Want to know how to cook a turkey? I've got ya covered! PLUS I've also put together some REALLY easy Thanksgiving survival tips to help you stay organized so you can spend more time making memories, and less time worrying about how you're going to get everything done.
When it comes to planning for a big party, especially during the holidays, it's easy to get caught up in all the things you keep adding to your "to do" list. There's the cooking. The cleaning. The prepping. It can seem endless, right? There are some days I've added just as many things TO my list as I've crossed off! Know what I mean?
I've figured out if I break down everything I need to do into little steps, and do a few steps every day, the whole party planning process is MUCH easier, less daunting, and way more fun.
And you don't need to start planning more than a week ahead of time. I keep a calendar of the week and divide up the prep work, decorating and cooking. Any child or family member who is home gets pulled into the kitchen to help. We crank up the tunes and, before we know it, the work is done and we can enjoy Thanksgiving with our family and friends.
One last thing before you read through my list.
This list is just an outline.
If you don't like to bake, than buy pies from your favorite local bakery. Not a fan of green bean casserole? Don't make it. Does your aunt make a killer stuffing? Give her a call and ask her to bring it. Keep it simple. If you keep it simple, and create the menu and the holiday YOU want, you're bound to be less stressed and actually enjoy it.
Just like I chatted about in my last blog post (if you missed it, you can read it here), let's all make a pact this holiday season to focus on the moments and memories, create the holidays WE want, and savor this time with our loved ones. Because at the end of the day that's all that matters. Being surrounded by loved ones, whether it's 1 or 100, and celebrating time together.
Ok......let's get on to the planning part! (If you came here just to find out how to cook a turkey, scroll on down to Thanksgiving Day!)
Sunday before Thanksgiving (that would be today!)
1. Plan your menu. If you're looking for ideas check out my Thanksgiving Feast for ideas! But, if you're more cautious when it comes to cooking and trying new dishes, then I would DEFINITELY recommend making something you've made over and over and over again. Or, if you DO want to try something new but are worried about it turning out, start with a salad. Salads are pretty darn forgiving, easy to prepare and there's no cooking involved.
2. Go to the grocery store (get an early start to beat the crowds!) and buy all the ingredients for all your dishes. And when I say I get to the grocery store early, I'm talking 7 am, latte in hand, list on my phone, all ready to go. I'm not a fan of lines and crowds, and this way I'm home having my second cup of coffee before the masses descend on the store. Plus, inevitably, I can't get everything on my list at one store, so this gives me time to get to a couple of stores before they get crowded. On a side note: my dream would be to one day have ONE shopping center with ALL my grocery stores in one spot. Do you feel the same way? It would seriously be AMAZING, wouldn't it?
Ok, back to the list........
3. Wash all the veggies and organize everything as you put it away, so you know where it is. I clear out all my produce drawers, so the the only produce in them is what I'm cooking for Thanksgiving. A clean, organized fridge just makes me happy. And saves SO much time when it comes to cooking.
4. Set the Thanksgiving table. I know this seems REALLY early, but having this done gives me a chance to see if any silver needs to be polished (which is pretty much the entire time ALL year I polish it), or any napkins ironed (my previous comment on silver also applies to ironing)----- or if need to borrow or buy any additional glasses/plates/platters. To decorate the tables I prefer gourds and pumpkins to fresh flowers. They look just as festive as fresh flowers, but I don’t have to worry about them dying or wilting. And, of course, there are ALWAYS candles. Lots and lots of them. Votives, plus candlesticks, in an assortment of colors line the center of the table. Because dining with candles is simply magical.
1. Make cranberry sauce (or relish, or chutney).
2. Make pie crusts and store in refrigerator. You can also make your pie crusts a couple of weeks before and store them in your freezer. Don't bring them fully to room temp, though. They should have a bit of a chill to them which makes them easier to roll out. If they get to room temp the crusts tend to get a bit sticky. But if this happens, just stick them in the fridge for a few minutes to chill them.
3. Chop all your veggies (onions, celery, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, etc.) and put in marked ziplock bags. Put a damp paper towel into each of the ziplock bags to keep everything fresh.
4. Chop your herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme) and put in individually marked ziplock bags and store in your fridge.
1. Make the biscuits, rolls or any other type of bread you plan on serving for Thanksgiving.
2. Cube bread for stuffing so it has time to dry out. If you dry out your bread your stuffing will be incredibly fluffy.
1. Make your pie (or pies, because who can serve just 1 pie on Thanksgiving?) Pumpkin and any other custard-based pies should be stored in the refrigerator. The other pies can be stored safely at room temperature. You may want to put a note on the pies "Do Not Eat!"......if you have teenagers, kids, husbands, family, anyone who loves pie for breakfast, I recommend this extra step to ensure you actually have pie for Thanksgiving.
2. Assemble the stuffing, cook and store in the refrigerator.
3. Assemble the other vegetable side dishes and store in the refrigerator.
4. Cut up the potatoes and store in a bowl covered with water. This will prevent them from turning brown.
Thursday (aka....THE BIG DAY IS FINALLY HERE!)
1. When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, it all revolves around the turkey. Count back from when you want to sit down and eat. This will help you decide when to put the turkey in the oven. Now, if you're wondering HOW to cook a turkey, it's actually simpler than you think.
Here are the steps.
Preheat your oven and roast your turkey, leaving about 2-4 hours (this will ENTIRELY depend on the size of your turkey) to cook and a minimum of 30 minutes to rest. A good measure of time is to plan 15 minutes per pound and cook in a 325 degree oven. The USDA says a turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. You want to insert the thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and you should also check at the thickest part of the breast.
It's also EXTREMELY important to make sure you rest your turkey. Resting allows all the juices to recede back into the turkey. This is what ensures a moist AND flavorful turkey. When you carve your turkey the last thing you want to see is juice all over your board. The added bonus of resting your turkey is it allows you time to reheat all the side dishes -- which brings me to #2.
If you're looking for a recipe (and more info on how to cook a turkey) click HERE for my Perfect Turkey recipe -- moist turkey, crispy skin and sure to be a hit on your table this year!
2. If you’re like me, and are working with one oven, no need to worry about getting everything cooked at once. There’s plenty of time to cook (and warm up) everything else once the turkey is out and resting. The great thing about veggies is they taste just as delicious when they’re room temperature as they do when they come right out of the oven.
3. About an hour before the turkey is finished cooking, remove all your side dishes from the fridge. Anything you're reheating, or cooking, will take less time if it's as close to room temp as you can get it.
3. When the turkey comes out, put the vegetables in the oven to cook.
4. While the vegetables cook, make the mashed potatoes and keep warm on low heat.
5. When the vegetables are done, reheat the stuffing and biscuits, and, if serving soup, warm it over low heat.
6. Carve the turkey.
7. Put out the rest of the side dishes.
8. Don't forget to also put the wine bottles out -- I like to put them right on the table, so everyone can help themselves. I also always make sure everyone has water glasses and there's also a water pitcher on the table.
9. Light the candles and push "play" on your playlist.
8. Sit back and enjoy a fabulous Thanksgiving meal!
What are some of the ways you stay organized for Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comments section below.
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