The countdown is on….And I am super hyped!!! Thanksgiving is a BIG DEAL in my home. I love everything about it…looking for new recipes, planning the menu and hosting for friends and family. Last year, I hosted close to 35 people at my house and did most of the cooking. Yes, that’s nuts. And yes, my feet are usually on fire for the rest of the weekend…but I would not trade it for the world…at least not now.
My goal is to share some of my staple go-to recipes in the next few days…but first, I wanted to share some of my quick tips on prepping for the big day. If you haven’t started yet – you still have time!
Recipe Search: A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I start to look for different recipes that I may want to try out. My menu generally stays the same with all the key staples – but every year I try to add 1-2 new side dishes or new variations of a dish just for fun. Its best to test out the new dish BEFORE Thanksgiving…but sometimes – I just take a shot to see how it turns out and if its worthy to make it on the dinner table. By the way – we’re 5 days away from the big day – so if you’re going to try something new – today is the day.
Saturday: Finalize your menu and make your grocery list. You DO NOT want to wait until the last minute to start figuring out what you need. This year, I’m relying on Instacart to get as much as I can off of my list early. Note: Instacart is great for some things – but not everything. Save the fresh produce, herbs, and meats for your own choosing for a day or two before.
Monday: Clean out your refrigerator to make space for things you will need to keep cold while prepping…as well as leftovers. If you’re hosting…this is also a good time to pull out all of your serving dishes and any décor you will need to use. Don’t wait until the last minute to search for that perfect serving dish you haven’t used in the last 364 days…or worse – realize that it’s missing. Also, take inventory of all the tools you need to cook and have them readily available – and working! Nothing worse than finding out the day of that your thermometer konked out.
Make sure you have plenty of glass containers on hand for any leftovers. I also like to have these containers handy for guests who like to make a to-go plate…so they’re not walking out with my good containers – cause they will.
Tuesday: Start food prep. I usually use this day to buy my fresh turkey from Delaware Chicken Farm early in the morning and keep it in the fridge until its brine time. I also use this time to start cutting up any ingredients that I’ll be using: onions, peppers, etc…chop them up and pop them in ziplock bags so they’re ready to go when its time to cook.
Wednesday: First thing…brine your turkey in the morning so that it will have a full 24 hours to soak. Trust me – its a game changer. More on that later.
Make your cranberry sauce and desserts. I try to knock these out in the morning so that I have the rest of the day to get any last-last minute items needed. Promise…it doesn’t matter how much I prep – there’s a moment of “Damn. I forgot to get the sour cream! BOB. I NEED YOU!!!!!!”
Make any side dishes that can be refrigerated and warmed up the next day.
Wednesday night: Before bed…set your table. Get that out of the way so you won’t have to worry about it the next day.
Thanksgiving Day: I am usually up and in my kitchen by 6 AM. We usually have dinner at 4 PM so that gives me a good 10 hours to get everything done. Having a double oven helps…and having my trusted sidekick Fifi who helps me with prep.
To alleviate the kids and adults in my kitchen on a busy morning – I’ll make something quick for breakfast…usually its coffee and blueberry muffins. If that doesn’t work for them – there’s always cereal!
I’ll then start with the main sides that are a bit more complicated to make: greens, mac and cheese, candied yams. For some of those items – I’ll prep and pop them in the oven closer to the afternoon when they only need about 45min – 1hr to bake. I also tend to wait and roast my turkey and ham about 4 hours before dinner time, depending on the weight.
- Game Plan: If not this plan…then find a game plan that works for you! Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for the person hosting. So it’s best that you come into it with a plan…and reliable help.
- Identify a cleanup crew: After all of this cooking, you should not be the one responsible for the cleanup. So thankfully, I can put my nieces and sister to work throughout the day, keeping the kitchen clean and dishes washed. By the time dinner is ready – mostly everything is in disposables so it should be a somewhat easy clean-up.
- ASK: Don’t be afraid to ask your guest to bring something…especially those that you won’t need to lean on for the cleanup crew. Wine, drinks, ice, cheese platters, water, are all items that you shouldn’t have to worry about – especially if you’re handling the food.
- Enjoy the day. Fill your house with music…Drink wine while cooking..Assign someone to take photos and most of all – be grateful for the moment.