Question: How do you make a complete Thanksgiving dinner with no oven?
Answer: Plan ahead.
Yes, it can be done. Had I not had this experience many years ago as well, I might have been daunted by the challenge. But this was close to a repeat of a year's past adventure, when the oven went bad and we were just too poor to get it fixed. Then, I had 4 small children, an ancient microwave, a crockpot, and a hot plate to get the job done. It took many hours to get the dinner completed, much like the pioneers of the past must have gone through.
This time? One advantage was a big electric roaster for the turkey. That took care of the turkey and stuffing. The juice was made into a gravy on the stove. The vegetables were frozen, so they went in the microwave. The potatoes instant, so they were cooked on the stove. The rolls, already baked and just needed rewarming. And the sweet potato casserole, already baked and just needed rewarming. All desserts had been made ahead. And only one "disaster": I bought the fancy whip cream in the cans and thought it would look really nice to decorate the refrigerated pies ahead of time, only to discover the stuff melts after a while and I found it dripping off the pies onto the other stuff in the refrigerator. A nice sticky mess. Fortunately, no one really noticed or cared. The secret of the day? Timing.
I was pretty much a drill sargeant the whole day. I started early to get the turkey into the roaster no later than 9 am, with the stuffing all prepared and into the bird. I accomplished this by 8:20 and then decided I had time to head to the gym for a swim. I decided to forego the Thanksgiving Day 5k, mainly to save my energy and not get stuck away from home too long. And timing, again, was the key.
The half mile swim worked well, and I was dressed and ready by 9:40 to leave to pick up my daughter from the airport, coming in from New Jersey, via Allentown, PA. The day was absolutely lovely: blue skies, sunny, and already around 45 degrees. A rare treat for us in the dark and cold winter region. The whole weekend was predicted to be warm and mostly sunny, again, a pleasant change from the last two years when we had either 10 inches of snow and/or blizzard conditions for Thanksgiving.
After picking up Renee and heading back home, it was stick to the task at hand. I already had a houseful of people, and rather than try to get everyone motivated to help on my schedule, I just did a lot by myself, but got them doing stuff not involved with the cooking. I really did not want them in the kitchen as I didn't have room for more than me!
My goal for the dinner of the day was to be done by 1 pm, since that's when my dad would be arriving, and he was always puntual. He also tends to want your undivided attention when he's around, so I knew I had to get everything done so as not to be sidetracked by chatter. That's when I am likely to forget something or overcook something.
The turkey was done about 45 minutes earlier than I expected: the roaster really is faster than an oven apparently. And thankfully there is the doneness indicator: the popup timer. In reality, with the turkey done a little earlier than I planned, that meant I would be getting the dinner ready on time. You always have to let the thing set for a while to cool enough to handle, so for once I was able to let this happen.
So the race was on, getting the stuffing out of the bird and in a warmer, beginning preparing the gravy, making the potatoes, warming the sweet potatoes, and readying the vegetables for popping in the microwave at the appropriate time--nearly last.
True to my prediction, my dad arrived at 1 pm and the dinner was just about ready. I had already prepared the table ahead while having "in between time" from other cooking tasks, and was cutting up the turkey to put on a platter. The gravy was simmering, and all that needed finishing was the vegetables and warming the rolls.
I think he was surprised by the fact that when I said we would eat by 1:30, that we actually would eat by 1:30. We are all used to dinners when my mom was alive where if we were lucky, dinner would be served while it was still light out. And anything at my sister's pretty much is following the same pattern, so it is hard for my dad to wait all day to eat and then have to race against darkness to get home.
It was such a beautiful, warm sunny day that we were able to open up the 3 season porch and some of the kids ate out there. There was enough food to go around and then some for leftovers. After a leisurely meal, I quickly cleared away the food and we just sat around and chatted, waiting for my sister to arrive for dessert. Both girls were dozing in the sun on the porch. It was just such a lazy type feeling, I'm sure. My dad was chattier than usual, and I was glad to see that so far he wasn't showing any ill effects of the chemo treatment from the week before. The Lions were losing like usual, so the boys were outside playing ball. I wish we could have more days like this!
It was also my dad's birthday earlier in the week, so once my sister arrived and we had our dessert, we gave him his gifts, something he wasn't expecting. This year I "hit the lottery" on getting something he not only needed but wanted: flannel pjs and new slippers. He said his slippers had just ripped out, and he had been looking for flannels all over the place (so had I!). So that was a lucky and good guess.
The afternoon rolled along, and dessert was eaten and some polished off. I really could have used twice as many desserts, but this way there wouldn't be many leftover temptations. Once the company left, I quicky got the kitchen cleaned up while the girls readied themselves to go see Annie, something we hadn't seen since they were young children. Austin would be going as well.
