Planning for success — Thanksgiving the easy way
I’ve been remiss in my blogging lately. Not because I’m not cooking and not because I don’t enjoy blogging anymore. No, over the last couple of months I’ve spent much of my spare time getting my older daughter into college.
She’s a senior in high school. Between online research, campus visits, communicating with her guidance counselor, getting letters of recommendation, forwarding ACT scores, writing an essay and searching for scholarships, we’ve been busy.
But the essay is written, the recommendations are secured and the applications are (almost) all submitted. (And one acceptance has already been received.) So it’s time to take a breather and get back to some of our normal day-to-day activities.
Except it really won’t be day-to-day, because we are about to enter my favorite food time of the year – the holidays!
Last year I wrote about my love of preparing the Thanksgiving meal, and how I spend time in the weeks preceding compiling all my thoughts, recipes and plans into my holiday cooking binder. Then, on the big day, I’m ready to cook!
I pulled out the binder last weekend and began to strategize. Here are the steps:
- Plan the menu (which dishes do I want to include this year?)
- Finalize and type up the menu
- Create a shopping list based on ingredients
- Create the cooking plan
Step number four is crucial. This is where you plan every detail of your day, and this is what can make or break a successful meal.
I usually start by jotting down notes about each dish, including cooking durations so you know when each dish needs to enter the oven, the stovetop, the roaster, etc.
I also note all the prep work that goes with each recipe (chopping celery, boiling and chopping an egg, slicing apples, etc.). Then, I check to see where I can combine prep work (for example, doing all the vegetable chopping at one time).
But you can’t lose sight of when each dish needs to begin cooking – the earlier the cooking start time, the earlier the prep work needs to be completed. Prioritizing prep work is important to avoid getting behind on cooking — the last thing you want to do is discover you’ve failed to get all the ingredients prepped when it’s time to get a dish in the oven!
Now you can organize your notes in backward chronological order, starting at dinner time and winding back to the very first prep step (this might even be a day or two before Thanksgiving – I’m a big advocate of completing steps ahead of time if you can).
Then all you have to do is reverse the order and type the notes into something that looks like this (my cooking plan from last year).
This method hasn’t failed me yet. I cook the entire Thanksgiving meal by myself, it typically goes off without a hitch and we sit down to eat within 15 minutes of my planned meal time. The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is simple — just remove the guesswork to avoid unpleasant surprises!