Giving Thanks is hosted by Kelli at There is No Place Like Home
Having been in the restaurant business most of my life has taught me a great many things, not the least of which is being prepared. Now being prepared sounds generic, but there is being prepared with a menu, being prepared with a grocery list, being prepared with sale ads and coupons to stay on budget with that list, being prepared with table arrangement, being prepared with decorations, being prepared for disaster… being prepared to change anything and everything at the last minute.
As a child I observed all the hubbub with anticipation and excitement. My parents always argued while preparing for the family and holiday meal which created that much more stress and began my impending dread of holiday/family get togethers.
As for disaster, it seems that in my parent’s house it always happened on Thanksgiving and usually involved the garbage disposal backing up and creating a HUGE mess. One year in particular it was really bad! So bad we couldn’t even have people over. My grandparents only lived a few blocks away. Long story short, grandpa brought their red Chevy station wagon over to our house with and old quilt spread out in the back and the adults loaded all the food there. My uncle and I rode in the back to keep all the bowls and pans from tilting over. While grandpa had been at our house, grandma had set the table at their house. All the food was unloaded from the station wagon and the preparation continued in grandma’s kitchen. It was one of the more memorable Thanksgivings I can remember.
Years later when I began making the Thanksgiving meal I too began to stress over it and then I decided to change it! I remembered that story and decided being prepared and flexible was the key as I too wanted to enjoy the day.
- A few weeks before the big holiday sit down with your recipes and take stock of your pantry as you make a menu and shopping list. Compare your list to the local sales ads and the coupons you have on hand. I try to shop on a Tuesday or Wednesday when I have the time to browse and compare if necessary. I won’t say I have never run to the store for a last minute item, but I can guarantee you I always have few enough items to use the express line. I always shake my head at those people with FULL baskets on Thanksgiving morning with the turkey proudly plopped on top of the boxed dressing.
- Now that your menu and list is complete, plan your table and decorations. I keep it harvest and autumn themed, you know warm and cozy. For me that requires ironing the table cloth & napkins and retrieving decorations from the basement so I do this the week before. On the Tuesday before I do my dusting and arrange my decorations. Everyone is different so my biggest suggestion is pretty and comfortable so everyone has a good time. (Too formal and the whole day becomes stiff.). Then on Wednesday night after dinner and the kitchen is cleaned up I iron my tablecloth and leave it draped over the table with the napkins already in their silver rings
- On Monday I make a BIG double batch of cranberry sauce and freeze half for Christmas. I’m already working at making my Christmas preparation stress free. LOL.
- Usually on Tuesday I scrub and peel my potatoes and boil them. I always add salt, pepper and teaspoon of vinegar to the water. Then I drain them, place them in the mixing bowl, add the butter and cover them for the refrigerator. On Thursday all I have to do is pop them into the microwave long enough to heat them and melt the butter, add the buttermilk and seasonings and mash. This way the dirty pan has long since been washed and I don’t risk garbage disposal issues.
- I also make my stuffing on Tuesday so the flavors can meld. I actually bake it as if it were being eaten that night. Then on Thursday I only need to heat it through instead of taking up precious oven space for a longer period of time. I often make this a double batch and freeze half for Christmas.
- The traditional green bean casserole and glazed carrots or apricot carrot casserole are made on Tuesday too as well as any dips and appetizers.
- I reserve Wednesday for the sweets like Pumpkin Cheesecake and Rum Raisin Carrot Cake or Bread Pudding so there are fresh, but flavorful. All the pots, pans, etc… from Tuesday and Wednesday have been washed and put away helping to alleviate A LOT of the stress.
- Dad used to prepare the turkey on Wednesday evening. This way you can boil the carcass for a great tasting gravy and have the entire mess cleaned up before the first person arrives. He would layer the white meat on one side and the dark on the other side of the oven proof platter, but ALWAYS would spray a light mist of water between the layers. He would then seal it in a tight layer of heavy duty foil. Now it is ready to be heated in the oven the next day.
Now on Thursday all I have to do is pop the turkey in the oven, set the rest of the table, make the gravy and pour myself a glass of wine while I wait stress free!