For those hosting thanksgiving dinners at their home

bnicebkindNovember 6, 2007

For those of you who entertain often, and are hosting Thanksgiving at your home, would you like to share with those who are hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, a step by step beginners course in what you do ahead of time, and how far ahead of time, each item on your list is done, so that Thanksgiving day is a success, and you can relax with family/friends, regardless of the time they arrive?

It seems like the biggest stress factor for most, is not tackling some of the details early enough. Because if anything can go wrong, it will! For me, I rented folding chairs, and they called at the eleventh hour telling me that they had run out of chairs, and could not make delivery. For a friend, she waited until the afternoon before Thanksgiving to have her hair colored. The stylist made a mistake and her hair color was a disaster. It took 4 hours to correct. This was when she was supposed to be doing all of her grocery shopping, house cleaning, and table setting, not to mention numerous other details. So how do you pros pull it off and relax and smile through it all?

Please make it a simple step by step plan for those who have never hosted Thanksgiving before at their home.

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It's really no different than any other big meal, but that it is likely to include people of all ages.
Do as much as you can ahead....and how far ahead depends on when you want to eat dinner.
I like to set my table the night before, have my pie crust made and in the refrigerator...and if I have room I will even make the filling so all I have to do is roll out the crusts, fill and bake.I also make my cranberry Jezabel ahead of time. And make the liver pate the night before too.
Because of oven space I make my rolls ahead of time and warm while the turkey is resting.
So morning of...I first thing roll out the pie crust, fill the pies and get them baking, then I start chopping veggies for the stuffing (tearing up the bread should have been dont the day before...) make the stuffing and let it sit...put together the fruit salad, wash the veggies peel the potatoes and put into water and assemble the melted butter and crumbs for the scalloped oysters.

Then 3 1/2 hours before dinner time I stuff the bird and pop it into the oven and take a shower and get dressed and make sure the wine is chilled.
About an hour before the bird is done I assemble the salad, get out the horsdouvres ( cheese, celery sticks, olives carrot sticks and livr pate) and put the potatoes on to boil.
When the potatoes are done I mash them and put them into a micro safe bowl to be zapped later.
When the turkey is done I jack up the oven temp and put in the oysters, and prepare to pan roast the asparagus.
The very last minute requires some help, fortunatly there is always lots there....because I need someone to carve the turkey while I make the gravy and pan roast the asparagus and warm the rolls....
Push the button on the coffee pot and and call everyone to the table.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 2:58PM
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A lot depends on how formal your dinner will be. Our dinner is quite casual but I want it to taste great and and table to look lovely.

Two weeks before the dinner I write out the menu. Not hard for me because we almost always have the same thing. Maybe one new dish.

From the menu I make a shopping list, dividing into perishable and non perishable.

A week before the big day I buy all the non perishible and groceries that will keep a week; cream, squash etc.

Two or three days before the event I get out all my silver, linens and china for the table, anything that needs polishing/ironing gets done then. I also make sure the salt and pepper shakers are full. Don't forget dishes for pickles butter, cranberry sauce etc. I also make my cheese sauce and gravy.

The day before I place all my serving pieces on the counter and place any of the ingredients I can into the dish, cans of beans for my famous cheater baked beans, a squash, sweet potatoes, flour...whatever will help me recall what the he!! is suppose to go in the serving dish. If I am using a new recipe I will also have that printed out and by the dish. This also makes sure I have all the required serving pieces out and am not scrambling at the last minute. I even put the unpeeled potatoes in the pot! I break the bread for my stuffing and saute the onions, celery to go with. I rinse the bird, set the table, place the wine on the buffet,line up all the pickle jars in the fridge and call my sister in law to ensure she has remembered she is in charge of dessert.

Hors d'ouvers are almost always cold, cheese, crackers, pate, kielbasa, pita wedges and roasted red pepper dip, etc.....east peasy and don't need the oven!

In the morning I stuff the bird, peel the potatoes, wash the sweet potatoes, make the butternut squash casserole, clean the cauliflower and broccoli, make the bean casserole, get the cheese sauce and gravy out of the fridge and I'm good to go....

I'm soooo glad our T Day was a month ago.....let's me rest up for Christmas....

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 5:38PM
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I find that cleaning and chopping vegetables always takes more time than I plan for so I do as much as I can the day before.

