Saturday, November 26, 2011

How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner—A Comprehensive Pictorial Guide

When my husband and I moved over 500 miles from our childhood homes in South Dakota and Minnesota, we quickly learned that we could no longer enjoy every holiday and special event with our grandparents, parents, siblings and cousins. It was time to carry on traditions in our new home and connect with new friends in Kansas, much like our ancestors that immigrated to the United States from Norway and Germany adapted to a new country. Thanksgiving is truly a holiday with Christian connections for both of us who’d grown up on farms where the word harvest has special meaning. There had been informal harvest festival celebrations in the United States prior to the reverent “Proclamation of Thanksgiving”  (please read) by United States President Abraham Lincoln.

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner has become routine, credited to years of practice and a great husband who pitches in from the beginning of the culinary event all the way through the clean up. If you have never done this, now is the time to begin. Bookmark this page and refer to it as you plan your gathering. This is only a guide to the way I have become accustomed to doing it. In many situations, you may be able to delegate some of the responsibilities to to your guests who offer to help by bringing something to the table. If this is the case, you may suggest specific dishes (even recipes) and beverages in order to complete the menu you have in mind as you create your own traditions.
  • Start planning a month in advance by inviting guests (if you choose to). A thanksgiving dinner has wonderful meaning even if you don’t have extra guests. Either way, I always choose a turkey and figure recipe proportions to be more than what will be eaten for the meal. Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best benefits of cooking this huge meal. They can be frozen or used through out the long weekend when it is a treat to forget about cooking so you can spend time doing other enjoyable things. 
  • Look up the recipes you want to make and start a shopping list. My recipes are available upon request.
  • Some items can be made prior to Thanksgiving Day. In my Norwegian tradition, making lefse is an essential item in the menu. Read more at my blog about How to Make Lefse.
  • My menu includes: turkey, apple-raisin stuffing, potatoes, gravy, squash (and/or orange glazed sweet potatoes), cranberry/orange/apple relish, green bean hot-dish, a variety of breads, lefse, butter, sugar, dill pickles, sweet pickles, beet pickles, green/black olives, carrot/celery sticks, water/milk/juice/wine/tea/coffee, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. This pictorial reference doesn’t include all of these items. The menu sometimes varies more or less from year to year.
  • Buy a loaf of bread for the stuffing and cut it up about a week in advance. Place the cubes in a pan and toss them occasionally so they dry up a bit. 
  • If the turkey you buy is frozen, put it in a pan and let it thaw in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
  • Attend a Thanksgiving worship service Wednesday evening (or whenever your church offers such a service). Check out the “find a church” link on this blog page if you don’t have a church. This is more important than the meal. You NEED faith-based food and nutrition from attending church and Bible study regularly with other Christians for a healthy spiritual life.
  • Study your recipes and try to schedule the preparation timing so everything is on the table fresh and hot. In order to get started early enough, set your alarm and wake up someone to help you. Take time for a shower once you have the turkey in the oven.
  • Early in the week, enlist others in the household to help in every way possible such as house cleaning, laundry, purchasing groceries. On Thanksgiving Day, don’t be afraid to allow guests and family members help with setting the table, serving drinks, clearing the table, doing dishes, cleaning the extra meat off the carcass, putting things away. Besides the blessing of a meal together, everything about the event is more enjoyable for the host/hostess when the work is shared.
  • Don’t worry about having everything perfectly clean and organized before guests arrive. Hospitality is a gift from God. Most people stress much more than necessary over using that gift. Invite people who don’t expect perfection. Live and learn!
  • Some families like to melt into the sofa and watch sports, but since I’ve never been a TV sports addict, I recommend other activities after the meal and clean up. Sometimes a nap is nice if you aren’t entertaining guests. Board games, card games, conversation, and a long walk in the country before sunset are my favorite activities.
  • One of my Etsy shop clients recommends a family project of filling information in a family tree chart for each family member.
Here’s a picture story of making Thanksgiving dinner:
If using frozen lefse, roll dough and pumpkin pie, take them out of the freezer to thaw and rise.
Put the dried bread cubes in a large bowl
Cook the butter, chopped onion and celery for the stuffing. The aroma will excite your senses and boost your enthusiasm.
Rinse and put the turkey in a pan. Remove the extra items that are usually put in the cavity. Save the neck to tuck in the cooking bag with the turkey after it is stuffed.
Chop apples and measure raisins for the dressing.
Season and mix dressing ingredients.

Stuff both ends of the turkey.
Get out the sewing kit.
Stitch the skin on the front end to hold the stuffing in place.
Follow the directions that come with a turkey size cooking bag.
Make fresh cranberry/apple/orange relish with an antique meat grinder.
Remember to count your blessings. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.

Add butter and brown sugar (or this can be added after baking), cover with foil and place in pan to bake. Scoop out the baked squash, blend well with more butter and brown sugar, place in serving dish and keep warm.
Wash potatoes
Peel potatoes and boil.
Prepare green bean hotdish.
Bake rolls.
When the turkey thermometer pops, remove from oven. Transfer turkey to another pan, but leave the juices in the pan. Transfer the dressing into a casserole and return to oven to keep warm, leaving the cover off so the top gets a little crunchy.
Make gravy.
Rice the potatoes or prepare mashed potatoes.
Put everything on the table.
Pray. Invite the Lord to be a guest at your meal [do this for every meal, every day]. Savor the aromas, the flavor and texture of each bite, eat slowly and enjoy conversation. Allow family and/or guests to share blessings in their lives, adding to a prayer of thanksgiving. 
Happy Thanksgiving! “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2-1-4

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