Posts Tagged ‘shopping lists’

Thanksgiving Game Plan

November 14, 2013

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and if you are hosting dinner, it’s time to get cooking; in a figurative sense. Unless you prepare a massive feast for a crowd on a regular basis, planning ahead is everything.

Here are a few of our favorite tips to ensure a successful meal:

Nail down the guest list:

Our Thanksgiving guest list ebbs and flows each year, with regulars often asking to bring friends at the last minute.  While there is always room for one more, a few more, or a few less can wreck havoc. Try to get a head count so you can plan more efficiently.

Order the turkey:

If you have ever had a fresh, free range or organic turkey, vs. a frozen conventional turkey, you will know this step is critical. I order mine from Dipaola Turkeys at the Union Square Greenmarket, and you really can taste the difference.

Create a menu:

With the wide variety of traditional dishes served for Thanksgiving, a plan is necessary. Everyone seems to have a favorite side dish that they look forward to, and with all of the food issues floating around, it is important to serve items that fit into your guests’ dietary restrictions. Check to see if you have any vegetarians, vegans or gluten free diners. You can work around those issues in some dishes to make sure that everyone has an enjoyable meal. Copy your recipes, and place them in a folder so that they are all in one place when you need them. 

Make shopping lists:

The grocery stores get crazy the day before Thanksgiving. Other than the impeding nervous breakdown one might experience when food shopping the evening before the holiday, the most popular items are often sold out. You can’t make pumpkin pie without pumpkin, or cranberry sauce without cranberries. Dividing the list into non- perishables, which can be purchased far in advance, semi-perishables, which can be purchased a few days in advance, last minute items, and specialty store items, will allow you to be a stealth shopper, with a minimum amount of stress. 

Have a game plan:

Take that menu you just created, and figure out the best way to execute it. Several dishes can be made the day before and finished off right before dinner, and others can be prepped to minimize the muss and fuss. Cleaning and chopping vegetables, and making piecrusts are good items to get out of the way in advance.

Setting the table:

If you have room, go ahead and set the table the day before and cover it with a sheet.At the very least, inventory dishes, tableware, linens and serving pieces a week in advance. Polish the silver, wipe the dishes, iron the linens and make sure you have everything you need. When you discover you don’t have a serving piece, or a place setting on Thanksgiving Day, there is little to nothing you can do about it.

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Taking the time to plan ahead will be one of the many things to be thankful for, come Thanksgiving Day.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Ready or Not, Here it Comes!!

November 12, 2012

With all that has been going on, I almost forgot that Thanksgiving is coming in just 10 days!  With all that is on my plate between now and then, it is going to take some serious planning to pull it off without a hitch.

Are you too hosting Thanksgiving dinner and wondering how it could possibly be coming so soon?  Here is a breakdown of how to get to Thanksgiving without, well, having a breakdown!

Ready, set, GO!

Make a guest list and confirm how many to expect. I find my guest list often grows and recedes as I discover and include people who have not made other plans, or find out about frequent guests who will not make it this year. Try to nail down the amount of people as soon as possible, so you can start to plan ahead. Also, figure out if anyone has any dietary restrictions. Gluten free, vegetarian and other food issues are easy to work around this time of year, as long as you know in advance.

Create your menu. I printed out my menu from last year, and I am pulling all of the recipes together in a file. If I want to try something new, that goes into the file and the menu gets updated.
Make lists! Guest lists, shopping lists, to do lists. If you write it down, it is more likely to actually happen.

Create a shopping list and break it down by non-perishables, which can be purchased in advance, and the fresh foods, which need to be bought at the last minute. Also break the perishable foods list down by where you will purchase the items. If you are like me, it’s not one stop shopping!

Order anything that requires advance booking, like a fresh turkey. I get mine at Di Paola Turkey Farms, and pick it up at the Union Square Greenmarket the day before Thanksgiving.  If you think turkey is dry and unappetizing, try to find a fresh turkey from a reputable farm. The quality of the bird is as critical to the outcome as how you cook it.

Get organized. If you can, clean out the kitchen cupboards and assess your pantry. Do you really have enough of all of those staple items you think you have? If not, put them on the shopping list!

Think about serving pieces and table settings. Do you have enough seating and dishes to accommodate the guests? If not, it is better to know now, than the day of the event. You still have time to borrow or buy whatever you need, if you plan ahead.

While I am not a big proponent of freezing things, think about what you might be able to make in advance and pop into the freezer. Unbaked biscuits, for example, work well when frozen.

Start at least the day before. You cannot cook a great meal of this magnitude from scratch in one day, no matter how organized you are. Solicit kitchen help that takes direction well, and is up to the challenge of doing things to your standards and not making you nuts in the process. Yes, I admit to becoming a bit of a Chefzilla, so I have found that keeping everyone away the first day, and assigning tasks the second day keeps it in check (sort of).

Prep work is essential. Clean and chop all of the vegetables the day before, and assemble as many parts of the meal you can before the big day. This includes salad dressing, the ingredients for the stuffing, the roasted garlic herb butter I spread on the turkey, and many of the side dishes. I made some desserts in advance, and may make the dough for the piecrusts but hold off baking the pies until the morning. The more you do in advance, the more relaxed you will be on Thanksgiving Day.

 

Think about how much will fit into your oven at one time. Be creative about how to make it all work, and be realistic about pulling it off. Plan your menu accordingly.

During the time leading up to the big day, I will post recipes and other tips to make the preparation as enjoyable as the meal itself.
If there is a particular dish or topic you would like addressed, leave a comment and I will try to tackle it!


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