“What? It’s like, Christmas Eve Eve!”
Give me a break. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is nuts-o for me! Well, I’ll be honest, all the time is nuts-o for me, at least too nuts-o to blog things promptly. However, I happen to be on day 4.5 in a row of just being at home for the holidays. It wasn’t our plan to be home over the Christmas holidays. As I mentioned in my last post, we always travel north to Michigan (this year, we were even going to go extra far north so that Paige could visit my mom’s house for the very first time) and south to southern Indiana to spend Christmastime with our families. However, our poor Little Bug is quite sick. On Wednesday of last week, she came to work with me because she had a low-grade fever. Within two hours, her fever rose from 100.5 to 103.8, which caused her to have a Febrile Seizure. Cause of the fever? RSV, and a monster case of it. We’ve been under a bit of a quarantine with our wheezy girl and are staying put for Christmas so that we can make sure that she gets wholly well. Dr. Mulder says she needs to stay put (and stay away from others from whom she could pick up other bacteria/viruses or to whom she could pass on this nasty virus) for at least a week, maybe two. So, we’re caring for our Sweet Girl (she seems to slowly be on the upswing, by the way) and soaking up quiet family time at home. So, I have time to blog. But I digress. Like I said, Happy Thanksgiving!
“OK. Umm… still it’s a little late.”
I know. I know. But here’s the thing. I feel like every year at Thanksgiving I have to re-invent the wheel. We have pretty much the same menu every year, but every year I have to sit down and write out a menu, look up recipes, write out a grocery list, and write out a plan for what gets made when and what goes in which serving dish, etc. So, I figure, if we do the same thing every year, I should probably document all that stuff so that I don’t have to pull my hair out trying to figure it out each year. So really, this blog post is for me, not you. Sorry ’bout your luck. I mean, if you want to use some of the recipes or whatever or you’re just really curious about everything I do for Thanksgiving, great. But mostly it’s for me.
My Thanksgiving Lists. They take forever to prepare because they’re like, perfect and color-coordinated and stuff. And yes, I scratched Brussels Sprouts with bacon. Why? 1) We have plenty of other things that we have to have each year, so there was no point in adding a new one and 2) I really didn’t have another white serving dish, so… you know.
So, here are my lists in easy-to-access digital format so that all I have to do next year (and the year after, and the year after, amen and amen) is click on my “Thanksgiving” tag and it all magically appears. You know, until we change things up in our menu, which (since this is PERFECT) will be, like, never.
Dish | Who’s Responsible for the Dish | When (Primarily) the Dish is Prepped | What Serving-Dish the Dish is, um, Served In
1) Turkey | Rachel | Thursday | Large Turkey Platter (There’s no recipe link for this. See how I prepare our turkey below in the Thanksgiving day to-do list.)
2) Oyster Dressing | Jeffrey | Thursday | Large Oblong White Baking Dish (This is one of Jeffrey’s must-have Thanksgiving foods. This is the dressing he grew up with. In addition to what the recipe calls for, he also includes all the meat [and I mean all the meat] from the neck and the organs that come with the Turkey, which he dices very finely.)
3) Gluten-Free Cranberry Almond Dressing | Rachel |Thursday | Large Round White Baking Dish
4) Gravy | Rachel | Thursday | Gravy Boat (There’s no recipe link for this. See how I prepare our gravy below in the Thanksgiving day to-do list.)
5) Mashed Potatoes | Jeffrey | Thursday | Round White Vegetable Bowl (No recipe. Jeffrey just makes the best, fluffiest, most wonderfulest mashed potatoes in the world. Too bad for you that he doesn’t make the mashed potatoes for your Thanksgiving dinner.)
6) Cranberry Orange Relish | Rachel | Tuesday | White Pumpkin Tureen
7) Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples | Rachel | Wednesday | (Bake in a 13 x 9) Small Round White Baking Dish
8) Broccoli- Cheese Casserole | Jeffrey | Thursday | Small Oblong White Baking Dish
OK. I’m not an awesome roll-maker. BUT, I’m super proud of how my first real gluten-free baking experience – these delicious, buttery rolls – turned out! The Gluten Free on a Shoestring cookbook is really quite excellent!
