Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thanksgiving Countdown! An Easy Guide to Thanksgiving Success

It's November!  I am on a mission to take stress out of the holidays and infuse it with peace by making space for creativity and togetherness.  Allowing just a little bit of forethought from here until the big day can actually make Thanksgiving enjoyable; even for those of us putting it on.  Imagine that!  I've assembled a little guide.  Just plug in your recipes and boom.  Thanksgiving done well.  Let's get our Turkey Day Game on, shall we?

2-3 Weeks Before:
  • Prepare menu.
  • Coordinate with others who will be apart of the feast: who is bringing what?  Don’t forget drinks!
  • Collect recipes for the dishes you are responsible to make, including turkey brine if you plan on brining.  Google recipes you need if you don't already have them (be sure to read reviews; they're life-savers!).
  • Make a grocery list of every item needed for the recipes you will be using.
  • Buy all needed non-perishables NOW, before they are sold out.  Also check expiration dates on perishables needed and buy what won’t go bad before Thanksgiving.  The earlier you can get your supplies, the better!  Avoid risking your needed ingredients selling out.  Don’t forget the turkey!
  • Be sure you have enough place settings for all your guests.  If you are buying paper ware, do it now, as well as napkins, flatware, cups, and mugs.  Do you have enough foil?  Butter?  Things for guests to take leftovers in?  Better yet, ask guests to bring take-home containers for leftovers.
  • Make a shopping list of any needed kitchen gear and place settings: roasting pan, enough pie pans/baking pans for dishes you are making, a baster, thermometer, if you are brining the turkey, be sure to have all the ingredients for brining as well as a brining bag. Do you have enough serving spoons?  Ask friends, parents, aunts, grandparents, if there’s anything you can borrow.
  • Start eating through your fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Make room for Thanksgiving supplies by preparing your current meals with ingredients you already have.  This will save money and give you the space needed.
1 Week Before:
  • Prepare a super-easy menu plan from now until Thanksgiving, using as many ingredients that you already have (and won’t need for Thanksgiving).  Find simple menu plans here.
  • Make ahead and freeze: pie crusts, sweet breads, such as pumpkin and cranberry, and dough for rolls.
  • Buy the rest of the perishables on your shopping list.  After you have done this, you can sit pretty, knowing you have all your ingredients before the pre-holiday shopping frenzy when supplies become scarce. 
  • Add any festive touches to your home: download a Thanksgiving soundtrack, decorate the table with some mini pumpkins, candles, gourds… Have some fun on Pinterest

Turkey Week!

  • Sunday:  If you're using a frozen turkey and plan on brining, move turkey to fridge to start thawing.
  • Monday: If using a frozen turkey and aren’t brining, move to fridge to start thawing.  Make cranberry sauce and store in fridge (it will stay good for up to two weeks).
  • Tuesday: Begin cleaning the house and setting up for the big day: do you have enough napkins, toilet paper, and kleenex?  Get all caught up on laundry so everyone has enough clothes to pull from and things like hand towels are clean and ready for Thursday.  Make turkey brine (if brining) and store in the fridge.  Brine recipes can easily be found on the internet if you don't already have one.
  • Wednesday: Start cooking!  If brining the turkey, get out he brining bag, place turkey inside, and pour brine over turkey.  Close it up and store in the fridge for 16-24 hours (brining instructions are all over the internet if you don't have one).  Defrost pie crusts and sweet breads you froze a couple weeks ago; leave them out on the counter for a couple hours, then let them finish defrosting in the fridge.  Prepare appetizers and arrange on serving platters if you have enough fridge space and if you don’t have to reheat them (olives, cheese, pickles, cold cuts…).  Make any other sides that will reheat well, like soups, yams, casseroles, creamed corn or onions (Brussels sprouts and green beans will need to be made Thursday).  Rinse and prepare any salad greens, store in a zip-lock or air-tight container with a towel on the bottom to absorb extra moisture and keep fresh.  Prepare the table: arrange chairs and place settings so all that’s needed is the food.  Rearrange any furniture, if needed, to accommodate guests.  Double check that you have those things that slip through the cracks, like foil, butter, things for guests to take leftovers home in (or remind guests to bring take-home containers).
  • Thanksgiving Day!  It’s go time!  Crank up some music and work your magic.  You’ve got this.
    • Follow your turkey-roasting recipe and get that bird in the oven!  Give yourself some extra time and start it at least an hour early.  If it’s done before guests are seated at the table, cover it with foil for up to an hour.
    • Defrost pre-made rolls or dough in their containers on the countertop.
    • Chill any drinks that need chilling.
    • Make pies.
    • Prepare salad and cut veggies in their serving bowls/platters.  Store in fridge until it’s time to eat.  Make dressing but keep separate in the fridge.
    • Make mashed potatoes and keep warm in a slow cooker with pads of butter on top to keep them from drying out.
    • Bake/reheat as many casseroles alongside the turkey as you can during the last hour of roasting the turkey.  Keep things warm by wrapping them in towels and storing them in a a closed ice chest.  This will keep your dishes warm for up to four hours if you need them to!
    • Pull out all appetizers a half hour to an hour before guests arrive.
    Half-hour Before Feasting:
    • Make the gravy.
    • Make sure everything is warm.  Do you need to reheat the rolls?
    • Dress the salad.
    • set out butter, cranberry sauce, and any other garnishes on table.
    Let’s Eat!  Sit down.  Feast with your loved ones.  No more fussing in the kitchen.  Enjoy your hard work!

    After Dinner:
    • Make coffee/tea.
    • Whip the cream for pies.
    • Serve dessert.
    • Divide take-home leftovers and refrigerate all perishables within 2 hours after serving.  No one wants food poisoning as their party favor. 
    • After taking all the meat off the turkey, place carcass in slow cooker, get out a turkey stock recipe, and start the stock (or refrigerate the carcass until the morning, then start the stock).

    You did it!
    Slip into some cozy clothes and let the turkey coma set in.  


  1. We use the barefoot contessa cranberry sauce recipe without the nuts and raisins and we can it. That way we don't have to make it thanksgiving week and we have extra anytime we have turkey or ham. It's awesome. My 19 year old started making it when he was a boy and he still makes it, and I can it.
    He has always had a contribution to the holiday meals that he makes. We started when he was four or five and saw a Christmas morning treat made with dough and jam. It's a wonderful tradition.

  2. Thank you so much for this! I'm making a personal goal to create a new tradition for my family and that's "stress-free holidays"!

  3. Brilliant! i will be using this, fo sho ;)

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