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Gameplan For a Perfect Thanksgiving – Redux

25 Nov

You know how yesterday was supposed to go, so let’s just see how we did, shall we?

8:00 am
Zzzzzzz zzzzzz “Get out, hooligan doggies!” zzzzzzzz…

9:00 am

10:00 am
Wake up, realize that no one set an alarm to get up in time to implement game plan, sleepily roll over for ‘just five more minutes’.

10:35 am
– Stumble out of bed, realize that during grocery shopping for Thanksgiving feast we somehow managed to overlook the need for milk and cereal.
– A. starts cleaning the kitchen because he rocks at life.

10:55 am
– Run to corner Starbucks for bacon gouda breakfast sandwiches and fortifying cups of caffeine.
– Tip $3 to assuage guilt over patronizing a store on Thanksgiving.
(Totally against our principles, stores should be closed on Thanksgiving to let workers be home with their families, not stay open to cater to the hopelessly unprepared. *ahem*)

11:15 am
– Return home with hot breakfast.
– Convince A. to step away from the sink and enjoy his coffee with me.
– Both of us open books and enjoy our coffee for 30 minutes.
– Look at clock and agree that we’re taking the ‘downtime’ I planned for between 12:30 and 2:00 now. “As long as we get cleaning and prep done by 2:00, we’re golden!” we say, and settle in to finish our chapters.

12:00 pm
– A. transforms kitchen and counters into gleaming showroom kitchen. Begs me not to mess it up with my cooking.
– I attack guest bathroom and decide, while I’m at it, that I may as well clean ours as well. No use letting toilet-cleaning rubber gloves go to waste.
– Go on de-cluttering rampage courtesy of my ADD brain and clean wrappers, tags, and odds & ends out of places that guests will never go, like under my master bathroom sink.

1:20 pm
– Realize that there is exactly 40 minutes until major part of cooking needs to commence, and we have no prep work done.
– Call A. into bedroom to fix the bed and help shove unfolded laundry back into the hamper. The room will just be a coat and purse holder, they’ll never know the difference.
– Ask A. to please take care of tidying the living room and dining room so I can start on prep.
– Walk into living/dining room and realize that he already did all the tidying while I was preoccupied under the sink.
– Award A. 10 points on the Best Husband Ever Scoreboard.
– Decide to forgo vacuuming so we can both focus on prep work. (Can’t win ’em all.)

1:30 pm
– A. gleefully attacks reducing helpless day-old sourdough baguette into cubes and oversees their subsequent toasting in the oven. Put him in charge of browning sausage while he’s standing at the oven.
– Congratulate self on giving him the task most likely to involve grease spatters, meaning I can’t be blamed for messy stove top.
– Work on dicing mise en place, bragging to A. about my awesome knife skills.
– Get aromatics chopped and into roasting pan.

2:00 pm
– Turkey comes out of fridge and into pan to throw off the chill.
– Pre-heat oven to 325°
– Realize that I’ve forgotten about cranberry sauce and vanilla bean whipped cream, which both need time to set in the fridge before dinner.

2:10 pm
– Throw cranberries and orange juice into a pot, decide to use some of the vanilla bean simple syrup I made the night before in sauce instead of sugar and water.
– Set A. to removing stems from green beans. Assure him I will join him soon to peel pearl onions.
– Throw heavy cream into vanilla bean simple syrup and whip.

2:20 pm
– Realize that excessive simple syrup use has prevented cream from whipping. Put bowl into fridge to set; resolve to refer to topping as ‘vanilla bean froth.’
– Sauté remaining stuffing components. Process moves like a dream, thanks to beautifully prepared mise en place.

2:40 pm
– Pour stuffing into prepared casserole dish, cover, and set aside as a job well done.
– Taste cranberry sauce. Addition of vanilla was inspired, as cannot stop licking the spoon. Even anti-cranberry sauce A. proclaims it delicious. Put sauce in fridge as a job well done.
– Join A. at the table to half and peel tiny pearl onions.
– A. begs to switch jobs, as he’s in green bean snapping hell. Point out that he only has a handful to go, and wouldn’t he enjoy the feeling of triumph at finishing what he’d started?

2:50 pm
– Curse teeny-tiny pearl onions and their thin, papery skins that stick like glue to their overrated flesh.
– Give A. a kiss as he starts on prep-work dishes. Point out to A. how nice the stove looks, as am learning to clean as I go.

3:00 pm
Bird goes into oven. At last, we are back on schedule.

3:15 pm
Put on festive Pandora station and change for guest arrival. A. hops into a much-needed shower, as smells faintly of 409 cleaner and green beans.

3:30 pm
Put pot of coffee on, and waltz around non-vaccummed-but-still-pretty-darn-presentable living area lighting candles and a fire.

3:40 pm
– Realize we have forgotten lunch thanks to late lie-in brunch, including pre-game mimosa. Briefly consider adding a shot of bourbon to coffee, but decide against as haven’t eaten anything in hours.
– Put water on to boil for green beans.

3:55 pm
Mothers arrive simultaneously, bearing appetizers and festive decorations. Fall on salame and brie like the starving hostess that I am.

