Food & Drink

Stir Crazy: 7 ways to avoid kitchen chaos this Thanksgiving

MCT

OK, don’t panic. Thanksgiving is Nov. 26. That’s just two weeks and two days away.

So, you might want to start thinking about the plan, especially if you’re hosting the big meal.

Anyone who runs the kitchen during a Turkey Day meal typically has some kind of a plan to get through the day. I have a friend who says a glass of wine at her side helps a lot.

Beyond choosing plates, linens and decorations — that’s the fun stuff — comes the hard work of organizing the prep, the meal and the cleanup.

With kitchen counters covered in food and dishes, and too many people bumping into each other, we can feel frazzled instead of thankful. I sought help from a trio of websites to keep you and your kitchen operating smoothly on Thanksgiving: www.porch.com, www.personalorganizing.about.com and www.whatscookingamerica.net.

▪  1. Clear out the fridge and pantry. Getting these two major food storage areas ready is the best way to know what you have on hand and what you need to purchase and to make room for all the new dishes you will be making. Check the expiration dates on baking powder and other staples, too.

▪  2. Organize your recipes. Even favorite family dishes sometimes require a recipe. And try as we might to do things ahead of time, we’re often preparing and cooking right up until dinnertime, so not losing track of recipes is important. Find one place to keep them in the kitchen as you work.

▪  3. Label serving dishes. It’s a great timesaver. Match up each recipe to a serving dish and label it with a post-it note or a piece of masking tape on the bottom. This way if someone asks how he can help, the labels will make it easier to delegate tasks.

▪  4. Move the party out of the kitchen. Preparing multiple dishes with various cook times requires a lot of work and concentration, and having people moving in and out of your work space can be both distracting and dangerous. The quickest way to scoot everyone out of the kitchen? Move the beverage bar and appetizers far away from the kitchen. You easily can create the traffic flow you want by carefully placing drinks and appetizers in another area.

▪  5. Before serving dinner. Make the kitchen ready for the clean-up. You can share these chores with anyone standing around asking, “What can I do?”

Toss any trash or containers you won’t reuse into the garbage or recycling bin.

Make a sink of hot, soapy water. Drop in mixing bowls, utensils and the like as you finish with them. They’ll be ready to load in the dishwasher when you are ready to do it.

Put away any leftover dip or appetizers you had out for snacking.

Place appetizer plates and serving pieces, cooking utensils, dirty glasses, cutting boards, dishes and bowls you are done with into the dishwasher. Turn it on so it can run while you feast and then be ready to be reloaded.

Wipe off counters so there are now places to work following the meal.

▪  6. Following the feast, handle food first. What creates such a mess is everyone brings her own dishes into the kitchen, but there isn’t room for all of that at one time along with the food. Instead, when the meal is over, ask everyone to leave her dishes behind and carry in one food item to the kitchen.

Put away all of the food, packaging leftovers and storing them properly. Scrape pots, pans and serving bowls into the disposal or trash can and set them aside.

Once the food is stored away, you have room to tackle the dishes. Those can now be carried into the kitchen.

▪  7. About packaging leftovers. Have the containers and wraps ready before dinner starts so no one has to go through every drawer to find them later.

Rather than hand out plasticware and wonder if you’ll ever get it back, invest in some one-use foil containers for guests to take home leftovers. Look for them at the dollar store in a variety of sizes and shapes.

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