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Thanksgiving Planning, Part II

November 9, 2012

My Thanksgiving planning posts were delayed a bit by Sandy. We were without power for almost a week but luckily had no damage to our house. Unfortunately, the Peppermint Patties ran out too quickly so next time I’ll make a quadruple batch to help me weather a storm. My heart goes out to everyone displaced by the storm and I pray for a speedy recovery.

I passed the time with no electricity or internet by reading cookbooks (especially two new ones I was smart enough to preorder), sitting by the fire and playing board games with the hubby.  He made homemade chai that was wonderful and warmed the soul. I even burned down some precious computer battery to do some Thanksgiving planning.


I mentioned the menu blueprint I use in my first planning post so that is what I go off when planning our meal. Every family is different, so create your own – maybe it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without creamed onions – and build off it. Decide which recipes are tried and true favorites and where you want to try new recipes.

For any repeat Thanksgiving cooks, think back to last year if there were any shortfalls or disappointments. Last year our dinner was great but desserts were a disaster. Complete disaster! This was particularly disappointing for me because I LOVE pie. All year I look forward to the morning after Thanksgiving when I enjoy a nice big cup of coffee with leftover pie. It’s a delicious breakfast and I don’t feel guilty one bit. This year I’m on a mission to have successful pies so my post-Thanksgiving breakfast is as enjoyable as it should be.

There are so many sources out there for great recipes. I would start with the turkey because that’s the centerpiece of the meal. I make Anne Burrell’s cider brined turkey which I love – the subtle taste of apples in the gravy is so perfect for the season. I’ve also made Ina Garten’s perfect roast turkey which is simple but wonderful.

Look through your favorite cookbooks and blogs to fill out the rest of the side dishes. Food magazines like Fine Cooking and Bon Appétit are also great resources (Bon Appétit’s current Thanksgiving issue is a real winner). When choosing recipes, don’t just read the title and ingredient list – make sure you read through the entire recipe to make sure it’s doable in your kitchen along with everything else you are making. For online sources, read the comments so you benefit from others who tried the recipes already.

This is my current Thanksgiving plan – you’ll notice I still have a few things to fill in:

Turkey: Anne Burrell’s cider brined herb-crusted turkey
Gravy: Anne Burrell’s apple cider gravy
Cranberry Orange Relish
Cranberry Relish with Ginger and Port
Roasted butternut squash puree
Bread Stuffing
Cornbread Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes – ??
String Beans with Shallots – Barefoot Contessa

Pumpkin pie – new recipe from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof or current Bon Appetit issue??
Apple Cranberry Pie – Cooks’ Illustrated foolproof pie dough plus apple cranberry filling
Pecan Tart – ??

Develop a Plan, Part I
Now that you have your menu planned out, it’s time to start developing a plan to get you to the Thanksgiving table! Making a grocery list for such a large meal or gathering can be daunting. To prevent emergency trips to the market and panicked calls to your neighbor for an extra egg, I take a very methodical approach to grocery shopping for the Big Day (I know this is shocking for those of you who know me…wink wink). Sit down with all your recipes in front of you (I prefer to have them printed out on individual sheets or with the cookbook open to the page) – feel free to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. On a piece of paper or a word document on your computer, start taking notes of EVERY INGREDIENT used in all the recipes and the quantity need. Only list an ingredient once and note next to it the quantity needed for each dish (i.e. flour – 2 ½ cups for apple pie crust, 1 cup for gravy, etc.). I like to divide my list into produce, dairy, meat and grocery items for ease when shopping.

Now that you have a large shopping list written out, tally up the quantities needed of each item for your final shopping list. I like to rewrite or type it so it’s a clean copy. Go through your spice rack and pantry, crossing off anything you have in sufficient quantity. I usually go to the grocery store two weeks before Thanksgiving to stock up on pantry essentials like flour, sugar, salt etc. It’s also a good idea to get any non-perishable items that you need like pumpkin puree that you can tuck away in your pantry or on top of your fridge. You never know when there will be a shortage at the grocery store!

Coming up next: guide for developing a timeline to ensure dinner is on the table at the right time and all the food is warm.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 9, 2012 1:36 pm

    Your Thanksgiving meal looks very good!

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