4:00 pm
– Stuffing goes into oven, on schedule.
– Blanch green beans, but decide to wait on making pearl onion balsamic glaze, as we’re still an hour out from eating. Decide this part of plan was flawed and move on.

4:15 pm
Get nervous about possibility of whole dinner waiting on green beans and decide to go ahead and glaze them.

4:30 pm
– Check turkey. Legs are done according to thermometer, but breast has a good 20 degrees to go.
– Take legs out and tent with foil, putting breast back in oven and turning up the heat slightly.
– Tell family dinner will be 30 minutes later than planned.

4:50 pm
– Turkey breast is up to temperature, so out it comes, onto the cutting board to rest.
– Turn oven up to 400° and uncover stuffing to crisp.
– Start gravy with A’s ever-present and much-needed help. Them’s roasting pans be heavy!

4:55 pm
– Notice smallest dog climbing up the side of the dishwasher, licking frantically with a drugged-out look on his face. Realize that turkey juices have pooled on cutting board and are dripping down the side of the counter.
– Kick turkey-drunk dog out of kitchen and wipe down counter, stuffing paper towels under board to staunch juice flow.
– Register that A. is saying to me that something was covered in turkey juice and asking if I wiped it down. Think he’s talking about the dishwasher and reply in the affirmative.

5:20 pm
– Gravy is divine. Resolve to never, ever lose this gravy recipe as long as I live.
– Stuffing comes out of oven, golden and aromatic. A Team Aylesworth success.
– A. begins to carve turkey. Breast is golden and moist, absolute perfection. The legs on the other hand…despite a good temperature reading, the legs are totally red in the middle.
– Briefly argue with A. about how turkey is not a steak and there is no way we can eat a pink bird. Console A. about missing out on dark meat until later, and put the stupid legs back in the oven.
– Thank the Good Lord that I got a large turkey breast so there’s plenty of meat for all, despite disappointing legs.
– Set green beans out. Realize that beans have turned an unappetizing shade of brown, due to sitting in balsamic glaze for extra time while turkey cooked. Tastes fine, so warn family that while beans look very much dead, they still crunch and taste quite good. Dubious family decides to risk it.

5:30 pm
– Sit down with family and enjoy a sumptuous feast with perfectly paired wine.
– Take (finally) cooked legs out of oven and start planning for leftovers.
– Notice that taller dog is obsessively licking the head of my smaller dog. Realize the thing A. told me was covered in turkey juice and asked if I wiped off 35 minutes ago was my dog’s head, not the dishwasher. Pull turkey-drunk dog off of smaller dog, who looks confused as to why he can smell turkey but not find it. Wipe his juice-matted head off with a towel and contemplate dunking him in a sink-full of water, but realize that sink is full of dishes. Resolve to give him a bath tomorrow.

6:00 pm
– Start food-coma recovery process, on schedule.
– Give dogs bits of turkey with baked potato and pumpkin instead of kibble. Dogs are delirious with happiness and proceed to lick their bowls for a full 10 minutes after food is gone.

6:30 pm
Take dogs for a walk to shake off the coma. Happily am joined by A, my mom, and sister’s boyfriend, who we enjoyed getting to know better on the walk. Lovely young man, very happy he’s dating my sister.

7:00 pm
– Returning walkers and happy dogs come home and are greeted by fresh eggnog, lovingly prepared by sister while we were out.
– Sister realizes that she read the wrong directions for sweet potato pie, and will actually take another half hour to cook, and another to cool. No one complains, as we are all happily patting our newly acquired food-babies.
– A. comes over and starts to rub my shoulders. Realize he’s angling for Husband of the Year Award, and tell him he’s won it, hands down.

Eat homemade pies, courtesy of my middle sister, that are so good they make me want to cry. Promptly put in an order for sweet potato pie for my next birthday.

8:30 pm
Enjoying guests far too much to have them go home, so settle into a game of Munchkin with mom, sister, sister’s boyfriend, and third glass of wine.

9:30 pm
Realize that no one enjoys playing munchkin but sister and self. Mothers start to trickle out, while sister and boyfriend conspire to win the game in a tie, leaving me out in the cold.

10:00 pm
Settle in to watch Dr. Who with sister and very cool boyfriend, who I’m slightly cool towards thanks to game-winning conspiracy.

11:00 pm
Bid final two guests good-bye. Tell A. I’m not even remotely sleepy and suggest we put on something easy, like Dirty Jobs. Proceed to fall asleep ten minutes after D.J. starts.

12:15 am
A. picks me up off the couch and takes me to bed. I ask him what happened on Dirty Jobs. “They got dirty,” he answers, and tucks me in before climbing under the covers next to me. We whisper sleepy congratulations to each other, as we both feel this was our most successful Thanksgiving ever. A true team effort. Easy cooking and clean up. Everything tasted absolutely delicious, shady-colored green beans notwithstanding. We feel close and loving, and say so before drifting off to sleep with our turkey-scented dogs curled contentedly at our feet.

How was your turkey day? Did everything go according to plan, or was it a ‘best laid plans’ kind of day? 

Gameplan For a Perfect Thanksgiving

23 Nov

One week ahead
Confirm guests and dishes they’re bringing. Pot-luck all the way, people!

