Thanksgiving To-Do List

I come from a family of cooks. Every year, I look forward to the taste of my aunt's cornbread dressing and my mom's sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving dinner. I like to take on the desserts -- cakes, trifles and pies for about 50 people. On many occasions, I have hosted and organized the event, too.

When there's this much oven time, counter space and refrigerator room involved, I resort to list making. Below is a list of holiday tasks. Use it to develop your own timeline for this year's Thanksgiving feast. May it be one of your easiest and most delicious ones ever!

EARLY NOVEMBER
• I always make my sweet potato and vegetable casseroles about this far in advance. They store well in the freezer. Just make sure to wrap them up well.
• Make a grocery list.
• Purchase all your nonperishable staples. Last-minute groceries should include only foods that spoil quickly.
• Decide on your guest list. Now's even a good time to make your seating arrangements.
• Sort through your serving dishes. Label the dishes, matching recipe to platter.
• Bar cookies freeze well. Make them in advance and store them in the freezer. Same for layer cakes. Don't assemble the cake until you are ready to defrost and serve it, though.
• This week at the grocery, pick up all those extra canned or bottled drinks for your company.

MID-NOVEMBER
• Buy holiday-themed paper plates and napkins. I like to use them for dessert. Not only are the paper plates festive, but no one has to wash those dainty, china, dessert dishes.
• Check the linen closet to make sure your tablecloth is clean and ready to use. Do you have enough napkins for all your guests?
• This is when we order the turkey in my family.
• If your local bakery or fancy food store makes a holiday specialty you like, order it this week. In some cases, they'll need even more notice.
• Buy fresh cranberries. In fact, buy extra now, while they are available. You can store them in your freezer for up to one year.

THANKSGIVING WEEK
• Pick up any pre-ordered items.
• Buy your perishables.
• Start cooking.
• Clean the house.
• Start setting the table. • If you work during the day, remember to prep your ingredients ahead of time and store them in plastic sandwich bags or bowls. That way they'll be ready when you really start cooking.
• The day before Thanksgiving, I run to my local florist just before they close. That way, I am able to purchase flowers for the table at a discount.

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