Planning Ahead for Thanksgiving Day for Less Stress

Are you planning Thanksgiving dinner for a  large number of guest. Well, let me give you a hand in the planning to help send the stress of planning your dinner down the drain. let’s make your dinner a memorable and enjoyable occasions such as it should be.

Some Boyhood Memories

When I was a boy, my job was to singe the turkey and then pluck out the feather fragments left in the skin. Thank goodness we don’t have those chores unless like my son, you raise turkeys for Thanksgiving and you have to go through those motions.

My Father the Turkey Killer

Here is a story about my dad. I was fighting in Korea when it happened. Dad who was much like the dad in A Christmas Story about the little fellow who wanted to get a Red Rider Rifle for Christmas. I’m sure you have seen that movie and enjoyed it.  My dad was like the boy’s dad in that he would always have a great new idea and get extremely excited about it. His great idea was to buy a live turkey, which he did, a very large bird indeed.

Dad decided that the best place to dispatch the poor bird was in the basement. Took the bird down into the basement along with his axe. When he chopped off the head of the bird, it got lose. Now I have had that problem before when killing chicken for chicken dinner when I was a boy but a chicken and a turkey are two different things. The turkey took off (like a chicken with its head cut off) and spew blood from one end of the basement to the other and all over my father.

When Dad came up out of the basement, he looked more like the turkey than the turkey. He was covered with blood and feathers from head to toe. It took him a week to clean up the mess the turkey had created. (That reminds me of my Uncle Cliff who was sticking his pocket knife into the abdomen of a bloated cow to relieve the pressure and somehow got behind the cow. When he got home, Aunt Rora rolled over laughing at the site of her husband covered from head to toe with cow manure.)

Another Boyhood Job

Another job for me was hand grinding up things for the dressing or stuffing. Now days there are many processed foods that take the pain out of making dressing. Also there are electric grinders. The only drawback is that it really isn’t dressing. Who grinds up the birds organs now days after they have boiled on the stove half the day and puts them in the dressing.


10 Days before Thanksgiving

First, make your guest list and invite your guest.

Second, ask your guest if they would like to bring a special dish. See how it fits into your menu.

If you will be cooking turkey, decide upon alive, freshly slaughtered, frozen, or smoked. You can smoke the turkey yourself or deep fry it if you are not afraid of those deep fryers. (I am!)

Decide what size of turkey you want. It must fit into your oven if you are going to bake it and it must fit into your refrigerator before you bake it.

Figure on 1 pound of unstuffed, whole turkey per person for moderate leftovers.  Allow about 1.3 pounds per person for more leftovers.

Let’s say you will have 20 guest eating turkey (let the vegetarians eat cake), then you need about a 26 pound bird to get some leftovers to pester your family with later. Following is a good leftover dish you can be thinking about:

Turkey Enchiladas with Avocado Sauce:

2 Tbsp. butter

2 cups cooked, diced turkey

1/3 cup diced black olives

1/4 cup diced onions

salt to taste, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder

8 corn tortillas, oil to soften tortillas (I just put them in the microwave for a half minute.

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Cook the above for a few minutes in a sauce pan, then let simmer for 10 minutes.

The Avocado Sauce

1 cup of mashed avocado

4-5 tbsp. evaporated milk

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp salt, dash garlic salt and dash pepper.

Mix in blender.

Now role the tortillas with the turkey mix inside, add cheese and sauce, place in oven in a casserole dish adding sauce over the top along with a sprinkle of cheese and if you like, sliced olives. Serve with sour cream on top.

The Week Before

Now is the time to finalize your menu. Think about the children. Is there a special dish or two they would like. Here is an old Maryland menu for Thanksgiving Day:

Oyster Stew

Stuffed Turkey with Gravy

Old Country Ham

Mashed Potatoes, Green Limas, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Sauerkraut

Cranberry Sauce, Celery, Relish

Rolls and Coffee

White Potato, Pumpkin, Apple and Mince Pie

Cake and Ice Cream

Your Final Menu

Deciding upon your final menu should be completed at least a week before the big day. Consider the number of people you will be entertaining and if you have children on your guest list, try to plan a couple of special dishes or treats especially for them.

The Week of Thanksgiving

The week of Thanksgiving is the time to stock up on necessary items from the grocery store. You can make certain items in advance such as bread or rolls and freeze them until Thanksgiving morning. Also make sure you have supplies such a napkins, cups, etc.

The Days before Thanksgiving

A couple of days prior to Thanksgiving you can prepare a few items in advance to save time on the big day.

Things like cranberry sauce or relish can be stored in your refrigerator for a few days. You may want to cut up onions, celery, and any like items and store them in plastic ware to save time on Thanksgiving morning.

Give the kids something to do. Let them make pies and desserts if they are old enough and have been properly trained. If they are able to do that, they can also make roles and such.

Place a frozen turkey in the refrigerator 3 days prior to cooking to give it time to thaw.

If you will need to iron linens, etc., do so a couple of days before Thanksgiving to cut down on the amount of work you will have to do the night before the big day.

Thanksgiving Morning

On Thanksgiving morning, make sure you have your thawed turkey stuffed (if necessary) and ready to place in the oven or a Turkey Roaster or perhaps, into a Turkey Fryer

Side dishes should be ready to cook or place in your oven and it would be a good idea to have desserts prepared the night before to save time and frustration on Thanksgiving Day. Any items you have frozen should be taken out of the freezer the night before so they can be heated easily.

Advance planning can make Thanksgiving Day stress-free (almost)  and you will have  time to enjoy the company of friends and family.

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