I wrote this a couple years ago on one of my other sites and feeling ancy about Thanksgiving this year I decided to go back and re-read it. Funny enough sometimes even my own words meant for others can be a comfort to myself.
Believe it or not Thanksgiving isn't that far away and I at least have already started thinking about it (and stressing). The most common problem is knowing how much food you need to make so there is enough food and time if you are either cooking the whole meal or just expected to bring a dish.
Every year I have to ask myself how large of a Turkey to get so often you go to the store and you see these large birds but how big do you really need? The common rule of thumb is 1lb per expected guest and generally this will give you some extra for the average person. I had to ask myself though how many lbs of a turkey is the breast since dark meat is rarely ate at my house on Thanksgiving and after some research it looks like a little over half of the turkey is the breast. Buying just the breast tends to be about double the price (if not more) than buying a whole turkey so my suggestion is to buy the whole turkey and start looking up recipes. To give an example this week a whole turkey is $0.69/lb and turkey breast you can find on sale later in the month for $1.99 minimum. If you are planning to feed 6 people than you’d need approximately a 6 lb breast which works out to $11.94 (If you can find breast at that low price) but if you are buying a whole turkey then perhaps you might look at a 12 lb bird if you know dark meat won’t be ate by itself which would work out to about $8.29. A whole bird of course will take more prep time and remember in a whole bird there are more bones so there isn’t 12 lbs of meat there (the breast won’t have 6 lbs of meat either I normally buy 2 lbs over what I think I need so instead of a 12 lb bird I’ll buy a 14 lb whole bird) but over all cost is lower and there are lots of recipes for turkey meat out there one of my favorites is making turkey burritos.
If you plan to stuff your turkey than for that 12-15 lb bird you’ll going to end up with enough stuffing for 12 to 14 people (unless you are like us and love stuffing so eat more than what is suggested). I still prefer to stuff my bird but I realize I’m going to have more than enough to be eating for awhile. If you want to cut down on your leftovers than I would suggest not stuffing the bird there are several seasonings to put in the turkey cavity just think about how you want your bird seasoned.
If you are like me and find yourself cooking the whole feast than time and not enough ovens always seems to be the issue. Sit down a few days prior to when you plan to start cooking and start making a list of all the dishes you plan to make while you do this approximate prep time, cooking temp and how long it takes to cook. Think about how much room you have in your oven and start making your plan. While making your dishes think about if you can put some of the food in a smaller dish so that you can put more in but also realize the fuller your oven the longer some items will take to cook.
What I like to do to cut down on time and dishes on Thanksgiving is to prepare some food ahead of time. For example, I like to boil my eggs and mix up my green bean casserole (w/o the fried onions added) and put these items in the fridge so they are one less thing to worry about. If you have a bread warmer you might consider baking first, I like to wrap my bread in a dish towel to help keep in the heat and moisture and keep them someplace warm but NOT hot as I don’t want them to dry out. Make sure your dishes are cleaned especially if you’re pulling out the fine china and crystal and while you’re cooking during those periods of time between basting or prepping another item then work on the dishes and if needed sweep the floor and wipe the counters. Working in a clean, uncluttered area will help with time believe it or not and will lower your stress (so will a good glass of wine too).
I’m like a lot of people and I stress and the more chaotic things become around me the more I think I’m going to lose my sanity. I start cooking for Thanksgiving on Tuesday and I still feel rushed but I’ve learned a few tricks that help me coop with this holiday. I have a small kitchen (well smaller than I would like) and too many people in there just makes things worse even if they think they are helping especially when those helping hands are small children.
Prepare… Getting your time plan out, the dishes you think you will need (we always forget something), pull out dry good, organize your recipes and maybe even clean off one shelf in your fridge and put cold items needed together so you aren't having to dig through to the back for an egg or the gallon of milk.
Keep things clean… If you try to keep up with the mess than you won’t feel so cluttered and won’t suddenly realize the spoon or pot you need is dirty.
Activities… If you have small children then have an area set up for them to color or do a small craft. Movies, Video games… just be prepared because little ones love to see what’s cooking and it’s real quick to get stressed out if you’re trying not to trip over them.
Take a breather…. If you notice you’re still getting stressed out take a moment to sit down outside the kitchen when you have a moment. While keeping things clean helps if you don’t take a step away you can drive yourself batty. Take a 5 minutes break don’t worry the dishes, counter and floors will still be there.
Last of all don’t worry, none of us are perfect and even my turkey can come out dry. It’s a holiday for being thankful and family and it’s key to remember that.