Can you believe that Thanksgiving is just around the corner? I always love celebrating this particular holiday … mostly because it’s not my holiday to host! This year for the first time we’re going to have a big family shindig at my sister’s house. Yes, for those of you who know my sister – I said it … she’s hosting!! This will be their first holiday having the whole family – 3 generations from across the East Coast – and for that reason I am dedicating this blog and all of my big sister wisdom to her. Coincidentally, this will also be a test to 1) see if she actually reads my blog and 2) see if she listens to me.
There are few tried and true routines that have served me well when hosting, so let’s get right to them.
1. It’s all about the Timeline
Read any home/entertaining/cooking magazine worth its’ salt and you will surely find the good ol’ holiday checklist. They usually have you start 2 or 3 weeks out and take you right up until the serving of the turkey. However, as much as I love a good checklist I’ve found it to be WAY more helpful to take my menu and create my timeline by counting down backwards – starting with serving the turkey.
For example if I want to serve the turkey at 5pm … then my timeline builds like this-
4:45pm – Carve turkey
4:30pm – Turkey out of oven to rest
11am – Turkey in oven
10:45am – Preheat oven to 350
10:30am – Prep the turkey
9:30am – Bring turkey to room temperature
You would create a timeline for each item you are preparing from sides to gravy to desserts to apps and overlay all of the times to create a master schedule. I’ve also found it helpful to put in the name of the person who is responsible for each item (and if they’re not helping, why the heck are they at your house for dinner??). Then create the same schedule for the days leading up to T-Day (which won’t be nearly as detailed) but you’ll see which items you can prepare ahead of time and when you need to do your shopping. It’s not too complicated and with that master flow sheet you’ll be able to operate on automatic pilot and really enjoy the time with family and friends without being worried about something falling through the cracks.
2. Post-it Notes!
At the holidays I use the heck out of post-it notes (you should buy stock!). After I buy all of my ingredients, I’ll group them together by recipe in an unused space – usually my dining room as I’ll be moving them by the time I need to set the table. I’ll put a post it with each group noting what I’ll be making and any last minute/fresh ingredients I’ll need to grab or if something needs to be defrosted at a certain time. I also pull out all of the serving trays, bowls, platters, and utensils that I’ll be needing on the big day and label each with a post-it so that when it comes time to serve I know exactly which piece I’ll be using. Most people underestimate how long it takes to identify which food is being served in which bowl/platter and which big spoon you’ll be using to dish up. This will save you a lot of scrambling around when you’re trying to get food on the table while it’s still hot.
3. Football and the Meat Sweats
By the time the turkey has been eaten, the wine & beer consumed and dessert inhaled everyone is pretty much in a food coma. Don’t forget the two most important factors that impact any holiday clean-up … football and the meat sweats. Between these two phenomena you will lose the majority of those who you were just breaking bread with. Make sure you are prepared for a quick and easy clean-up so you can enjoy the end of the evening as well. Hopefully you’ve used only the best type of dishes/glassware/silverware … those that can be popped into the dishwasher! As tempting as it is to use your “good stuff”, resist the guilt you feel for not using it the rest of the year and do yourself a favor – don’t use anything that needs to be washed by hand. Also make sure that you’ve stocked up on lots of leftover containers – not only to keep but also to send home with your guests. Having a nice inventory of freezer zip lock bags is also a good idea in the event you can’t bear the thought of even looking at turkey again anytime soon.
As a thank you to all of you who give me such awesome feedback and support throughout the year (which I am so appreciative of!), here’s a link to my all-time favorite Thanksgiving recipe … Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake. Enjoy and Cheers to you!!