Two weeks from tomorrow it will be Thanksgiving Day, so suffice it to say the countdown to Turkey Day has officially begun! To kick off my official preparation process, I am getting organized. As I may have mentioned in recent posts, I am going to be hosting my entire family for thanksgiving this year. While the idea of hosting Thanksgiving for nine people is definitely intimidating, I have devised a plan for how to go about preparing and executing what I think (hope) will be a fabulous turkey dinner. Leading up to the big day, I plan to walk you all through my preparation process to hopefully provide some guidance and ideas/inspiration for hosting your own Thanksgiving. Selfishly, I am also hoping that this blog project will also keep me from feeling overwhelmed during my own prep! In any event, here is what I am focusing on this week for "Operation: Turkey Day Prep!"
Decide on your Menu
Once you have your guest list set, you need to get your menu planned. The majority of prep work for hosting thanksgiving dinner is determined by the menu, so take some time to go through all of your recipes and figure out exactly what you want to serve. Here is a list of what I plan to serve for thanksgiving dinner, with links to recipes I have found online.
- Thanksgiving Turkey (*Turkey 101 will be up on the blog this Friday)
- Fluffy Mashed Potatoes (found in this issue of Cook's Illustrated)
- Gravy (Recipe on the Jar)
- Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Pecans
- Sausage, Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Stuffing
- Mom's New England Creamed Onions
- Steamed Green Peas
- Cranberries with Apples and Brandy
- Dinner Rolls (from a local bakery, purchased on Thanksgiving)
- Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Swirl
- Sea Salted Caramel Apple Pie
- Pumpkin Pecan Pie with Whiskey Butter Sauce
- Dean & Deluca's Acorn Sugar Cookies (*Matches my Tablescape Theme)
Make a Master Grocery List
This sounds really nerdy, but oh how it has helped to make a master spreadsheet that details the exact ingredients (+ quantities) for every recipe on my menu. The beauty of creating a master spreadsheet is that you will have ability to see exactly how much of every ingredient is needed. Why is this a beautiful thing?
- You can make a comprehensive grocery shopping list, which should mitigate the grocery store trips.
- You can crosswalk your list with what you already have in your pantry and fridge, to avoid buying duplicate items.
Clean Out Your Fridge and Pantry
This brings me to my next point…right now is the perfect time to completely clean out both your refrigerator and your pantry. We all have those forgotten perishables that are still being stored in our kitchens and taking up valuable real estate. This is the time to get rid of them to make room for all of the food that is about to come into With everything I plan to serve for thanksgiving dinner, I need to make as much space available as possible.
Assess Your Inventory
In addition to organizing your menu, pantry list and grocery shopping, it is just as important to make sure you have all of the proper equipment needed for cooking and serving thanksgiving dinner. One trick I like to use for assessing my inventory is the good ole Post-it! Label each piece of cookware and serving dish with what they will be holding or cooking. This way you can see what goes where and identify any menu items that do not have a proper serving dish or if you are missing any necessary cookware. One thing that came to my attention while conducting this exercise, was that I was in need of a baking dish for the creamed onions. It is so much better to find out now what you are missing while you still have time to go out and purchase those necessary items. Below are the questions I ask myself when it comes to assessing my inventory:
- Serving Pieces- Does every menu item have a designated serving dish and corresponding serving utensil?
- Cookware- Based on my cooking timeline, does every menu item have the appropriate piece of cookware available for use when it's time to cook that particular dish?
- Dinnerware- Do I have enough Stemware, Flatware, Glassware, Dinnerware and Linens for (insert # of guests) to properly dine?
Start the Cleaning Process Now
The one part of entertaining that usually puts me over the top with exhaustion is the cleaning. Not only do you have to plan a menu, set the table and cook the meal, but you also want to have a clean house to entertain your guests. I recommend getting those cleaning projects that are less frequent but still need to be done, out of the way now. For example, I am going to be polishing my silver, dusting my light fixture and cleaning my windows. These are tasks that are only in need of monthly cleanings, but still need to be kept up with because it's noticeable when they are not properly maintained.
Just writing about getting organized with my Thanksgiving preparations has already helped to calm my nerves. Personally, I feel like accomplishing this list will help to reassure me that I really CAN DO THIS! Regardless of your guest size, hosting Thanksgiving Dinner is no easy feat, so having an action plan can really help to get you on track for hosting a fabulous turkey dinner.