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Thursday, November 25, 2010

No-Stress Thanksgiving: The Menu

I don't find Thanksgiving all that stressful. It is a low cost meal and the traditional items are EASY. I used to make the beautiful vegetable purees from The Silver Palate Cookbook, but no more. I hate cleaning the food processer.

We decided to spread the side dishes out over two days; this met with approval from the visiting children.

I did manage to spread some Thanksgiving cheer, by developing (extemporaneously, in a split second) the easiest menu imaginable. I wended my way to CVS this morning to get some of their fantastic freebies. While there, I said hi to Gary, one of my favorite former students. Then I checked out.

The woman at the register told me her meal was being prepared by her mother and daughter. She told me she couldn't cook. In fact, she got that panicked look that one gets encountering something that most people find easy but that brings chills and fear and inevitable failure. (This is different for everyone. For me, it's directions. For Mr. FS, it's matching shirt to pants. Whatever.)

I told her what to do: Heat your oven and when it's 350 degrees, put the turkey in. Basting is unnecessary. After a while, put in some sweet potatoes and white potatoes. They will take a bit over an hour. When the turkey skin is brownish, take it out and check. It won't take as long as you think if you don't baste. Open a can of cranberry sauce. Prepare a salad using one of those mixes at the grocery that come with dressing and all. Buy something for dessert.

In all my years of teaching, I have never seen a light bulb moment like I did with my cashier. She told me that she would try next year.

My menu is more complex, of course, but the above menu follows the 80/20 ratio of the Pareto Principle, whereby you get 80% of the benefit from 20% of the effort.

I guess I should have told her to buy some stuffing mix too. Oops!

Have a good day everybody.


Funny about Money said...

{sigh} Wouldn't you love to have that cashier in your class?

This is how I like to make all guest dinners:

A roast
Baked potatoes
Baked squash (or, if forced, some sort of veggie cooked on the stove)
Salad made ahead, stored undressed in the fridge until dinner's served
Dessert of sliced oranges doused in sherry or Grand Marnier

What could be easier? Most entertaining is to have the kitchen picked up and spotlessly clean when guests arrive. They start to wonder if they're going to get fed at all! ;-)

Duchesse said...

Your directions are a rescue remedy. I forgot that some people don't know how to cook a turkey.

Also like the "alternative course" method for panicky cooks: Buy first course, make main, buy dessert. Maybe not as frugal but if it makes someone more relaxed, why not?

Basting? Usually overapplied.
Have fun!

Deja Pseu said...

I also find Thanksgiving dinner extremely easy to prepare. And so many of the dishes can be prepared ahead of time and reheated. About the only bit of cooking I do at the last minute is the gravy. We buy our pies, have guests bring additional side dishes, and put out nuts and crudites as a first course. The rest is served buffet-style. Easy peasy!

Or you could do like we're doing this year and just going to our favorite BBQ joint. ;-p

metscan said...

Luckily we don´t celebrate Thanksgiving over here in Finland. But we do have the plentiful Christmas Eve menu. And all the fuss about it. Food
There is so much info about food, that I have grown allergic to it. I prefer really simple, vegetarian meals, which can be made in 15 minutes. This is the time I wish to spare for preparing meals.
In the other hand, I like to set the table.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny-I have seen the occasional light bulb as a teacher. What a great menu--and so easy. A spotless kitchen is hard for me.

@Duchesse-I once met someone who didn't know you had to cook pasta before you sauced it. That's a good template too, esp since the main course is--or can be--the easiest. Anything that preserves sanity is frugal in my book.

@Deja--Exactly. BBQ-great fun. My kids had a fit--or pretended to--when I changed the dessert this year.