The theme of this blog is to keep things easy and simple. Those are not words typically associated with the biggest meal of the year, Thanksgiving. Here are a few things I do to make it so I can enjoy the holiday as well.
First, I plan my menu at least a week in advance. This allows me to fine tune any recipes I need to find, check what items I have on hand and make my shopping list for what I need to purchase. Here is where you must be detailed and specific. If you need butter for the rolls, potatoes, cookies and the pie crust make sure you have the full amount you will need.This includes any herbs or spices that you will need because that pumpkin pie just won’t be the same without the cinnamon.
Second, do as much prep in advance as you can. This includes washing your china and silver, cleaning and pressing the tablecloth, working on place-cards and the centerpiece and making sure you will have enough service dishes. If you do this in advance you can ask guests to bring items with them. Most desserts can be prepared at least a day in advance. Chopping can all be done the day before. For example, if you need onions for the roasting pan, the stuffing and the dip, do it all at once and put them in a container till Thursday morning.
Third, be creative in where you put items. For example, if you keep a thermometer in the ice chest to regulate the temperature, you can thaw your turkey in it. If it is cold outside, put the ice chest full of pop outside along with your bottles of sparkling cider.
Fourth, feed the family before dinner. I have little counter space so I plan on finger foods they can nibble on before dinner is ready. Doing this keeps them out of my way and makes sure they don’t leave a mess I have to clean up. (Teenagers would never do that, would they?) The dishwasher is emptied the night before so dirty dishes are supposed to go right into the machine instead of the sink.
Fifth, use your slow cookers. You can make your mashed potatoes a couple hours in advance and keep them in your crockpot, just add a little extra liquid to them. Some people like to make their gravy a day in advance and that also does well in a crockpot. A roasting oven on the countertop can keep many things warm while you put the finishing touches on your feast.
My last and most important suggestion is to be willing to accept help. Start teaching the kids early on how to do even small cooking chores. This will not only lighten your load, but you have have fun together as well. When guests arrive and say “what can I do” have a couple things they can help with.
What do YOU do to make the holiday easy and simple?