warmup. Make sure to add some cinnamon sticks in the urn, and place coffee mugs nearby.
  • Make stuffing, set aside (do not bake yet)
  • Make cranberry sauce, set aside
  • Ensure ingredients are set aside to make gravy when turkey eventually comes out of the oven
  • Ken departs home to pick up pies from local pie shop and buy a bag of ice from 7-11.
  • When guests give notification that they are on their way (approximately 1 hour drive):
    • Put baguette dough in oven to bake
    • Make mashed potatoes, put in oven to stay warm
    • Set out other appetizers (veggie tray, shrimp ring, cubed cheeses, crackers, baguette slices when ready)
    • Put soda two liter bottles, bottles of beer, and white wine in beverage tub filled with ice. (Ken’s family doesn’t really drink, so let’s be honest here, the beer and white wine will be for me)
  • At some point after guests arrive, begin deep frying Turkey #2 in electric turkey deep fryer.  Deep fried turkeys cook much faster, and since the cooking method seems to be quite the novelty, I’m assuming folks may want to watch the turkey as it begins to fry.
  • Put stuffing in oven as turkey begins to fry

 

So, there you have it!  As with every plan, I’m sure there will be some tweaking as things progress, but I think this covers pretty much everything!  I actually feel a lot better having this all down in writing.  Although that’s a lot of bullet points, many of them won’t even take more than a few minutes, so I think it’s definitely doable.

Hosting Thanksgiving Day Dinner!

thanksgiving-dinner

For the first time ever this year, we’re hosting Thanksgiving!  We’ve lived in our house for nearly five years, but our kitchen was always so depressing.  Last December, we wrapped up our huge kitchen renovation, so now we are ready and raring to put it to good use.

thanksgiving-dinner

In my excitement, I’ve already started menu planning for the day!  Well, actually I’ve been planning meals for the entire weekend since my family will most likely be staying with us as well.  Ken’s family only lives an hour away, so my family would be our only houseguests.

I only have one issue with cooking on Thanksgiving.  I’m grappling with how to deal with it as a now Thanksgiving Day host.  Brace yourselves.

I don’t like turkey.

Any time this happens to come up, folks shake their heads in shock and then the words that come out of their mouth are typically something like, “Well that just means you’ve never had GOOD turkey.”  I’ve sampled lots of turkey over the years.  My family never had a strict Thanksgiving Day tradition, so I had many opportunities to try different Thanksgiving turkey.  My mom’s turkey, my brother-in-law’s turkey, my mom’s cousin’s turkey, my mother-in-law’s turkey, restaurant turkey when we’ve been on vacation, cruise ship turkey when we’ve been on a cruise during Thanksgiving …

I don’t HATE turkey in the sense that it makes me gag (I’m looking at you grape soda), so I’m always open minded enough to sample a few bites, but I’m always just so disappointed at its lack of flavor that I stop eating it.  Or, when I was younger, I would coat my turkey slices in ketchup to eat it.  Apparently many folks at the dinner table found this offensive and sacrilege, so I stopped eating more than a few tasting bites.  After all, there’s always so many different types of food to try on Thanksgiving day, so why waste calories getting full on something you don’t even really like.

My family has always been very accommodating of this food aversion, so we usually have many main dishes, including a smaller turkey, on Thanksgiving Day when my mom or sister would host it.  And I always loved that unique aspect of our Thanksgivings.  So, I’m hoping to carry on this tradition.  Yes, I’ll make a turkey even though I don’t really like it, but I’ll make at least one or two other main dishes too.  I may even experiment with a few turkey recipes between now and Thanksgiving, to make sure I have some practice on cooking it for the big day.  Wait, do stores even sell whole turkeys outside of the holiday season?

I’m going to experiment with this brined turkey recipe and, since I absolutely love to grill, I’ll also try a Turkey on our Weber charcoal grill.   Yummm.  Maybe that is what turkey has been missing all these years — a beautiful charcoal grilled flavor.  Besides the turkey, this is what else is on our list:

 

Other main course:

  • Beef Tenderloin – grilled or oven

Appetizers:

  • Cheeses, including fondue

  • Breads and crackers

  • Veggie Tray (store bought)

  • Pizza Dip (A family favorite)

  • Spinach Dip (another family favorite)

  • Shrimp ring (store bought)

With all these appetizers, I’m debating whether we need salads or anything, so I can re-visit that later.

Side Dishes:

  • Mashed Potatoes

  • Green Bean Casserole (Ken’s mom can bring)

  • Purple pickled cabbage (A favorite german dish of my husband’s family.  I like it too now!)

  • And a few others, TBD.  I’ve been scouring my saved Pinterest recipes recently.  Seriously, does anyone else think that their Pinterest boards just become bottomless pits of ideas, never to be revisited again?  As I looked through my Food and Recipes board, I was like, “Whoa!  There’s some tasty ideas on here!”

 

Desserts

  • Pies (ordered from local amazing pie shop)

  • Homemade Banana Bread

  • Trays of various homemade cookies

  • Fruit and Fruit dip

  • One or two 8-inch round cakes, something simple that I’ve made before.

 

There you go.  I’m stuffed already just thinking about it.  But, at a minimum, we’ll have 14 people.  That number could jump to 21 if a few other relatives decide to come too.  And I figure, these were mostly all recipes we’d cook for Thanksgiving even in our very small family.  It doesn’t take any more work to scale up a recipe if you’re going to be making it anyway!  Except the need for fridge space.

What are your Thanksgiving Day favorites?