Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Make A Timeline for Cooking Thanksgiving-Part 1

With only two weekends (yet all day commitments throughout the both of them), plus a full time job, a part time job, a teenager that requires constant monitoring for maintaining progress in school (by the way, it is 100% working and we may have hit a breakthrough!-more on that later),  I have limited time to get everything all set up for Thanksgiving.

Last year, I found it incredibly helpful to set up a general timeline of when I was going to make each item. This also helped ensure that all the food would be served at the right time and it also helped me figure out how I was going to do it. Considering that the turkey takes up the entire oven for nearly the whole day, it will be reaaaaly tough to cook anything else in the oven.

In order to make my timeline, I first look at my proposed menu and decide what can get cooked in advance, prepped in advance etc., be frozen, etc. I also take into account my appliances: I have two ovens, two large crock-pots, an electric cooktop, microwave, stovetop with 4 burners, and a crockpot with three small pots. I may decide to borrow a crock-pot from a friend, just in case.

I go through each item on my menu and write down when I will prepare it. It's also very helpful to have  my recipes next to me while I do this so I can consider cooking time, temperature need, how long it will take to prep, etc.

So, just going through my menu, here is the estimated timeline:

  • Veggie tray and dips: Completely prepared on Wednesday and wrapped tightly in saran wrap
  • Cheese/crackers: Same as above. I can even go as far as prepping this on Tuesday and will have  it set on the serving tray and wrapped tightly in saran wrap
  • Bacon wrapped dates: Prep  on Wednesday and stored ready to go on the cookie sheet (again, wrapped tightly in saran wrap) and stored in fridge. These need to go into oven 2-3 hours before dinner to be served. The beauty of this is that they can be put in at 350 for 20-25 minutes, 400 for 10-12 minutes, or 450 for 8-10 minutes. 
  • Butternut squash soup: Anal retentiveness in me already made this early in the week and it is now hanging out in the freezer.  Plan is to take it out Tuesday afternoon to defrost in the fridge and start re-warming it in the old crockpot on Thursday.
  • Green beans with almonds and garlic: Prep on Monday or Tuesday by tearing off the stems, chopping the garlic and gathering all ingredients. Cook on electric cook-top (one of the best investments I made) 20-30 minutes prior to serving on Thanksgiving
  • Stuffing: I got this recipe here and we all loved it last year. I will prep this on Wednesday by getting all the ingredients ready to go and put into plastic baggies. It takes a full hour in the oven so I will begin sauteeing the veggies on the cooktop 1.5 hours prior to serving
  • Twice baked stuffed sweet potatoes : Made these over the weekend (recipe to post soon) and they are currently chilling out in the freezer. I will put these in the fridge to defrost (ready on the cookie sheet) on Wednesday and they will go into the oven 1.5 hours before dinner is served.
(If you are following along, I so far have the stuffing and the twice baked potatoes in the same oven at 350 degrees around the same time)

((SO GLAD I HAVE TWO OVENS! that was one of my biggest wishes requirements when we were house hunting))

  • Mashed potatoes: A little tip I picked up from my mother: you can peel and chop the potatoes a few days before you make them-just don't add salt to the water! As long as you change the water frequently, they will last. I will peel and prep them them on Tuesday and change the water each morning and afternoon. I plan to heat, and mash the potatoes Thursday morning and then will reheat in the new crock-pot later on in the day. This is one of the biggest time savers! 

We interrupt this post for this breaking news: I didn't want to post anything in case I gave up/forgot to do it/any other excuse, but so far, I am 8 days into this 30 day sit-up challenge. I like the idea of the small challenge like this, and adding 5 sit-ups to the previous day isn't really that big a deal. Ask me that in 20 more days, but still...
Anyways, I just stopped mid-post to do them. And I am impressed with myself that I made those 50 sit-ups a priority. They really don't take that long and as long as I had the motivation...why not.

And now back to your regularly scheduled Thanksgiving post.