9) Gluten-Free Rolls | Rachel | Wednesday | Basket (Recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap, which is an excellent and very helpful gluten-free cookbook, if you’re looking for one. I’ve never had a recipe fail yet from this book – not even these very yummy dinner rolls – and trust me, I’ve had plenty of glutinous dinner rolls fail!)
10) The Pioneer Woman No-Knead Dinner Rolls | Rachel | Wednesday | Basket (This roll recipe really is SUPER easy and Jeffrey says it’s really tasty, BUT, it makes enough rolls for all of the PW’s ranch-hands, and since I don’t need enough dinner rolls for 438978370 people – especially since this isn’t the only dinner roll on the menu – I should probably remember to half this recipe next year. Did you read that, Rachel?! Don’t make the whole recipe!!)
11) Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage | Rachel | Thursday | Square White Vegetable Bowl
12) Italian Style Green Beans | Rachel | Thursday | Square White Vegetable Bowl
13) Dutch Apple Pie | Rachel | Wednesday | Pie Plate (Umm… I don’t make this. See ingredient list below.)
14) Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie | Rachel | Wednesday | Pie Plate (Gluten Free on a Shoestring Sweet Pastry Dough turned out great. It was a lot of work – I did a precise miniature dice on butter, for Pete’s sake! – but it was worth it. It was a dough that was easy to work with after it was chilled, it tasted great, and it baked up to be lovely and just the right amount of flaky. The filling was just the normal ole Libby’s pumpkin pie filling recipe that’s on the back of the can. Easy, trusted, and good. With all the other stuff going on, I just was not insane enough to buy fresh pumpkins instead of canned, although I believe that fresh pumpkin is better than canned. However, in the words of Garrison Keillor, “Pumpkin pie is nothing but mediocrity. The best one you ever ate wasn’t that much better than the worst. It’s just an excuse to eat nutmeg.” But, it’s just not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, right?)
Did I mention that I did a precise dice on butter? It took crazy long. Note: the cookbook version says to dice the butter, the link I included says something like “rough chop.” Take the time and dice it. One, it’s oddly comforting to make uniform little cubes of butter. 2) Doing so means you’ll have an awesome distribution of cold little butter pieces throughout the dough, which means an awesome flakiness in your baked crust. It’s worth it.
15) Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Pie | Rachel | Wednesday | Pie Plate (Again, Gluten Free on a Shoestring Sweet Pastry Dough and the Better Homes and Gardens Sweet Potato Pie recipe. I’d never had Sweet Potato Pie before this year, but it far outshone pumpkin for me. It wasn’t as sweet as pumpkin pie and I like the milder flavor, especially after a big Thanksgiving meal.)
16) Whipped Cream | Rachel | Wednesday | Small White Rounded Rectangular Bowl (Basic BHG whipped cream recipe. I made it with our homemade vanilla extract and Jeffrey finally said, “THIS is better than Cool Whip.” Homemade vanilla extract FTW.)
17) Beef Ball and Crackers | Rachel | Tuesday | Small White Rounded Rectangular Bowl and Long White Serving Plate (I think every family has a version of this. In our family, you just mix 1 block of Philadelphia cream cheese [I buy off-brand a lot of things, but cream cheese isn’t one of them.], 1 bunch of diced green onions, 1 package of that super-cheap, super-thin roast beef lunch meat [Carl Buddig’s?], 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tsp of Accent. Form it into a ball. Eat on a Ritz cracker. If you’re gluten-intolerant, I’ve found that I like Glutino’s version of Ritz crackers the best.)
Needed (Non-Staple) Ingredients
Numbers correspond to dish numbers above.
- turkey, celery (at least 5 stalks), onions, butter, fresh thyme
- celery (at least 2 stalks), onion, butter, cheap white bread (12 slices), chicken broth, 2 cans oysters
- 2/3 cups sliced almonds, 2 cups cranberries, 1 pear, sugar, butter, celery (at least 2 stalks) gluten-free multi-grain bread, 1 leek
- (turkey broth and cornstarch – should have both on hand!)
