Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year when we enjoy spending time with family and friends sharing Thanksgiving Dinner, making memories and counting our many blessings. It can also be a time of stress for those responsible for preparing the focal point of the celebration, Thanksgiving Dinner! In today’s post I?d like to share with you 11 keys to make Thanksgiving Dinner as stress-free as possible.
11 Thanksgiving Keys
Key #1: Start and maintain a Thanksgiving notebook. I use a 3-ring binder (paper aids memory) but you may wish to use your computer or cellphone. Apps like Evernote and Onenote may be helpful in organizing your data. I?ve kept a Thanksgiving Notebook for the past 5 years so I don?t have to ?re-invent the wheel? every year.
You will feel less overwhelmed by the holidays knowing that you have your Thanksgiving Dinner menu and recipes organized and ready for use.
Key #2: Remember the 5 ?W?s and 1 H? ? who, what, when, where, why and how. Who is coming to dinner? It really helps to have a number in mind when you?re preparing a menu, selecting recipes and writing a grocery shopping list.
What are your guests bringing, if anything, to contribute to your menu or table setting? (Flowers, dessert, salad, wine?) What dishes, tablecloth, napkins and serving utensils will you use? Do you need to borrow a turkey platter or a gravy boat from a friend or relative?
When are the guests arriving at your house? When is dinner to begin? Do you need to prepare appetizers or snacks to feed early arrivals until all the other guests have arrived?
Where will you be eating? Do you need to set an additional table? Consider where the food will be served. Will you serve Thanksgiving Dinner buffet-style from a kitchen countertop or will you place all the serving dishes on the table for a family-style service? Where will you serve coffee and dessert?
Why we are together is to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. For some folks it is to watch parades and football games in addition to enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner. Are there other activities that need any planning on your part?
How will you achieve the results you desire? Think about the entire meal step-by-step and write it down. How will I decorate the dining room table? How will I decorate the front door and foyer? Do you have decorations on hand from previous years or do you need to purchase additional items?
Key #3: Plan your Thanksgiving Dinner menu and write it down. Try to include traditional foods from both sides of the family. One of my ?traditional? foods is Cornbread Dressing that my paternal grandmother made every year at Thanksgiving. After her death, my Dad made Cornbread Dressing for many years also. My Dad tweaked the recipe at times as do I, but it?s still my Grandmother?s Cornbread Dressing to me. Traditional recipes help us remember family members who are no longer with us.
Think about what dishes you will make from scratch and what you will purchase ready-made. Write the menu down. I like to find a Thanksgiving template on the computer, enter my menu and print off a few copies ? one for the kitchen, one to clip to the grocery shopping list and of course, one for my Thanksgiving notebook.
Key #4: Select and collect recipes for your Thanksgiving menu. An American Thanksgiving will typically include Roasted Turkey with Gravy, dressing or stuffing, 2-3 side dishes, salad, cranberry sauce, rolls and butter and several desserts. Consider what beverages you will serve also.
I don?t recommend preparing a recipe for Thanksgiving Dinner that you?ve never before prepared, unless you are a risk-taker who likes to live on the edge! I?ve done it and the end result was not pleasant! Audition or rehearse a new recipe well before the big day to make sure you like it and the dish turns out the way you desire. Be sure to place a copy of each recipe into your Thanksgiving notebook.
Key #5: Utilize a calendar as part of your plan for Thanksgiving. On the calendar write the tasks that need to be done ahead of time. For example, if you?re using a frozen turkey, make a note on the calendar to remove it from the freezer and place it into the refrigerator to thaw on Sunday prior to Thursday so it will be completely thawed by cooking time.
If you plan to brine the turkey, write a note to brine the turkey on Wednesday’s space. Decide what dishes can be prepared the day before Thanksgiving, such as baking the pumpkin pie(s) and write those dishes on the calendar for Wednesday. On your calendar you may wish to write down any special cleaning tasks you need to do ahead of time, as well as decorating and setting the table.
Key #6: Prepare the grocery shopping list. This task is much easier once you have planned the menu and collected the recipes. Review the recipes for any ingredients you don?t usually have in your kitchen and make a list of items that need to be purchased.
Think through the details ? are you going to be serving coffee with dessert? You may need to buy half n? half and sugar. Are you going to use whipped cream from an aerosol can or are you going to whip some whipping cream in your mixer? Place the grocery shopping list in your Thanksgiving notebook (after shopping) for future reference.
Key #7: Have a Plan ?B.? You may want to keep a few jars of turkey gravy in your pantry in case anything goes awry with the homemade gravy. (Been there, done that!) It doesn?t hurt to have an extra dessert or side dish stashed away in the freezer in case you need it. Frozen pumpkin cheesecake is great to have in the freezer for emergencies. My Dad’s Frozen Peanut Butter Pie is another pie that is kept in the freezer until just before serving.
Key #8: Consider cooking alternatives to the oven to help free up oven space. There are so many dishes to be baked! A few years ago I found a Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole recipe that I like much better than the traditional recipe. Using the slow cooker frees up some desirable oven space.
When I?m having a small group, I cook a turkey breast instead of an entire turkey, utilizing a free-standing rotisserie we have that collects the drippings in a pan in the bottom of the rotisserie. If you live in a warmer climate, you could utilize the rotisserie spit in your grill to roast the turkey. You?re blessed indeed if you have 2 wall ovens!
Key #9: A nice gesture for your guests is a small memento of the day to take home with them, especially left-overs. You could send them off with something you?ve made, something crafty perhaps or a jar of jam. I like to share my homemade cranberry sauce with friends and family members.
Key #10: After Thanksgiving Dinner is over and the guests have gone home, take a few minutes to review dinner and jot down notes (for your notebook!) on what went well and what could be improved upon next year. For example, after Thanksgiving 2014 I noted that next year I want to use our smaller crock pot for the Green Bean Casserole next time, I want to cut down on the butter in the Sweet Potato Souffle and I noted the weight of the turkey and how long it took to roast it.
Key #11: Place your notes in your Thanksgiving notebook, along with the menu, recipes and grocery shopping list and put the notebook in a place where you can find it next year. Not only are you ready for next year?s Thanksgiving Dinner but you have also created a record of memories. You may wish to add photos of the table, the dishes and your guests to your Thanksgiving notebook. Your notes and photos will be excellent references for future Thanksgiving Dinners.
Finally, don’t worry if everything is not perfect – in real life, it rarely is! The main focus is on spending quality time with family and friends, being thankful for what we have.
Remember to Savor the Flavor and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
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