Saturday, November 16, 2013

How to manage a grand Thanksgiving Dinner without getting stressed out!

How to manage a grand Thanksgiving Dinner without getting stressed out!

Ladies and Gentlemen it is ALL in the prep!
I started my prep work this past weekend but don't despair there is still plenty of time. 
First things first you need to know about how many people you are going to be feeding.  My rule: there is always  room for one more at Mama Withrow's table.  I manage this by buying a huge turkey and if the list increases I just add more sides.  See simple!
Set the menu.  It is OK to think outside the box.  If your family does not like turkey then make a dinner you all will enjoy.  Once you have your menu, pull all recipes and put them in one folder in one place.  Go over each dish and make sure you have all the ingredients you will need and if not get them on your list!  Here is our menu:  Turkey, stuffing, gluten-free stuffing (recipe to follow), mashed potatoes, gravy, gluten-free gravy, sweet potato casserole (recipe to follow), green beans, corn, cranberry relish (which I will I purchase from Bob Evans because I love their relish), rolls, gluten-free rolls, and pumpkin pie in a gluten-free crust.  My family LOVES this menu and it is super easy for me as I can pre-shop.  I did my shopping last week, as the menu does not require any last minute fresh ingredients.  As much as I adore holidays, I equally dislike last minute shopping.  People are stressed, the stores are crowded, and sadly when people should be thankful and happy, they are mean and less than courteous.  So I shop early, prep, prep, prep, and ENJOY my holidays :D !!!!!!
Next I make homemade turkey broth (recipe to follow).  If this is not your thing then add it or a good quality chicken broth to your shopping list. While my broth was simmering away, I made croutons for my gluten-free stuffing (recipe also to follow).  Not gluten-free or you like the stuff in the box, then on to the next step for you.  I will fully admit that my guys like the stuffing you make on the "stove top" that I fancy up.  Remember to keep it as simple as possible.  Why in world should we spend hours in the kitchen making things from scratch if everyone is going to miss their "favorite"?  Back to those gluten-free croutons for my stuffing.  I go ahead, measure them out, add the dry seasoning to them, and store them in an air-tight container. 
Tomorrow or the next day I will have a "chop-athon".  I will get my handy-dandy folder out and slice and dice up all my veggies for my stuffings and green beans, measure them out, put them in heavy duty freezer style bags, label them, and pop them in the freezer.  I will also chop my pecans for my sweet potato casserole and do the same with them.  I usually make my casserole the day before but this year I think I am going to make it ahead of time and freeze it, making a separate packet for the topping, take it out the night before to defrost and just bake it the day of or the day before. 
The day before or even several days before (my recommendation) if you don't use your dining room table daily, get out the good dishes and silverware, wash them and go ahead and set the table.  If it will be more than a day, just turn the dishes upside down, and place the napkins over the silverware.  Decide which serving dishes you will use, place them one the table, with appropriate serving utensils, and label them with a sticky note.  So when you ask someone to bring the bowl for the green beans, it is a no brainer.
The day before I make my stuffings, gravies (remember that homemade turkey stock???), green beans and perhaps that casserole.  No more waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven to make the gravy, and the stuffing will taste just like it was cooked in the bird, without the hassle.  No more over cooked turkey to make sure the stuffing is cooked through.  One year, long ago, my turkey tested done but when putting the remaining turkey away after dinner the stuffing was bloody.....HORROR!!!! Thankfully no one was sickened but I have made my broth and cooked my stuffing separate ever since! I will also make my casserole, green beans, and put my corn in the bowl with the butter and seasoning, a quick zap in the microwave and it will be ready to rock.  About an hour and a half before the turkey should be done I will remove my stuffings, casserole, green beans, corn, and gravies from the fridge and place them on the counter.  Do NOT let them set at room temperature more than an hour and a half!  When the turkey is done pop them all in the oven.  MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THEM IN OVEN SAFE CONTAINERS.  Put the cranberry relish and butter on the table. When I take the pre-cooked food out of the fridge I peel my potatoes and place in the pot they will be cooked in, covered in cold water, if the kitchen is really warm I will add some ice.  When you put your stuff in the oven, put your potatoes on to boil over MEDIUM heat.  When your potatoes start to boil put your rolls in the oven. By the time the stuffing and casserole is warmed through, your potatoes should be ready to mash, and in the mean time your corn and gravy has either been heated on the stove or in the microwave.  You can either move your turkey to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm or do like we do, and go ahead and have the hubby slice it, and put it on a platter (drizzled with a little pan of the juices out of the pan) while you are finishing the potatoes.  BAM everything done at once, with minimal stress!!!! 
Now you are probably thinking, "You said stress free?????  What about my crazy relatives????"  Well they do not come much crazier than my family.  So here is my advice.  When I would call to invite my family, I set the rules.  "I would love for you to join us for Thanksgiving dinner, please remember it is a time to be THANKFUL.  Yes that person you don't like will be here, I did not exclude you, nor will I exclude them.  However, there will be NO snippy-ness, no snide remarks, no dirty looks, and no crap!  A drink with or after dinner if fine.  There will be children, absolutely no drunkenness or drugs allowed.  Be nice or you will be told to leave (yes I said told and not asked...asked means you have a choice).  If you are far more kindhearted than myself, and could never tell someone to leave, or dinner will not be at your house, you still have a couple of options.  When you accept the invitation, tell the host how much you love them, and how excited you are to be included, but make it perfectly clear as much as you love them, you will have to leave immediately if things get testy or out of hand.  Now put the web to use and make sure you will have someplace near by to go and eat your dinner in peace, or start a new tradition and go out with those you really love for buffet, in the first place!
Much love, peace, and happiness,


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