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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Planning A Thanksgiving Feast

Can someone please tell me how the heck it is already the week of Thanksgiving? If you were to ask me what time it felt like, I might say mid-September. Huh. Thanksgiving's really this week? I guess maybe I should start planning my meal. At least this year I only have a modest gathering of people to cook for. Last year, now that was another story. I had great intentions of posting more about it at the time, but it was tricky enough making dinner for twelve with a nine month old, let alone posting about it, but it's all about the planning. Even when you don't have a baby, it's all about the planning.  

Let me show you what I mean by planning. The first step, obviously, is to decide what (and how much) you're going to make. This was my menu last year. At the top, you can see the appetizers that I wanted to make. Then you can see the main meal, followed by dessert. I smoked the turkey on my Weber grill. Because I had never done it before, I smoked a test turkey a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. It worked pretty well and, hopefully, I can share how I did that with you this week, too. I always have great intentions of posting holiday appropriate recipes in a timely manner, but... well, you can see that it doesn't always happen. 

After I made the menu (and the requisite grocery list), the next step was to come up with my timing planning. When preparing food for large meals such as this, I always try to prepare as much as I can in advance, especially when a lot of the work is limited to nap time. As you can see, I started the Friday prior with making the bread, which I was planning to use in the stuffing. 

As you can see, as I finished tasked, I crossed them off... usually, I'm not sure why the name card cookies task isn't crossed off, since I did get them done. You can also see that I allow for some changes as I go as well. Note that I switched a couple tasks between Monday and Tuesday. Flexibility is the name of the game when preparing large, complex meals. Another important thing to point out is my oven plan at the bottom of the page. When you only have one oven (or even two) with many items needing to be baked, this step is essential. If I plan on having more than one item in at the same time, I make sure the dishes that I plan on having the items in will, in fact, all fit in the oven at the same time. There's nothing worse than planning so well only to be foiled by dishes that won't fit!!

And then, because turkey day itself is always crazy, especially if people are showing up early in the day, I make sure to have a timeline for the day of. Not only is it important to think through the logistics of how it will all work ahead of time, I find it critical to have a list to keep me from forgetting things the day of. 

As I mentioned, my meal this year is quite a bit simpler. Thank goodness, since I've only just planned my menu. Since I'm a traditionalist, it's very similar to what I make every year. The big change is that, this year, I'm not baking up a whole turkey. I'm going to stuff a turkey breast and roll it up into a roulade. If I can find the meat in the store, I would like to also roast some turkey legs and thighs to be able to serve some dark meat (and help make gravy), but we'll have to see how the grocery stores are around here! I plan on making/prepping almost everything ahead of time, so Thursday, hopefully, will be relaxed and festive. That's my favorite kind of Thanksgiving!

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