Well, it’s here again. Turkey time! Thanksgiving is later this month than usually which can give the illusion that there’s plenty of time to get ready for it, but procrastination makes for one tired cook by the time the meal gets on the table. Organization is the key to pulling off a marvelous meal and you’ve got three full weekends left to get it done.

Steve’s mother was one of the most organized persons when it came to entertaining. We have her three-ring binder that she recorded every party/holiday meal she prepared. Her first entry is in 1958 and stopped recording them in 1997 when she moved into a retirement community. Originally, she just wrote down the meals. As the years progressed, she would make notes about the meal and the people who were her guests. She sometimes noted which book the recipe for a listed dish could be found. It’s really amazing to thumb through the pages and marvel at her organization. Knowing what she served for Thanksgiving the year I was born is very special.

Another treasure we have from Steve’s mother is her felt turkey centerpiece. The centerpiece shows up at Thanksgiving 1986 with the simple note, “turkey-pineapple centerpiece.” She put that centerpiece out on her table every November, up until a couple of years before she passed away. It now graces our table, along with wonderful memories of years gone by. I did a web search and actually found a felt turkey just like hers for sale on Etsy. If you want your own, just search pineapple turkey centerpiece.

We can’t always be as organized as Mrs. Bell was, but we can try. Setting aside some time now and thinking through the menu will go a long way and make the task much less daunting. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Write down your menu, including the beverages. I always write down the menu, even though I know it by heart. Seeing it on a piece of paper/screen helps me focus and plan.

2. Gather all the recipes, make a copy and put them all in a folder or notebook. Don’t depend on your phone or Pinterest; print it out! It also makes the recipe easier to share with your family members when you’ve wowed them with the dish!

3. Review the recipes and determine what can be prepared now and frozen. We always have Sweet Potato Crunch and Corn Casserole. These can be made three months in advance and frozen. My freezer is always full, so I store them in freezer bags instead of dishes.

4. Once you’ve divided your recipes into what can be made in advance and what has to be made later, make your two grocery lists, one for ingredients that can be purchased now and one for the last minute items you need to pick up the week of. Write all of the ingredients down, even if you think you already have. When you finish your list, then go to the pantry and cross out the items you have on hand. This prevents the “I know I had a can of….” and the last minute mad dashes to the store. I also divide my list into departments, produce, frozen, baking, etc., but you may think that’s a bit of overkill.

5. Write out a “cooking plan” noting the time and temperatures required for each menu item. If you have multiple things for the oven, now is the time to figure out your oven schedule and how you’ll keep things warm after they come out of the oven. You might want to consider purchasing a few disposable chafing dishes to hold your food warm.

6. Determine what serving dishes you’ll need and make a note beside the menu item. The day before, pull the dishes out and put a note on what goes in it. If anyone offers to help, they’ll know what goes where. If you’re using china and linens, now is the time to polish, press and gather everything into one location. If you’re using disposables, be sure to put those on your lists – now!

So let’s stop procrastinating and get to work to make this the best Thanksgiving ever!

Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to sophiesmarketplace.com.

 

Sweet Potato Crunch

Ingredients:

Filling:

• 3 cups cooked sweet potatoes

• 1 cup granulated sugar

• 2 eggs, well beaten

• 1 stick butter

• 1 cup evaporated milk

• 1 tsp vanilla

Topping:

• 1 cup brown sugar

• 1 stick butter, softened

• 1/3 cup self-rising flour

• 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients together until it forms a ball. Drop in pieces over top of the filling.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 11X7 pan with cooking spray. Add all filling ingredients to a large bowl and cream with a mixer. Pour into greased baking dish. Top with topping and bake for 35 minutes.

 

Corn Casserole

This can be frozen for up to three months. It actually works better to store it in a feezer bag as it’s very runny before baking.

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup butter, melted

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 1 package Jiffy corn bread mix

• 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

• 1 (14.75 ounce) can creamed corn

• 1 cup sour cream

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish.

2. In a medium bowl, combine butter, eggs, corn bread mix, whole and creamed corn and sour cream. Spoon mixture into prepared dish.

3. Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden brown.

 

Turkey Stock

Yes, you can use canned, but you’ve got time to make your own and it’s so much better. Your turkey gravy will thank you!

Ingredients:

• 3½ pounds turkey wings

• 1 turkey neck

• 1 large onion, chopped

• 2 large carrots, coarsely, chopped

• 2 celery stalks coarsely chopped

• 6-8 sprigs parsley

• 12 whole peppercorns

• 1 bay leaf

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange turkey on roaster pan and roast, turning turkey halfway through, until golden brown, about 45 minutes.

2. Transfer wings and neck to a stockpot. Pour off fat from baking sheet; discard. Pour 2 cups water onto baking sheet. Scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour liquid from sheet into pot with turkey. Add onion, carrot, celery, parsley, peppercorns, bay leaf, and 10 cups water. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low and simmer gently until stock is reduced by at least one-third, about 4 hours.

3. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan. If you have more than 6 cups stock, simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until reduced to 6 cups. Let cool. Pour stock into an airtight container; cover and chill.