Can you believe Thanksgiving is just three weeks from tomorrow? Every year the BIGGEST FOODIE HOLIDAY comes faster and faster!
We have hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for 29 years now, and I've compiled my organizing ideas and our favorite Thanksgiving recipes all in one place to make your Thanksgiving preparation that much easier and delicious!
If you click on the Thanksgiving in my Holiday Section, and the Pies pages in my Bakery & Sweet Shop Section, you can also find them easily. I'll be kicking off a week-long celebration of PIES tomorrow - make sure to come back and visit!
A MONTH BEFORE THANKSGIVING: One of the best places to start each year is with your guest list! We have always had an open door policy for Thanksgiving, which means we usually have family, friends and holiday orphans coming at various times of the day. Add to the "unknown" quotient that Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best parts of the holiday, so I usually prepare a feast fit for a crowd.
My family is not shy about reminding me what their favorites are, but I do try to find out if special guests have any favorite Thanksgiving dishes that they love, dietary restrictions or any food allergies.
Once all of that is figured out, the next step is to plan our menu. I make a list of all the food we'll be serving that day - broken down by Appetizers, Dinner, and Dessert Buffet.
I have a holiday binder for every holiday - YES, I'm that kind of nut! But believe me, it will help you keep your sanity!
I print and keep a copy of each and every recipe that I'll be using, just so that I have it handy for easy reference while cooking and baking. I have notes from previous years and note recipe tweaks and feedback for the next year. This works better for me than trying to keep several cookbooks or my Kindle on precious countertop space while we are in the throes of cooking!
THREE WEEKS PRIOR TO THANKSGIVING: I go thru each recipe and make my MASTER grocery list, making sure that I have identified everything I need for everything listed on our Thanksgiving Menu. This is also the time of year that I buy fresh spices for my holiday baking and cooking - so that I know they'll be fresh, flavorful, aromatic and perfectly spiced for the season - all of our favorite fall flavors - sage, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon ginger, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. And don't forget to pick-up fresh baking soda and baking powder for your holiday baking!
Then it's time to take stock of what is already in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. (It's also a great time to clean and organize your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer before the holiday season begins.) If I've got the ingredient on hand, I make a mark on the Master List. If I'm running low or need fresh ingredients, this then becomes my actual Shopping List. This really helps save on last-minute emergency runs to the grocery store.
Finally, I check the store circulars and my coupon file - with three weeks yet to go, I'll shop and pick up those items that are on sale each week. Usually by the weekend before Thanksgiving I'll have just about everything I need on hand, and at the best possible price.
It's also a great time to put together a list of things to pick up at the market and donate to our local food bank. I figure that if I need something for Thanksgiving dinner, someone else trying to put together a holiday meal for their family will probably be needing the same things.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE THANKSGIVING: I start preparing anything that can be made ahead of time now. Our holiday gingerbread cut-out cookies are easy to bake, decorate and freeze now. Homemade dinner rolls can be baked, wrapped and frozen, ready to warm up on Thanksgiving day.
THE WEEKEND BEFORE THANKSGIVING: Fresh Cranberry Raspberry Sauce can be made the week before Thanksgiving. My Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy can be made several days before and simply reheated on Thanksgiving day. Any recipe that can be made in a slow cooker is a bonus as well - it will make for less oven consternation on turkey day! (Remind me to tell you the story about the year we were re-doing our kitchen - which meant NO kitchen appliances or sink - I made most everything in crockpots, the microwave, and my toaster oven...each of them set on wooden t.v. trays....what a memory!)
I pick up a fresh turkey or two every year the weekend before the big day, so that I don't have to mess around with defrosting a frozen bird - so much easier, juicier and flavorful! (That being said, Butterball Turkeys are usually such a good price now that I'll pick up a frozen bird for later in the year and throw it in the freezer.)
I start getting my dining room situated now too - chairs, table linens, candles, centerpieces figured out. I get my serving dishes decided on and organized - I actually put a post-it note in each dish identifying what will go in it on Thanksgiving Day - which makes it easier for folks to help out on the big day! And it also makes it easier to remember that you have EVERYTHING on the table or buffet before you start serving!
THANKSGIVING WEEK: Wednesday is always PIE DAY - and we make a lot of them! Each of the kids makes their favorite pie - it is a wonderful tradition! Before the day gets started, I start brining our fresh turkey early Wednesday morning and get it out of the way. Before the night is over, we set the Thanksgiving table - one of my favorite things to do since I was a little girl! And don't forget to chill the wine!
THANKSGIVING DAY: We start with appetizers in the morning and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The little ones start making their Christmas wish lists, and we have a new jigsaw puzzle set up on a side table every year just waiting for nimble fingers and conversation!
This gives me time to get everything going in the kitchen. Thanksgiving Dinner is at 1:00, followed later in the afternoon by our traditional Thanksgiving Dessert Buffet. And usually later in the night the Thanksgiving leftovers start making an appearance - just so that everyone can get ready for Black Friday!
I'm anxious to hear what you are making this year and how everything turns out!