Thanksgiving 2014 - This Year's Theme: Relax. Recipes, Tips, Ideas to Help you Enjoy GivingThanks

GivingThanks

Many people are in full countdown mode and the onslaught of Thanksgiving  is approaching hurricane force: posts, tweets, recipes, emails, newsletters. I want to encourage you to calm down, take a deep breath and if any of this helps, I’m happy.

This name reversal popped into my head as I was thinking about people worrying about "the whole perfect Thanksgiving thing." If we focus on the Giving Thanks part rather than the frenzy must-be-perfect event part, we can calm the noise. In a nonsecular, gratitude and appreciation mode, let's call it GivingThanks instead of Thanksgiving.

  • Don’t forget Kitchen Confidence can be yours. Like a personal trainer to help you up your game in the gym, I can come show you skills you’ll use for a lifetime, recipes that’ll make your friends and family swoon- in the comfort of your own kitchen. All for the price of a night out on the town.

sage 1

 Did you know sage can be easily preserved by drying in a microwave or regular oven?

Important things to focus on:

  • It’s about gratitude and enjoying our connection to others. Celebrating abundance. Football. Food and maybe overindulging.
  • It’s not about being perfect. If you are a giant sweaty stressball when you guests arrive, they're going to feel uncomfortable. If you're an amped-up boozy dictator “sit here” “do this” “eat that” you're no fun. Many of us choose “friendsgivings” to avoid the traumas of forced family fun.
  • If people at your table care more about the spot on the glass or the dustball in the corner, I'm hereby giving you permission to cross them off the list next year.

So, how to relax in the face of the tidal wave of new recipes to try, new craft projects to find time for, the urgings to create the perfect tablescape?

Plan the work, work the plan

Do three things today that will pay dividends next week. Now is the time to:

1. Make your menu. What are the dishes you must have on the menu? For us, it’s Turkey, Dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, bourbon sweet potatoes (AKA Jack’s Killer Sweets), gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving tends to be a menu that writes itself. Many of us long to try new inventive recipes or twists on classics while many at the table want the meal to be exactly the same as it is every year. Here’s one compromise: Make all the longed for classics, just as you always do. People do crave familiar routines and these create a sense of tradition that reinforces the ritual we love. Allow yourself to add one new dish to try if you’re so inclined and IF you can do so without stressing yourself out. We tried the sage butter sweet & white potato casserole one year and liked it so much, it got adopted. Yes, that means we have three potato dishes but if you have potato lovers at the table and more than a few, not a problem. We’re a small group this year so I may skip this.

Recipes for vegetarians, vegans, and others.

2. Finalize your guest list.

Tips for being a good guest/good host. Now is the time to figure out what food allergies, intolerances you may be dealing with. If a guest has some issue you are not sure you can safely address, have the discussion now and ask them to bring something they can eat and share.

A word about being a good guest:

  • do not show up with food you need to prep. The host will be busy in the kitchen and every square inch of the kitchen, every burner is likely to be occupied.
  • do not bring additional guests unless you are invited to do so first by the host
  • do offer to bring extra serving bowls, glasses, chairs or ask if there’s something they could use help with the day before.LINK: http://blog.jacquelinechurch.com/handle-sticky-situations-prickly-guests-holiday-table/

Tips for handling prickly situations at the holiday table.

3. Delegate tasks.

You need to divest yourself of the notion that you must do it all. Let go of that now. I mean it. You will have your hands full and a stressed host makes a stressful party. You deserve to enjoy the day and your guests deserve to enjoy your company too.

Things that are easily delegated:

  • Cleaning - hire a service to clean a day or two before; or enlist family members to chip in a little extra
  • Flowers or centerpiece (if you feel you need one) I like edible centerpieces. No room on the table anyway. How about a big bowl of fall fruits, apples pears, pomegranates, persimmons. Add drama by plopping them in a tall vase.
  • Wine/booze - everyone who sells beverages wants to tell you must have the perfectly stocked bar now. I’m seldom one to stand between friends and drinks, but in the spirit of simplifying: forget it. Select one good wine that people can drink before or with the meal. Choose one cocktail that’s easy to make (many can be mixed ahead in a pitcher) and offer guests a glass of wine or this year’s cocktail. Boom. If you’d really love to have that new amaro you tried last week but don’t have it int he budget, ask a guest to bring a bottle. After dinner drinks, done.a word about punch: it’s a great idea for serving a large crowd but unless you have a punchbowl and the room in the fridge/freezer to store ingredients and make ice molds, this can be an added stress in the guise of a helpful hint. I have no punchbowl, nor do I have room in the freezer or fridge.
  • PIE - I’m going to tell you that a delicious pie IS within your reach. I will teach you how in a Kitchen Confidence class. BUT, if you feel stressed about it and cannot fathom how or when: there are options: Community Servings; Bread and Salt. Dessert: done! Good deed: done! JJ Gonson's Cuisine en Locale team has a slew of sides, or the whole shebang if you want to have someone else do the cooking for you.

Today's to do items:

1. purchase extra zip top bags and large containers for food prep and leftovers

2. sniff and toss old spices

3. finalize guest list, menu

 

Tomorrow: Dishes to make ahead

  • Cranberry relish - recipe
  • Thanksgiving spice
  • Pie doughs
  • Gingersnaps and other cookie dough to slice and bake - recipe
  • Stock
  • Simple chocolate truffles
  • Rolls
  • Marinated mushrooms
  • Chex mix

roast turkey