Recipe cards flying, magazines being dog-eared, recipes from favorite bloggers being bookmarked. Yes. It is my favorite time of year again. Thanksgiving preparation is in full effect.
And, yes, once again I am the host of this fabulous family-and-friend-centered food event. It is the one holiday meal that I request as my responsibility every year. And this marks the eighth consecutive year that I have hosted and the eighth consecutive year that I have that same feeling of excitement as the planning commences.
Now, not to toot my own horn, but I feel like I have this baby down. I am not up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving morning. I am not running around like a mad-woman while the rest of the family is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I am not wondering if the turkey is over-done or if I can get the potatoes mashed before the turkey needs carving.
Why? Because I made a plan years ago. And (here is the kicker)…I STICK TO IT. It took some major mistakes to learn this was very important for me.
Well, most of the time. Except the year that my husband got a little ambitious in the traditional Thanksgiving morning father-and-son flag football game and ended up in the Emergency Room and requiring a long surgery that involved lots of metal. Spending time in the hospital that Thanksgiving morning put a major kink in my mojo that year. But the rest of the time? …I am on the ball.
I try not to fall off that “to-do” wagon because if I do, then I know that I will be up on that Thursday morning at three a.m. running around like that mad-woman I try not to be, wondering if the turkey needs mashing while the mashed potatoes are carved. And instead of us all sitting around and giving thanks for each other, I would instead be giving my family a major pain in the you-know-what without much thankfulness involved.
Yes. I know I have to stick to my schedule. If for no other reason than the sanity of my family.
So I am going to try and help all of you who may want a little more organization to your Thanksgiving preparations. Then you can leave your family wondering how you managed to pull off the gig so seamlessly when you were watching that parade of floats on television right along with them instead of slamming cupboards in the kitchen.
I will provide you my menu, including all of the recipes that typically grace our family table (all with allergen-friendly variations, of course).
I will give you my schedule.
I will provide many tips to go along with each of the recipes I will be posting from my menu. Including tricks of the trade for: perfect mashed potatoes, a gravy that is so rich and smooth you will want to eat it with your spoon, the juiciest and most perfectly cooked turkey, and a carving method to prevent you from mutilating your sweet bird that you worked so hard on.
And last of all, I will give you my MASTER shopping list (if you were to use my menu).
But, first up will be my menu and the schedule.
Simple and Delicious Crock-pot Mashed Potatoes – a method to not leave you doing the well-known Thanksgiving jig called the Last Minute Potato Mash
My Homemade Gluten-Free Cornbread Recipe – to use for the stuffing and a variation on the recipe to make the muffins to serve with the meal.
The Family Favorite Gluten-Free Cornbread and Crusty Bread Stuffing Recipe – with Apples, Sausage, pine-nuts, golden raisins, and a secret ingredient that knocks this one out of the park.
Cider Glazed Brined Turkey with Apple Brandy Gravy – trust me when I say you will be eating this gravy with a spoon (a perfect reason to make a lot of it)
THE SCHEDULE THAT KEEPS ME SANE:
(at least this is what works for me)
Two weeks before the Big Day:
I order my Fresh Free-Range Turkey from my local Whole Foods. I make up my shopping list. I assign my guests their dishes they are going to be bringing.
One week before the Big Day:
I shop for all of my dried-good staples.
Saturday or Sunday before the Big Day:
I shop for all of my perishables.
Tuesday before the Big Day:
I pick up my pre-ordered turkey.
I set my table and I get out each serving dish and serving utensil that I will be using and label what goes in each (so guests can help without having to ask what goes where).
I make my Cranberry Sauce and refrigerate it. I make my cornbread to use in the stuffing – it is actually better the more stale that it is.
Wednesday, the day before the Big Day:
I prep my brine and place the turkey in it.
I make my Individual Toffee Pecan Streusels (up until the point of baking them).
I make my Crustless Pumpkin Streusel Pie.
I make my stuffing (up until the point of baking it).
I make the cold green bean salad (it is actually better when it has a chance to sit overnight).
Then I go partake in one of my favorite parts of this long weekend – the traditional flag-football game and chili event with our family and good friends that has now been passed down to our sons. Since, after my husband’s incident, it was decided that the dads are a bit too old to be continuing in this tradition, the dads are now the coaches and the moms are now the cheerleaders.
Thursday morning of The Big Day:
NOTE: We eat between 3:30 and 4 pm on Thanksgiving afternoon typically so you would have to adjust according to your eating schedule.
8:00 a.m. – I make my second batch of cornbread, this time for the muffins I will be serving. I make my mashed potatoes to go into the crock pot.
9:00 a.m. – I take the turkey out of the refrigerator (usually about a 21 pound bird). I drain the brine and rinse the bird thoroughly. Then I let it sit out until I am ready to put it into the oven at 11:30 to truly bring it to ROOM TEMPERATURE and allow the skin to dry (so that it will crisp better) before placing it in the oven.
10:00 a.m. – I prep the turkey.
11:30 a.m. – The turkey makes it’s way into the oven. I turn on the potatoes in the crock pot.
12:30 p.m. – I shower (or, maybe not). I get my gravy stock going.
1:00 p.m. -I occasionally baste the bird with my Cider Glaze and I watch a little football with my pig-skinned obsessed family.
2:00 p.m. – Guests show up. Wine is poured. Children start running amuck. Laughter is shared. Oh, and at this point I also take the prepped stuffing out of the fridge to bring to room temperature before placing in the oven. I bake the stuffing after the turkey comes out and is resting before the carving.
3:00 p.m. – Turkey comes out of the oven. Stuffing goes in.
The Green bean and shallot salad and the cranberry sauce come out of the refrigerator and go on to the table.
Gravy is finished off. Mashed potatoes are placed in the serving dish and topped off with all of the garnishes. I enlist the help of guests to fill water glasses on the table.
3:30 p.m. – Stuffing is placed on the table with the green beans, cranberry sauce, cornbread muffins, and potatoes.
Turkey is carved.
Toffee Pecan Apple Streusels go into the oven during dinner (just set that timer so that you do not forget about them while you are busy entering your food coma). Those streusels will be done just in time to top off the meal with a sweet ending.
Now go gorge yourself until you have to open up that top button (or better yet, just wear elastic). And tell yourself that the calories eaten today will not matter because you are going to work out really hard tomorrow (even though you know you really won’t).
Keeping sane and calm during the holidays is the best way to remain grateful. Did you know that according to research from the University of California at Davis, that people who write down five things that they are grateful for every week have fewer physical ailments such as headaches, stomach aches, and joint pain?
Why not start today? What are you grateful for?
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