- potatoes, buttermilk
- 4 cups cranberries, 2 medium oranges, sugar, 1/2 cup pecan chips
- 4 lbs sweet potatoes, 2 lbs granny smith apples, brown sugar, butter
- 1 package (the “brick” kind) of frozen broccoli, minute rice, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, celery (at least 2 stalks), one jar Cheez Whiz (Note: this moves around the store, sometimes it’s with the real cheese [in the cooler?!], other times with the soup, other times with the non-refrigerated chip dips, other times in places that make no sense at all, so BOLO for CW in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving so that you’re not running around the store with a full cart like a mad woman looking for the dag-blasted CW before you check out), cheap white bread (4 slices)
- yeast, eggs
- non-GF flour, milk
- one head of red cabbage, apple cider vinegar
- fresh green beans, onion
- a pie from the Lafayette Christian School fundraiser (Seriously. Did you expect me to make three pies from scratch? C’mon son.)
- powedered sugar, butter, canned pumpkin, evaporated milk
- 3 lbs sweet potatoes, buttermilk
- heavy whipping cream
- cream cheese (2), green onions (2), Carl Buddig beef (2), Ritz crackers, Glutino gluten-free crackers
Thanksgiving Week To-Do Lists
These day-to-day lists are absolutely essential. Since I work full-time and I only take the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off (which, Paige blessedly still has day-care on that day, so I get the kitchen and house to myself to get things done), there’d be no way I’d have everything ready if I didn’t plan out all the little things ahead of time!
Thursday Before Thanksgiving
- Deep-clean the refrigerator. Like, take everything out of it and wash it down with hot, soapy water. You’ll feel so much better, trust me.
- Deep-clean the pantry/fix the organization. (Isn’t it amazing how you can have a perfectly-organized and beautiful pantry and then within a couple of months suddenly there are snacks on the baking shelf, there’s rice in the gluten-free pasta bin, and there’s a mysterious box of Jell-o hanging out with the coffees and teas?! For reals: I never buy or make Jell-o [like, I’m pretty sure I’ve never made it in my whole life], but every time I clean the pantry I find a box or two. What up with that?)
Friday Before Thanksgiving
- Shopping (Do not, REPEAT: Do NOT go Thanksgiving shopping on the Saturday before Thanksgiving… with a 15-month old. For the love of all that is good and decent, don’t do it!)
Saturday Before Thanksgiving
- Put the ole frozen turkey in the garage fridge to thaw.
- Make Cranberry Orange Relish and freeze.
- Get the house clean and ready for (hopefully) some company!
- Re-wash the guest room sheets and then re-make the bed. Leave towels and washcloths on the bed.
Monday Before Thanksgiving
- Get out the serving dishes and the place settings. Put them all in one easy-to-access space, ready to go.
- Iron the table linens.
Tuesday Before Thanksgiving
- Eat leftovers for supper. ALL the leftovers. Make sure that all that pre-Thanksgiving food is gone!
- Make the beef balls.
Wednesday Before Thanksgiving
- Double-check that the bird is completely thawed. If not, give Tom Turkey a bath in the kitchen sink while you work.
- Assemble the Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples in a 9 x 13 and refrigerate so that it’s ready to bake on Thursday.
- Bake the Dutch Apple Pie
- Bake the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
- Bake the Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Pie
- Bake the Gluten-Free Rolls
- Bake the Regular Rolls (Yep. Both. I can’t have the regular ones, and while I think the gluten-free rolls are awesome, Jeffrey’s not such a fan.)
- Wash and chop the celery for the turkey, both dressings, and the broccoli casserole. Put the measured-out celery in sandwich bags labeled for the correct dish.
- Chop the onion for the turkey, the oyster stuffing, and the green beans. Put the measured-out onion in sandwich bags labeled for the correct dish. Put those bags in a gallon-sized bag to help keep everything in the fridge from smelling/tasting like raw chopped onion.
- Cube the breads for the dressings and dry them out in the oven.
- Wash and chop the leek for the Cranberry-Almond Dressing. Put the measured-out leek in a labeled sandwich bag.
