Ok. If you've been following my blog, you have all the recipes you need to make a traditional homemade Thanksgiving meal. But you're probably thinking, there is no way I can make all that stuff, from scratch and get it all on the table hot at the same time without loosing my mind. Never fear! I have the game plan for you.
First, getting the meal prepared should be part of the festivities and everyone should be involved, including the kids and the men. The kitchen should be full of people and chatting and tasting and craziness. Mistakes will happen and will become the talk of next year's event.
Second, I firmly believe in asking people to bring a dish. A good guest will offer and will ask what they can bring. Tell them exactly what they can bring. Don't ask what they want to bring. Say, "Thank you. Would you bring the dinner rolls?" But then you have to be OK with them bringing something store-bought or different than how you make it. If you really, truly don't need anything for the big meal, then ask for people to bring appetizers or wine or a centerpiece. Everyone loves to feel like they are contributing.
And, when someone arrives and asks "What can I do to help." Tell them what they can do to help - chop, mash, stir. There is plenty to do and people want to help - they really do.
Third, plan on simple dinners during the week before the big day. Take-out is your friend. Pizza, Chinese. Or have "snack" dinners - crackers, cheese and apples/grapes - are good.
Here's the game plan:
Saturday, clean out the fridge. Then go shopping and fill it back up again. You'll probably forget something at the store so be prepared to have to go back during the week. But under no circumstances go to the store on Thanksgiving. If you don't have something, muddle through. Employees deserve to be home with their friends and family, so boycotting stores on Thanksgiving makes a good statement.
Sunday make the cranberry sauce. Either process in mason jars and store in the pantry or pour into molds and put in the fridge. Older kids can help stir the berries, mill to remove the skins and pour into molds.
Monday do nothing. Really, don't cook or bake anything! Order take-out for dinner.
Tuesday make the candied yams. Candied yams should really sit for a couple of days in the fridge to let all the flavors mingle. My dad makes this dish and does a great job with it.
Wednesday we start getting serious. You are going to make the jello salad, stuffing, green beans and pie crust dough (if you are making that from scratch). At our house, my daughter, who is 11 yrs old, makes the jello salad, my mom makes the stuffing and I make the green beans (and I buy the pie crust - it's the one thing I don't make from scratch).
Thursday play by play:
8:00am have a big, healthy breakfast and shower
9:00am make the potato roll dough and let rise for the first time
9:30am stuff the turkey and place in oven (this is for a 16 lb turkey and to eat around 3pm - turkey cooking chart)
10:30am have your husband, dad, partner or child peal the potatoes while you sit, read the news paper and have coffee, a mimosa or Bloody Mary. Seriously, chill for 30 minutes.
11am boil the potatoes, mash and place in a buttered crockpot on "keep warm." Then punch down the roll dough and let rise again.
12:00 put out a tray of store-bought, pre-cut veggies, apple slices, humus dip and crackers (photo). Get the green beans and candied yams out of the fridge and set near stove to bring to room temperature.
12:30 Ask someone else set the table, including putting out trivets and serving spoons. Have your husband, dad, partner or child grease the muffin tins in preparation for the rolls.
Take a break!! Have a glass of wine or beer. Watch some football or take a walk or play a game with the kids. Seriously, enjoy some time with your family and friends.
1:30pm Back to work. Form the rolls in the muffin tins and set out to rise the 3rd time. Make the pumpkin pie filling, roll out the crust dough and pour in the filling (set aside).
2:30pm take the turkey out of the oven and set under a foil tent to rest. Up the oven temp to 400 F and put the rolls in. Also put in the green beans and candied yams (if there is room). Alternatively, use the microwave and/or toaster oven to warm up the side dishes. Make the gravy from the turkey drippings.
2:45pm take out the rolls, green beans and candied yams. Drop the oven temp down to 350 F and put in the pumpkin pies. Ask your child to put rolls into a basket. Ask your husband, dad, partner, friend to scoop the mashed potatoes from the crockpot into a serving dish, put the cranberry sauce onto a serving plate, and pour gravy into a dish.
3:00pm ask your husband, dad or partner to carve the turkey and have everyone (including guests) help place all food on the table.
4:00pm check on the pie and take it out if it's done. Let it cool for a half hour, while you enjoy wine and chatting with your family and friends. We take take a walk around the neighborhood while the pie cools.
4:30pm have desert and coffee or more wine.
Make everyone help clean up! Kids can clear the table. Adults can put leftovers into tupperwear. (Tip - have guests bring a tupperwear to take home leftovers.) Load what can go into the dishwasher and run it. Rinse special dishes and set aside - you can wash these later or even tomorrow morning.