Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving for Dummies

My brother is going to kill me for this!

I'm not one to freak out about Thanksgiving. Having hosted two traditional American Thanksgiving dinners in Germany were very good prep. Back then I was working from a tiny kitchen equipped with a tiny fridge and range, very limited cook and serveware, and no big supermarket. I learned that planning ahead is the greatest single step for throwing any dinner party. That and knowing your limits. The first year I couldn't even find a whole turkey, so I had to cook turkey parts instead. The second year I couldn't find puff pastry, so I ditched my dessert plan instead of making it from scratch. Somehow it all worked out, and both dinners went off without a hitch. I wasn't even stressed. Yes, copious amounts of beer and wine were consumed those nights, but still.

This year E and I will be guests at the in laws', so I don't really have that much to do. It feels kind of weird to just show up with a few dishes, but I'm going to enjoy it (plus, I have a good feeling I'll still get stuck in the kitchen!). So, I'm sort of planning an imaginary menu for Giveaway Blogs' Plan it, Blog it! Thanksgiving 2010.  I will be making a few of these things, but the rest of our meal will be at the hands of others. Pray for us. And then leave a comment on this post so I can win :P What? Each comment counts as a vote! Please and thank you!

Thanksgiving for Dummies:

Monday (Crap, that's today. Get your butt in gear!): 
  • Make your list, check it twice, then go shopping. Have everything you need ready to go by checking this list against your fridge and pantry contents and your recipes. You do not want to be running off to the store in the middle of prep.
  • Make sure you delegated the appetizers to someone else. And a salad. And maybe some desserts. This isn't a soup kitchen.
  • This may sound silly, but figure out what baking/serving dishes you'll need for each dish. It sucks to have a pan full of something ready to bake and have no empty baking dish to put it in. This was my first lesson from Germany. I baked stuffing in a lid. Yup.
  • Make My Aunt Cynthia's Party Potatoes. These are quick, easy, and crowd pleasing, not to mention sinfully delicious. Wrap them in foil and stick them in the fridge.
  • Make Cranberry Citrus Relish.
  • Prep your vegetables for my Roasted Root Vegetables with Herbs de Proven├žal by peeling and cutting everything. Toss them into a baking dish, wrap with foil and stick it in the fridge.
  • Mix up your turkey rub from My Favorite Roast Turkey. Guess where you should stick it?
  • Make dessert. My mom's crazy amazing Frosted Apple Squares should do the trick. These actually don't need refrigeration, so just lay them on your serving platter and wrap well with plastic wrap.
  • Need something a little more decadent? Make  this Gingersnap Cherry Cheesecake. Stupid delicious. Stick it in the fridge.
  • Pull out and clean a cooler. This will save your sanity whether or not you have big drinkers. You'll need that fridge space, so beers, juice, and soda can chill in a cooler so that people will stay out of your way :) 
  • Set your table. I'm serious.
  • In the morning: Take the butter mixture for your turkey out of the fridge to soften. Eat an apple square for sustenance. Put on a pair of stretch pants and some makeup. You're all class.
  • 2-3 hours before dinner: Finish workin' on that bird and stick it in the oven. Have a glass of wine. 
  • 1.5 hours before dinner: Make dressing. I love this Savory Mushroom Dressing recipe. My mom always did stuffing inside the turkey, but I think it's a messy pain in the ass. I use apricot or pear nectar in place of the cognac (save your pennies for the good wine). Have a glass of wine. 
  • 45 minutes before dinner: Finish the veggies and stick them in the oven. Refill your glass of wine while you set out all of the accouterments, like cranberry relish, rolls, and the good ol' pickle tray. 
  • 30 minutes before dinner: Grab your potatoes from the fridge. Stick them in the oven.
  • Done. Eat, drink, and be merry. Be thankful for those stretch pants. And the wine.

Now for those of you who are insane and also want to take on some fun crafty things in the midst of the week's business, here you go. Tasty links for funsies you can do with your kids or delegate to your kids to keep them out of your hair:

Printable Blessings Tags from Whipperberry. Use them for seating cards, let kids create their own blessings tree or board, whatevs.

More Free Printables from It Is What It Is. Love the colors on these!

Pom Pom Turkeys from Martha. For adventurous folk or independently crafty kidlets. 

