Last Minute Tips to Keeping your Turkey Day Cool
This year for Thanksgiving, you are likely celebrating in one of three ways:
(1) You have gratefully accepted an invitation to a holiday meal and are either responsible for just bringing yourself, a bottle of wine or an appetizer.
(2) You are a seasoned hostess who has hosted your fair share of feasts, but still encounter some stress around pulling it off year after year.
(3) This is your first year hosting a formal Thanksgiving and are excited, nervous and determined to make a wonderful memory for your family.
No matter what responsibilities you hold this year, here are a few tips for making your holiday less stressful and more memorable.
For the hosts:
In anticipation for Thanksgiving:
It goes without saying, that you will need a game plan. The first order of business is to write down your menu, shopping list and a timeline for the next few days.
- Know your comfort level with multitasking, and stagger your tasks accordingly.
- For each cooking project, sort out what items can be prepared ahead of time. For example: dicing vegetables and premeasuring or grinding spices.
- Plan to make whatever appetizers and side dishes you can a day in advance.
- Quality vs. quantity: You don’t have to make every single dish your family has ever had at a Thanksgiving meal to make it memorable. Plan a menu that is complimentary, has a few special dishes, and that everyone will enjoy. Frame your menu as a meal, rather than a buffet!
The day before your epic meal:
- Fresh turkey will simplify life greatly. However, if you are using a frozen turkey and forgot to thaw it out a few days ago in the fridge (24 hours in the fridge for every 4 pounds of turkey!) … there is a quicker method: submerge your sealed turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes (for every pound, your turkey will need to soak 30 minutes). Note, you will still want to do this a day in advance and chill your turkey in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.
- Freeze extra ice trays & chill beverages. If it’s chilly outside, you might even be able to just store your beverages in your basement, garage or porch in order to save valuable fridge space!
- After dinner on Wednesday night, rearrange and set your dining room for Thanksgiving Dinner! Rather than scurrying around the house trying to collect all available extra chairs after your guests arrive, have it all set with your tablecloth, centerpiece, placemats, candles or whatever decorations you had in mind. If you need your table space for prep, just stack all of your plates and silverware and napkins in a neat pile so that you can quickly reset the table once all the cooking is complete!
- It is dramatically easier to cook up a storm if your kitchen was clean to begin with! Run and unload your dishwasher or clean all the dishes in your sink and empty the drying rack so that everything is clean and put back into place, ready for use!
Today is The Day:
- Stick to your game plan and timeline. Stagger your tasks, and make time for a few breaks to greet your guests and catch up with folks. It may seem silly, but don’t forget to eat a snack and stay hydrated while you bust out a feast from a warm kitchen – especially if you will be enjoying some wine or spirits with your meal!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Invite folks into the kitchen to chat with you while you cook, and ask them if they want to help with a task or two. People love to feel usefully and they will enjoy spending that time catching up with you as well!
- Kill a few birds with one stone by tossing your roasted vegetables into a greens salad. Layer mixed greens with your roasted carrots, or beets or Brussels sprouts and make a small jar of vinaigrette to serve on the side.
- Don’t forget tea or coffee and cream if your family enjoys a cup with their dessert.
For the Guests:
- Show your appreciation for your family or host by bringing a memorable appetizer or small dish that shows some true effort! If you are a baker, maybe bake your own dinner rolls or pumpkin pie. Or bring something new and creative to add to your family’s usual holiday “menu.”
- Offer to help clean up the kitchen while your hostess is cooking away. If they decline: insist! It is incredibly helpful to keep on top of all the dirty pots and pans so that they can continue cooking, and so that when you clear the dinner table, there will be a place in the sink or dishwasher for all those dishes to go!
Memorable Appetizer Ideas
The best additions to my family’s Thanksgiving meal have come from the guests we have invited to join us over the years. You never know what will be adapted as a new family tradition! Here are a few simple and elegant appetizers to add to your family’s holiday menu.
Check out these delicious appetizers:
Bio: Aubrey Jenkins is an up-and-coming food blogger and photographer from Seattle who writes to inspire home chefs to cook intuitively and eat mindfully with a focus on whole foods, seasonal eating and healthful alternatives. Check her out at www.drumbeets.com