Friday, November 27, 2009

Game Recap

I made it. I hosted my very first Thanksgiving and I survived! WHEW! The holiday weekend is almost over and we have had a great time so far. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful family...everything was smooth sailing and that is mainly because of the amazing company in my house. :-)

So let's break it down! For overall performance, I give myself a "B". The house was clean and decorated, the place settings were all out, Christmas music was playing softly and the turkey was almost done when the guests started arriving. I had set my alarm for 6am, jumped out of bed and got the turkey in the oven and then took a shower and got ready. I was dressed right as Colin woke up, which was perfect. My parents and Alieson left Tyler bright and early, so they got to my house before the parade even started! That was awesome!! Meredith, Cory and their kids were not far behind and Mert came bearing not only sausage balls, but funfetti cupcakes. She brought these because they are Alieson's favorite things on earth. It cracked me up that despite all my slaving in the kitchen, the kids and Alieson were by far the most impressed with those silly cupcakes. ;-) We had a fantastic morning hanging out, drinking coffee and eating. Jer's parents arrived at 11:00am with another round of delicious food...we were in heaven!! They also brought their two dogs, who joined Mert's dog Annie and (of course) Enzo. There were dogs running all over, two boys being loud and silly, one baby strapped to Meredith and then all the adults. It was beautiful chaos! Jer carved the turkey and lunch was served at about 12:45. Everything was done and at least warm...some dishes were hotter than others, but I forced myself not to stress out about it and have fun. All the components came together and everyone seemed to be happy and having fun! Thank GOODNESS!! After we ate, we all watched the Cowboy's play and tried to take a few family pictures. It was a wonderful afternoon and it seemed to pass by like almost reminded me of getting married; you prep for so long and then the whole thing is over in an instant!

I did learn a LOT of lessons during my very first experience hosting a large party. There is so much that you have to figure out the hard way and there is definitely a learning curve! First of all, turkey does not taste anything like chicken. Don't laugh. ;-) Let me try to explain...I have never really loved turkey. It has never been one of my favorite things in the world. I really thought that I could knock it out of the park if I cooked it my way, using the spices I wanted and etc. As it turns out, turkey is simply that...turkey! The turkey I made was good, cooked well and moist. However, it did not have that succulent taste that all of my roasted chickens have. It tasted like...well...turkey. :-) Second lesson: don't make a dish that you have not tried before! I really meant to try all of my dishes before the big day, but I ran out of time before making the green bean casserole. It sounded so yummy that I thought it would be a safe choice without a practice run. I was was not very good at all. Nobody said anything, but it was a dish that I would certainly not make again. I always modify recipes after I try them the first time, so I should have known better than to try out a new dish for a crowded Thanksgiving. Third lesson: do NOT make stuffing the day before!! UGH! I made a giant batch of stuffing with sausage and apples on Wednesday night. I was on the fence about making it in advance, but I did not want to risk it. For all the other dishes, I did everything but bake them, saving that last step for the day of. At the last minute I decided to go ahead with baking the stuffing and just reheating it the next day. BAD IDEA! When I tasted the finished product, it was one of the most delicious things ever. It was moist in the middle, crispy on top, and the flavor was out of this world. On Thanksgiving, I poured stock over it and re-heated it and it tasted nothing like the day before! DANG!!! That was such a silly mistake; I cook enough to know better than to making something like that in advance, but I was no nervous about things not being ready that I failed to use my common sense. The whole meal was fine and I am sure that my guests will tell you it was all great, but I have a high standard for myself and I know I could have done a lot better! :-) I think the biggest thing that I learned was that while making everything in advance makes for a fun and peaceful day, the food is just not as delish as it is when you serve it immediately. It takes a little bit away from it. If I make one big change going forward, it will be to serve Thanksgiving dinner instead of lunch. Lunch has always been the norm, but I think that I will switch going forward. That will give me time to make things the day of and everything will taste so much better. Next lesson: you cannot make meringue ahead of time. I made the chocolate pies the day before and on Thursday morning, I whipped up the meringue and lopped it onto the pies. Then I belatedly realized that I could not put them into the oven until the turkey was done. In the meantime, the egg whites basically turned back into fluid and ruined both pies. OOPS!! I figured that the meringue was going to look a little sad because of the delay, but I did not realize they would turn into water. Obviously, those were not served!Those pies are another thing that I will not make in advance ever again. They are just supposed to be eaten immediately! Oh, and I learned one more lesson...I will cook more dishes in my style next time, rather than trying to make the traditional meal. I have so many yummy favorites that I did not make in lieu of sticking with the old school stuff. Next time, I plan to put more of myself into the meal. I love to cook more than anything and I would love to host an event that gave folks a taste of that. But I will say that I think I did a pretty good job this year for a first effort. At least nothing was on fire or undercooked and as far as I know, nobody was poisoned. ;-)

Here are some of the pictures from our wonderful day!!

