November 19, 2016
After preparing Thanksgiving meals for over forty years, how to Plan For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Like An Expert has evolved! Of course, you can buy prepared dishes, but if you want to have homemade food, one of the keys is preparing side dishes that can be assembled a day or two before, to be baked, and or, served Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving Meal Plan Breakdown
►Three days before Thanksgiving
Place the turkey in the refrigerator to thaw, if you’re using a frozen bird.
►Two days before Thanksgiving
Prepare a Pumpkin Pie or Pumpkin Cheesecake. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
Prepare the Mini Cheese Balls, (love these), or the Pumpkin-shaped Cheese Ball. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (This year, I have found another way of shaping the cheese ball and it looks even better! You wrap the ball in plastic wrap and use rubber bands to wrap around the ball to create the pumpkin-like indentations and refrigerate overnight. Genius!)
►The day before Thanksgiving
Prepare the Cranberry Sauce. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the vegetables for the vegetable tray and store in Ziploc bags and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the Ranch Dip, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
At least 3 – 3-1/2 hours before the meal for a 12-16 lb. turkey. Depending on the size of the turkey, you may have to adjust the time.
Bake the turkey. We don’t stuff the bird. We also use the Reynolds turkey oven bags, which make a moist turkey. It takes less time to bake it without the stuffing.
Place the giblets from the turkey, (not the liver), into a saucepan with water. Add a teaspoon of salt, 8 – 10 peppercorns, a bay leaf, a quartered onion, celery tops, and parsley. Heat to a boil, turn down the heat, cover, and simmer until cooked through. Use the liquid and chopped giblets to make your favorite dressing.
The bread maker is usually started at this time and in two hours, dough is ready to make into buns and proof for a half hour before baking for 8-minutes in the oven. To make it easy on yourself, you can make rolls the day before or simply buy them from the bakery.
►One hour before the meal.
Place the prepared Sour Cream Potatoes in the 350° oven.
Place the Stuffing and the Creole Green Beans in the 350° oven after the spoon bread has baked for 5-10 minutes.
While the potatoes, green beans, and spoon bread bake, assemble the cheese ball appetizer and the vegetable tray.
Remove the Sour Cream Potatoes, Creole Green Beans, the stuffing, and the Kentucky Spoon Bread from the oven. If you stagger the times you put each into the oven correctly, all should be done at the same time.
You can use these recipes or your own, but try to find side dishes that can be prepared the day ahead, refrigerated, and baked at the same temperature on Thanksgiving Day.
Need To Enlarge The Kitchen Or Dining Room Table?
Dixie Carter, who played Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women, had so much class. A magazine, I don’t remember which one, published an article on her and her home. She revealed that underneath her beautiful tablecloth and all the beautiful dishes and decor was a sheet of plywood!
She needed her table to be larger, so she placed the plywood on top of the table and no one was the wiser!
That is where I got the idea to do that very thing. As our family expands, we need more space at the table. A few years ago, my oldest son helped me buy a 4′ X 8′ sheet of plywood and bring it home in his pickup truck. (It clearly would not fit in my Mustang.)
Wanting the corners rounded, I placed a bowl upside down in each of the corners and drew around the bowl from where it met one edge to the other. Then, a jigsaw was used to cut the rounded corners.
Before placing the plywood on the table, four silicone pot holders are placed on each corner. This helps protect the table and it also helps keep it from sliding. Don’t you love the silicone pot holders?
Now, cover the board with a big beautiful tablecloth or tablecloths and no one will be the wiser. I have three banquet tablecloths. Two are used to overlap slightly covering the board, and also drape down the ends and sides of the table. The third is centered on the table over top of the first two.
If possible, add your centerpiece to the tables and set the tables the night before. Serving dishes are not added to the tables. To make it easier for our big gathering, the food is served on the kitchen island.
Using the easy to make cardboard lifts and levels, the island is covered with a pretty tablecloth or two. Use a variety of heights and sizes to display platters of food. It adds interest and sometimes it makes serving more convenient!
Pulling out the platters that the food will be displayed on and placing a little note with what each platter will hold help remind you of what needs to be served! Have you ever forgotten something? Yes, I have only to remember halfway through the meal!
Maybe you don’t want to use the recipes my family has come to love and expect at Thanksgiving, but using this same idea, you can Plan For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Like An Expert!