Thanksgiving Pre-Planning Guide
Thanksgiving is just 1 week away! Can you believe it?
Whether you are an amateur or a seasoned professional, planning and preparing a Thanksgiving feast is not as difficult as it sounds. Most of the foods you will prepare are similar to any other meal. The only difference is you will be doing it on a larger scale. When you have cooked as long as I have, you get a feel for how much food to make. Sometimes, I refer to a little cookbook I purchased years ago at my daughters school. In the back of the book it lists quantities to feed 100 people. I just do a little math according to how many I will be feeding.
Take a deep breath and follow these simple guidelines. You will be surprised at how easy it will be to produce a delicious meal for your family this Thanksgiving.
The first thing you have to do is determine how many people you will be having. An easy way to do this is to make 3 columns on a piece of paper. Write each family’s name in the far left column. Then, label the other 2 columns “adults” and “children”. For each family, put a number under the adults and children’s columns. Then you simply add up the columns.
The next question you may ask yourself is; how much food will I need to buy? This can get tricky because it depends on what kind of party your family likes. Our family does the whole nine yards. We get together early for appetizers so everyone can visit and enjoy all of the aromas typical to a Thanksgiving dinner cooking in the oven. Later, we all sit down for the main feast, followed by dessert and coffee. After everyone watches a little football, takes a nap, does the dishes or plays cards, it’s time for round 2. Turkey & Ham sandwiches, potato salad, and of course, more dessert! I will help you plan your eat-a-thon according to what I am accustomed to.
Remember, everyone’s family dynamic is different, so use the following as a starting point and adjust according to your crowd’s preferences:
I will give you amounts for a party of 25 people. A good variety of appetizers that won’t fill everyone up before dinner should consist of light foods like fresh veggies and a light dipping sauce, cheeses and crackers, nuts and fresh fruits.
Turkey - Typically, people tend to overindulge on Thanksgiving, so plan on doubling the usual portion per person of turkey which would be 6 to 7 oz per person (not including sandwiches). If you are planning to make a ham as well, plan on 6 or 7 ounces per person for both the turkey and the ham.
TIP: If you can get a good deal on your turkey, Purchase an extra, smaller turkey, cook it the day before and slice it neatly for sandwiches.
Potatoes - To estimate the amount of potatoes you will need for mashed potatoes, figure 1 raw potato per person. The usual amount is 5 to 6 oz. per person, so for 25 people you would need around 10 lbs.
Stuffing – My grandmother would be rolling over in her grave if she heard me refer this as “Stuffing”! Our family’s traditional recipe for Turkey “Dressing” has been handed down for generations and is one that you have to acquire a taste for. Most families have their own recipe for dressing, so you will probably know how much to make. If you opt for the boxed variety, plan on using at least one box for the inside of the turkey and then about 4 oz. per person that you can serve in a bowl or casserole dish.
Broccoli casserole and green bean casserole - What kind of Thanksgiving would it be without these popular staples? I usually make a double recipe of each and have plenty.
Corn – Corn may sound plain with all of the other rich vegetable casseroles you will be serving, but you have to remember that some people may be on a diet or simply don’t care for the “fancier” vegetables. I usually make 3 or 4 of the 9 oz bags (frozen).
Sweet potato casserole – This is a family favorite, so I make 2 of the 9 X 13 pans. For my recipe, it takes 4 large sweet potatoes for one 9 X 13 pan.
Time saving tip: Prick your fresh sweet potatoes with a fork, place in the microwave and cook until soft. Then, scoop out the potatoes and proceed with your favorite recipe!
Cranberry sauce – So simple to make and delightful to look at, yet no one ever eats it! At least not in my family. If you have a special recipe, or if you simply buy the gelled variety, a small bowl or dish at each end of the table should be plenty.
Salad – 2 or 3 heads of lettuce, plus your tomatoes (2 or 3), cucumbers (2 or 3), radishes (1 Bunch), black olives (2 cans). Everyone has different tastes, so prepare your salad according to what your family likes. Try something new: If you are from up north, then you have probably had “Mayonnaise Salad”. You simply toss the above ingredients with mayonnaise, salt and black pepper. This is a great compliment to turkey. Otherwise, just serve the salad with your favorite dressing either tossed in, or a variety of dressings set out on the table.
Rolls - Plan on at least 2 rolls per adult at dinner, and be sure to make extras for sandwiches later. Here’s a time saving tip: Buy the frozen roll dough. Spray your cookie sheets with no-stick spray and place your frozen rolls on the pan(s) and place inside the cold oven, covered with saran wrap (also sprayed with no-stick spray) away from drafts before you go to bed. The rolls will rise while you sleep. In the morning, remove the saran wrap, preheat the oven and bake the rolls first thing when you wake up.
Pies – Whether you do pumpkin, mincemeat, sweet potato or pecan, everyone will look forward to having that homemade pie for dessert! Figure approximately 1 ½ pieces of pie per person. If you slice the pies in 1/8, then that would be 4 to 5 pies.
Other desserts – Most of the time, your guests will bring other desserts such as cakes, fudge, homemade cookies, etc. Of course, you don’t have any control over the amounts on these, so just add them to your dessert table, or make a nice arrangement on a platter.
Potato salad (for round 2) – About 6 lbs. for 25 people, so buy a 5 lb. bag of red potatoes and by the time you add the eggs, onions and mayo, you should have plenty.
Don’t forget the little things like coffee, creamer, tea, soft drinks, butter, etc.
Well, I think that covers just about everything.
Check back often for recipes, tips and tricks for making your Thanksgiving a success!