My precious boy laughing at his Aunt Alieson on Thanksgiving night. He had eaten too much and had to take off his pants. ;-)
Sitting with my sweet baby niece, Pryce. She LOVES me. (that is her silly dog Annie in the background)

Jer's mom being silly while we took pictures. I love it! :-)

My favorite picture with my sisters...we were trying to get out of the direct sun for a picture and ended up falling down. My mom took this while we were laughing. I love my sisters!

Mommy and Colin

The whole Trawick clan...we were trying to get a picture for my parents Christmas cards. It was pretty futile with three little ones. This is one of the outtakes...we are all laughing at Jer's mom!

Mommy and Colin is so hard to get him to smile for posed pictures!

My sister Mert, her husband Cory and their kids, Pryce and Jackson. It's a good thing I had the Christmas decorations up for all these pictures! :-)

A random shot taken by my mom while we were all eating appetizers.

My sweet Daddy and his only granddaughter, Pryce.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Day Before...

It's the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even Colin. ;-) It is 2:15 in the afternoon and I have been cooking since the moment we woke up this morning! Jeremy and Colin just fell asleep in our bed so I decided to take a break, be quiet, and post a little update. My plan is going along GREAT so far! We put up all the Christmas decorations on Sunday and I did all the grocery shopping on Monday. We cleaned yesterday AND my wonderful husband put up the lights around the roof!! We all had a blast outside...Colin "helped" and I hung the twinkle lights in the bushes and helped Jer avoid falling off the ladder. We checked them out last night and it looks BEAUTIFUL!! There is nothing that I love more than a house lit up with lights!

This morning, I got things rolling by making the cranberry dish and both chocolate pies (with the exception of baking the meringue, which I will wait and do tomorrow before serving). Then I knocked out the regular and sweet potato dishes. I completed both of those up until the point of baking, which I will do tomorrow. As it stands so far, I am on target for each dish only needing to be popped in the oven. Thank heavens I planned ahead...I had no idea how long it would take for me to make all of this food! This is an all-day project for sure! Taking care of everything early has allowed me to really enjoy the day...we have been listening to Christmas music and having a blast. Jer ran out for a couple of gallons of iced tea and ice for the cooler, so all of that is ready to go. When Colin wakes up from his nap, I will start on round two of cooking...I need to make the stuffing, green bean casserole and gravy (all of which I can complete the majority of now and bake/heat tomorrow). Tonight I will dress the turkey to have standing by first thing in the morning and lay out all the other stuff, like place settings and last minute details.

I know these are probably the most boring posts in the world to read, but I want to document everything from my very first holiday hosting gig! :-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Thanksgiving Menu

This post is just for Dana...and anyone else that is just dying to know what I will be serving on the big day! ;-)

Roasted Herb Turkey: I bought a 14 pounder this is clearly the largest thing that I have ever tried to cook, but I am still hoping for greatness!
Homemade Gravy
Cornbread Stuffing with Apples and Sausage
Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Marshmallow Strudel
Green Bean Casserole (from scratch with fresh beans, no soup)
Baked Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Fruit Conserve (over the top name for homemade cranberry sauce)
Rolls (NOT from scratch...gotta draw the line somewhere!)
Chocolate Pies!! (I am only making two because I have TWO pie plates. There will probably be a battle for possession)

This menu is rather carb heavy, but what can I's a special occasion! Jer's mom is making several appetizers and her pumpkin pie. Mert is bringing the sausage balls for breakfast. Good lord, we are going to have a ton of food. Have I mentioned how much I love a holiday that is centered around food?!? I got all the grocery shopping done today, with the exception of a liquor store run later today and any trips back to the store for things that I messed up or forgot. Example...Colin has already broken into the bag of marshmallows. I knew that I should have bought two! :-)
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