8:00 am
Cuddly lie-in with the Hubbs and doggies.

8:15 am
Kick rowdy doggies out for disturbing lie-in.

10:00 am
Clean the house

  • dishes
  • tidy up
  • vacuum
  • clean bathroom
  • wipe tables/dust
  • make bedroom presentable for coats and bags. Because they have such high standards.

11:00 am

  • Quarter celery, onion, carrots, out in roasting pan
  • Cube bread
  • Slice fennel
  • Chop carrot, onion, sage
  • Peel & chop apples
  • Brown sausage
  • Trim green beans
  • Half and peel pearl onions

12:00 pm
Make cranberry sauce & vanilla bean whipped cream

12:30 pm
Do prep work dishes

1:00 pm
Light lunch, with pre-game mimosa

2:00 pm

  • Take organic, free range, hormone free, just like the pilgrims enjoyed it, turkey out of fridge & put in roasting pan
  • Preheat oven to 325°

2:15 pm
Cook sausage, fennel, and carmalized apple stuffing components and combine, set aside

3:00 pm
Bird goes into oven

3:30 – 4:00 pm
Guests arrive

3:40 pm
Put water on to boil for green beans

4:00 pm

  • Cover stuffing, pop into oven
  • Cook balsamic glazed green beans with pearl onions

4:30 pm

  • Turkey out of oven, on cutting board to rest
  • Turn oven to 400°
  • Start gravy

4:40 pm
Uncover stuffing

4:50 pm
Put beans into oven to warm

5:00 pm
Stuffing out of oven, carve turkey

5:15 pm
Sit down with family and enjoy a sumptuous feast with perfectly paired wine

6:00 pm
Start food-coma recovery process

6:30 pm
Take dogs for a walk to shake off the coma

7:30 pm
Eat homemade pumpkin and pecan pies with eggnog, courtesy of my middle sister.

8:30 pm
All guests go home, leaving hubbs and I to enjoy a nightcap and surreptitiously pick morsels of turkey out of the Tupperware.

9:30 pm
Enjoy an early night, courtesy of tryptophan.

Do you have a perfect plan for Thanksgiving, or are ya just gonna wing it? Have people over, or just family? What’s your perfect Thanksgiving plan?

How Tuesday: Acorn Squash Linguine

15 Nov

Introducing a new feature here on BiRL: How-Tuesday! There are lots of things I like to do, cooking, crafting, repurposing, speaking, being awesome, and I thought I’d share the skills I’ve honed over my twenty-eight years of life with you. Now I doubt I will post a tutorial every Tuesday, but when I do it will be a How-Tuesday! Because I like the name, and I’m cool like that.

I had next to nothing in my cupboard and a husband at a board meeting, so no palates to satisfy but my own. But trust me, A will die for these leftovers! Out of my own little brain, I bring you a delicious fall recipe that is super simple, can be made in the time it takes to boil pasta, and only 6 ingredients (if you count salt and pepper as a freebie): Acorn Squash Linguine.

Squash is one of our favorite cold weather foods, and acorn squash is one the most versatile. Roast it, cube it, bake it, stuff it, or simply steam it and mash with butter. It’s a hearty veg that is very good for you, yet feels silky and indulgent. It has a sweet, slightly nutty flavor we love it on the side with roasted pork loin or roasted with a chile-lime vinaigrette. For the best flavor, choose a squash that feels heavy for its size.

(Note: A came home while I was writing and tried the leftovers. His reaction? “Ommmmh! Wow! Baby, this is the best pasta you’ve ever made. It’s better than that one with mascarpone that I love. This makes me happy.” And let me tell you, folks, I make a LOT of pasta. So now I’m happy, and very confidant that I’m bringing you a recipe the whole family will love.)


1 lb. linguine
1 large acorn squash
1 cup turkey or chicken stock (or 1 cup water and bullion – I won’t judge!)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
a dash of ground nutmeg (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for the table
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped, fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt and linguine and cook until al dente.

While the water is coming to a boil, cut the stem-end off of the squash and cut the squash in half from stem to point. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff and discard. Place the squash in a microwave safe dish and cover with a plate. Microwave for fifteen minutes, or until flesh is tender. When squash is done, remove from the microwave and set aside.

Melt butter in a large pan over mid-high heat. Scoop out the flesh of the squash, avoiding the stringy membrane that lies along the inside ridges of the skin, and add it to the pan. Add stock to squash and bring to a slow boil. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the Pecorino Romano is salty. Mash the squash until the sauce is fairly smooth, or use an immersion blender to make it super-smooth and silky. Keep a slow boil for about five minutes until sauce is thick, and flavors are melded.

Drain pasta, reserving a coffee mug-full of the starchy pasta water. Add pasta to the squash sauce and toss until coated, adding the Pecorino Romano as you toss. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is a little thick, or if you like your pasta looser. Sprinkle with parsley (if using) and serve with extra cheese.

I paired this with a glass of chilled Cupcake Chardonnay($9.99 at Whole Foods) and it was fabulous. If you make it, I’d love to know what you think. Happy eating!

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