Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Tips

Holidays are right around the corner and I am so excited! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I love to cook and feed people so this is right up my ally.

Unfortunately you are all going to have to wait until after Thanksgiving to see the food I serve up. I will take pictures as I make it but I am unable to do a preview. I can however, give you a list of all the food I prepare and give you as many time saving tips as I can.

I have been doing Thanksgiving dinner on my own for 6 years now, and doing a friend Thanksgiving dinner separate from the one we had on Thanksgiving day with family for about 5 years before that. So all total, 11 years of planning and putting together Thanksgiving dinners! Here are some things I have learned over the years.

First, have a plan. Know what you want to serve and get your grocery list prepared well in advance. I personally like to make the same dishes each year with only slight variation depending on who is joining us. I have a master dinner plan made up in Excel that lists all the menu items and then a detailed shopping list below. Each year all I have to do is print it off and take it to the store. This is a sure fire way to make sure you remember everything at the store. There is nothing more frustrating than preparing all your food on Thanksgiving day only to realize that you have forgotten something at the store. It can really put a crimp in your food prep plans.

Here is my menu for those interested.

Stuffing (A fabulous homemade stuffing!)
Mashed Potatoes
Broccoli Casserole
Cherry Jello Salad
Pie (Pumpkin, Blackberry and Banana Cream this year)
Celery with Cheesewhiz (a family tradition)
Sweet Potatoes
Brussel Sprouts (Something new this year, but my family loves them so it will be a hit)
Veggie Tray

This may sound like a fairly simple menu, but it is packed with traditional foods that both my husband and I grew up with. We love it. Isn't that what it is all about? It isn't necessary to create a bunch of gourmet food that you see on Food Network that nobody will love. By all means, make the new recipes if you think your family will love them, but don't feel you have to just to be considered a "great cook"

Another time saving tip is to buy all non-perishable items early. I have already purchased my non-perishable items. I have had one too many times where I have waited until the week of Thanksgiving to purchase items and have them completely gone. It is frustrating to have to go from store to store trying to find the one or two items that everyone else wants.

We always decorate and set the table the night before. This allows us to really take time to make the table beautiful and we don't have to worry about it during the food prep crunch the next day.

I like to do all my chopping the day before. This saves loads of time. I will also make my pies and jello salad the day before. I think I will also make the roll dough and let it rise in the fridge over night. Always try to do the things ahead of time that you can. But don't do things that will actually set you back. One year I made the broccoli casserole and sweet potato casserole the day before, I had to let them come to room temp before I could cook them in the oven or my baking stone would crack. Normally it wouldn't have been a problem but I had forgotten to take them out of the fridge until it was time to cook. This set us back farther than if I had just made them the day of.

Unfortunately I don't have 2 ovens. This proves to be the trickiest part of my Thanksgiving cooking. In the past, I have had other families for dinner. I usually assign out the rolls, and pies so I don't have to use my oven to cook them up. This year, I am doing the whole thing on my own. I am still trying to figure out how to cook everything in my one small oven. Sadly, the people who remodeled the kitchen right before we purchased our home bought high quality appliances but the oven they chose is so small!! I can only just fit the turkey in it. I usually cook it first and then let it rest while I try to cram as many other things in the oven to cook as possible. It will be tricky because we all love hot rolls so I am going to have to time it really well. Luckily I have a warmer drawer under the oven to keep the rolls warm and any other food that needs to wait to be served.

My last tip for today is to try and have a sou chef. This is my husband. He knows that his job is to do whatever it is that I need to have done. Most of the time he just cleans up after me which is a true life saver. Some times he just keeps the kids out of my hair. Other times he chops things for me. And he always gets to do the table decoration with the kids. They really get into it and make a nice center piece using fresh apples, oranges, mini pumpkins, gourds, branches from the yard and candles. I will be sure to post a pic of this years creation.

I hope this helps some of you first time Thanksgiving hosts out there. If I think of any more time saving tips as I go through my routine, I will update. I will be posting recipes and pictures as I create my dishes.


Megan said...

Great tips Brandy! I wish my husband would be my sou chef.
I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. :)

Marisa said...

Great tips. Thanks!!!

katy said...

Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog. and thanks for these dinner tips. I'm hosting my first thanksgiving this year and can use all the advice possible.

Heather said...

So it's been a year... pictures? :)