11/26/13

A Line-Up of Lists

Most of the time, I'm a list maker. Not so much the other times of year, but especially during the holidays. I don't know if it's because I'm a Virgo, or it's just me.

But if I don't have lists, I'll just run around like a chicken with it's head cut off.

Not a good visual at 6 AM, is it?

Think about it. Do you make a list when you pack for vacation? Go to the grocery store? Errands you have to do?

I don't just list the items on a grocery list, but I also group them into sections.

When I have errands to run, I list them in the most efficient manner, from farthest away from home to closest, with the grocery store being last . . . AND with as few left turns as possible.

Don't get me on the left turn thing, because my hubby constantly pokes at me about it. 

Here's my take on it.

Let's just say that left turns aren't as efficient. They tend to take longer to make. And if you can only go on the green arrow, and yet you just missed the green arrow, you're stuck through the whole light.

This doesn't mean I don't take left turns, but if I can minimize them, I will.

Let's return to the topic of lists . . .

Back in the day when my sis-in-law and I took care of the desserts and appetizers, we tended to go big. For one, I have a big family. And when only some of us get together it could easily end up being 30+ people. I think the our largest amount of desserts we made was about eight, along with about the same amount of appetizers. Now, this wasn't just making pumpkin and pecan pie, oh, no, this was experimenting with new recipes, many of them from Bon Appetit. But I did draw the line to desserts that have instructions resulting in more than three columns or a full page.

Now the numbers have dwindled. My sis-in-law hasn't come for Thanksgiving in a few years, so my nephew Matt and I bake the desserts. Last year, he made all the desserts. I told him what to do, but he did all the hard work.

That, my friends, is how you learn, by doing not watching.

So many people are overwhelmed by the thought of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Now, I know I've never cooked the entire meal, but the following technique works for all or part of the meal.

PLANNING

Don't wait until the day before to figure out what you need to buy at the store or what you want to make. Especially if you have to get the turkey. Those things take over 24 hours to thaw. It's past time to get started!

I'm going stick with desserts. Yesterday, I combed through my files to look for desserts from the four food groups: fruit, chocolate, nuts, and pumpkin . . . sometimes cheesecake and caramel are on the food group list. And if I can find something to combine the groups, the better: chocolate, caramel nut pie or pumpkin cheesecake for example. I have a few oldies, but goodies, but I try to have a couple of new recipes to try.

I have six recipes currently on my table, which I'll have to narrow down, but you get the picture. Before I even think about a grocery list, I need to see what ingredients I already have on hand to figure out what I need to buy.

So I start a list that looks something like this:

Sugar: 1/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1tsp, 1/4
Flour: 1 1/4, 1 1/4,
cream: 1
butter: 1/4, 1/4
eggs: 3, 1, 3, 4
And then add ingredients when I start to see I'll need other items
lt brown sugar: 1/2, 1/2
dk brown sugar: 1/2,
corn syrup: 3/4,
Dark corn syrup: 1/2,
whole milk: 1
pure maple syrup: 1/2
Pecans: 1/2,1 1/2, 1

This is where it comes in handy having another person help you. They read off the ingredients and you can put them in the proper place.

This is just three recipes and I only showed you a portion of what I do. Then I add up the amounts to compare to what I have on hand and what I need to buy. This is a good time to check your spices if like me, you don't use nutmeg but once a year.

Once you know what you need, make a grocery list. Since I make candy, I tend to know where I can find the cheapest cream. This is important because heavy cream is expensive and if you need a lot of it, it adds up. And when I say cheapest, I don't mean off brand, I mean the same brand--Land O Lakes--for the cheapest price. A couple weeks ago, I found some at a local grocer for almost $8 a quart, but I can find the same product at Sam's Club for about half that amount.

Guess where I'm going for an extra trip. Yep, Sam's Club. It's worth NOT paying that extra $4! Plus, I can get the other items that I'll need in bulk.

Then the grocery store for the odd stuff: gingersnaps, raisin bread, vanilla, green apples, etc.

. . .then I have to find room in my refrigerator for all this stuff .  . .

Now the fun starts-- you have to figure out what order you need to make the desserts. Remember, it's not one at a time. You will be making pieces of each dessert before you combine them into the final product. Many times pie crusts need to be made and refrigerated prior to rolling out and baking.

READ the instructions on ALL the recipes to plan your day accordingly. Sometimes you will have to bake a fruit pie for over an hour and your oven will be occupied, or at a different temperature than your cheesecake, or whatever.

**IF you are making a cheesecake, put the eggs and cream cheese out at room temperature the night before you make it!

Make the cheesecake first thing in the morning to allow it time to cool and chill before Thanksgiving.

If you need chopped nuts for two of the three recipes, chop them all at once and separate them into different piles. My best friend during this time is plastic wrap and sharpies. I write on EVERYTHING, because when you have three crusts chilling in the fridge it's nice to know which one goes with which recipe!

About halfway through the process, you'll realize you forgot to eat lunch. And then comes wine-thirty. And then you forget so many other things. Or your crusts look like the cat gnawed on it (mine do), or your cheesecake has a huge crack down the middle, and you don't really care as long as it tastes good. . .

It's okay.

Either find someway of covering it up . . . or don't bother. Once you ring the dessert bell no one will care what it looks like as long as they get some.

And more than anything else--enjoy this time with your family. That's really what this holiday is all about, not turkey, stuffing, desserts, football, or even Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

This is the time to be thankful for your family, because no matter what stupid stuff you do they will always be there for you . . . unless you keep doing it over and over again, but that's your problem not theirs . . .

Later, Peeps, I have some lists to make!


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