by guest blogger Katie Kapro
This year will be my first year hosting Thanksgiving dinner. I have a small house and a table built for two that can sit four in a pinch. My parents, sister, and boyfriend don’t know what they’re in for. We will sit elbow to elbow. The air will be thick with the smell of steamed green beans and roasting turkey. We will be hot, full, and happy.
At least that’s how I envision it. Making that happen, well, that will take a bit more planning.
Since I’ve never tackled Thanksgiving before, I asked around for advice on how to execute such a feat of time management and artistry. I’m talking rookie questions here. How do I make sure the turkey is done in time? When should I start boiling the potatoes? How do I make this happen without three ovens?
The best piece of advice I received was this: treat Thanksgiving dinner like it’s a part-time job.
Plan ahead. Make lists. Prep. Make an oven schedule. Delegate.
The holiday season is one of the most stressful seasons in North America. It’s no surprise that many people rely on pills to get through the holidays. There’s so much to tackle, so many obligations and responsibilities to coordinate. Of course, the rewards make it all worth it.
While the masses may rely on Xanax, a brand-name of the anti-anxiety drug Alprazolam, a recent study suggests that the best way to beat holiday stress is by helping others. We can’t do that if we’re stressed to the brim, so first we need to make space in our lives. How else does one do that besides getting organized? It’s time to throw away the pills and conquer the holidays with organization.
Make a Plan
We’ll call this the brainstorming period. Plan out your dream menu. No holds barred. I was advised to go quite simple with the main courses – a turkey’s a turkey – and let the elaborate flair fall to the side dishes.
One of the best things about Thanksgiving posts are the mouth-watering meal plans, so here’s mine:
- Butternut squash and ricotta crostini
- Mashed rosemary russet potatoes
- Brown-sugar glazed yams
- Green beans with caramelized onion and almonds
- Broad breasted roasted turkey
- Cornbread stuffing
- Canned cranberry sauce – I’m a can fan, what can I say
- Drop biscuits
- Sour cream apple pie
Turkey Fact: Turkey wishbones are a subtle reminder that turkeys are evolved from carnivorous dinosaurs like the T-Rex, whose wishbone dates back 150 million years.
Lists are Your Friend
I am one of those people who’s almost always within arm’s reach of my computer or smartphone. They’re the tools that keep my life in order.
But Thanksgiving is different. My cooking and planning lists just have to be paper. I want a list that can handle splatter from the frying pan; one that won’t short out if I drip water over it. A notebook of to-do lists can easily become one of the most effective tools in your arsenal this holiday season.
Here are some of the lists to consider in your planning process:
- Menu items & recipes
- Ingredients you have on-hand
- Ingredients to buy at the store
- Guests (and their dietary restrictions)
- Serving platters / dishes / utensils for each dish
- Foods to prepare the day before
- Table and room decor ideas
Turkey Fact: Turkey farmers are federally banned from using growth hormones or steroids to make turkeys grow faster.
Prep Whatever You Can Ahead of Time
To make the day-of as relaxing as possible, do as much washing, chopping, and baking as you can before Thanksgiving Day.
- Pies can be baked
- Vegetables can be washed
- Some vegetables can be chopped
- Green beans can be blanched
- Turkey can be brined
- Biscuit dough can be prepared
- Casseroles can be assembled
Turkey Fact: In the 1930s, turkeys were hunted nearly to extinction; their population in North America reached an all-time low of 30,000. Today that number is closer to seven million.
Schedule Oven-time like it’s a Train Station
This little gem of advice comes from my grandmother. Imagine the oven is Grand Central Station. A smooth schedule requires a timetable. Plan out how you will use the oven, hour by hour, remembering that the turkey needs to sit for a while after it’s done cooking.
Here’s a great example of a well-planned oven schedule.
Turkey Fact: Turkeys are in fact named after the Eurasian country. It’s theorized that early Europeans noted the similarities between the turkey and the African Guinea Fowl which migrated to Europe from Turkey, and they called it as they saw it.
Delegate Side Dishes
Perhaps the days leading up to Thanksgiving arrive and you realize you bit off more than you can chew. Don’t stress about it. Even the best laid plans go awry.
It is perfectly acceptable to delegate side dishes to guests. It’s best not to be too rigid about using a particular recipe when making the request. Who knows, they might just end up your new favorite dish!
One Last Turkey Fact: Wild turkeys are able to fly up to 55 mph in short bursts.
What dish are you most looking forward to cooking this Thanksgiving?
Want more? Check out Lisa’s recent post with organizational tips!