Thanksgiving Planning

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Well, it’s early but I am a planner so I am planning Thanksgiving dinner. Until this year my involvement in the family Thanksgiving meal consisted of making a green bean casserole and maybe a pecan pie. This will be the first time I haven’t been with my family on Thanksgiving and that makes me sad. However, instead of being sad I am looking at this from a positive angle. I get to create my own menu and attempt to prepare a Thanksgiving meal, creating my very own tradition. This Thanksgiving Day’s events will determine if this “tradition” continues or if we find a Cracker Barrel next year. Like any good organized planner I have devised an outline for this meal. After skimming through my home magazines and cook books I chose mostly simplistic recipes with limited ingredients for three reasons:

1. I am eager but lazy as well as inexperienced with limited space and helpers.

2. Because I live with an anti-vegetable kind of guy. The celery that my mom’s dressing recipe calls for will have to be chopped so tiny that I will probably need to wear cut resistant gloves to prevent injuries (I always cut myself when I use knives). Most all the really good recipes I found called for onions and other vegetables that my husband refuses to eat so I substituted them for some equally good but unhealthier recipes.

3. I’m a cheapskate and spending tons of money on ingredients that will be combined and placed into an oven could have multiple results, 1. a delicious casserole, 2. a disgusting casserole, 3. a burnt casserole. I’m not good at math but I’m pretty sure this means there is a 66.66% chance that I will end up wasting money.

WIth all that said, here is the obvious but still helpful outline I created to plan the meal.

I. What Do I Want To Cook?
So, after skimming through all my cookbooks, online recipe galleries, and Thanksgiving themed issues of magazines I made a list of my Thanksgiving meal. I even drew a plate with separate sections, drawing in the foods, in order to determine if I covered all the food groups. The carbohydrate food group is definitely covered.

A. Skim through magazines and cookbooks marking the pages with potential Thanksgiving recipes.

II. How Much Effort Do I Want To Exert?
Something you might have noticed is that some recipes are really complicated. Some recipes are very strange and call for combinations of the most unrelated ingredients. When reading these kinds of recipes, I become both intrigued and frightened. I love the idea of different, strange, weird, pretentious foods but in my experience, most of the time if I try one I don’t like the taste. I may have an undeveloped palate. I may be uncultured and cannot fully understand the beauty of these foods but whatever the case may be, simple is better. I do not want to stand around all day long making something “different” and it end up tasting like a piece of cardboard with the zest of lemon and kick of garlic.

A. Make a list of dishes, narrow it down to the recipes you like best.
B. Type up your list and the individual recipes so they are all in one place and easy to find. No need to flip through multiple books the day of meal preparation.

III. How Early Do I Want To Wake Up?

Now you need to make a timeline. How long do these dishes take to cook? What should you start on first? If you are making a whole turkey, do you really want to get up a 4:00 a.m. to put it in the oven so you can make sure you eat by noon? If so, good for you. We are different kinds of people. It is easier when there isn’t a huge group of people coming to your house to eat because then you could say, “We are eating whenever everything gets ready.” I am shooting for the weird time that people sometimes eat Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. That time between lunch (dinner if you are southern) and supper (dinner if you aren’t southern). So, I guess 3:00ish?

A. Make a timeline of your recipes’ prep times and baking times.
B. Decide what to start on first, last, and in between.
C. Go back to your list you typed up and put the recipes in order according to your timeline.

IV. Do I Have Enough Casserole Dishes And Other Baking Utensils?
I needed more casserole dishes but I didn’t realize it till I went to the kitchen clearance section in TjMaxx. I found two pretty blue dishes for $10 each and decided to buy them and assess my baking situation at home. Turns out I really did need those dishes so I kept them. 

A. Buy what you need
B. Prep yourself, get in a digging mood, and go to TjMaxx and look at their clearance kitchen stuff because they have tons of things.
C. Go back to your recipe list that you typed up and indicate where and in what the recipe will go in (i.e. Macaroni and Cheese: blue oval casserole dish).

V. Make A Shopping List

A. Print out your detailed recipe list you typed up.
B. Make a shopping list.

VI. Go Shopping

VII. Night Before Prep
So what I plan to do once I go shopping, the night before Thanksgiving I am going to group all of my unrefrigerated ingredients and dishes together out on my counters (obviously not in the way of my cooking areas). This way I can see everything and not lose focus. So everything (including casserole dish) for macaroni and cheese will be all together and ready.

A. Organize your ingredients and containers.
B. Set out your detailed recipe list you printed out.

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