Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep Guide

Here are 10 things you can do to make this Thanksgiving stress free! My family has been having Thanksgiving at our house for many years and let me tell you, it has taken almost all of those years to have it run smoothly.

10. Review your Recipes- You may think you know your grandmother's stuffing recipe by heart, but I am sure under the time constraints and stress of preparing so many dishes you are going to make a mistake.  Have all of your recipes organized a few days before hand and review all of the ingredients you need. Maybe even consider cutting back a few recipes that really weren't that popular the year before. (My family tried this but we somehow created more recipes)

9. Make out your grocery list- List all of the ingredients you will need for your recipes and go around your kitchen checking off the ones you have.  Also make sure that if you need 2 cups of flour for your pumpkin pie crust that you don't have 1 1/2 cups.  The last thing you want is running out to the store 5 minutes before the guests are about to arrive to buy a forgotten ingredient (My dad is usually the one that fixes the mistakes I make in this department).

8. Clean your oven- Since I am the sloppiest cook ever (nicknamed the wild chef) the amount of cheese I let spill over in the oven all year long is ridiculous.  Clean your oven a few days before so there are no smells of cleaning supplies and you won't have burnt food stuck on the oven smoking while your delicious turkey is in there. 

7. Learn the Bird- Make sure the morning of Thanksgiving you aren't handling a frozen bird.  Turkeys take a while to defrost.  If you immerse it in cold water it will take 30 minutes per pound, if you leave it in the refrigerator about 1 day per 5 lbs.  Don't forget to take out the packet in the cavity with the gizzards and such.  You don't want this stuff to cook inside your bird.  And although it may look fancy to stuff your turkey, it honestly isn't very sanitary.  Save your stuffing for side dishes, not IN side dishes.  And never forget to let your turkey rest for at least a half hour after its cooked.  After all of the labor and time you put into this turkey, don't ruin it by cutting open a hot turkey so all of the juice runs out.

6. Prep the fridge- You may think there is plenty of room in your fridge for all of the food, but when you have a bunch of sides, guests bringing desserts and enormous containers, and appetizers you are looking at a full fridge.  Plan ahead of time to avoid cleaning out the fridge 5 minutes before dinner will be served. 

5.  Set the table early- My family usually sets the table the night before.  When we all help it gets done fast and then the next day all we need to focus on is the food.  No worrying if we have matching forks, plates, and cups the day of Thanksgiving. (Usually we give my dad all of the mismatched stuff)

4. Clear your countertops- You would be surprised how much counter top space you need for Thanksgiving dinner.  Take away the toasters and coffee pots just for a few hours while prepping is going on.  And plus the last thing you want is turkey juice getting all over your appliances.  Also clean the countertops as you go.  My parents taught me this trick a while ago, and I recently figured out that cleaning as you go is so much better than at midnight when you have been preparing the meal since 6 am that morning.

3. Review your pot and utensil inventory- Obviously everything will probably need its own pot or dish, so make sure you have enough.  My family even makes post it notes of everything we will make and puts it on the assigned dish.  This way when the mashed potatoes are out of the pot, they have some place to go!

2. Develop a strategy- Look at the things that can get done in advance and be frozen.  Plan things in order or cook times and importance.  Some Thanksgiving we left making the cornbread last cause honestly there are so many more delicious things, and if we forgot it it wasn't a big deal.  Also things cook at different cooking temperatures so cook everything that has the same cooking temperature at the same time.  Also try to prep as much in advance.  Do all of the chopping first and put things to the side so you can assemble it later. 

1. HAVE FUN- I never understood why the holidays are notorious for being stressful.  They are about fun, food, and family, not stress.  The worst thing that can happen is you go to Boston Market and get an already prepared meal for your guests.  But honestly do you think things will get that bad that you will need to do that?  If the turkey burns call it cajun turkey, if its under cooked throw it back in the oven.  Thanksgiving happens every year.  If you make a mistake this year, then fix it next year.  My family plays Christmas music while we cook and all of us are in the kitchen together pretty much the the entire day before Thanksgiving. It is a lot of fun when everybody helps out. Give everybody a job to do.  My brother is the taste tester and my dog cleans up any food that we drop. I used to be stressed about making the graham cracker crust perfect or having the creamiest mashed potatoes, but honestly it will all work out in the end.  And if something goes really wrong then you just laugh about it and you can tell that story for years to come!

Happy Thanksgiving! Pin It Now!