What Does it Take to Make a Thanksgiving Meal for 1,200?

, ,

The answer: a team of talented, creative chefs and hundreds of dedicated volunteers! Also, 36 turkeys, 80 pounds of butter, two and a half cases of heavy cream, and lots and LOTS of love.

Here’s what we prepared for Thanksgiving this year, and how we did it:

  • Sausage Stuffing: volunteers start prepping weeks ahead by cutting hundreds of donated loaves of bread. They turn the bread into small cubes, which we dry out on 100 sheet trays so Chef Summer can turn them into her signature stuffing.
  • Oven-Roasted Turkey: since we roast 36 birds, we special order boneless turkeys to make the roasting and carving process easier (but don’t worry—they still have all that white and dark meat!). Doused in a wet rub of fresh herbs and oil and a dry rub of salt and pepper, chef Alex roasts the turkeys and our chefs and volunteers chop and portion the meat into 1,200 servings.
  • Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic: we roast garlic cloves in olive oil, puree them, and mix them into our mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. We also add a little heavy cream and butter. Over the course of Thanksgiving prep, we use 80 pounds of butter! And don’t worry… so long as your diet also includes plenty of plant-based foods (ours does!) and you don’t eat a fast-food quantity, there’s no reason to be scared of butter!
  • Gravy: you can’t have turkey and potatoes without gravy—so we make the most of the scraps and juices leftover from turkey roasting to make 19 beautiful gallons of gravy.

Above: volunteers prepare and pack the Thanksgiving meal!

  • Honey-Glazed Carrots: to save a little prep time—and because they look so darn cute and festive—we use baby carrots for our holiday meals, glazing them in butter, a little brown sugar and honey, and fresh herbs. Between the carrots, turkey, gravy, and stuffing, we use 10 pounds of fresh parsley—all minced by the world’s most patient volunteers.
  • Cranberry Sauce: no wobbly, jello-like canned stuff for our clients! Chef Summer uses fresh cranberries to make 10 gallons of homemade cranberry sauce, served on the side of our Thanksgiving feast.
  • Pumpkin Pie: thanks to Bluepoint Bakery and hundreds of generous Pie in the Sky donors, every client gets half a pumpkin pie with their Thanksgiving meal. Each year volunteers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory come in to cut and package the pies—which are baked fresh by Bluepoint, then frozen by us to make the cutting process easier! (Try that at home!)

Creating a holiday meal is a truly special effort, and we love seeing the Project Angel Heart community come together to make Thanksgiving happen for Coloradans who are suffering. Lucky for us, we’ve also got a huge team of meal delivery drivers who make sure each meal makes it to clients in time for the holiday.

If you’d like to bring friends and family in to volunteer around the holidays, or add an extra shift, please let us know so we can plan ahead. Thank you for all your hard work!