Thanksgiving Made Easy
I spent some time researching beautiful Thanksgiving photographs, then I came across this one. Of course, we all strive to have the beautifully set table, with the perfect family, but rarely does that happen. Now and again, the stars are aligned, and the day may go exactly how you dreamed it would, but usually it looks a little bit like the one above – mis-matched casserole dishes, warm bread from the supermarket, and football on the television. Have to be honest, I never understood why people stressed over it so much (until I did it myself, and dropped the entire, over-cooked turkey on the floor). Once I recovered from the embarrassment (yes, we still ate it), I learned that it really is best to keep it simple. So, even if you don’t like to cook (or bake, or entertain) there are still a lot of ways to serve a lovely dinner to those people who you truly want to spend time with:
Make a list of what you would like to serve ahead of time. Then, when people offer to bring something, you can say “Yes, please, could you bring the pickled, jellied, pineapple Ambrosia?”.
Consider making new traditions, that are easier, but still festive (eg. a Pumpkin Cheesecake is easier than baking an Apple Pie, feeds more people, and can be made a couple of days in advance. Or, buy a frozen Apple Pie and sprinkle sugar and/or caramel on the top before baking).
For a large group, make hot cider, mulled wine or punch in a crock pot. Your guests can help themselves, it can sit all day, and it makes the house smell really good.
For appetizers, keep everything cold, or at room temperature (cheese, crackers, fruit, nuts etc). No need to fight for oven space.
If you’ve never cooked a turkey, get easy directions from a reputable food website. Check the inside, and neck of the turkey, for miscellaneous bags of gizzards, plastic etc before cooking (trust me on this – apart from the embarrassment, they can make the whole turkey smell, and taste, kind of strange).
Don’t be intimidated by making the perfect stuffing and gravy – *Make stuffing in a casserole dish (reheat slowly, the day of, covered, with extra chicken broth added) – *Buy a really good gravy from a local farm market, make your own ahead of time (and freeze it) or buy a low salt, home-style one at the Supermarket. Add some of your turkey drippings, and a bit of butter to it at the last minute.
Plan what serving dishes and utensils you will be using for each item. (Write it down on a sticky note, and put it in that dish, so that you don’t forget – and your guests can help you serve the food).
Think about where people can sit, before and after dinner. Do you need to move some furniture around?
Okay, I know this seems weird, but put a new toilet roll (and plunger’s, if possible) in all the bathrooms. Saves your guests from being stranded and embarrassed.
Be prepared (and don’t panic) if something goes wrong:
Over-cooked turkey? Slice it up, put it in a large casserole dish, pour hot gravy over it (or chicken broth) cover in foil and let it sit for a while.
Under-cooked turkey? Take a deep breath, cut it off the bone, and microwave it (horrible, I know, but you can’t serve raw turkey).
Overcooked veggies? Pan fry for a moment, to get rid of some of the water, then stir in some butter. (If they are really awful, admit defeat, and throw them out).
Not enough serving dishes? It is much easier to have several small dishes, instead of one or two gigantic ones. Just use your everyday dishes to fill in the gaps – bowls, cups, extra plates etc. Use plastic and glass bowls as well. Nothing has to match.
Not enough dining chairs? First, check the rest of the house for stools and desk chairs etc. If still not enough, set up a picnic, and have the children eat in the kitchen or family room. Or, make it a buffet, and let everyone fight for their seats at the table.
Forget to buy drinks? Oops. Hope someone brings a bottle. Be grateful your water is nice to drink!
I could go on and on, but then that means less time to plan your Holiday dinner, and definitely less time to enjoy this lovely weekend!
For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to: http://www.thebluegiraffe.com/