It has been a few years since Hurricane Sandy hit and all the emotions that it brought. This year, we were not so fortunate and parts of our country and its territories were hit with some weather tragedies. During this time of year, we have to remember there are things in our lives we should be thankful for. Also, we need to keep in mind those friends and family that could not be with us for whatever reason.
A couple of years ago, one of my Professor’s had asked about tips and tricks for Thanksgiving. In my opinion, it was a pretty extensive list. I have decided to re-post this information to those of you who need a reminder to “take a breath” and think about the important things in your life.
Next week will be Thanksgiving. The stress of the holiday season on a normal basis is enough to make you want to jump out a window, but now add the stress of relatives and possibly the first time hosting, Thanksgiving dinner and your thinking “Holy Moly, what have I done, this is a recipe for disaster”. (yes, I’m having the holiday at my house for only the third time). Here is a list of ideas to relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling.
1. Take a deep breath. Don’t take on more than you feel you can handle. Especially if it’s your first time you’re hosting the dinner. KEEP IT SIMPLE! This year I will be taking my own advice. Since I don’t have the extra days off, my mom a Honey ham and had it shipped to me. My family is not thrilled with turkey and my grandmother who is 98 requested the ham. So what Grandma wants, Grandma gets. We will then fill in with the side dishes that are traditional to my family. This will cut down tremendously on my stress.
2. Don’t try new recipes. Now is not the time to field test a recipe. Most people like tradition when it comes to the holiday. Stay with the tried and true your family enjoys. If there is something traditional that you can’t prepare, ask one of your invites who knows how to do it to provide that dish. For example, your family loves stuffing and you know your Aunt Emily makes the best, ask her to make it. One less dish for you and you know everyone will enjoy it.
3. Prep ahead of time. At this point, you should have your menu and a shopping list of what you want or need to prepare. Make a list of the dishes, sauces, desserts, drinks for your menu as well as a to-do list. Then put the list in timeline order and stick to it! (Example:1 week before, order apple pies, 11:00 am on the holiday put in the turkey, 3:00 pm after the turkey comes out of the oven bake the stuffing.) Keep it on your counter or fridge so as you complete something, check it off. This will help you stay on track and will be your bible all the way to the end of the holiday.
Think of yourself as a restaurant. What do they do to be able to run smoothly? They prep, prep and more prep. Cut and clean as many of your vegetables ahead of time as possible. Make as many of the dishes ahead of time. Foodnetwork.com has wonderful simple recipes that can be done in advance. Do something each day before the holiday and then it should all come together when the times comes. For mashed potatoes, wash and peel the potatoes (don’t cut them up, they will be too waterlogged) then cover them in cold water overnight. All you will have to do the next day is drain, cut them up and cook as normal. Stuffing can be prepared a day ahead and put in a casserole dish covered in the fridge. Take it out for about an hour to bring to room temp and then cook as you would normally. If your baking potatoes, use your microwave to cook, then coat them with vegetable or olive oil and put them in the oven to crisp the skin. These are just some suggestions.
4. ASK FOR HELP! Especially if this is your first time hosting. If someone asks if they can bring something, SAY YES! A side dish, salad, appetizer, dessert, even the turkey. My mother in law wasn’t a great cook, but I know who I would have called to make a roast turkey. Like I said previously, I don’t have the extra days off, but my mom is coming early and she offered to help as much as she can while I’m at work. Another way to take advantage is to make it a “Potluck Thanksgiving” and ask everyone to bring something, even if its napkins. This is no time to play the martyr. If they can’t bring something, assign them to be the packing or cleanup crew. Teenagers are great for this. Get as many people involved as possible. We as the host/hostesses tend to forget, this is just much our holiday as it is for our guests and we want to enjoy the food and company as well. Often we become the chef, waiter, waitress and cleanup crew. Then we wonder how come the day went so fast, we’re exhausted and we are looking to eat our meal at 2:00 in the morning because now it’s quiet.
5. The store will be open. Not only can you ask your family and friends to help, but you should also take help from the supermarket. Did you see my first tip? If you or anyone you know cannot do the turkey, especially if you don’t want to take the chance of serving a “Grizzwald” dry bird, order it. Put a little of your own touch on store-bought items; top that out of the box apple pie with ice cream, whipped cream and drizzle some caramel topping on it. Get a plain cheesecake and top with raspberry/strawberry preserves or drizzle chocolate shell ice cream topping and caramel sauce on top of the cake and add some pecans to make a turtle cheesecake. Use boxed stuffing and add sweet sausage and chopped apples. Remember we’re trying to keep things easy….
6. All those dishes!!!! OMG! If you have a lot of people coming, forget the good china. There are some beautiful disposable dinnerware, flatware, serve-ware and glasses that can be purchased and there is no dishwashing. Local dollar and discount stores offer great deals on disposable aluminum pans. USE THEM!
7. Roast, roast, roast. Carrots, string beans, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts are great roasted. Toss with Olive Oil, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder and roast in a 425 oven until fork tender. Broccoli, string beans, and brussel sprouts can then be tossed with balsamic vinegar. Top with chopped parsley and voila!
8. Gobble, Gobble. If you don’t have a large oven, cook two small turkeys instead. Or one whole small bird for show but then have another one already cut up into parts.
9. Be ready for your tablescape. Regardless, if you insist on using fine china and serving platters or if you are using disposable, if you are having a sit down formal dinner or buffet; Set your table and set out all your serving pieces one or two nights before. This way you’re not running around last minute to try to find that gravy boat.
10. No need to stress. If all else fails…. grab a glass of wine, make reservations at a nice restaurant or have the meal catered.
You want to enjoy your holiday and your company. The most important thing to remember is keeping it simple and as the good ole Boyscout saying goes “be prepared”. If you forgot a side dish, so what! Move on and serve what you have. What you forgot to serve will be part of your leftovers for that 2:00 in the morning meal. The host/hostess does not need to stress. If you do, it will show and no one will have a good time. “Don’t let them see you sweat!”
Well, I told you it was pretty extensive. I would love to hear how your Thanksgiving went and if any of these tips helped.
Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!