We’ve all been there before when we haven’t planned well and are pulling our hair out trying to figure out what to make for company that is coming for dinner. Thanksgiving is a little easier to plan for since the usual suspects are to be expected on the menu, but if you’re like me and like to cook then it can be overwhelming to figure out exactly what to make. Fortunately, I’ve spent this holiday with friends in Virginia over the past several years and we all shared the cooking responsibility and perfected our system. Everyone made what they loved and it worked out great! This year since I’ll be on my own, I’m going to use it as an excuse to experiment with some more adventurous Thanksgiving recipes.
Planning for Turkey Day
My best tip for Thanksgiving dinner planning is to do what I used to in Virginia…get your friends to make their favorites and share! But if you’re handling the whole meal then I’d start with your favorite dishes and family traditions that you’d like to share with your guests! I tend to stick to a rather traditional non-fussy menu, but this year in honor of being in Texas, I’m going to aim for a more Southern menu. Get your notebooks out and favorite cookbooks and magazines and start there. Some of my favorites are Rachel Ray, Bon Appetit, Southern Living and Better Homes & Garden magazines. Write down each dish and then evaluate whether you need/want all of those dishes. I typically plan to make the following dishes every holiday:
Turkey (I make an apple cider brined Rachel Ray recipe)
Sweet Potato Casserole (Cooking Light recipe)
Stuffing (chorizo cornbread stuffing)
Deviled eggs (family recipe)
Cranberry Sauce (my fav!)
Usually we split up appetizers for different people to make, but generally there is a cheese appetizer or my new favorite, dates stuffed with goat cheese and crumbled pecans then broiled. YUM!! There have also been mac n’ cheese, spicy crab dip, green bean casserole and honey baked ham appearances. Depending on the number of dishes, I plan for 1-3 appetizers and 2-4 bottles of wine for 4-5 people. Some years I even have a specialty cocktail on hand such as a fall sangria. Then in addition to the dishes I know I’m making for sure, I always try to include a veggie side and bread (although the bread is optional to me). As for dessert, I’ve found that most of my friends only want pumpkin pie and are generally too stuffed for anything else, but again, make your traditional sweet dish! And if you’re running low on time, don’t beat yourself up if you pick up a pie from the store!!
Last but not least, make sure you have appetizer picks, any necessary condiments, plates/napkins, plenty of water, guest hand towels and a scented candle in the powder room, aluminum foil, Tupperware, plastic storage bags, takeout containers and the football and TV movie times on hand!
Since I have a pet, I also make Muddy “Thank Your Dog Casserole,” which is from Rachel Ray’s magazine a couple years ago. He sure loves it year after year!
The final step after you decide on your menu is to organize any recipes you’ll need and make a grocery list that includes EVERY item you need. If needed, I even type and color code my grocery list to include items I have on hand, items I’m low on and items I need. This way you can cross items off as you purchase them since many of you do so over several days. Doing this will save you so much time and make shopping a breeze!!
I hope this helps you prep!! Now….what to make this year??…..