Mod Podge Pumpkins from Simple Mommy Secrets. An awesome way to use those baby pumpkins you may still have sitting around from Halloween. I do.

Bottom Line? Enjoy yourself, even if you need to medicate to handle your family. Be thankful that you get to do this at all, and say a little prayer for those who can't. That's what it's all about anyway.


~Chris said...

OK, I'm adding this to my DUH moment list of tips I shouldn't need to have been told or read about ... setting the table the night before!! Makes perfect sense. We usually try to get the kids to do it, but everyone is off doing their own thing and we're rushing around trying to finish dinner and set the table. Good call!!! :)

Kirby said...

Great tips! I'm also going to my in laws so not a whole lot of prep for me, these would have really worked out oitherwise! Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

he, he! I'm guessing you miss wine?! Too funny. I laughed at the stretch pants too...
Love, Jenny C
PS. forgot to "check the list twice" and now have run to the store. Damn, also forgot three more things so I'm going tomorrow too. (That makes 3 stops. Arg.) Happy Thanksgiving!

Joanna said...

Jenny: I do, I do, but it's really the only thing I miss! And I've discovered a serious love for stretch pants. I feel kind of like a Golden Girl.

Meg said...

Frosted Apple Squares sounds absolutely delicious! I think I'll try squeezing those in to this year's menu!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Michele@ FitFoodista said...

Great post - and sooo glad I read it! I thought I was prepared. Turkey - check. Dessert - check. Stretch pants.....oh crap! Thanks for the reminder ;)

Butterpoweredbike said...

What? Plan ahead? Hellllo, then you can't act all put out and burdened and guilt your family into doing something wonderful for you in return! Nice sounding recipes, though. Thanks for linking to the Hearth and Soul hop.

Jessica Gardner said...

I am so excited to make these potatoes and cranberry sauce. Oops, it's Tuesday! I better get on it!!
Thanks Joanna for the great tips! Love the time table - this will be a lifesaver!
CRAP I don't have placemats or a centerpiece. Rrrgh....

girlichef said...

Fabulous tips! I'm heading to my mom's this year, so I'm just bringing all the bread, a pie, cranberry sauce, applesauce...and probably something undetermined...she's doing all the heavy lifting ;) Get yourself some sparkling grape juice and raise your glass to an easy holiday! Have a great one :D ...oh, and thanks for sharing w/ the hearth and soul hop this week!

Barbara Bakes said...

A nice checklist. I put take the butter out of the fridge on my list. Happy Thanksgiving!

J L Health 918-836-0565 said...

I definitely need all these tips!! Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

Jessica Gardner said...

Last night I made the cranberry relish which is great and the party potatoes which a word...AMAZING!!!!! OMG I can not wait to bust those out and reheat them on Thanksgiving! My family might actually believe that I can cook!

Christy said...

this is a great post..i had to laugh at the set your table---i set my table to music and mocking on monday night:)thank you for sharing this with tuesday night supper club...wishing you a happy and stress-free thanksgiving!

Alexis AKA MOM said...

hehe I'm dying laughing. I love the Thursday wrap. I always love start with eating a dessert! Stretch pants good idea! And a glass of wine, that is my type of day!

GREAT ideas :)

Joanna said...

Jessica, I made the potaotes yesterday, too! Ate at least a cup before putting them in the pan :) I have to get my fill before they get devoured by family. And believe it or not, you CAN cook. I've been telling you for years!

Glad everyone could get a laugh out of this... holiday stress requires it. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

Joanne said...

Your prep sounds so incredibly on top of things. Good stuff. ANd I would love to be present at this Thanksgiving feast. Even if you had to bake the stuffing in a lid :P

Kristen said...

Sounds like a great menu. Hope your Thanksgiving was great. I like some of your helpful hints. I cannot imagine baking food in a lid!

Danielle said...

Hey Joanna...Great tips here! Hope you had a great Thanksgivinig. :)
You're the winner for the Willow House Giveaway and Michele needs you're address to send you your porcelain measuring spoons. Email me: peacefulcooking at gmail dot com

Ellen said...

Wow now I'm really hungry! Never read about food on an almost empty stomach!

Nithu Bala said...

"Make your list, check it twice, then go shopping" - This is really a very useful tip..I like pre-planning things before we put it to action:-)