I totally assemble the veg casserole the day before and put the topping on just before it goes in the oven. I have a recipe for make-ahead mashed potatoes that I like even better than freshly made! Cranberry sauce is tastier if made a few days early and allowed to sit. Even though I don't assemble the dressing until that day I have all of the veggies chopped (and this year I am adding sausage to the dressing and will pre-cook the sausage). Same thing with the salad - components all prepped and ready to assemble that day. I'm making a pumpkin trifle this year and will probably make the cake on Tuesday, assemble on Thursday. Butternut Squash Chowder will probably be prepared on Tuesday and reheated in a crock pot on Thursday.

The bottom line is that if there is anything that can be made or prepped ahead of time, it should be.

I find I do a lot more cooking the day before than actually on the holiday. Thanksgiving day I mostly throw stuff in the oven and make the turkey.

The week before gather all of your serving pieces and label them with post-it notes as to which dish goes with what food. Set your table Tuesday. You can arrange the bar on Tuesday as well, except for ice. Skewer olives on plastic swords and place in a bowl, cover with water, refrigerate. Make lemon twists, dump in a glass and cover with a damp paper towel, refrigerate.

I'll say it again - anything that can be done ahead of time should be!

Lists are your best helper on days like these. Make them and use them! Also, I am not one to turn down an offer if someone likes to bring a dish. If your SIL wants to know what she can bring, tell her to do the sweet potatoes (or whatever).

If you need table linens pressed or purchased, do it now! Plan your decorations and centerpiece this week as well. Candles? Candlesticks? Plan or order your flowers. Guest towels. Music. Kids games. Arrange or plan for house cleaning as well. All of this can be done in the next few days.

Oh, and I love the turkey gravy base from Williams-Sonoma. It is a huge time-saver and the gravy always comes out perfect. Be sure to add the turkey drippings to the pan while you are heating it up!


    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 5:00PM
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I agree with all the above ......preparing everything you can ahead of time is the only way to go. Menu planning is helpful and try to delegate some things if you can. Hopefully, everyone would love to contribute!!!

Just don't forget the "other" stuff too. I am doing alot of cleaning to get ready for company too. That way it's done for the winter........and for the Christmas season too! Having the carpets cleaned, the windows washed, everything scrubbed, linens washed. I try to hang festive towels and even make sure that the toilet paper is well stocked the day before. I even start to "save" ice cubes from my ice maker in zip locks for setting shrimp in and serving in drinks. Just easier to do at home than picking a bag up at the store for me.
If you use favors(I do since most of my guests are family), get them ready. There are some cute ones to make on different sites online. The favorite ones we have made are from Martha Stewart's site........turkeys from construction paper with Thanksgiving trivia on each feather. This year, I have picked up a Christmas ornament for each person......something that reminds me of them and am going to wrap them with tissue and a pipe cleaner to look like pumpkins. THey will be all different in sizes, so I hope they will look okay!!! (Found some really cute ornaments at 50% off at Hobby Lobby...cell phones, flipflops, Harley, angels, chefs.....a bunch of fun ones!!)

And I have one suggestion that always helps me keep stressfree........upbeat music to work with. Whenever I get ready for company, I use lots of lists, daily tasks sheets and a TON of great music. Just keeps me singing throughout all the work!!!!

Good luck to everyone who is hosting. It is alot of fun if you take the time to appreciate your efforts and having the friends and family to join you!!!!!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 9:14PM
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I like the above advice. I'll add just a few more things.

Check your linens, chairs, candles, etc. way in advance. What a nuisance to have to deal with that stuff when you are trying to cook!

I make a list of the menu. (I make out the grocery list when I do that, too). To the left of each item on the menu, I put the day it will be made and, if relevant, the initials of the person making it. To the right, I put the serving utensils I plan to use for it. Sometimes I put other tasks in there, too -- polish silver, set table, flowers, extra chairs, candles, ice water, wine, S&P, etc. If you do this far enough in advance, you can add more items as they occur to you. Put in little tasks, too (like S&P) -- not only can they add up to some real time, but it's fun to cross them off! For Passover (which, believe me, makes Thanksgiving seem like cookies & milk), I save the lists from year to year. Sure helps me not to reinvent the wheel, especially because I keep holiday menus pretty consistent, and it's also nostalgic to look at it -- I write in a margin who came that year.

This will be the first Thanksgiving except for 2 in 25 years, I think, that we haven't had Thanksgiving here. We will be on a family trip celebrating my mother-in-law's 80th birthday. But I will sure miss it.

Have fun, everyone!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 9:52PM
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