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Home Ec 101 – Holiday Cleaning Tips and Checklists for Thanksgiving

It’s almost time to say ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ but before we can do that, we need to plan right? When I saw that Heather Solos, the brilliant mind behind Home Ec 101, was having an entire month called ‘Countdown to Turkey Day: Menu Planning, Cleaning, Shopping Lists and Recipes’, I knew I ask to ask her to share some tips with the Babble readers.

Without further ado, here are some coping and cleaning tips…..

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I’m all about the food, I could flip, hypnotized through recipes for hours. I revel in the planning, creating the flow of flavor from one side dish to the next. I’m kind of twisted in that I create a spreadsheet on Google Documents to coordinate the dance that limited oven space requires. My dream kitchen has a double oven, but I have yet to achieve the dream. That said, there are a couple of things I hate about putting together a big holiday meal, but don’t worry, I have a few coping skills to offer.

The interruptions:
I get into a zone when cooking a big meal. It hearkens back to my restaurant days when we’d be slammed for hours at a time coordinating special orders, fifteen steaks on the grill each at a different stage. Of course a holiday meal isn’t quite that hectic, but I still get lost in my own thoughts. When someone helpful comes into the kitchen and interrupts that flow, that’s the moment I can’t remember if I already added the salt or if I was on cup 2 or 3 of chicken stock.

There are always helpful people and there will always be interruptions.

Rather than get frustrated, when I’m cooking a big holiday meal, I make helping easier. You see, it’s the foodies who are drawn to the kitchen and for the most part they know what they are doing, they just need the specifics.

I post a chart on the refrigerator.  On the chart are the times that side dishes need to be started and when they need to go into the oven. I paper clip the recipe cards to the chart and the coordinating baking or serving dish is labelled.

It sounds a little obsessive, but in my world 20 minutes of planning is well worth properly salted mashed potatoes.

The dishes:
A few tips can help keep the kitchen from becoming a disaster area. Really, who wants to tackle a kitchen full of dirty dishes and cookware while fighting off the turkey coma? Even worse is stumbling into the kitchen the next morning. Prevention is the key.

Make sure the dishwasher is completely empty, even if this means hand washing a few dishes before the main event or running a less than -gasp- completely full load. Make a donation to World Wildlife Federation if you must ease your conscience.

Fill the sink or a dish pan, if you only have a single basin, with hot, soapy water. Wash as you go, using the dishwasher as a drying rack to conserve counter space. This has the added benefit of keeping the frequently used utensils and bowls accessible.

Keep a pile of clean dish towels close at hand. Personally, I like to use bar towels, sure they don’t coordinate with anything, but they are cheap and get the job done.

Pots, pans, and bake-ware that don’t have another role to play should be immediately filled with hot, soapy water and set out of the way to soak. Even if these last few items are left until the following day, you’ve gotten a good head start on the mess.

If there is a non-cook looking to be helpful, don’t leave them to fend for themselves in the living room. Invite them to pitch in with the dishes. Most people are genuinely helpful and if they don’t want to be, they shouldn’t offer.

Please visit Home Ec 101 and see all of the ‘Real Skills for Real People with Real Lives’.

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