Monday, November 16, 2015

Menu Monday: Thanksgiving Is Coming

For the next two weeks, I thought I would break away from my usual Menu Monday format and discuss Thanksgiving.  This week I thought I would share some tips which have helped me get organized and get things done over the years.  But first, a flash-back to last week!

I thought it would be fun to start taking more pictures of our weekly meals and sharing them here in retrospect.  This week was especially enjoyable:

 I haven't done planned leftovers since I started growing teenagers!  However, this week we ended up with TWO nights of leftovers!  One combined the above Pepper Steak dish with the below, Pot Pie to create a sort of smorgasbord.  The fun part?  #1, we don't usually indulge in pepper steak so it was a nice treat (steak and peppers are usually expensive but I got the steak on sale and the peppers were frozen leftovers from my garden this year.)  #2, Brenden helped with the pot pie!  It is a family fave and he was ready to lend a hand.  The turkey, acorn and leaf vent holes were his idea!  We used cookie cutters to make the marks.  Dinner is always more tasty when it looks fun!!

Also, I made Good Morning Muffins this week for breakfast (which always lend to snack later in the day!).  This is a recipe I found in my Family Fun cookbook and modified.  It snuck in some beta-carotene because these yummy muffins have apples AND carrots!

But the most fun part of all?  We turned a bummer into a funner.  Our car broke down Tuesday night picking up kids from their Tuesday youth group.  Ball joint popped off.  Not fun. 

BUT, trusting God was in control and knowing we could not make it to Wednesday's youth group with our car in the shop (the good Lord provided for the repairs!) Brooke decided to make Wednesday night fun by baking a yellow cake with buttercream frosting, from scratch, with a recipe she found, by.herself.!!!!  My little girl is growing up.

Her cake was D.E.L.C.I.O.U.S. and hubby declared that every night should be cake night!  I'm blessed by Brooke's confidence to step into the kitchen... even when she isn't sure about something, she asks and dedicates herself to the task. 

So, onto this week's thoughts:

As I prepared to share our menu for the week ahead, it struck me; maybe you, like me, are investing energy this week into pre-Thanksgiving prep.  Or, maybe, you aren't sure HOW and desperately need some direction.  So, since our dinners will be typical, I thought I would share, instead, how our time and energy will begin to shift in focus for the big meal less then 2 weeks away.

(can you tell I have been doing this a while?  My records go back even farther!!)

Normally, I do shopping and pre-cooking a month in advance.  This year, I have still been getting my feet under me after the big move so most my shopping and prep will start Saturday, after payday this week.  But I am getting ahead of myself...

It starts with a plan.  I keep a fall planner which covers all our big 'events' from back-to-school through Thanksgiving (I have another one for Christmas).  From making the First Day back to regular class work special, to our Bread Bowl Chili kicking off fall... even special fall gatherings we find fun in October to the biggest event of fall: Thanksgiving.  My planner helps me keep track of it all, plan meals, set up my schedule and even track previous years' successes (and flops).  These reflections have been priceless and helped each year's dinner go smoother.

For my dinner plans page, I use stickers and colored pens to create a decorative border.  List making is always more fun when your paper looks festive!  The last two years of moving, adjusting, moving... I had no way to use my typical pages so I decorative hole-punched the top corners and made it simple and festive.

I draw out the main points of the day's meal.  It isn't anything fancy.  I just think from top down, beginning to end: Breakfast, Appetisers, Meal and Desserts.  I divide my paper up accordingly with these respective labels.  I then begin to list out what I would like to have for each. I try to do this at the beginning of November so I can be watchful for sales on items needed and, on good years, I begin baking extra early in the month and freezing it to make preparation week easier. When we are expecting company, I will also list condiments so I don't forget anything on the serving table.

The plan:
Breakfast:  For Thanksgiving I usually have sweet bread set out in the morning because it is low mess and I serve the left-overs on our dessert buffet with cream cheese frosting.  Some years I even boil eggs before hand so there is a splash of protein in the morning!  Some of these eggs can later be used for deviled eggs.

Lunch: since all of our moving around, we usually don't have company for dinner anymore.  I mentioned some about our alterations to our celebrations on account of this, on Friday.  I use to leave everyone to sandwiches or light snacking but since doing Thanksgiving just us, I started putting out the Appetizers around lunch time.  Cheese, sausage and crackers as well as my dip and veggies.  It does a good job of curbing our hunger but still leaving plenty of room for a big dinner.

Dinner: usually mid-afternoon, around 2 or 3.  I list out our regulars and some ideas of things to try new.  This year I am going to make use of the plethora of yellow squash in my freezer from the garden and make a casserole in addition to the tried and true list!

Dessert: I try to make 2-3 pies I wouldn't usually make in the year along with some other traditions like Cranberry Jello Salad and our Turkey Cookies (watch this Friday for more on Desserts!).  The last two years I made fudge for Thanksgiving and it has turned out to be a super fun treat (for us chocoholics) and a way to have a taste of the Christmas season officially kicking off with the close of the day.

Beverages: help me remember to make this part of the meal special as well.  It is especially helpful when we are having company because I like to offer options and I will keep a hot pot of water on the coffee maker for tea, instant hot cider, or cocoa.  I will also buy cold apple cider and sometimes make or purchase eggnog as a treat for the family.  By the way, small or extra slow cookers make a great vessel for keeping mass quantities of hot beverages warm for the duration of your gathering.

After listing out our plans, I then check my pantry and start a running list of all that will be needed to pull off the event.  If  we are having company, I usually invest in some paper products as well like dessert plates, napkins and such.  Be sure to add these to your list if you need them.

This week, not only will I formulate a clear grocery list for shopping on Saturday, I will also draw out Thanksgiving week plans.

Again, it isn't complicated,  I take a to-do page (usually a piece of notebook paper I put season stickers at the top of and photo copy) or a "Dinner Plans" page and I divide the page into 4 days.  Monday - Thursday.  I consider what dishes can be made ahead... and how far ahead... and begin the prep-work on these.  Next week I will share more specifics on this.  However, beginning this week, consider what you can spend 10-20 minutes doing each day and store or freeze for next week. 
  • Having apple pie?  Peel and slice apples, place in freezer bag, and pop into freezer ready to go.  
  • For any pie you can make your crust and form it into a disk or place it in your pan, cover with wax paper and plastic and freeze ready to go for next week.  
  • Homemade rolls?  While cooking some for dinner this week, make extra and freeze for next week.
You get the idea.

I could go on and on, so here is the basic principle: look at each dish in parts and consider what parts can be done how far ahead and stored until they are needed. With this idea in play, you will make Thanksgiving week prep go much smoother leaving more time for making memories and enjoying the time with family!

What are your Thanksgiving plans?  What are you cooking this week?



  1. Love how pretty and organized your planning sheets are! Very fun. I also like to get ahead in various areas of the kitchen. It makes fellowship that much more enjoyable! Thank you for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays :)

  2. Love seeing your pretty organizational planners and ideas! Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! :)

    1. Thank you. Planning is always more fun when it is pretty :-) Thanks for the link-up you provide. I visit your site because it is wonderful and homey... the link-up is a bonus ;-)