Organizational tricks for Turkey Day, Thanksgiving.

I cook almost every year. We all know the basics of the menu, well if you are sticking with tradition. It starts with turkey. Well our menu for 2014 is: Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Whole Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Brown Gravy, White Pepper Gravy, Stuffing (dressing), Green bean casserole, Yams with marshmallows, Peas, Corn, Rolls, and of course pie for dessert.

Now none of this tends to stress me out, why?

I have a plan. On Wednesday morning, yes I said Wednesday after I get my coffee I throw some turkey parts, a couple of peeled and chunked up onions, a couple of carrots, some celery, and whatever seasoning I am using on the bird in my slow cooker. I dump in some water, turn the whole thing on low and ignore. I will get back to this in about 24 hours, yes it will be fine on low. I also make sure that the cranberry sauces are in the fridge.

Next I review that I have all of my ingredients, I always seem to forget something. Usually butter or milk, or heavy duty aluminum foil.

Now I use my nice clean and clear table. I lay out all of the pots and pans involved, yes I have had years where I had pictured one pot or pan for 2 things. Then I grab the ingredients and stage them with their pots & pans (no not the perishables, just the dry goods).  I also use a fair number of disposable pans and of course the Reynolds Turkey bag. So now plan for the next day and get some rest.

Thursday morning my house already smells wonderful, remember that broth I started the day before… yep it smells wonderful. I get dressed to lace up shoes, and get my coffee. When I’m getting my coffee I turn the slow cooker off. I sit and eat and enjoy my coffee.

Now that I’m ready I prep the Reynolds bag according to instructions and get that bird in the oven with it’s onions carrots, celery and seasoning. Once that bird is in the oven I move on to the rolls.

I cheat, but it works great. I grab those muffin tins we all have, yeah you know the one, that rarely gets used. I pull them out and grab my frozen Rhodes dough balls. I drop 2 dough balls in each muffin cup. They like 3 hours of being ignored, so this works out well.

Now that I have those items done I take a water break. Yes, I make time to drink some water. It can get hot in the kitchen. Okay, water break over.

I strain that broth that is sitting in my slow cooker and stick it in the fridge so the fat can rise to the top.

Next up I prep my green bean casserole, no it won’t go straight in the oven, but with that bird cooking I have room in the fridge for it. You all know of the casserole I speak of. So once I get that prepped in a nice disposable pan and covered in the fridge it goes.

Now for the yams with marshmallows, I prep them in a disposable pan, cover them and pop them into the fridge. Don’t forget to pick up and put away  cooking, trust it makes a difference. Do it now and load the dishwasher with anything you are done with.

Yep time to check on friends and family and poke my head out with more water in hand. Everyone will offer to help but unless they want to peel potatoes I really don’t need any help. I also make sure I have not left a disaster behind me, time to pick up and put away, or in the dishwasher again.

Okay next step is to peel those taters, and get them into a pot covered with water to keep them from browning. I’ll set them to boiling when the turkey has about 1 hour left in the oven. Yes, I drain the pot and refill it with fresh water to cook them.

Now I check on the broth in the fridge. Time to make the stuffing or dressing if you prefer. Some years I have the onions etc already sautéed if not I have do it now. Take your time and keep an eye on them, there is no rushing sautéing vegetable, really trust me I’ve tried. Once I get the stuffing or dressing if you prefer into, guess what? Another disposable pan, covered and in the fridge. Yes, I made use of some of that broth from my slow cooker, no need to wait on pan drippings and hope I have enough.

Time for more water, and another peak at the parade.

Time to check on that bird, and start the potatoes boiling. I peek at my rolls, they are rising nicely. Now it’s time to clear off a counter and prep it for the turkey when it comes out of the oven. I place a towel and some cardboard on the counter covered by another towel. I will need my stovetop so… the counter must be ready.

Now I mix up my gravy, yes from scratch. I make both white and brown since I often invite soldiers who have no where to go.

Okay time to get the warming tray plugged in. I love it for gravy and a few other things. If you don’t have one don’t worry about it. Time to get the corn and peas in their pans and on the stove.

Time for one last break. Another chance to stem the tide of disaster in the kitchen and keep the chaos to a minimum.

Oh it’s time for the bird to pop out of the oven. I get it out, now help is great, extra muscles. I take it out and let it rest in the nice prepared spot on the counter. Yep out and resting. Now those casseroles in the fridge, jump into the oven. You did cover them with foil right, so just pop em in.

The rolls are looking very pretty as well, so I brush them with an egg wash and pop them into the oven.

So taters are boiling, casseroles are baking, rolls are baking, bird is resting, peas and corn are on the stove, gravy is on the warming tray. I now move the bird to the cutting board, yep extra help is good here too. Like I said muscles are always good. I carve in the kitchen, your traditions may vary. I do have a second pan for the carved turkey standing by, yep another disposable. I don’t have a platter so I make do.

The rolls and casseroles are done, now to carve the star and get it one the table. Now as far as plates and silverware, I use high quality paper with real silverware, I do use real glassware.

Oh you ask about the pies, frozen or fresh picked up at the store, pop on the table after the bird is done, and add some ice cream and fresh plates, maybe a pot of coffee.

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