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Friday, November 4, 2011

Thanksgiving "Trimmings" and Various Other Memories...

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  It is by far and away my favorite holiday.  The fireplace is crackling, incredible aromas are wafting from the kitchen all day long, the television is set to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning and then football in the afternoon, cousins are reuniting and teaching each other new things that are really going to tick off their parents later,.. and then there's the meal.  Tons of love and preparation go into that meal from the family members that do it best, only for it to be devoured in a little over an hour. Aaaahh... Thanksgiving.

Even as a kid I think Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday.  We always made the trek from the west side of the state to the east side to visit with family and friends.  In the earlier years we stayed with my grandparents and had dinner at my aunt and uncles house.   It seemed like as soon as we pulled in the driveway you could smell the celery and onions being chopped for the ENORMOUS pan of stuffing my grandma always made, and potatoes bubbling away on the stove.  My sister and I would almost immediately call our cousin to let her know we were here, and then run down the street to see what she was up to.  Almost certainly Krissy was up in her room doing her hair and makeup, listening to some music like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, or LL Cool J and Salt and Peppa in later years. 

As we'd walk through the door of my aunt and uncle's house we would pass the long dining table set with the neatly pressed table cloth and all the really nice china for the adults.  Relish trays were already out including the yucky little sweet gherkins (never my fave) and the cream cheese and olive stuffed celery. By the time we made it to the top of the stairs we could smell hot curling irons and burnt hairspray in the air.  We would walk through her bedroom door and it's funny, but often times we would see Krissy with a pair of scissors in her hand, getting ready to cut her own hair.  Apparently, if it didn't work with the hairstyle in mind it would get cut off.  Ironically, I took a pair of scissors to the bottom of her wedding dress on her big day too, but that's for another blog.

We would spend the next hour or two talking about music, playing with her make up, and painting our nails until dinner was ready.  By that time, all the old relatives had arrived and it was noisy as heck with all the women judging each other, old men constantly blowing their noses, and the young ones yelling about what they DO NOT want to eat.  Krissy refused to eat anything green, and my baby sister would pretty much eat only the yucky pickles, deviled eggs, and mashed potatoes and gravy.  My brother was the only one who would eat almost anything including the green bean casserole which made the rest of us kids gag.  Basically, the idea for the rest of us was just to get our plates cleaned so we could get to dessert.  Pumpkin pie (including my moms crustless "Impossible Pumpkin Pie"), pecan pie, usually a silly cake my grandma made, and sometimes bread pudding.  Ohhhh yeah.... thinking about it now makes my mouth water.  The evening was filled with lots of old men snorring away in the living room, the women chattering away in the kitchen, and all the kids practicing their next dance routine in the basement.  What great memories.  Honestly, what I look forward to the most this holiday is O creating his own memories with his cousins.

In the past 5 years, Thanksgiving dinner has been my responsibilty and I have gladly accepted it.  I have learned a few tricks on my own that have helped me along the way, but I have to tell you... I really wish my grandma was still here.  I never got the opportunity to pick her brain for those helpful hints and I know she was chockfull of them.  So, I'm here to help you with what I can.  The next few posts will include helpful hints, tips, tricks, and recipes to get you through this Thanksgiving holiday and add to your database of fond memories.

Tip #1:  Prep what you can early so you're not a sweaty mess on T-day

After spending the first Thanksgiving locked away in the kitchen with my hair all a mess, mascara running down my face, and my nice blouse stuck to my back with sweat I learned that I need to spread out my tasks for this endeavor.  Here's a timeline I try to stick to (this is the standard T-day menu. Place your own menu accordingly):

4-5 days in advance
-If you have a frozen turkey you better start defrosting NOW
-If you haven't grocery shopped yet you better do it NOW
2 days in advance
-Relish trays (if you have deviled eggs, you can boil your eggs now, but don't make the filling until 1 day before)
-Cheese trays
-Par-baked loaves of bread (bake them until slightly firm and then finish them off to golden brown on the big day)
-Peel and cut your potatoes and put them in an airtight container with just enough water to cover them, refrigerate.
-Brine your turkey NOW (brining consistently produces the best results for me.  More on that later)
-Dig out all your fancy china and serving dishes, make sure they're clean and dust free.
1 day in advance (this should be your busiest day)
-Cut all your veggies for side dishes, salads, stuffings, etc.
-Bake your pies
-Assemble and refrigerate your stuffing
-Assemble and refrigerate your Green Bean Casserole (minus the crunchy onion top)
-Remove turkey from brine, rinse, pat dry, truss (if you're gonna), refrigerate.
-Set the table(s)
Thanksgiving Day
-Season and roast your turkey
-Boil, mash, and finish your potatoes
-Bake your stuffing
-Top with crunchy onions and bake your Green Bean Casserole
-Finish baking your breads (do this step after you take the turkey out.  Breads should only need approx 10 minutes max in the oven)
-Make your gravy

If you follow this basic guideline, I am certain you will pull off your Thanksgiving meal with a lot less glitches and you will still look marvelous when your guests arrive.  Not to mention you won't be shackled to the kitchen while everyone else gets to visit and mingle.  You might even allow yourself the opportunity to get the camera out and capture those memories on film.

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