So, this month a look at November's activities. And basically, it's a pretty easy month with only one major holiday on my calendar, Thanksgiving.
I love Thanksgiving. It's a food, friends and family holiday. No worries about presents (unless perhaps you are bringing a hostess gift to someone who kindly invited you to dinner). Of course, it's what happens after that can make some of us insane!
I don't have a boatload of tips for this month, but here's the best I can offer to make your Thanksgiving time a little easier.
Ah, yes. That's what it's all about, isn't it? And for most of us, it will be the traditional turkey. You probably all know that a turkey does not thaw overnight. I learned that one the hard way. So, start it out early! Or fresh is best!
Thanksgiving is one time when you can shop for most of the food far ahead of time and get better buys on most of it, too. Canned pumpkin for those pies, pumpkin rolls and soups (did you have leftovers from October?), certain produce items and cranberries. My suggestion? Buy extra cranberries to have for the holidays. You can not only eat them but decorate with them in a variety of ways. (For example, place a pillar candle in a tall, clear vase and surround it with cranberries to anchor the candle. This is pretty with nuts, too.) Or, put them in your water glasses for a festive look.
If you are lucky and having a crowd, someone will offer to bring something. This doesn't seem to have happened much in our family and Rick and I have done the heavy lifting on dinner. Maybe it'll change now that Kevin and Molly are married. (Maybe we'll even get an invitation!) But suggesting is always nice -- as in, "So glad you are coming to dinner! What would you like to bring?") I'll let you know if that works!
|Try something new! Last year we made a savory sliced roasted sweet potato dish for the first time. It was so good we could hardly bear it! It's on the menu this year if we're cooking! (And if I can find the recipe!)|
People usually pitch a fit when you change the Thanksgiving menu. But if you're dying to feature a new dessert or different veggie, go for it. Or better yet, have both. No one's offended and the leftovers will get you through the holiday weekend!
Best tip (after making sure the turkey is thawed): Do your chopping the day or night before. Chopping as in, "chopped celery and onions for the stuffing." It'll save time on TG morning and you'll have more time with guests. Prep pies or some desserts in advance as well and if nothing else, get produce washed and cleaned. If you don't already do this, you'll be surprised at much mess this can save on the day of the Big Cook.
Ina Garten (and Rick's aunt Carol) also seem to make mashed potatoes a few hours in advance of dinner and have them taste wonderful and hot when served. (Well, Carol's are; I've never tasted Ina's personal potatoes!). Reheat in a double boiler on the stove or possibly the microwave. (And while I wouldn't dare pull this off on TG -- Rick does the potatoes -- I'm very big on Bob Evans pre-prepped mashed potatoes. I can't tell the difference.) And if you have a crock pot or warmer, you are in great shape!
My other tip is what is known in our family as Plan B and it refers to gravy. If no one in your gang is a good gravy maker, it is extremely important! Even if someone is, there's never enough gravy for the leftovers and a good Plan B will make dining after far more delectable! I like Trader Joe's turkey gravy but there are lots of options. (In our gang, Rick is the gravy maker and it's delicious. In my own private Idaho, it's Plan B!)
Depending on your living situation there are few reasons why you can't get the table ready to go the day before. (Personally, I would advocate eating pizza in front of the telly the night before versus eating at the table so you can get it set in advance). If there are only a couple of you and it's a pretty standard setting, no big deal about doing it that day. But if you are expecting a crowd, it's much easier to have that done ahead of time. (And if you are sort of anal about the table like I am, you won't have to figure out how to politely turn down help or sneak in and jiggle things around so they're how you want them!)
As for a centerpiece, think small and low unless you have a big table. There's a lot of extra food at the table on Thanksgiving, not to mention extra glassware if you are having both water and wine. Even if you serve the larger things from a buffet, you may still be passing cranberries, gravy, butter and rolls. Consider what you had left from your October decorating. A low basket with gourds and some candles might do the trick.
Use what you have. A basket of gourds left from October? Repurpose them. A collection of chickens or turkeys? Go for it!
One of my favorites is the simple wheat I cherish from my blog friend, Diana. When her daughter, Nora, was married, they used wheat as part of the wedding flowers and decorations. After, there was an abundance of leftovers which she generously shared. Diana is no longer with us in body but her spirit lives on every day in my home through this simple arrangement of wheat that moves from space to space, never more prominent than in December.
And this probably goes without saying but "use the good stuff." If you have a kids' table, you may want to cut a bit of slack, but remember, it does no good just sitting in the china cabinet. Use it or lose it.
Everyone has their own Thanksgiving traditions, whether it is watching football before and after the pig out, saying a special grace or having a once-a-year favorite dish. For me, the tradition is using my mom's turkey dishes. When the kids are here and we have Thanksgiving dinner at Rick's house so I cart the dishes down the street, along with centerpiece fixings.
But sometimes we don't have the kids on "the day." My most memorable Thanksgiving was a totally impromptu event the fall of Rick's serious bicycle accident. A pulled-together group of friends gathered at my house to express our gratitude for many blessings.
The centerpiece was thrown together from things in the craft bin and I used Mom's crystal. Everyone brought something to the table but mostly they brought love.
What Do You Do?
If you have a favorite Thanksgiving or holiday hint, a special tradition you share each year or a favorite dish, please share it here!
And as our long ago pilgrims did, remember the gratitude. Really, that's what it's all about.