  • Salad/dressings: Since I am asking someone to bring this, no worries for me. Usually, people will ask if they can bring something and I won't hesitate to say, "Why yes, thank you. How about a salad?" Salad's are easy to prepare-even for the non-cook and since they require some time in terms of chopping vegetables, etc., it's a great item to have someone else take care of. 
  • Crescent rolls/bread and butter: I will get this prepped earlier in the afternoon when I have a moment by taking apart the rolls and pressing them into squares. And thanks to pinterest for teaching me that you can put crescent rolls in the waffle iron, this can be started 10-15 minutes prior to serving the meal and it will still be relatively warm. And, I have made the executive decision that the teenager will be in charge of making the crescent rolls waffles on Thanksgiving.
  • Cranberry sauce: Easy. Open can, Put in dish. Will do this the night before-it's just one less thing to do and as long as it's wrapped up well, it will be fine.
  • Corn: Microwave 10 minutes or so before dinner is served
  • Vegetable Medley: I don't have to worry too much about this. This is a staple in Ryan's family and his mom will bring this. 

And most importantly...

  • Turkey: I need to get an official head count to determine what size I am going to buy which makes a huge difference for cooking. I don't remember what I got last year, but we are estimated at 12-15 people (albeit one person is the four year old) so I figure 1.5 pounds per person which means a 22+ pound turkey. Following these tips, and of course Martha's tips I need to account for 4-5 days to defrost (that means, Operation Defrost Turkey begins the Friday before Thanksgiving. On Wednesday, I prep the turkey as much as I can-starting with the gross task of cleaning the turkey, followed by seasoning it, etc. Working backwards...If I want to serve the turkey around 3:30, 5 minutes or so for carving brings me to 3:25 and it should sit out for 20-25 minutes to let the juices sit, which brings me to 3:00. I will need to account for 20 minutes per pound (1 hour for three pounds). If the turkey is 21 pounds, it will need 7 hours in the oven, which means it should go in around 8:00 am. Again, these are rough estimates and can get worked out later, but it's good to get a general idea now and re-adjust as needed. 
  • Gravy: This will get made while the turkey is setting and Ryan is carving. 
  • Drinks: Drinks are relatively easy to take care of. Just remember to add a few cucumbers or lemons or whatever you want to infuse the water with into the pitcher the day before or morning of and chill in the fridge until needed. I'll keep the drink bucket near the kitchen and add the ice just before guests arrive and fill with the drinks. 
  • Applesauce: I can make this on Monday night, from start to finish, and will re-warm in the small crockpot and keep some out cold
  • Chocolate chip cookies: Making a double, maybe triple batch sometime this weekend and freezing. I will thaw out the night before. I will probably bring some cookies to each of my Friendsgivings.
  • Cinnamon pin-wheels: It would help if I got this recipe from my mother first!! I know they can be frozen so I will make these sometime the week before and defrost them on Wednesday
  • Pumpkin loaf : Making a loaf (well actually three!) this afternoon and freezing. They will need to thaw out two days in advance (beginning on Tuesday) so that I can slice it and prepare for serving on Wednesday. Again, since this makes a triple batch, I will bring these to both Friendsgivings
  • Apple bread: Same as the pumpkin loaf
  • Fruit platter: Prep on Wednesday and wrap up tightly
  • Pie: Someone will bring it and I don't need to worry about it

Since taking a better look at the meal plan, I opted out of the roasted squash-too much other stuff going on and there won't be enough room in the oven. Maybe another time.

Ok,  that was a shitload of stuff to figure out...but its SO WORTH IT. After writing it all out, I already feel like I have a good handle on all my cooking. Last year, I had the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off from work but this year, I do not. I am debating on if I should take a half a day or not.

Next up: Formating this into an actual time line that goes in order, which will also include other things like setting the table, decorations, and cleaning (yes, I plan my cleaning too)-

In case you missed the previous posts on how to host a Thanksgiving dinner, here you go:
Tips and Tricks on Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Menu

That's it for now!

Question for you:
Does your family have a "staple" dish that shows up at all the holiday meals?

1 comment:

  1. Orange jello salad is a Thanksgiving staple in my family. It was my Grandmother's recipe and my Dad makes it every year in her memory. You are super organized. I love it!