Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Planning

Our family on Thanksgiving 2009
Overwhelmed with the task of single-handedly planning my family's entire Thanksgiving dinner (and wanting it to be big and special even though it will only be the three of us), I knew I had to over compensate with some extreme planning.  If you ever find yourself in the same situation, I hope that some of my pointers come in handy for you.

1.  Plan the Menu.  First, I did what I do every week for every meal-- I planned what we were going to eat: Turkey, dressing, rolls, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, green beans, gravy, baked apples, mashed potatoes, and cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  I told you I wanted it to be big and special!

2.  Find the Recipes.  I did not yet have recipes for several of the things I wanted to prepare.  I scoured the internet for the yummiest looking recipes and printed them to PDFs on my computer.  It's probably a good idea to later print out a hard copy too, but I'll probably just keep the laptop in the kitchen with me.  Yes, I'm making several new recipes over the course of two days.  Yes, I know that's crazy.

3.  List the Ingredients.  With all of my recipes at hand or opened on the computer, I listed in an Excel document all of the ingredients for each dish.  It looked something like this:

StuffingPumpkin Pie
sourdough bread        2 eggs
3 T ghee1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 stalk celery1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 onion1 t cinnamon
2 cloves garlic1/2 t nutmeg
2 T parsley1/2 t ginger
1/2 t sage1/2 t salt
1/4 t marjoram1 T molasses
1/8 t pepper3/4 cup coconut milk
water1 pie crust

4.  Combine Ingredients Lists into a Shopping List.
 Directly below the ingredients lists, I began organizing everything into a shopping list.  I filtered out the things I already had on hand (which was surprisingly a LOT) and, as always, divided my list by Dairy, Meat, Fresh, General, and Non-Food.  It looked like this (which includes everything I need for the week, not just Thanksgiving):

DairyMeat   Fresh   GeneralNon-Food   ?
butterbacon   celery   saltwipes   coconut milk
chicken breasts   onions   sugarbody wash   worcestershire
salami   garlic   marghiran   gelatin
   bell pepper   sesame oil   lemon juice
   sesame seeds   flour
   potato chips
   tortilla chips

The "?" column at the end is where I write things that I cannot remember if I have enough on hand or not.  Instead of getting up to go check several times, I make a list there and then check them all at the same time after I've planned everything else.  It's a little thing, but it saves quite a bit of time for me on my shopping morning and helps my easily distracted self stay focused on the task at hand.

5.  Make a Timeline.  The last thing I did was make a timeline of when everything needed to be done.  It spanned Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and  Thursday's to-do list was in order of what to do first, second, etc.  You'll see that I also noted how long some of the things would take that I wanted to all be finished at the same time:

Tuesday Wednesday
Make sourdough sponge Make sourdough bread for stuffing
for bread, rolls & cinnamon rolls Brine turkey
Make & bake pie crust Par-bake rolls
Make pumpkin pie
Make cinnamon rolls and refrigerate

Cinnamon rolls for breakfast
Green Beans-cook in morning, reheat
Turkey- 6 hours including prep
Stock/gravy- 1 hour stovetop
Mashed potatoes- 1 hour stovetop
Stuffing- 30 minutes stovetop
Fried Apples- 30 minutes stovetop
Warm beans- 5 minutes
Warm rolls- 10 minutes after turkey
Warm pie- 15 minutes after rolls

Then all I had to do was collect my ingredients and execute my plan!  I'll let you know after Thanksgiving how well that went!

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