The stress of getting that Thanksgiving feast to the table is a REAL issue! These 5 tried and true techniques will help you get everything done and hopefully still enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday. This year Thanksgiving on the Crow Homestead will be pretty quiet…just Mr. Crow and I, but that won’t stop us from doing it up right with ALL the trimmings! To get everything done on time requires a great deal of planning on my part. Of course cooking the whole meal on a small wood stove creates it’s own unique challenges, but the following tips can help anyone whether your on or off-the-grid….or if your serving 2 or 22!
# 1 Finalize your menu
Are you trying to come up with a new dish or two to try this year? Do you have a guest who is vegan or doin’ the Keto thing and you need to figure out how to accommodate them? The first step is to make your decisions and finalize that menu. Make sure to include those family favorites so there is no mutiny when cousin Floyd finds the green bean casserole has been replaced with amazing brussel sprouts fresh from your garden. People get weird at holidays…especially about their traditions!
#2 See what you have on hand and make a shopping list
Take a look at your pantry, freezer, fridge, root cellar, garden, meat locker…..whatever you have and then make a shopping list of everything else you need. I love to include as many items from the Crow Homestead as possible on our Thanksgiving table. We will use our squash, onions, potatoes, carrots, corn, green beans, herbs, eggs, stock and wild rice (harvested locally by a friend). The meat will be whatever Mr. Crow can get out in the woods, hopefully it will be grouse as that is the most Thanksgivmassy of the wild game in our area. The rest of the ingredients we will purchase from our local Co-op. For all you list making nerds out there…my shopping list is organized by the layout of my grocery store. I can get in and out of a store in like 15 minutes!!!
#3 Plan out timelines for cooking
If you have one of those commercial ranges with tons of burners and a couple wall ovens you can skip to #4….but if not, you need to plan when you are cooking each dish because oven and cooktop space will be at a premium!! I cook on a 21″ woodstove so you can pretty much look at me as a superhero in this department. I can fit my small roast, stuffing & green bean casserole in my oven at one time and I can cook the mashed potatoes & corn on top of my woodstove and also warm up the gravy. You might have fancy things like microwaves, toaster ovens, air fryers, slow cookers, so don’t forget about these lesser used devices to ensure everything is nice and hot when everyone sits down to eat together.
I make a couple of things ahead of time. First is the gravy because I find it a stressful to have to make it minutes before we eat and I have a bit of PTSD over a time I couldn’t get it to thicken years ago. Plus when you do it ahead you lose no quality whatsoever! You can make it weeks ahead of time and freeze it if you want. I also make the desserts the day before. I can never believe how many dishes I dirty when I bake and there is no way I have the stamina to both bake and clean up from said baking on the same day I’m cooking THE meal of the year. I recommend you find some things you can do ahead and cut yourself a break on the big day.
#4 Plot out how you will use serving dishes and pots and pans
My sister might not need to do this step as she has a huge kitchen and tons of dishes, but I live in a tiny house and only have the bare minimum so I must plan how I will use my serving dishes and pots and pans. The additional benefit if your hosting a crowd is it makes delegating tasks a breeze! All one would need to say is “Hey cousin Floyd can you put the Brussel sprouts on the plate labeled “B.S.”…….and poof the dish is on the right plate and in the right place on the table or buffet line! I literally put post-it notes with the name of the dish going in each pot, pan or serving piece. I know it may be hard to believe but I’m not even a type A personality!
#5 Anticipate leftovers
If your having a big group who live in the area I highly recommend you insist they bring some to-go containers with them. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers and it is the thing I miss the most when I am a guest and not a host, so pack up those leftovers and let your guests have their cake and eat it too!! This year on the Crow Homestead we will be swimming in leftovers so I have been pinning how I will use up those delicious tidbits! Check out my board on Pinterest at Two Sisters MN called Turkey Leftovers.