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What on earth was I thinking?????

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Ok here's the story. My mother in law is 81 and a couple of days after last Thanksgiving she had what we now now was a TIA or mini-stroke. Since then her daughters (and daughters in law and sons too) don't want her doing everything for family get togethers so we all have to pitch in and either host the gathering or each bring a dish so she doesn't do everything.

Thanksgiving is coming up (I'm Canadian) and I called her yesterday to find out what she wanted me to bring for the dinner and she said that the girls think that we should have it catered in. Right away I told her not to hire a caterer(I thought about the grandchildren with kids and I know how expensive it is going to be for them and it may affect them even showing up and that will really upset my mother in law), but I would do it and if it's ok with them could they please pay me back for the food. I'll divide it by the number of people who are there and really it shouldn't come to more than $10/couple or family because I'm only going to ask them to pay for things that I won't use at home. (does that make any sense?) Likewise if I have something in my pantry that I will need for a dish, I'll use it and not worry about asking to be repaid for that.

So now I have to prepare for, cook and transport a meal for approximately 25 people. I will be precooking alot of it ahead of time and at first I thought I would do it at my mother in law's house but if I do that, she will jump in and help me and the whole idea of me doing this is so she doesn't overdo herself. My inlaws are big meat eaters so the menu is going to be heavy on the meat dishes but some of us like our veggies and I like to have alot of sides to choose from so there will be alot of vegetables for sure.

This is the menu so far

dinner:

turkey
zesty cranberry-orange relish
sweet cranberry sauce with apples
homemade stuffing (they always use the box stuff and I hate that!)
scalloped cauliflower
potatoes of some sort (most likely mashed)
steamed baby carrots
roast ham
sweet and sour meatballs
some other meat dish (not sure what just yet.. thinking about fried chicken but not sure)
cabbage rolls (made with brown instead of white rice so sister in law on a special diet can have it too)
brown rice pilaf
mixed greens salad with homemade dressing
garden pasta salad
homemade breads and rolls
for dessert I think I'm going to do individual cheesecakes, pumpkin tarts, apple tarts, and some different squares and bars

snacks:

veg tray
fruit tray
cheese and crackers

I know it sounds like alot but holiday meals are a big deal in our family and it's an eat yourself silly fest every time!

If anyone has any tips for pre-cooking, suggestions or ideas for the menu I'd love to hear them!

Thanks!
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post #2 of 14
wow. that's alot of food.....and a lot of similar food.

turkey
zesty cranberry-orange relish
sweet cranberry sauce with apples
homemade stuffing (they always use the box stuff and I hate that!)
scalloped cauliflower
potatoes of some sort (most likely mashed)
steamed baby carrots
roast ham
sweet and sour meatballs
some other meat dish (not sure what just yet.. thinking about fried chicken but not sure)
cabbage rolls (made with brown instead of white rice so sister in law on a special diet can have it too)
brown rice pilaf
mixed greens salad with homemade dressing
garden pasta salad
homemade breads and rolls
for dessert I think I'm going to do individual cheesecakes, pumpkin tarts, apple tarts, and some different squares and bars

snacks:

veg tray
fruit tray
cheese and crackers


You didn't ask for menu advice, you asked for how to create your menu and transport it. You've got turkey, ham, meatballs and another meat. You've got stuffing, brown rice, pasta salad, rolls, potatoes. Cabbage rolls, cauliflower, cooked carrots, salad, and two cranberry sauces. That's alot of diverse food.
Make your meatballs and cook them ahead, put in metal pan and bake off there. Ditto cabbage rolls. Make sure your ham is smoked or precooked, you don't want a lengthy cooking time. Prep the salad and dress at the table. Pre make pasta salad. Pre make rolls. Steam cauliflower and combine sauce at site. Steam carrots at her house. pre make cranberry sauces.....now turkey, wow I'll let someone else chime in.....

Just as an aside, this is our family's Thanksgiving menu typically: Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans....not casserole but sauteed with butter, lemon, garlic.....green salad, cranberry sauce, maybe brussel sprouts or another green veg.....then of course PIE! mixed berry or cherry, pumpkin, chocolate and usually a pecan....we love PIE
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post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
I like your green beans and I think I am going to use them for a veggie dish!

I should have specified that I was going to precook most of it at my house and then transport it to hers. At first I thought I'd do it all at her place but she is not one to sit by when there is work to be done so cooking it there defeats the purpose of having me make the meal.

Sadly my inlaws like alot of the same kinds of food and I have to stick to what they like as opposed to what I would make for my family and friends. To let you know how "new" they are too food... I made a basic taco dip for my one sister in law's 50th bday this past July and they oooed and awwwed over it.. Uhm it was a no brainer to make.. well for me anyway. Alot of them were afraid of it as it had refried beans in it and they said..wtf are they?? So.. I'm dealing with meat and potatoesy people who like a limited amount of things. Thank the Gods my husband is NOT like them.. if he was he'd have died either of starvation or of a heart attack from eating at McD's every night long ago!! :) (or maybe strangulation if he dissed my cooking enough...:chef:)

So for closed minded people when it comes to food.. does it look ok?
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post #4 of 14
way heavy big menu for 25 guests. If you are filling their fridge and freezer that's one thing but it's multiple meals in one....Just my opinion. I'd cut back to just turkey and ham or cabbage rolls, forget the fried chicken. Unless they specify cauliflower I'd leave that off too.....ditto pasta salad and only brown rice if it's specific to sister in law's narrow diet. This is a week's worth of food and I'm sure your mother in law would appreciate not having to cook for a long long time.....but all on the same table?!!!!