- Wash and chop the cabbage and place in a gallon-sized bag in the fridge.
- Wash and snap the green beans and place in a gallon-sized bag in the fridge.
- Make the whipped cream.
- Get pizza for lunch/supper from Puccini’s. There will be no leftovers and there will be no cooking. Have Jeffrey go pick it up. :)
- At 7:45, get the Cranberry Relish out of the freezer to thaw.
- At 8 a.m., start prepping the turkey. (All I do is stuff the turkey with celery sticks, sprigs of fresh thyme, and quartered onions for flavor and to keep it moist and then put small pats of butter, fresh thyme leaves, kosher salt, and freshly-ground black pepper under the skin. Easy as pie. Easier, actually. You don’t have to dice and ice the butter.)
- Start boiling the turkey neck and innards (ugh) for Jeffrey to use in his dressing.
- At 9 a.m., put the turkey in the table-top roaster at 325.
- Prep the Cranberry Almond Dressing.
- Jeffrey needs to prep his Oyster Dressing.
- Both dressings should go in the oven at the same time.
- Take the assembled sweet potatoes and apples out of the fridge so that the dish can come to room temp.
- Bake the sweet potatoes and apples.
- Jeffrey needs to make the mashed potatoes… and make ’em creamy and whipped and perfect.
- Jeffrey needs to make the broccoli cheese casserole.
- Bake the broccoli cheese casserole.
- Make the cabbage.
- Make the green beans.
- About 40 minutes before eating, make sure that the oven is empty. Transfer the turkey from the table-top roaster to the roasting pan. Rub down the turkey with butter and put it in the oven, uncovered, to brown. Boom, baby.
- While the turkey is browning, take out about 3 cups of the turkey juices in the table-top roaster. Skim the fat and bring the juices to a boil in the large skillet. Mix cornstarch with cold water in the blender bottle and slowly whisk into the boiling juices to make gravy.
- Have someone else set the table.
- Put out the buffet.
- Don’t do the after-meal dishes. Don’t. The eaters can, Little Red Hen.
After several years of doing this Thanksgiving thing, with the help of my very precise lists, I was finally able to put some of what I’ve learned to use. Thanksgiving is a lot of work, and it’s intimidating before I start each year, so I figure reminding myself of some of the things that went well will help me get over the oh-my-goodness-that’s-so-much-to-do pre-Thanksgiving jitters. Here are some major successes from this year:
I finally had enough white serving wear that everything on the table was in a simple white dish. No glass baking dishes. No dinner plates. No Pyrex bowls. I love the simplicity of having all-white dishes. If I have enough white serving dishes for Thanksgiving, I have enough white serving dishes for anything!
For the first time ever (fanfare and drum roll, please) I had my ducks in a row enough to finish out the turkey in the oven so that it was golden brown and lovely! (See photos above.) I love the table-top roaster because it frees up the oven for other dishes on Thanksgiving day, but it is absolutely impossible to brown a turkey in it. I’ve always wanted to be able to move the turkey to the oven, but I’ve always been too far behind what I’d like to be.
I got all of my prep work done the day before. All the pre-chopping and storing veggies in labeled and numbered baggies made Thanksgiving day go so smoothly. I just literally threw things together. So quick. So easy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was the first year I did that and it was the first year that I was able to finish out my turkey in oven! Being my own sous-chef on Wednesday makes Thursday rock!
It was the easiest and most stress-free Thanksgiving ever. It was truly enjoyable to do all of that cooking! The dishes were done as they got dirtied and there was never a huge mess. I got to hang out with Paige, even. There were times before dinner that I was actually bored and didn’t know what to do because it was too early to start the next dish. Most of the things that were marked as Jeffrey’s responsibilites, I was able to do just so that I had something to do. I think the only things I didn’t do that he was responsible for were mashing the potatoes and cutting up the turkey neck ‘n stuff for his dressing. I even diced up the oysters (ew).
OK. So I know this was like the longest post ever. But, like I said, it’s for me, not for you. I totally don’t think that anyone else besides myself will read this. But, if someone did, Happy Thanksgiving!