Life with Moxie: Thanksgiving is closing in; start planning now

“We’ve got another holiday to worry about. It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us.” – Charlie Brown

We are just 18 days away from the glorious holiday when the most comforting and wonderful cooking smells will be wafting from the kitchen and the childhood memories associated with them will come rushing back. Thanksgiving traditions seem to stay in place longer than traditions of any other holiday. The family recipes, the watching of the Thanksgiving Day parade- started by Louis Bamberger in Newark, New Jersey at the Bamberger’s store and then transferred to New York City by Macy’s, it has been running since 1924. Maybe it’s the family silverware and dishes, volunteering to do food service at the homeless shelter, watching a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or football. No matter your specific collection of traditions, they likely have been around for several years.

What ever your traditions the other thing that seems to maintain it’s place at Thanksgiving is the stress of it all. Between the planning, the travel, the people, maybe the unwelcome conversations, Thanksgiving has never been considered relaxing- until the moment everyone is done eating.

Thanksgiving is the one meal of the year that people look forward to leftovers as much as they do the meal- maybe even more so. This is a very good thing since according to the food waste coalition reFED, American consumers throw away 27 million tons of food each year, 23 percent of which is in the form of leftovers. It’s clogging landfills, generating greenhouse gasses, and costing the economy an estimated $144 billion. The solution, however, could be simple: get people to eat leftovers again.

Thanksgiving leftovers are a wonderful reminder of how much better food can be the next day and it’s a great way to keep lunch expenses down and nutritional content higher so be sure and get a few extra to-go containers for guests who will most certainly be requesting them.

What if, today, we were grateful for everything? – Charlie Brown

Regardless of the make up of the people in your gathering, be it a friendsgiving, your immediate family, or a command performance of multiple generations, Getting clear ahead of time about what to expect will help it all run smoothly.

To get Thanksgiving off on the right foot, lets get a few things decided upon now so we can arrive gracefully to the dinner table come Thanksgiving day.

This weekend, decide if you are hosting and if so, for whom. Prepare guest list and invite guests. What table decorations are going to be needed? Small bell jars of fresh flowers and candles or something larger and grand? Decide and order or add to the shopping list. Its also the perfect time to buy a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on iTunes so you can enjoy it throughout the month.

By next weekend, brainstorm menu ideas. Are you keeping strictly to your traditional dishes or would you like to add something new for a bit more variety. Decide how much you are going to do yourself and what’s suitable to purchase/order likes breads and pies. Rental of items should also be considered. Everything from chairs to napkins can be rented.

By the third weekend in November, create the master menu, listing each item, and make a parallel cooking list (potatoes take x minutes to prep and x minutes to cook, so do they get started before or after the green bean casserole that takes x minutes to prep and x minutes to cook and goes directly to table). You may want to enlist the use of a neighbor’s oven as a warming drawer when too many things need to stay warm right before show time.

Go through the ingredient list, pulling out what you already have, pulling it to put aside so you don’t use it in the meantime. Decide what can be made ahead of time and frozen. For those items that can be made ahead, grocery shop for those ingredients. Place orders for those items you’re ordering, including flowers.

Early on Thanksgiving week, prepare those items that can be made ahead and freeze (Such as pie crust, bread). Also things like cranberry sauce can be made and refrigerated. Decide how your food items are going to be plated and pull out those pieces with the serving utensils. Reconfirm guest list and establish your seating. Assigned seating is recommended for larger gatherings.

In the midst of the rushing, don’t forget to give yourself downtime at home with the family. How about popcorn, spiced apple cider and a great movie? Miracle on 34th Street is a great movie to watch before Thanksgiving, as it begins at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Select and purchase the drinks. The Wine Folly notes that “Beaujolais is the Francophiles #1 choice for Thanksgiving wines due to the perfectly timed arrival ofBeaujolais Nouveau.This wine is made with 100% Gamay, which has a lot of similarities to Pinot Noir, except with way more bang-for-the-buck.

It pairs exceptionally well with wild rice, salads, roasted squash, and cranberries.

It balances Thanksgiving dinners that have a high sweetness factor (yams, etc.) with Bojo’s savory and earthy quality. Its lighter, less tannic style works well with white meat turkey.

It turns out that 2016 was a tough year for Beaujolais, so I might steer away from Bojo Nouveau. That said, the Cru Beaujolais wines are incredible.”

Here are a few of their recommendations:

2015 Coudert “Cuvée Cristal” Fleurie (Cru Beaujolais~$20)
2015 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly (Cru Beaujolais~$23)
2009 Savoye “Vieilles Vignes” Morgon Côte du Py (Cru Beaujolais~$45 1.5L)

The Monday before Thanksgiving, buy all perishables required for recipes. At least two days before, set the table and buffet if using one, completely, including all decorations, candles, chairs, silverware, etc. Place serving pieces on table so you’re clear on your spacing. Set up a separate bar area for drinks including alcohol, mixers, the buckets for ice and glassware. Corral all after-dinner drink items such as coffee, creamer, tea and mugs.

The day before Thanksgiving, thaw all frozen items (bread, etc. that you pre-made). Assemble and bake pies. Keep in mind, most all side dishes can be made a day ahead and simply reheated, such as mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels, etc. Clean and dry salad greens and store in a resealable baggie until you assemble salad. Get ice for bar service.

The morning of Thanksgiving, turn on the parade, eat a proper breakfast, make extra coffee and then get started on final elements of your meal plan. Prepare stuffing, gravy, salad (no dressing yet) and chill. Get the Turkey going, bring all previously cooked items to serving temperature in oven.

When everyone sits down for dinner, let everyone toast, including the children and when the children are done eating, excuse them from the table so the adults can continue to enjoy their dinner without trying to manage their frustrated, over-cooked children.

After dinner, with all coffee and dessert items corralled already, all you have left is making the coffee and whipped cream. Want to keep the children in good spirits? Let them serve the dessert to the adults. Then you can sit back and enjoy …

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations. – Oscar Wilde

Happy Planning!


Have ideas you’d like to add? Need more suggestions? Let me know!

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