Thanksgiving. It's an amazing holiday. It gets you thinking and focused on the things you are grateful for. It's full of delicious foods, fancy table settings, and is in a lot of ways the beginning of the Christmas season. I cooked my very first Thanksgiving dinner right after I was married. I ended the night exhausted, but completely happy and satisfied. I have learned a lot since that very first thanksgiving! I plan earlier, have realistic expectations, and keep detailed lists of any thoughts I may have. My sole intention in writing these posts is to help you have a great, hopefully stress free holiday!
|Oh, and please pardon the cat tail in the upper left of this photo!|
Next is one of my favorite activities! Go get your cookbooks, log onto your favorite food website, pinterest, or even the great google! Start figuring out what you want on your menu this year. Some things are easy because they are Thanksgiving staples. These usually include things like cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes. They are they things that make the Thanksgiving dinner...well...Thanksgiving dinner! Do not remove these things from your menu...ever. Instead add something new, try something to get people out of their comfort zones. Over the last few years I've tried roasted brussel sprouts, caramelized butternut squash, roasted carrots, and turnip au gratin. None of these were successful in getting to stick on the menu except those roasted carrots. New things won't always work, and that is ok. Another great tip is to ask your guests, and your husband if there is anything in specific they would like for Thanksgiving.
This is what my 2012 Thanksgiving menu looked like while I looked through recipes. Obviously there are way too many sides and desserts here. I try to just let my creativity flow, so if I find a recipe I think looks good (or fun) I jot it down. As you can see I have this in one document, with one page as dinner and the other dessert.
Now its time to get more serious. Here I have made my list much more manageable! I dropped a lot of sides, and rethought desserts. To get to this list I also talked to my husband to see what he thought. (Note: I also ended up getting rid of the mini pies and the bread puddings. Instead I'm doing the pumpkin bread pudding dessert from last year.)
Now comes a part that is not totally necessary, but I find invaluable. Let's say you decide to make stuffing but you aren't sure what type. I always type it into google and see what comes up. Ideally I look for a recipe that has at least a 4.5 to 5 star rating. If there isn't a rating I read the recipe and see if it sounds good. If it sounds good, and it's not terribly difficult, I will try to make it as a test before Thanksgiving dinner. I then open the recipe I've chosen, and a document for recipes. I type or copy and paste the recipe from the website to the document. I do this for EVERY recipe. Why? Well, you can either print off the recipes and put them in a binder for Thanksgiving, or have your tablet or computer in the kitchen while you cook. Last year I did a binder, and this year I'm doing my laptop. I figure I will also be able to play music in the kitchen while we cook.
Once you get all your recipes in place and saved create a new document to serve as your grocery list. Have the documents open side by side and go down your recipe ingredient list. I write down the item, and the amount needed. When I run into that item again, I add a plus sign and the other amount. This is the best way I have found to keep from forgetting any ingredients. It seems tedious, but it is well worth it. There is nothing worse than knowing you need heavy whipping cream, but not how much you need! This is why it's such a good idea to start as soon as you can.
Once you get the rough draft grocery list written, I separate my list by department. It makes it so much easier when you are actually shopping!
Last but not least, I take the time to add up all the amounts and write the final amounts needed next to each item. If I have a weird or odd amount, I always round up. Better to have too much than not enough!
Menu planned, recipes tackled, and grocery list done! Whoo, don't you feel better getting that all taken care of? I know I do! I will be posting some recipes, tips and tricks, decor ideas, and much more the rest of the week (and maybe longer!) I invite anyone who reads this to ask any questions they may have about anything Thanksgiving related. Not sure how to set a table, or fold a napkin, just ask! Also, feel free to press the little "pin it" button next to any of these pictures. It will allow you to pin this post to pinterest to save for later or to guide others here for any help they may need.
Other posts in this series:
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Being a Good Host
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Menu Planning
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Setting the Tone
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Fun for Kids
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Recipes and Time Management
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Tips and Tricks
2012 Thanksgiving Guide: Resources and Reminders