Can you believe that Thanksgiving is just three weeks away? Every year the BIGGEST FOODIE HOLIDAY comes around faster and faster!
We have hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for more than 30 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! You can visit my Thanksgiving page for all of our best family recipes, and because it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the pies, hop on over to my Pies & Pastries page for all of our favorites!
A MONTH BEFORE THANKSGIVING:
One of the best places to start each year is with your guest list. We've been blessed that our family continues to grow and thrive each year. 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. This year we'll have several international students joining us from our son's college, so that will add even more excitement! Add to the "unknown" quotient that Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best parts of the holiday, so we 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. If anyone is bringing a dish, pie, or wine or beer that day, I also make a note of that - just a few less things to worry about!
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 for the next year. This works better for me than trying to keep several cookbooks or my tablet on precious countertop space while we are in the throes of cooking!
THREE WEEKS BEFORE THANKSGIVING:
I go thru each recipe and make my MASTER grocery list, making sure that I have identified everything I will need for everything listed on our Thanksgiving Menu.
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 check it off 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. If you're using fresh turkey, make sure that you have it ordered by now!
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!
I pick up a fresh turkey every year the weekend before the big day, so that I don't have to mess around with defrosting a frozen bird - this is so much easier, jucier 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.)
Now is also the time to think about thawing your turkey if you are using a frozen bird. Plan on one day for each 4 pounds of turkey, and additional time if you plan on brining your turkey. We'll be smoking a turkey this year, as well as roasting another big bird in the oven. Remind me to make sure that we have Turkey Wood Pellets on hand for the big day!
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 is also makes it easier to remember that you have EVERYTHING on the table or buffet before you start serving!
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 turkeys early Wednesday morning and get those out of the way. Before the night is over, we set our Thanksgiving tables - one of my favorite things to do since I was a little girl! And don't forget to chill the wine!
We always start with appetizers in the morning and watch the Macy's Thanksgving 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. Our group will be so large this year that we'll be making multiple turkeys - one traditional roast turkey, and another smoked turkey - I'm really looking forward to both!
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 excited to hear what you are making this year and how everything turns out!
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