In Part 1 and Part 2, I planned


a menu and grocery shopped for our big event. Then, on Monday, the cooking began.

The morning of the great dinner event, I took a few minutes to review the menu. Seems like our gravy might need to change (no drippings with a fire-blasted turkey!) and I'd totally blanked on cranberry sauce. Eep! Easy fixes. I grabbed the spare ingredients needed and waited for my help to arrive. I'd enlisted a friend, Joanna, as my co-chef for the adventure, which was great because in order to make nine or so dishes in 120 minutes, I definitely needed the help. Good thing we're friends--you try fixing that much food in a kitchen roughly the side of a twin bed. Did I mention the hot turkey grease? Here we go...

5:00 Crack open diet cokes and get started. We munch on brushetta while we plot who takes on what first. Panic ensues and is quickly replaced by action.

5:01 Joanna starts on the turkey, preheating the oven, preparing the rub, and seasoning the turkey. Tip One: When in a hurry, chop rub ingredients in a food processor. Much faster. Lesson learned.

5:02 I mix the ambrosia and pop it in the fridge to chill, then get a pot of water going on the stove to boil the pasta. Tip Two: Always have a pot of water boiling. When the pasta was done, the sweet potatoes need it, then the green beans.

5:15 I got to work on Anytime Turkey Gravy, which was a huge blessing because I didn't have to wait for the drippings. It's super easy, just needs time to simmer. Plus, it makes your kitchen smell great.

5:16 Turkey's in the oven at 500 degrees. Joanna gets to work on the rolls. I chop and peel sweet potatoes to speed cooking time. Tip Three: Buy a vegetable peeler. How have I survived without one? My fingers almost didn't today, but that I blame on the knives. Tip Four: Invest in good knives.

5:30 Pasta's done. Toss with olive oil to keep from sticking and set aside. Boil sweet potatoes and blanch green beans in the same water. It's energy efficient, right?

5:45 This is too easy. Take a diet coke break.

6:00 Joanna fights with bread dough. After seeing it not rise for 15 minutes, she adds more flour and prays.

6:25 Bread rises! Roll into balls.

6:30 Drain sweet potatoes and mash with brown sugar, butter, and milk. Spoon into casserole dish and top with mini-marshmallows.

6:40 Start corn.

6:45 Argh! The mac and cheese! We're sprinting now.

6:46 Turkey out of oven. Perfect temp and it looks amazing. Pause to pat ourselves on back, then realize there's no counter space to set the turkey on. Dig for clean beach towels.

6:47 In go the rolls and the sweet potatoes. Hopefully the oven has cooled from 500 degrees to 400 degrees by now.

6:50 Saute the green beans with pine nuts and seasonings.

6:55 Cheese sauce is stubborn. Pllleeeease melt.

7:03 Rolls out, turkey carved, and the sides are ready!

We did it. In two hours and three minutes Joanna and I pulled off a delicious dinner, but don't trust us. We invited three other hungry friends over to sample the goods. The Mac and Cheese won rave reviews, as did the turkey which surprised us all in how moist in turned out.

I'm still recovering, but can now share my lessons.

One... Make a complete game-plan and stick to it. I had a 35-line list with minute by minute details that I thought I'd reference. Nope, turns out it was my Cooking Bible for the day. If it wasn't on the list, it didn't happen. Which is how I managed to look in my pantry and realize that I'd totally forgotten to make the stuffing. Oops.

Two...Cook with people you love. Only with Joanna could I shout out something random and she know exactly what I was looking for when.

Three... Take it easy. For a "real" Thanksgiving, or any holiday, I'd never set a timer on myself to have something done as quickly as possible. Half the joy of cooking is the time you're just simmering in the kitchen, hanging out with friends and catching up. Don't rush it.

Four... Homemade rolls are awesome but, when in a hurry, pick your battles. Sister Schubert is my best friend.

That said, you CAN cook a turkey, and everything that goes with it, in less time than it takes to watch Titanic.

Thanksgiving is three weeks from today, so get started now. You can make pies, desserts, and casseroles ahead of time. What are you doing now to get ready for the big day?

By Ashley Kappel and Ashley Kappel