A Week of Thanksgiving: Portion Control

Forget the stretchy pants, focus on portion control.

If you’re on social media at all during the holidays it’s inevitable that someone will joke “it’s time to break out the stretchy pants” do to all the over the top holiday food. This doesn’t have to be the case. Now, before you get all “but…” hear me out. It’s about portion control. This topic is something that is near and dear to my heart. I love good food. I love butter. I love whole milk and real fat. I love bacon and croissants. I love cake and cookies… and I eat everything I have mentioned and so much more. That said I maintain my weight and even have managed to loose weight. So, how do I do this? Portion control. 

As we go into the holidays most of us have strong emotional attachments to certain foods. They bring back memories and are often nostalgic. For most of us it starts at Thanksgiving. When you hear that word your mind pictures certain foods. You can almost smell them and taste them. The key is a good menu plan.

When I start planning a holiday meal or dinner party I think about, what are the musts? Looking at Thanksgiving most would say turkey, not because we love it but because it’s essential to the smell, memory, and taste that is so well integrated into that nostalgia. As a home cook I know I have to make a stuffing, a soup, a dinner roll, a cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes (as I found out this year), gravy, and a green bean casserole. Unless I was going to only serve one ounce of everything this all becomes a bit overwhelming on a plate and too much for one sitting. This got me thinking. Why only one sitting? Every week I plan a lunch and a dinner why not do that for this holiday as well?

With that in mind I laid out a meal plan using all of those flavors and dishes and made it into two meals! For lunch I did a soup, turkey (dark meat only), stuffing, and a roll with a shmear. Then for dinner I did turkey (white meat only), potatoes, green beans, gravy, a dinner roll and cranberry sauce. By breaking it into two meals I was able to keep things reasonable. I usually try to keep any meal between 10 and 12 ounces all together and with this strategy I was able to do that. Dinner was 4 ounces of turkey, 3 ounces of green beans, 3 ounces of potatoes, 1 ounce gravy, and the dinner roll. This also allowed me to still have room for and enjoy dessert too.

The final piece to this was how many days I was planning on serving the meal for. Normally I make one meal for dinner that lasts the week and one meal for lunch that lasts the week. After all the cooking I had been doing I had decided that I would need a break after Thanksgiving. The only way to achieve that would be to have these meals be the following weeks meals as well. Once I had decided on that I new I needed my lunch plan to cover 5 days (since I already had weekend lunches made) and I needed the dinner to last 9 nights.

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Armed with that information I knew I would need 12 servings of the lunch and 18 servings of the dinner since there are the two of us. Basically it was like planning two full dinner parties. I then went to my recipe and started tweaking them to meet the yields I would need. Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of the information I needed to get a good sense of the yield of a recipe but I did my best. Some dishes yield way too much but knowing that, going in, I have been taking quite fastidious notes to better control the yield I would need in the future.

Yesterday was the first day of this approach and I have to say it worked fantastically. Having a solid menu plan, having a solid cooking plan, and time to enjoy it all the verdict is in and this is the way I plan on always doing Thanksgiving: In the morning I baked Brown Butter Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls; for lunch Butternut Squash and Tart Apple Soup, Turkey Leg Roulade with Fresh Herbs, Celeriac Chestnut and Sourdough Stuffing, and Seeded Honey Rye Pull-apart Rolls with Everything Bagel Butter, and it accompanied by a Spanish Malbec; for dinner Stuffed Turkey Breast, Green Bean “Casserole”, Pomme Purées (super smooth mashed potatoes), Giblet Turkey Gravy, Triple Berry Cranberry Sauce, and Knotted Dinner Rolls, served with a nice German Riesling; and for Dessert Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust.

This menu was beyond delicious, it ticked every box and by spacing it out through the day allowed us to enjoy all the tastes, flavors and smells. I truly am thankful for finally finding an approach to Thanksgiving that makes all the work worth while.

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