Monday, November 25, 2013

Stress Free Thanksgiving...

I am a list maker, always have been always will be.  I laugh at my Mom because she is such a planner, but in all reality, I am just like her in many ways.  I was a girl scout and isn't one of their motto's, "always be prepared" (or maybe that's the boy scouts!)  I know that it is not always possible in this hectic busy world we live in, but a little forward planning and forethought does make holiday entertaining so much easier!

I have been making Thanksgiving dinner for my family for many years now, and it doesn't even stress me out anymore.  Really when you think about it, you are making pretty much the same meal every year, with maybe a few new additions of new recipes that you want to try.  So I have had a lot of practice now!  
I remember the first time I had to make a turkey it was pretty stressful.  You have to thaw it a couple of day's ahead unless you have a fresh one, and then you have to decided if you should you brine it or baste it, deep fry it or cook it in a bag. Everyone has opinions on the best way to cook your turkey too, so it is not too dry and of course the timing is always a big thing... will it be done on time? I love me a pop up timer.  If your bird doesn't have one, you can buy one with the kitchen gadgets in the grocery store really cheap and all you have to do is pop it in!  I have found they are pretty accurate too. I used to think that a big bird couldn't possibly be done when it popped up so I would leave it in "just a little longer" but the bird almost always came out too dry. So now I pretty much trust the timer.  If it pops, I check the temperature with my meat thermometer and it is usually done!  The turkey needs to rest a bit before you cut it, so don't rush the process!  I don't really stress about the bird getting done on time, when that puppy is done, it is done! I am cooking, so I am in control.  If I don't get it done on time, then who cares, everyone can wait a little longer... I just try to relax and enjoy the day as it unfolds.  Just think of it this way, the longer they wait the hungrier they will be! Just put out a few snacks and turn on the game or parade and relax it's Thanksgiving!)

While thinking about making Thanksgiving dinner and planning my menu I thought I would share some of my top ten tips for simplifying Thanksgiving with you so maybe you can relax and enjoy the holiday this year! The cook should definitely enjoy it too!

  1. Plan ahead (this is a no brainer), get out a paper and pen and make a menu at least a week or so before the big day. Take a little time and think about what you are going to make, make a list, get out the recipes, and make a shopping list of ingredients and supplies that you need.  Here is a great printable for a  Thanksgiving dinner planner for your Thanksgiving Feast from!
  2. Shop early!  Get what you can a week or so before so you avoid the last minute big shop at the store. It is always busier a day or two before a big holiday.  Make a short list of perishables that you can run out to get a day or so before and go though the self serve line!
  3. Delegate!  If you have friends and family invited, ask them to bring something.  Doing this not only checks some stuff off your list but makes the guests feel part of it too!  I find it is wise to ask guests to bring, appetizers, salads, or desserts and leave the main dishes and hot sides for the home cook because it is easier to control when everything is hot and ready to go on the table and also easier for your guests to transport and store once they are at your house.
  4. Simplify your menu.  For a large meal like this you don't need 100 side dishes!  I know all the recipes in the magazines look amazing, but you don't have to try them all for this one meal!  Limit your sides to 3 or 4 favorites!
  5. Never, Never, Never try out a new complicated recipe for a big meal like this.  Stick with the tried and true, and save the experimenting for smaller less stressful meals.
  6. Plan every detail.  Decide who is going to sit where and make a seating arrangement in advance.  You don't want Grandpa Joe sitting next to cousin Ed if they don't get along.  Make place cards so it is clear!
  7. Think about your table setting and decorations ahead of time and keep it simple.  A bowl of fruit, nuts or gourds can be a simple striking centerpiece for Thanksgiving... you don't need much because you need to save room for all the food!
  8. Set your table a day or even two before.  Especially if you have a dinning room that you don't use everyday!  This is something that you don't need to save for the last minute! Get it done early and forget about it!  If you have tables that need to be set up for guests in rooms that you use everyday. Just get the table cloths, napkins, centerpieces, and table settings ready and in a box that can be pulled out and set up the morning of!
  9. Make ahead!  Start cooking one or two days before Thanksgiving anything that can be made ahead, do it and get it out of the way. There are plenty of things that can be made in advance, like cranberry sauce.  It can be made and put in the fridge... the flavors blend and become more intense the next day anyway!  I always cut up my celery and onions for my stuffing the day before, and it saves a ton of time! 
  10. Count your blessings.  Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we are thankful for.  Take the time to do this.  You are going to be busy getting dinner ready so take a few minutes the night before and really think about why you are thankful, then when everyone gathers around the table with the beautiful meal you have prepared, look around and really see all those blessings.
  11. Ok, so I had 11 tips but who is counting! Number 11 is, relax and enjoy the day! What is the worst that can happen... the turkey is a little dry?  It's not the end of the world... nothing a little gravy can't fix! 
Help Me Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Oh God, When I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, 
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home;
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain;
help me to remember those who suffer;
And remembering,
help me destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
by word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
~Samuel F. Pugh

Happy Thanksgiving, from our house to yours,

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