The tickets were a special price for Thanksgiving evening, and I knew there would be many children in attendance, so pretty much expected some chaos from that. It wasn't exactly chaos, and it wasn't just the children that were a problem, but young adults and adults as well. Our seats were close to an aisle, which presents a problem usually because people entering the theater don't necessarily know where their seats are until they get there, only their rows. So its understandable that we could expect people climbing over us to get to their seats before the play. What wasn't acceptable was the constant back-and-forth during the play, the intermission, and after that took place--all by adults and teens. After all, there are two aisles for every row, so you would think if you sat closest to the opposite aisle that you would enter from that side. Way too much to expect apparently, because almost everyone used our aisle to come and go--all through the production. And if it wasn't the people in our row that were a problem, it was the rows in front of us that were just as annoying. The same problem was occurring, but while I refused to constantly stand up and let people pass, the people in the rows ahead did do that, so not only were we disturbed by our row, but by theirs as well. So we were constantly twisting and turning in our seats to watch the play around the heads of those standing in front of us. I was REALLY annoyed by the end of the play, and finally took it out on a young (late teens--old enough to know better) girl leaving yet again about 10 minutes before the end. I told her she was not coming back through this late in the play and to go around or stay in the aisle until it was over--I was tired of everyone cutting in front of us. I got no response, but I'm sure she got the message. After the play, it was just as bad. We had 4 flights of stairs to descend and there were 4 women in front of us talking and laughing and basically blocking the stairs yet not moving along. I finally broke free of their pack and got around them, since I had to go to the bathroom and had waited until after the show to go. Just plain rudeness.
So I guess I was crabby by then. It was 10:30 at night, and I had had a long day. And yet, I have to say that I have never been that annoyed when attending a play before. It just irritates me to no end the rudeness of people, and the parents who do not give their children behavior instructions before they arrive, if that's what they need. And it really wasn't the young children, it was the teens! They must have come with an adult, so I still would expect they should be given some clue on protocal. Running in and out every 15-20 minutes is just not acceptable. If you can't hold it until the intermission, you probably should not be attending or make sure you have an aisle seat. I really think it is inability to pay attention for that long of a time, but for the parents to allow it is what is maddening. Get your kids under control!
Enough rant about that. I know I made my girls a little uncomfortable with my remarks, but so be it. They can just chalk it up to me being a crabby old lady!
I awoke Friday fairly early and decided to get a workout in before the others were up and about. We had a few loose plans for the day, but I would have time to go and get in another swim. I decided again that a swim was better for me, so I could pace myself throughout the day again. Things are always so unpredictable when I have the kids or grandkids around all weekend.
I decided too that I was going to attempt to swim a mile. I had done 3/4 a mile the other day, so figured I could up it some. I had felt surprisingly good from that longer swim, and really wanted to test whether I could go farther without any or too much discomfort.
I might have lost track of laps, because when I finished what I thought was a mile, I was over 48 minutes, about 8 minutes off from my past slower time. I told myself I might have slowed down a lot in the second half mile, but it still seemed like too much of a slowdown. Still, it was what it was, and I felt good, although glad to be done.
Went to my sister's later, after a leftover turkey lunch, and decided to get a haircut--a short do from my longer do of so many years. What a change!
Saturday, I went to the track to time myself on a definite 5k distance, not to run fast. It was still cold out, but sunny again, so I double layered. There was no wind, so it was quite comfortable despite the cold morning. I really can't do the math so am not sure I did a 5k, but I figured 13 laps around would be a 5k. Comparing it to my run the weekend before, though, I went over 38 minutes and still had my ending walk to finish the last lap, and finished in 41 minutes. Maybe I miscounted again? I hope so. I decided to walk another lap and finished just over 45 minutes.
Back home then and hustle and bustle to get the house straightened, breakfast made for 4, and get a shower in before heading out to a movie (Happy Feet), which we just barely made at 1:30. Immediately after the movie, I dropped all the kids off at my daughter's so they could attend a birthday dinner with their dad, and I was free for a while!
So I was surprised when the phone rang and it was an old friend I hadn't seen in 5 years! I had run into her sister a few weeks before and gave her my number, but it had totally slipped my mind in the busy weeks that followed. As any time in the past when we tried to catch up, you couldn't talk fast enough to get in all the details and decided to meet Sunday for breakfast to continue with our reminiscing.
Sunday, while warm, was cloudy, gray, and damp. I was really surprised at how warm it was when I took my daughter to the airport at 5:30 am! I thought I might go back to sleep for a while when I got back, but after laying there for over an hour, I decided to just get up. I had some housework to attend to from the weekend crush, and planned to go out and run a shorter run again, after doing some of my arm weights. I'm up to 5 lb. now! Naturally, while I am out running, I get all these calls, and one was my friend. I called her back and we planned to meet later that day.
By the time we did meet, it was actually lunch time, but I had already been to Wal-Mart to return something, done some other shopping, and had washed my curtains at home and ran and showered, so it was a relief to be finally sitting down.
As was expected, we spent the next 2+ hours talking and catching up. I certainly hope we can continue with our relationship, after so many gaps in the past. We both share the exact same birthday, and while we have a lot of similarities, we do have some differences, making it easy to appreciate the other for what they are.
So back at work today, and another 1 mile swim this morning, this time in a more realistic 41 minutes. It worked well, since it was raining this morning, and darker than usual. The bad weather is expected to return later this week, so it was nice to enjoy it while it lasted!