Preparing for my First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I love it love it love it. I think perhaps because it’s an entire day that is dedicated to just being thankful and spending time with loved ones. Most of the other major holidays have good intentions but are overshadowed with candy and commercialism and their true meaning is lost on many people (think Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day). I think the only other unspoiled holiday is Independence Day and it also ranks right up there as a favorite of mine.

I was born and raised in the same small-ish city where all of my extended family lived. My great-grandparents lived there and all of their kids and grand kids set up house there as well. We spent every holiday together – all of my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. Everyone hosted a holiday at their house and it rotated every year. Everyone else is tasked with bringing a dish and we all celebrate together. I am always told to bring the rolls or a dessert. This will be the first year that I won’t be spending a holiday with them.

This is also the first year that I will be cooking a turkey. There will only be five of us dining at my house, but I’d still like to make a full meal. I can handle mashed potatoes no problem, corn is a snap, I’ve got Kate’s Simple Pull-Apart Rolls mastered since they show up on my menu plan at least twice a month, cranberry sauce is simple out of a can (though we’ll be having two kinds – Jason only likes the jelly and I prefer whole berry), Jason prefers Stovetop stuffing above any homemade so that’s easy… however, the turkey looms before me.

I’ve been picking up some great tips from some of my favorite bloggers, two of which are roasting the bird ahead of time and prepping the potatoes the night before. These two tips alone will take a lot of the work out of Big Thursday. The only other thing I can make ahead of time is the apple pie.

I was watching Throwdown with Bobby Flay a few days ago and saw the apple pie episode with The Elegant Farmers apple pie in a paper bag. After hearing their reasoning, I kind of love this idea. Apparently the paper bag steams the heaping two pounds of apples while baking and leaves them slightly crisp instead of mushy. I’m all about that. A friend linked me to this recipe which mimics what The Elegant Farmers do: Apple Pie Baked in a Bag. I think I’ll bake this pie as well as the rolls Wednesday after the turkey so I can get all of my oven use done in one day. I can put the pre-sliced turkey into one of my crock pots with some chicken stock to reheat and the rolls into my other crock pot to warm. That way I can keep focus on my range top to get the side dishes done and without the oven on all-day Thursday, my kitchen and adjacent dining room will stay cooler and we won’t have to wear tank-tops and overheat during our fabulous family meal.

I’ll still be missing my extended family a lot on Thursday and I’ll probably call my Nana a few times on Wednesday for turkey advice, but all in all I’m excited for my first Thanksgiving as the head chef. I’ve already told Jason that while help in the kitchen would be cool, I’d rather he be on kid- and dog-duty. His only job on Thursday is to keep them both out of my kitchen as much as possible while I’m doing my best to have the whole meal on the table at the same time.

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