Thanksgiving's general public menu is pretty straight forward....even if they don't eat out and have not experienced "international cuisine" (taco dip?! go figure).

Unless those dishes are Thanksgiving favorites from throughout the years, I'd cut back on the variety of dishes. Again, it doesn't mean you shouldn't bring them to fill the in-laws' freezer.
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post #5 of 14
Your menu is nice but much to much, people do not eat like this anymore. At least not here in States. I would try and cut down like why pasta salad? just another filler with all the starches you have like stuffing, potato? Fried chicken with turkey? 2 kinds cranberry sauce, Meatballs?
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post #6 of 14
Number me with Shroom and Ed. Your menu is way too large and way too lopsided, but with substantial editing it can be made merely way too large and holiday appropriate.

Given the situation and the nature of the event there are two ways to make preparation simpler -- delegation and organization.

Let's start by breaking down a typical, traditional not-yours-or-my-family specific Thanksgiving menu

Salads:
Mixed green salad
Cranberry relish

Proteins:
Turkey
Ham

Sauces and gravies:
Turkey gravy
Cranberry sauce

Starches:
Mashed potatoes
Sweet poatotes

Dressing:
(Turkey) dressing

Vegetables:
Green beans
Creamed onions

Breads:
Breadbasket, or
Rolls, or
Biscuits

Desserts:
Pies (including pumpkin) with whipped or iced cream
Lighter option such as "fluff," sorbet, or a light mousse -- as though after all that, dessert would be the perfect time to lighten up.

Let's think about this:

I'm not suggeting that you cook this menu, but only that you break yours down the same way and get rid of whatever proteins and starches (including the pasta salad(?!)) you can from your proposed menu -- they are way too numerous. A good idea might be to edit it down to one dish in each category; which would be the dish your family considers most representative for Thanksgiving. Then, you can start adding back those dishes which are essentially absolutes or absolutely essential. Either way. Your choice. Don't let me crowd you.

All familes have a few absolute must-haves which will unbalance the menu. And that's fine. In fact, it's more than fine. It's one of the positive aspects of a family holiday. But try and keep them down to a minimum -- and have someone else cook them in their own kitchen and preferably bring them in their own serving dishes with their own serving pieces.

Without a doubt you are the best cook in your family by light years. Still, let the others have a chance. For one thing, they've been eating the traditional family odd-balls their entire lives and are better suited for taking the heat if the dish varies from sainted memory in any way.

I don't know how much catering you've done, but cooking in someone else's home for a large group presents a number of challenges. Two which are nearly inevitable are counter and stove/oven space. This takes us back to the turkey and ham. They are huge pieces of meat and take an enormous amount of space -- not only for cooking but for holding, slicing and plating as well. The longer you can keep them out of the kitchen, the better.

Delegation:

The easiest things to delegate are the big proteins. Turkey and ham can be pre-cooked on the day of and held resting in "coolers," for hours and hours and hours. Keeping these huge pieces of meat out of the oven

Our family tradition is turkey and salmon -- both of which I smoke the morning of, then transport. Now I'm not going to try and sell you salmon instead of ham, so relax. But, if any of your relatives has and is reasonably proficient with a smoker -- smoke the turkey(s). All turkey is better eaten warm than hot, but a freshly eaten smoked turkey has even more range -- it may be served and enjoyed barely warm. It is also, almost without exception, considerably moister than turkey cooked in any other way (other than fried) is likely to be at an event.

If your family fries the turkey -- there's no way I can talk you out of it. Just make sure the insurance is current.

Delegate the turkey carving. Everybody has a picture in their mind of dad carving the turkey at the table. But the picture is more Norman Rockwell and not reality. Very few people can actually carve a turkey tableside and to order; none of whom are related to you by blood or marriage. The best way for almost everyone to carve a turkey is to "break" the leg quarters and wings from the carcass; separate the thighs, then bone and carve them; remove the breasts from the carcass, lay them flat on the board and carve them; plate the slices, legs and wings on a platter, shingling the white meat, and mounding the dark; and finally, garnish the platter. If possible, have the entire operation done outside the kitchen. But there's one caveat if you do so. That is, expect copious juices and waste on the floor. So plan accordingly when you set up the card table in a spare room -- put some plastic sheeting down. As carver, figure out whoever actually owns sharp knives -- and have her or bring a few along. Do not plan on carving with your MIL's cutlery, unless you plan on having it sharpened the day before.

If the ham is on the bone, a truly proper carving is even more of an artform. Fortunately, most people don't have a clue as to how thin ham should be sliced. Still, it's either best to have someone do it out of sight and platter it, or alternatively to set the ham on a carving board on the buffet along with a carving set and let each to his own. It's fun to watch.

