Let’s get real here. Like, honestly real. Thanksgiving is more about the food than actually being thankful for anything. It’s the fact that people look at this upcoming holiday as a legit reason to binge eat and fall into a turkey-induced coma. Before we can over-indulge and pass out food-drunk on granny’s couch, we must say a sincere thank-you to the person that prepared the smorgasbord of food for you. Whether it was your mom, granny, or who ever, let them know that (even if you didn’t like it) that you were thankful that they took the time and energy to put it all together.
Let’s get real again here. The person who prepared all of that food for you will probably put on a fake smile, take a larger than normal swig of their wine, and politely say, “Thank You”. In reality, they slaved away in that damn kitchen, worrying, pacing, slamming pots around and probably swore like a drunk sailor putting together that fabulous meal you just inhaled.
This year I gladly volunteered to not only host it at our apartment, but to be THE cook that I just spoke about. I knew I was in over my head, but with some knowledge I gained from work and a lot of common sense, I laid out a game plan that I’m sure you will want to remember. Sit down, grab a pen, and remember this for next year, so that way you aren’t a complete and utter mess as soon as you sit down to say grace.
Know your guests: Sure you can handle the heat of jalapenos, but can Aunt Janice take it? Does Mom like cranberry sauce or gravy with her turkey, or both? Does anyone in your family/guest list have an allergy that you must be aware of? Do your guests plan on arriving early to have a few drinks? Will kids be attending too?
These are the types of questions you must run through before making any kind of Thanksgiving menu. Try to get as much info as you can about who you are serving and what their tastes are. It will help you narrow down choices of what to serve and it will help you decide what kind of dishes you will make. Will you include those spicy barbecue meat balls? Will you end up making cranberry sauce versus an easy gravy? Knowing your guests’ palette is half the battle.
Make a menu: Now that you’ve figured out what what your guests will and will not eat, it’s time to come up with that menu.
Some of the obvious entrees include:
- Some kind of potato (Mashed, Roasted, Sweet, Scalloped/Gratin)
- Some kind of stuffing
- Turkey, or another type of protein (Ham or Turducken)
- Gravy of some sort
- Dessert (a must!)
If you wanted to go all-out, you could also include an appetizer, a type of salad with a fancy-pants dressing, and maybe you’d like to include a fun spiked cider or a jazzed-up fruity cocktail that the kiddos can enjoy too.
Don’t know what to serve? Do your research by utilizing magazines, friends, cookbooks, websites (like All-Recipes, Taste Of Home, or my personal favorite, Pinterest), to search thousands of recipes and read reviews on them too.
Make a grocery list and set a budget: This is key to your success here. Look at all of your items for each of your recipes and write them down individually. On a separate piece of paper, place them in categories (i.e, dairy, produce, meat, baking, etc.). Next, go through your own cupboards to see if you already have some of those ingredients on hand (something we should have done too). Add together items that are repeated so that instead of getting 8 ounces of cream cheese plus a half-cup for two different recipes, you just get two packages.
If setting a budget for Thanksgiving dinner isn’t your thing, it should be. Is it really necessary to have three types of potatoes? Do we really need to have three different kinds of pies? Make sure someone will actually eat it before you make it. It is possible to feed 5 grown adults on less than $150 (which is what we are doing).
Now, GO SHOPPING!
It helps a tremendous amount to understand that if you do your shopping a few days before, you will probably need to remain calm because people will be doing their share of scrounging around too. Bring your spouse or kid (who can at least use a calculator) to add items as you go and read off what items are needed in what area. It will also keep you within your budget if you set one too.
Make a “What To Cook, When and With What Pan” list: Again, this is so damn important. Here is exactly what I am talking about:
This is our “Week-Of” To do list which begins this Monday, the 19th (we are celebrating Thanksgiving on Saturday). Each day is listed with what items can be prepped on that particular day. Look at your menu and see what items or ingredients can be chopped or prepared days or a day in advance. For example, chopped potatoes and veggies are good for about two days. If you have limited oven space and time, consider cooking your turkey a day in advance and even making the gravy on that day too. Make time to reheat those items you prepared ahead of time. Plan out what needs to be cooked/baked at what temperature, in what appliance (the stove, oven, or crockpot) and for how long to determine if your selected dishes can be cooked together to save time too.
When T-day comes, there will be less chopping, more oven space and less stress on yourself. By breaking up what can be done ahead, you will save time on the day of and allow you to spend more time chillin’ like a villain, than slaving in the kitchen and bitchin’.
Don’t forget about what kind of pans you’ll need. That roasting pan you got for as a wedding gift years ago that’s sitting in your closet better get some use. Go through each item on your menu to determine if you need a certain type of pan it will be served in and cooked in (Pyrex bake ware, gravy boats, platters, cake dishes, pie tins, etc.)
Make any notes of anything else that needs to be done (like cleaning, ordering dinner rolls at your bakery, reorganizing furniture, etc.) and put it on there too.
Take a deep breath and enjoy it: With all the work you’ll be putting in, you have to allow yourself to enjoy it too. Ask some family members to lend a helping hand with cutting veggies, or cleaning, or even ask them to bring a dish to lighten your already large load. If you can’t enjoy a day like this and be thankful for your guests and for the food you’ll be serving, would it even be enjoyable to eat?
Like always friends, until next time, Happy Feasting!