Thanksgiving is the one holiday that is equally stressful as it is fulfilling. At Life with Moxie we aim for more prep and less stress! Here is our top 10 to get you on top of the holiday.
1. By November 7th: Establish theme (casual, elegant, etc.). Prepare guest list and invite guests. Decide if you need new guest hand towels, hand soap, add these to shopping list. What table decorations are going to be needed? Small bell jars of fresh flowers and candles or something larger and grand? Decide and order or add to the shopping list.
2. By November 14th: Brainstorm menu ideas, decide how much you are going to do yourself and what's suitable to purchase/order. Edit down what you are personally making to what's reasonable, then create a master ingredient and kitchen equipment list. Don't forget things like coffee filters and bar staples.
3. By November 17th: Make a master menu item cooking list (potatoes take x minutes to prep and x minutes to cook, so do they get started before or after the green bean casserole that takes x minutes to prep and x minutes to cook and goes directly to table). You may want to enlist the use of a neighbors oven as a warming drawer when too many things need to stay warm right before show time.
Go through the list, pulling out what you already have, pulling it to put aside so you don't use it in the meantime. Decide what can be made ahead of time and frozen. For those that can be made ahead, grocery shop for those ingredients. Place orders for those items you're ordering (often ordered items are pies, specialty breads, wines, floral arrangements).
4. By November 21st: Make those items which could be made ahead and freeze (Such as pie crust, bread, stock, may need to borrow a neighbor's freezer space). Also things like cranberry sauce can be made and refrigerated. Decide how your food items are going to be plated and pull out those pieces with the serving utensils. Reconfirm guest list and establish your seating. Kids at separate table? Do you need to rent chairs so they are all matching?
5. Are you hosting any of your guests overnight? Make sure you have fresh sheets and toiletries available. Got ahead and prep those rooms so you need not think about them again... if it will be last minute (kicking someone out of their room for a guest) then pull all items together that will be required for the last minute quick-change (sheets, towels, toiletries, magazine about local area, etc.)
6. Monday before Thanksgiving, buy all perishables required for recipes and ice for bar service.
7. Set the table completely, including all decorations, candles, chairs, silverware, etc. Place serving pieces on table so you're clear on your spacing. Set up separate bar area for drinks including alcohol, mixers, the buckets for ice and glassware. Corral all after-dinner drink items such as coffee, creamer, tea and mugs.
8. Wednesday before Thanksgiving, thaw all frozen items (bread, etc. that you premade). Assemble and bake pies. Keep in mind, most all side dishes can be made a day ahead and simply reheated, such as mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels, etc. Clean and dry salad greens and store in a resealable baggie until you assemble salad.
9. Thanksgiving morning, prepare stuffing, gravy, assemble salad (no dressing yet) and chill, bring all previously cooked items to serving temperature in oven.
10. After dinner, with all coffee and dessert items corralled already, all you have left is making the coffee and whipped cream. Then sit back and enjoy ...