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Thanksgiving Timeline

Turkey dinner Start making lists and see what you have on hand, versus what you need. Plan your menu. If you want guests to bring a dish, list the dish next to the guest.


  • Table (one large enough for all your guests)
  • Chairs for all of your guests
  • DISHWARE: Dinner plates Dessert plates Coffee cups and saucers
  • SILVERWARE: Forks, knives and spoons
  • GLASSWARE: Water glasses and/or Wine glasses
  • LINENS: Tablecloth (large enough to fit your table)
  • Clean napkins
  • Roasting pan: Is it the right size for your turkey? Will it fit into your oven? (Don't laugh: It's easier to buy the right pan today, than it will be on Thanksgiving morning.)
  • Big-enough bowls, pots and serving platters
  • Sauce boat
  • Bread basket
  • Gravy pitcher
  • Coffeepot--Make decaf and put in a thermos - then brew a pot of regular.
  • Trivets
  • Well-sharpened knives
  • Sugar bowl
  • Cream pitcher

2 weeks before Thanksgiving:

  1. Confirm guest list. Plan menu. Make a seating chart.
  2. Order turkey (especially if you want a fresh one). Plan on 1 1/4 lb. per person.
  3. Make lists of: serving pieces you'll need (platters, bowls, gravy boat); table settings - do you have enough dinner plates, dessert plates, utensils and glasses?; equipment (roasting pan with rack, meat thermometer, knives, pots, pans)
  4. Make out shopping and ''to do'' lists
  5. Pick wine (check selections in a wine guide)
  6. Plan a festive centerpiece

1 week before Thanksgiving:

  1. Clean the house.
  2. Put clean towels in the bathroom.
  3. Make a final shopping list --Remember ice and cream for the coffee, and nuts for nibbling in the living room.

Week of Thanksgiving:

Monday: Carefully read through your recipes to see exactly what food and equipment you need; clean and decorate house. Defrost your turkey (if it's frozen). Remember that you have to allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds if you're going to defrost a turkey in the refrigerator. That means a 15-pound turkey will take three full days, so get started on Monday.
SUGGESTION: If you miss that deadline, you can defrost the bird faster in a sink full of cold water, allowing about half an hour for each pound of turkey and changing the water occasionally. (It will still take 7 1/2 hours for that 15-pounder, so do it after work on Wednesday, then refrigerate it.)

Tuesday: Do your final food shopping. Make a cooking schedule for Thanksgiving Day. If guests are invited for 5 P.M., count backward from a 6 P.M. dinner, writing down the time everything goes into the oven or the microwave. Don't forget the dishes that will have to be reheated. Buy all ingredients and drinks; lay out all serving dishes and cooking equipment; start preparing any dishes that will keep (cranberry sauce, spiced pecans, etc.). Make pastry dough for the pumpkin pie, apple pie, and pecan pie. Make a spinach dip or another do-ahead appetizer.

Wednesday: Idea!: Have a few friends over to help decorate, prep and cook; set and decorate table; make pies; chop everything for side dishes; dry out bread and cook sausage for stuffing; plan cooking schedule for Thursday. If you have only one oven, keep in mind that most of the day it will be occupied by the turkey. Set the table. Clear out the coat closet for guest coats. Clean the guest bathroom. If possible, make it off-limits to the family. Take the gravy out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator so it can defrost Bake bread for the stuffing and let it stand at room temperature overnight. Chop vegetables for the desired stuffing. Make the dinner rolls. Make the sweet potatoes. Make the pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving Day

1. Have coffee, take a deep breath, and get organized.

2. Let turkey sit at room temperature at least 1 hour before roasting.

3. Eight hours before serving the turkey: Make the stuffing. Make the mashed potatoes and refrigerate.
Assemble and bake side dishes early in the day (reheat right before serving).

4. Five to seven hours before serving the turkey: Roast the turkey. Make cheese crisps or another appetizer. Prepare a vegetable side dish. Roast turkey, finish setting up, prepare appetizers, and take a break to get yourself ready

5. Have a glass of wine. One hour before serving the turkey: Place the turkey on a serving dish. Pour the drippings into a bowl until you're ready to make the gravy. Bake any stuffing that didn't get into the turkey. Reheat the sweet potatoes. Reheat the mashed potatoes. Reheat the dinner rolls. Whip cream for the pumpkin pie and refrigerate. Make the gravy.

6. Reheat side dishes while turkey is resting (at least 20 min.)

7. Let guests mingle and have drinks and appetizers while you carve turkey.

Thanksgiving Recipes

Cranberry-Orange Relish
Quick Turkey Stock and Giblet Gravy
Potato Recipes
Sweet Potato Recipes
Turkey Stuffing Recipes
Pumpkin pie
Pecan pie
Apple pie
Food for Thought:
"Friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else." Eleanor Roosevelt

Have a great day!
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