This post isn’t about recipes, it’s about work flow. This year we’re working smarter not harder!
This year for Thanksgiving I’ve decided to work smarter, not harder! The reasons for this are two-fold.
- I want to be able to enjoy my holiday and my family (some coming from out of town), instead of spending the 2 or 3 days before Thanksgiving stuck in the kitchen, knee deep in entrees, sides and desserts.
- If I cook Thanksgiving dinner the way I usually do (over a 2 to 3 day period) I won’t be able to enjoy my holiday, my family or anything else because by the time I’m done with everything, stick a fork in ME, I’m done! It just takes too much out of me!
Besides, who wants to work harder and not smarter! Not this girl! Not this year my friends, not this year!
To accomplish my goal of smarter not harder, I had to figure out what could be made ahead and frozen without affecting the quality of my dish. After all, we’re talking Thanksgiving here! This is the time when everything you put on the table is supposed to be epic!
There are certain dishes that work well for this type of meal planning like stuffing and mac & cheese. I will also prepare certain dishes up to a point where all I have to do is complete them. For example with my cornbread, I can measure out all of my dry ingredients and put them in a zip lock bag and just add the eggs, oil & milk on Thanksgiving Day, mix it, pan it up and throw it in the oven!
I will also prepare my pie filling (peach cobbler) and make my pie dough a day or two in advance. I can keep the dough & filling in the fridge or I can make the pie and put it in the freezer, ready to bake. Freezing breaks down fruit a bit more but allows me to make the pie further in advance.
I will also prepare my mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and freeze them. I’ll take them out of the freezer the day before and refresh them when heating them, Thanksgiving Day! For the mashed potatoes, that will mean adding some extra butter, half & half and heavy whipping cream. For the sweet potatoes that will mean tasting them to see if they need any more butter, sugar or spices. I’ll add my topping (brown sugar & walnut streusel) during the last 20 minutes or so of baking.
My cousin is making the pound cakes and the sweet potato pies so that frees me up to make another dessert or two. I’m thinking about a 3 layer chocolate cake that my family loves, a banana pudding cheese cake that my niece has been asking for, and a strawberry pretzel salad, a dessert that always a winner with my family! The cake can be baked a couple of days in advance and put in the freezer and iced/frosted the day before. The other two desserts can both be make a day in advance.
The other main dish I’m making is a baked ham, which is no problem. I’ll dress it and put it in the over and it can bake on low all night, the night before.
This year we’re having two (2) turkeys because we have a lot of family coming to dinner so I need to brine them late Tuedsay and let them brine overnight. I want them to brine at least 8 hours. After brining, I will season them, stuff them, wrap them in aluminum foil and bake them in electric roasters on low all night Thanksgiving eve, like the ham.
I will also make the cranberry sauce the day before to give it a day to sit in the fridge to let the flavors marry and allow it to thicken and chill.
I’ll make the turkey gravy the night before and let it simmer on low overnight while the turkeys are cooking.
On Thanksgiving Day early in the morning, I will put the mac & cheese and the sweet potatoes in the oven to bake about 1 ½ hours. After they come out, I’ll pop the peach cobbler in and the stuffing in for an hour. While they’re baking I can heat and refresh the mashed potatoes. Last but not least, I’ll pop the corn bread into the oven.
This is the basic idea of what I plan to do. Of course, I may end up having to move one or two things around and I may even totally change something but at least I have a plan!
I am transferring my plan to a flow chart that I came up with that I can put on my fridge or the counter, somewhere that I can use it as a reference as I go along and check off things as they’re done!
My sister Becky is making the items that I didn’t mention so basically the green vegetables (collard greens and green beans & potatoes), rolls, potato salad, punch and whatever I’m forgetting will be on her watch! Thanks Sisterrrrr!!! In fact thanks Sisterrrrsss because my youngest sister Phyllis who is coming in from Oklahoma has volunteered to take over all things dining room! She’ll oversee getting the tables & chairs positioned, set and decorate, including setting up the buffet tables etc! That will be such a HUGH help knowing I don’t have to worry about the dining room!
I’m posting my plan today but not my flow chart because it’s not done yet. I plan to have it online by Monday November 13, 2017! (Update: Flow chart list is attached!)
I almost forgot to remind you of something that for me is the most important kitchen tool of all – MUSIC! I use my Google Home because I love it! Hands free jamming and such a wonderful time because you get to hear what you want, when you want! Check out my post/review about my Google Home as part of my kitchen toolkit! Believe me, it’s a must have in my kitchen! I sing, dance, cry, laugh – having your music when you’re cooking is the best – Click this link NOW!
Tell me what you’re doing to make your Thanksgiving easier on those doing most of the cooking and the work, you might give us all some good ideas!
Speaking of good ideas, I almost forgot, you know how after the food is in the belly, people relax and then get up, give you a kiss on the cheek and start to leave? Not this year my friends! This year I’m putting together a set up/clean up crew. They’ll help get tables and chairs in place, haul food from home stoves, fridges & ovens to the hall location where we are serving dinner. They will also help with clean up, filling and removing garbage bags, putting tables & chairs back and taking the food back to where we want it to go.
I hope you’ll all take this as a word to the wise, get some help with set up, clean up and tear down or you’ll find yourself and 1 or 2 other loyal family members doing all the work yourself! Get your teams/s set up in advance so everyone will know their role. Don’t wait until the day of the event or you’re team members will claim to forget their obligation and walk away – when you’re not looking!
I hope this helps to get the juices flowing, just gets things organized in your head helps a little. Follow through and commit it to paper and put it on the fridge. You’ll be amazed at how much more efficient you are!
Ok – the following list may not look like the standard flow chart but it’s my idea of a flow chart. I guess it’s really a flow list!!! 🙂
WSNH Work Flow Chart for Thanksgiving 2017
One Week Prior:
Monday – Wednesday Take turkeys out of freezer (Wednesday 11/15)
Make & Freeze:
Chocolate cake layers I love this recipe from The Stay At Home Chef, she calls it – The Most Amazing Chocolate Cake Recipe – and it is!
Mashed sweet potatoes
Macaroni & cheese sauce (SMK – Best Ever Mac & Cheese)
Stuffing (SMK – Sausage cornbread stuffing)
Week of Thanksgiving:
Make sure everything is in place – ingredients, pan, containers, tools etc
Brine turkeys (SMK – How to brine anything)
Make and bag dry ingredients for cornbread – don’t forget you need enough for stuffing and for serving for dinner!
Take mashed white and mashed sweet potatoes out of freezer
Wednesday – All day:
Make 2 cream cheese desserts & refrigerate (strawberry pretzel salad)
Ice cake & refrigerate
Make & pan mac & cheese
Make & refrig cranberry sauce
Make & pan sweet potato soufflé
Make SPS streusel topping
Thursday : 12 AM – 8 AM
Stuff & bake turkeys (overnight)
Dress & bake ham (overnight)
8AM – 2 PM
Make turkey gravy
Bake mac & cheese
Bake sweet potato soufflé
Make & bake corned bread
Finish mashed potatoes
Package and wrap all items for transport
2 PM – Turn over to the “committee” for transport to venue!