With just under two weeks to go it’s time to review my recipes and map out my plan. Not only do I want to make sure I have accounted for all of guests when it comes to seating and place settings but also in serving sizes of the recipes.
Word to the wise, don’t go with the “serving size” listed on the recipe. I can’t tell you the number of times this got me into a pickle. (Recently I made tortellini and it wanted me to have about 2 cups of broth per serving! When in actuality I only needed about ½ a cup!) My general rule of thumb is that I need a total weight of no more than a pound per person. This includes sides. This isn’t about gluttony it’s about a memorable meal. Plus, there’s dessert! If you think about serving sizes the main is usually about 6-8 ounces. That still leaves you with up to 8 ounces of sides. So when you’re reviewing your recipes just look at what the bulk of the recipe calls for. If it calls for a pound of sweet potatoes you can assume that will get you about four 4-ounce servings…
OK, now you’re ready to get planning. First off I have to confess I am a bit OCD. That being said, good organization can be key to having an enjoyable Thanksgiving. Being a homemaker, there are a lot of things to juggle, so I started putting together a schedule for everything that has to be done. This isn’t just everything I have to do but it’s everything that keeps the “home” running. This doesn’t mean I have to make the triple berry sauce, Sunday at 9am, it just lets me know what should get taken care of and if I do something else that I need to move that task to another time…
So when I approach all of my Thanksgiving cooking I can use this and plan accordingly. This keeps me from over committing. First I take all the recipes I am going to make and look at what if anything I can do ahead. Did you know most of the cooking can be done in advance? I also plan when I am going to go get all my ingredients and if there’s anything I need to special order. Then I plug into my schedule when I will do the shopping. Then I plug in each recipe as a 1 hour block of time and each one as a simulate task. I have found most recipe can be made in an hour or less. Again, if it ends up taking longer I just need to juggle the blocks around and make them all fit again.
The thing to remember is that planning your cooking isn’t just about Thanksgiving dinner. It’s about everything else going on in the house too. If you’re going to be spending an average of two hours a day prepping for thanksgiving are you going to want to make dinner that night too? Do you need to have a plan for lunches that week? Are you going to have company the weekend of thanksgiving? Do you need breakfast options for while they are staying with you? Also don’t forget to tidy up your house. This doesn’t mean scrub it top to bottom it just means to make it presentable.
One thing I love to do for fancy dinners is to print up a menu. I have fun using super curly fonts and try to do something with a theme. I then print up small versions, usually 4×6 or 5×7 and put them at the place settings or on the table with the center piece. Doing this adds to the feeling I am trying to create which is one of grandeur. Making it special is in the details. It’s not the the food has to be fussy but if you served it in a different bowl or on a different plate, cloth napkins, candles, and so on all make the feeling come together.
My last tip is this: Limit your prep cook time each day. This is about being with family and even if it’s just you this is a holiday that going back to its roots is about being thankful. Thankful for the bounty, thankful for the harvest, thankful for all the good that is in your life. In doing a little digging the church had lot of holidays long ago and they tended to be that of fasting or of thanksgiving. Some holidays were reminders of the bad in which case we needed to fast and seek understanding and others were to show gratitude for all that you have. It seems apropos that in a time where many of us feel this should be a time of fasting due to the current political climate that the holiday is one of thanksgiving. This is a time to remember all we do have, all that we have achieved, and all of those how add to our lives.
I’ll leave you with this thought: A political commentator said he was worried about the holidays with friends and family but then he thought about his tactics when he was on the campaign trails interviewing people on both sides. He said when he approaches someone he smiles, says hello, and reaches out to them to shake their hand. Doing this can dramatically change the tone of just about any conversation.