Creative outlets in the Kitchen, Garden, Home and On the Road.
Saturday December 16th 2017

Thanksgiving Planning 101

Thanksgiving Preporation
Planning the Thanksgiving Feast

I love Thanksgiving. It’s a time for me to pull out all of the stops and show my friends and family how much I adore them by cooking up a feast. Starting about 15 years ago I began the annual Pot-Luck Thanksgiving Feast. I make a turkey or two, stuffing, gravy, various types of cranberry sauce, a few sides, breads and desserts while guests each bring a dish of their choice. Some pull out their favorite recipe from the country they’re from, others swing by their favorite bakery for that pie they needed an excuse to try.


Each year I’m lucky enough to be able to share this feast with my parents and often parents of my feller and friends. It’s always the same simple rules. If you’re coming and you find out a friend will be stuck at home alone, tell them to whip up a dish and bring them along. I’ve met some of my best friends this way when they were brought along by other friends. You just never know!

Some years there have been 5 or 6 people at the table, while other years have brought well over 30. I try to get a general count 5 days before the feast to make sure I have enough turkey planned. I always want enough turkey for the meal AND leftovers for sandwiches the following day.

Find some space to spread out and plan plan plan!
Find some space to spread out and plan plan plan!

How to make Thanksgiving easier on yourself?

Plan. Plan. Plan!

1. Make yourself a Notebook.¬†People have remarked at the binder I have on my recipe shelf clearly marked as Thanksgiving. I have broken the rule of not serving a new (untested) recipe at Thanksgiving over and over. We have had some FABULOUS new dishes as well as a few that would not be repeated. There are others that have become traditional at our feast. I think a riot would break out if I didn’t serve the Coconut Shrimp with Ginger-Citrus Marmalade Dipping Sauce (see recipe at the bottom of this post!)

I make copies of all recipes I will use and organize them into the front of the notebook, in clear plastic pages. Some are moved to the back for a year and return the next while we taste some new dishes. Being that so many dishes are needed, I find it easier to have a single sheet on my counter than a thick cookbook.

2. I am list Queen. Make yourself a chart or list of all tasks you need to do and which tasks can be done ahead of time, even a week ahead and held in the freezer.

3. Make yourself a chart or list of timing for Thanksgiving Day. This will ease your mind and allow you to work methodically through the day.

4. I hand write up my food list by adding the ingredients from all recipes, a page at a time then I add it up and check my pantry to make a shopping list.

This list looks like:
Flour: 1/2 c + 2 c + 3/4 c = 3 1/4 cups flour
Eggs: 2, 4, 3 = 9 eggs
Pecans: 2 c, 1c, 1/4c  = 3 1/4 c flour

This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s better than realizing when you’re about to put something into the oven that you’re out of pecans or flour!

5. After Thanksgiving I go back to the notebook and add notes. Which dishes brought raves? Which dish would benefit from a bit more garlic or nutmeg? You’ll never remember next year the thoughts you have now.

Most importantly, I try to get enough sleep the few days prior to Thanksgiving. I don’t want to run myself down before I can enjoy my time with my guests and loved ones!

Time for me to dive into my own planning! Here we go!

Coconut Shrimp with Ginger-Citrus Marmalade Dipping Sauce

Coconut Shrimp:

1 bag of shrimp (I usually get a large one at Costco), peeled, deveined, tails left in tact
1/4 cup + 1 cup flour, divided
1/4 t salt
1 large egg
1 cup ice water
3/4-1 cup shredded coconut (baker’s coconut is OK)

3 cups vegetable oil for frying

Ginger-Citrus Marmalade:
1/2 cup fresh orange Juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2t white wine vinegar
2 T chopped fresh ginger

Equipment needed:
cookie sheet
resealable plastic bags
candy thermometer
heavy pot or electric skillet or fryer
paper towels
platter for serving

Breading the shrimp:

In resealable plastic bag, combine 1/4 cup flour and salt.

Make batter: In a bowl, beat egg until frothy; add water and 1 cup of flour and mix.

Place coconut in a shallow pan. Shake a few shrimp in the bag, shaking off excess. Dip in batter, gently shaking of excess. Roll in coconut. Place on a cookie sheet, leaving the smallest of space between shrimp. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or make ahead and freeze until you need them. I freeze them on a cookie sheet and once frozen, transfer to a resealable plastic bag, storing in the freezer.


Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. When ready to use, strain and discard the solids. This may be done 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.


Heat oil in a heavy pot. I use an electric skillet on my countertop as not to use up one of my burners on Thanksgiving day. Heat oil to 365F. Be sure to bring the oil back to 365F between batches or the shrimp will take on oil (yuck!)
Working in batches, place shrimp into oil one at a time and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, flipping each shrimp as the brown. Remove with tongs to a paper towel covered plate allowing the oil to drain.

Place on platter with a bowl of the dipping sauce and circulate at your gathering. Be sure to keep one or two for yourself or you won’t get any!!

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