Thanksgiving Plan

Thanksgiving dinner can frequently be a stressful occasion for the cook.  We all have a mental image of the “perfect day”, the “the perfect menu”, the “perfect table”, all smashed into a perfectly busy, jam packed life.  Not an easy feat to accomplish without being so frazzled by the actual event that it is impossible to enjoy—survival becomes the main object.  If you follow the guidelines given here, you will be able to come closer to that “perfect mark” and will look back on it with fond memories and renewed vigor as to how you will do it next year (unless you have one of those marvelous families who rotate the responsibility! 

It is time to start now (if you haven’t already).

 1. The Guest List.  Depending on the size of your family, you may want to invite that neighbor or acquaintance who you think may be alone on the day of Thanks.  Make sure your write your list down and check it off as people accept your invitation—generally made orally either by phone or in person these days. 

2. The Menu. Once you have a good idea of who will be attending, the next step is planning the menu.  Kid friendly if there will be several young children present, more sophisticated for adults, or casual if it is a *big game day* in your household.  Match your vision as closely to your family's style as possible.  It would be an exercise in futility if you planned a formal dinner for a group of people who just want to be thankful  in front of the TV cheering for their teams! 

It is a good idea to write your menu down, note if there are recipes you need to look up and convert them ahead of time if they do not meet your portion requirements.  If there will be children in attendance consider something like a Veggie Turkey Platter.*  

For a game centered day, a variety of chips with a dip or two and a couple of bowls of nuts would likely be appreciated.

If your guests will be more social and meal centered, you might want to start with a lovely cheese platter to nibble on with a drink while you complete  the finishing touches of the dinner.

You don’t want so much food out to snack on that your guests will be too full for the meal you have prepared, nor do you want them faint and famished before you are ready to serve.  These are nice selections since they can easily be prepared in their final form the day before.  Remove them from the refrigerator just prior to your guests arrival.  If chips and dip are your starters, it is a good idea to have them in bowls a little ahead to keep the “crowd” out of your kitchen.

Your main dinner selections will be dependent on your family/friend preferences and past traditions.  One year we asked each guest to give us a recipe or suggestion that they fondly remembered from past family Thanksgivings.  While the results were different than our family would have planned, it was lovely and there was great conversation centered around the various choices.

Turkey is generally a requirement unless you are living a Vegan/Vegetarian Life Style in which case a Stuffed Pumpkin or Stuffed Bell Peppers in a variety of colors might be your choice.  If you are having turkey and are a new cook, you might consider ordering an already prepared turkey and then making fabulous, home-made side dishes: mashed potatoes (make ahead are wonderful), sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, congealed salads, vegetables and of course a wonderful dessert.

Write it down.  It can be changed as the date gets closer.

 4. Decide on what dishes you plan to use, your everyday dishes, special china or paper plates.  This will depend on how many guests you will be serving and what is available.  The style of your dinner will also help dictate your tableware.  It is a good idea to write down the bowls and platters you will be using—if you end up being short, now is the time to solve that problem, NOT when your guests are arriving.  

4. Plan your table décor.  It is so easy to make a small inexpensive arrangement and can also help you decide whether you will use a tablecloth or  placements, cloth napkins or paper ones. 

5. Write out your Grocery List.  Purchase the non-perishable items ahead of time and keep a list of items that must be purchased just days before.  If you are cooking your own turkey, make certain that you purchase it in plenty of time to thaw (if it’s frozen) or place your order for a fresh one in plenty of time.

6. If you write these steps down now  you will have a good idea of what must be done two days ahead, the day before and the day itself.  This is always a huge relief, as changes to your menu can easily be made ahead of time if necessary. Last minute changes are frustrating. 

Please see ideas for special recipes including a beautiful Pumpkin Pie. 

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*Turkey design, not mine, sent to me on FaceBook and I can no longer locate the sender.  Will credit it when I locate it.