This morning, I put the wedding on hold and went grocery shopping. I bought all of the Thanksgiving necessities and the next few weeks groceries. Here's a few of my best Thanksgiving tips...
A few years ago, I typed up my Thanksgiving menu, with the recipes for each item on the menu. Below that, I made a shopping list, including everything down to the salt and pepper. Now, when it's time to do the Thanksgiving shopping, I print off the list, go to the pantry and refrigerator and check off what I don't need to buy and head to the store. This list has been so handy! I always serve the same traditional feast. I do not have to wonder if I have remembered everything on my shopping list. Add up the amounts of repeat items and list at the bottom "five pounds butter, 3 dozen eggs". It's been a great way to simplify holiday shopping! I started this the year after we had to run to the grocery store to buy sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving morning! (I knew something was missing!)
Speaking of sweet potatoes, I have simplified my time in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day immensely with this one little tip: Prepare half the meal the day before. The only things I actually cook on Thanksgiving Day is the mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls. Oh, and I heat the frozen peas and corn in the microwave. Everything else is cooked the day before. We cook our turkey overnight. (see below) I also tried a few years ago, at a friends suggestion, making the mashed potatoes the night before and keeping them in the crock pot overnight. It worked but, there's something comforting about whipping up those potatoes just before serving them, so I'll make them at the last minute.
Here's my menu: (The pies are the only things that change each year.)
Roast Turkey and Gravy
Ham (Last year, this was a first and it's a keeper!)
Homemade Stuffing with Mushrooms
Peas and Corn (now served separately because Buddy's allergic to peas)
Cranberry Sauce (Chilled, opened and poured out in the shape of the can and sliced, just like Mom did it, just because Mom did it that way. No one eats a bite of it but me!)
Homemade Rolls with Butter and Strawberry Jam
Dutch Apple Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Raw Apple Cake
Apple Juice carbonated with Sprite
As you can see, with this menu, the stuffing, salad, sweet potatoes, desserts are all Wednesday items.
The Turkey. Or as we call it, in our family, "Mr. Gobble". First of all, buy the biggest turkey you can find. The bone structure, I was told in a class at USU once, is the same size regardless of the weight of the bird, so you get more for your money, the bigger the bird. Buy freezer ziploc bags to store the extra and use it for casseroles and soups over the winter.
This, next to the babes, was the best thing that came out of Kelly's first marriage. Her awesome ex-mother--in-law, who cooked for ten children, taught me how to cook the most wonderful, moist turkey ever! Buy Reynolds Browning Bags (by the aluminum foil in the grocers). Open the bag, dust it with flour and seasonings. Put the thawed turkey into the bag upside down. As in breast side down. Here's why: The juices from the dark meat, which are usually on the bottom of the pan, will drip through the breast, making it the most moist turkey ever. Cook the turkey on very low temperature... as in 250-285 degrees or as low as your oven will go. Place the turkey on a baking sheet or a foil pan and bake it overnight. (I always get lots of emails when I mention this. I can't answer all questions but seriously, this works. It's never failed us ~ not once in the past 14 years. I couldn't say how many hours per pound??? We just put it in at bedtime and it's cooked when we wake up.) If I wake up at 4, I check it. If I wake up at 6, I check it. It's usually cooked by then.
We take the turkey out of the oven, debone it and put it into a roasting oven on low, low, low with all of the drippings poured back over it until serving time. At serving time, I lift the turkey pieces out, make the gravy and serve it all piping hot. This method of cooking won't bring the beautiful turkey to be carved by Grandpa at the head of the table, but it will taste a lot better! I promise!
Another "the older I get, the wiser I get" tip: Delegate the desserts! I prepare the entire meal. We always have company. Always! I can remember only one Thanksgiving in my life that we didn't have company. Guests always ask what they can bring and since we are fanatic about the "exact" same meal each year, I always say, "Bring a pie or dessert." Simply stated: You can never have too many desserts! And if I feel like making two instead of six pies on Wednesday, I know that there will be pies brought to the meal by our guests. SWEET! (No pun intended!)
Have a kids table and a grown-up table, if you're serving lots of people. Everyone can enjoy conversations at their own level. Much less stress!
And last but not least, and I never dreamed I'd say this... BUY PRETTY PAPER PLATES! I've used china for decades. Last year, serving 23 people (and I do have enough china to do it), I went to Hobby Lobby and bought beautiful paper plates, put them on chargers and served Thanksgiving on - tsk-tsk - paper plates! And it was lovely! And clean-up was so simple. And I didn't worry one second about my inherited Grannie's china! Lovely!
Last, I can not let this day go buy without expressing my joy/pride/gratitude for Liza today. She and Buddy are inviting the LDS missionaries for dinner, if they don't have a place to eat on Thanksgiving. (Apparently, no one had signed up to do it yet last Sunday.) Today was her day off. She called and told me that she was going to attempt a "practice run" making my homemade rolls without a Bosch or mixer!!! She called with a few questions, texted several times and sent me a few videos to see the texture and how much they'd risen. And then, the final photo... the rolls! She was thrilled with them! After they were baked, she texted me, "All they need is your strawberry jam!" How I wish I could send some jam through the Skype screen!
Liza said that Buddy made sandwiches for tomorrow lunch with them after eating several. Liza was so proud of herself! I told her that this was a proud mommy moment for me! And without a mixer. WOW!!!! I've never even done that! I make rolls often. Sometimes three or four times in a week. Liza had become my "rollmaker", as in shaping the dough into rolls. But, she'd never seemed too interested in actually making the dough! I'm so happy! A homemaking daughter makes this mama proud!
Life is good!
Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.