Friday, November 04, 2005

It's a plan! Thanksgiving feasting

We live far enough from family that we decided long ago to stay home for holidays and have our own celebrations at home. For several years we've invited friends over for our Thanksgiving feast. Last year and this year we're going to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with several families; this probably means next year will be our year to host! Crazy woman that I am, I can't let the holiday pass without our own feast and LEFTOVERS, so we've also had our own Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday of the holiday weekend.

Over the years I've worked out a plan so I can make from scratch just about every part of our feast, and make or prep some foods ahead. It's a feast, but I've learned that it can be an easy feast. Roast turkey is easy, the pies I make are easy, the vegetable side dishes are easy and most can be made in advance, ...

One of the benefits of early prep is that the house smells yummy several days before the actual feast day, getting us all ready for it (though it's a miracle if the spiced and sugared nuts last until Thanksgiving Day!). Another benefit is that the more I stick to this plan, the easier and more enjoyable the feast day itself is for me.

Often I try a different recipe for a side dish. This year I might make seasoned roasted sweet potato wedges; some savory for the grownups and some sweet for the kids. Now that the kids are older and typically eat most of what we serve for dinner, we've noticed that they don't enjoy our traditional feast dinner -- but dear husband and I don't want to change it very much! So I try to include textures and tastes that they're more likely to prefer. I avoid too many mashed and pureed vegetables; we always have sweet potatoes and jellied cranberry sauce; and we have some version of green bean casserole. If nothing else, they'll eat those and the rolls. If they have any sort of protein, I figure they're fine!

Here's my plan as it would be this year IF we were eating at home on Thanksgiving Day; I'll actually shift some things for our Saturday feast later a day or two, and add whatever we're bringing to the families gathering. I have this on the computer and print it out the week before Thanksgiving to use and scribble notes on.

Thanksgiving & Christmas Planning 2005

The Menu

Dinner: Roast turkey, gravy, country-style bread dressing, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, olives, pickles, dinner rolls, red wine, sparkling apple cider.

Dessert: Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, whipped cream, decaf French press coffee.

The Shopping List

-- Nonperishable or needed early --
Wine, white and red; beer
Various crackers
Olives, green and black
Pickles, bread and butter type
Chicken broth, fat-free low-sodium
Canned pumpkin
Jellied cranberry sauce
Evaporated skim milk
Frozen green beans
Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, oranges, cranberries, Romaine lettuce
Dinner rolls
Turkey wings
Provolone, sliced, and/or Swiss
Great coffee

-- Perishable --
Whole turkey or turkey breast
Whipping cream

-- Other --
Knife sharpening
Platter and serving bowl(s) ?

The Schedule

-- Previous week and weekend --
Clear counters; clean out fridge, freezer
Make piecrust x 2 (or 4); freeze
Slow-cook spiced nuts, sugared nuts
Make good breads for sandwiches and toast
Make baked cranberry preserves, cranberry bread, pumpkin bread for breakfasts and snacks
Check table linens

-- Monday --
Buy turkey and whipping cream; refrigerate

-- Tuesday --
Put frozen piecrusts in fridge to thaw
Prep Yukon Gold potatoes into salted water; refrigerate
Roast stock fixings; make stock; refrigerate overnight
Make roux for gravy
Oven-toast cubed bread ends (from freezer) for dressing

-- Wednesday --
(easy dinner from freezer or takeout; DH grill?)
Make two pies; cool; refrigerate
Cook Yukon Gold potatoes; mash with potato water and season; refrigerate in microwave-safe dish
Make dressing and green bean casserole; refrigerate in baking dishes

Thursday - Thanksgiving Day

-- Morning --
Bake pies if not yet done
Kids: set table (tablecloth, napkins, dishes, silverware; trivets, candles?)
Get out serving dishes and utensils (for turkey, gravy, rolls, beans)
DH and kids: make snack mix?

-- Lunchtime --
Kids: set out nibbles (pretzels/crackers/snack mix, carrots and celery with dip, sliced apples, olives, nuts)

-- T - 3 hours --
Prep turkey

-- T - ? hrs --
(time depends on weight of turkey)
Turkey into oven at 325F; baste with chicken broth or turkey stock
Kids: prep cranberry sauce (put in fridge), olives (black and green), pickles
Cut and season sweet potato wedges?
Dressing, green bean casserole OUT of fridge

-- T - 1 hr --
Oven: sweet potatoes into oven to bake (seasoned wedges or whole); add white wine to turkey’s basting liquid
Stovetop: make gravy and keep warm
Prep rolls; add topping to green bean casserole

-- T - 0.5 hr --
Oven: turkey OUT. Rolls, dressing, green bean casserole in
Microwave: heat mashed potatoes
Kids: set out relishes
DH: carve turkey

-- T (6 pm) --
Serve all (check, and turn OFF, oven)
DH: open and pour wine!

-- After dinner --
With kids: whip whipping cream; serve pies
DH: make coffee

-- After kids are in bed --
DH: deconstruct turkey and break down carcass. Me: start stock

-- Friday/Saturday following --
If whole turkey: cook and cool stock, skim fat, freeze. Freeze remaining meat in stock
If any leftover mashed potatoes: make mashed potato cakes, freeze
Make turkey casseroles

Repeat, with simpler dishes, for Christmas dinner!

Christmastime meals

Day before Christmas Eve: Easy dinner or takeout

Christmas Eve: Seafood in light Alfredo sauce over pasta, steamed veggies, good bread; cookies. Make cinnamon rolls to rise in fridge.

Christmas breakfast: Homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese; fruit, coffee

Christmas nibbles: Crackers, spiced nuts, DH’s beef rolls, fruit, vegs, cookies (simpler than Thanksgiving)

Christmas dinner: Roast turkey breast, gravy, dressing, baked Russet and sweet potatoes, green beans amandine, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and pecan pies (simpler than Thanksgiving)

Son1’s birthday: Son1’s choice for dinner + ice cream and homemade cake

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