Side dishes: Delegate all casseroles. Cook fresh only those things which do not benefit from holding so the flavors marry.

Mashed potatoes do not reheat particularly well. Also, they're a PITA to do in large quantities. It's a sort of darned if you do, darned if you don't situation. I transport them, but only because I'm forced to do so. On balance, it's probably better to do them on site, and at the last possible minute.

Clean up: Unless you and your husband are in the "young adult" group of your family, have the youngest adults and any adolescents do the clean up. For one thing, they've got the energy. Organize this before and not at the party to avoid any resentment, sulking or feelings of victimization -- that your teen-age in laws would ever. If you have people bringing carving tools and good serving pieces you'll have to make sure they are hand washed and set aside. Again, you may want to delegate a supervisor.

Start organizing your ideas now -- on paper (or computer) as opposed to just thinking about them. Get at least one other family member involved as soon as possible. Each of those will make your ideas bear fruit.

The more you delegate and organize, and the less you have to cook on site at the last minute, the better the kitchen can be used for its primary holiday purposes of gossip and bickering.

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #7 of 14
yep, what BDL wrote.....

except ham, bone in is great...but it reads like your family may be more of a boneless ham family. Easier to cook and certainly easier to slice.

Fruit salad either a mixed fruit or waldorf or something along those lines is fairly standard practice along with green salad. It cuts the fatiness of the other food too.
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post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
You guys are awesome! Thanks so much for all of the input!

My inlaws always do far too much food for family gatherings and the menu I've got is pretty much standard for our parties. I've already cut out the pasta salad.. it's going to be a PITA to transport and I have to think about cargo space too even though we have a mini van but there are four of us plus the dog and that means alot of stuff to take!

Some of the stuff... potatoes, steamed carrots, green beans, etc.. I will make there that day. It's not alot of work and there will be enough inlaws around to give me a hand if I need it. Same with the salad, and the fruit and veg trays. I'll do the dips ahead of time and the salad dressing but as for putting it together that will take me no time at all.

I had the family Easter gathering here a few years ago and I got a spiral ham on the bone.. they loved it even though it looked "weird" and yep they're pretty much a boneless ham kind of crowd.

I giggled at the fried turkey comment... they do like to fry their turkeys but mine is going to be oven roasted. I'm doing it ahead of time and then warming it in the oven with lettuce leaves for added flavour and moisture. (there's nothing grosser than dry turkey in my eyes!)

BDL.. smoked salmon.. I like that! I've decided to ditch the fried chicken and swap it out for smoked (or poached) salmon. I'm pretty sure most of them will give it a try.. MIL will for sure and my kids are huge fish and seafood lovers so the worst case scenario would be that I'm stuck with a platter of salmon at the end of the day and I know my kids would love that.

I'm the one bringing the serving platters etc.. MIL has a good amount of them but I know there are things she doesn't have so I'm going to pack them and bring them along. This sounds nuts but I'll be putting them in the suitcase with our clothes so they won't get broken during transport and clothes make great plate wrappers. They will all get washed before use so that I'm not worrying about.

I think you can consider hubby and I the young adults in the family even though we're both in our 40's.. he is second youngest of seven and our teenage kids are the youngest grandchildren in the family. As for cleanup.... we have one SIL who drives ALL of us insane and I know she is going to have something to say about the meal (she always does) so most likely my oldest SIL and I will do it just to get away from her and you know we will be venting off as we clean the dishes. MIL is going to get paper plates and I have plastic cutlery leftover from the days when my kids had bday parties so cleanup is going to be just the serving dishes.

Beside MIL I am the best cook in the family and most of them know that and actually like coming here because the food is so good. My late BIL wouldn't eat all day if he knew I was doing the meal because everything was so good and the rest of them are the same way too. My SIL who is a PITA gets really jealous because the family raves about my cooking and uhm..hers sucks. It really does. She is so bad that MIL asks them to bring wine or buns.. something she can't eff up to family gatherings.


:beer:
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post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
I also forgot to mention.. that my inlaws do not cook.. they get meat bbq it and buy premade sides to go with it for the most part. They don't have the love affair with food that we do and the only one that does is my MIL and well she shouldn't be doing all that work anymore.
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post #10 of 14
IMHO I think you have the meats covered, with Turkey, Baked Ham and the stuffed cabbage.....I would do a seafood lasagna... Good luck, Have fun...............Bill
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks Bill!
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post #12 of 14
25 people is honestly not that many. 2 Entrees is more than enough. IMO
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post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Well it's what they are used to and everyone expects it so I'm doing it. For me it's nuts but you know they love the variety and they all eat themselves stupid. I'm only making a standard 6-8 serving portion of the cabbage rolls etc as I know not everyone will take them. The meatballs will be a full 25 serving but the rest.. I know them well enough how to vary it. If we can post pictures on here I'll be sure to post some of the day and also the sleeping inlaws after the eat fest. (did I mention I have lots of blackmail pics of them? LOL)
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post #14 of 14
25 person wasn't too many for me. Those recipe was great but too many of those will lead it to have some left over.
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