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5 Tips to Make Hosting any Thanksgiving Gathering as Easy as Pie (Pumpkin That Is)

Thanksgiving is almost here!  This is SUCH an exciting time of year…I love the blend of family, festiveness, and delicious food!

We could not approach the hostessing holiday of the year without checking in with our dinner party expert, Jennifer Dutcher.   Check out her Must Read NOW Guide that will make your Thanksgiving Day more about celebrating and less about work!

Tip 1: Get Organized Early

– A week before Thanksgiving, ask yourself the following questions: How many guests are coming? (I usually count only adults for food quantity purposes, but add kids in for a seating count)

What’s the menu?  What am I responsible for making and what are others bringing?  I have found it helpful to keep a written menu on the side of the fridge to avoid forgetting to serve something.  Think through appetizers, the main meal, dessert, and beverages.

Create a shopping list.  Consider ingredients for recipes, paper products, and any decorations or serving platters needed.

Create a schedule for yourself.  For example: Monday-> grocery shopping, Tuesday-> accomplish all house cleaning, Wednesday-> prep food and set table, Thursday-> last minute preparations

Tip 2: Go shopping the Monday before Thanksgiving!

I have found this to be surprisingly helpful, for several reasons: the grocery store isn’t overcrowded, all the things you (and everyone else) need are more likely to be in stock, and, this allows you to complete step 3…

Tip 3: Start defrosting your turkey in the fridge seriously early.

Most turkey recipes recommend allowing 2-3 days of in-the-fridge defrosting time to get the turkey ready to go.  I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner a good 5 times in the last 10 years, and at least 4 of those times, I was soaking my turkey in a cold water bath in my kitchen sink to convince it to quickly and safely finish defrosting, which to be honest grosses me out.  A giant raw bird in my sink is something I would prefer to avoid.

Tips 4 & 5: These can be summed up in one- do everything possible ahead of time.  That way you can be the cool as a cucumber host that relaxes with their guests while munching on some delicious appetizers and sipping on a glass of wine.

Set the table ahead of time.  Everything goes on the table the night before Thanksgiving or earlier.  This means dishes, silverware, serving platters, serving spoons, and centerpieces.  If you’re concerned about dust, set your dishes and glasses upside down.  I’ve found it helpful to plan what serving platters I’m using for which dish and label them with a sticky note.  Refer back to your menu, and set out your platters. That way you know you have enough platters (and Thanksgiving specific servers like a gravy boat, etc.).

Prep as much food as possible the day before Thanksgiving, not the morning of.  Plenty of little things will pop up Thanksgiving morning- a last minute run to the store to get ice, or a desire to sit and watch the Macy’s Parade.  It is amazing how much you can accomplish ahead of time.  I’ll prove it… Last weekend we hosted a Thanksgiving themed dinner party with 21 adult guests in attendance, and I did minimal work the day of the feast.  I was responsible for a couple of appetizers, turkey, stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes, buttery green beans, salad, bread, and apple crisp.  I technically started my food-prep way early.  We had ridiculously plentiful apple trees on our property this year so I sliced apples, tossed them in the appropriate seasonings, and put them in a freezer-safe ziplock about a month ago.  All I had to do was defrost them, put them in a baking dish, and mix up the topping the day before “Thanksgiving.”  We made dip, sliced cheeses and cured meats, as well as veggies, ahead of time to get a head start on appetizers.  The day before our feast, I also prepped the turkey (popped it in the roasting pan over carrots and celery, with spices rubbed all over it), made the stuffing (put it in a casserole dish to bake the next day), and prepped the roasted sweet potatoes (peeled and diced them, coated them with EVOO and added spices, and put them in the fridge in a large ziplock bag).  I was able to place the turkey in the oven and arrange the plates of appetizers in the morning, put things in the oven as necessary, and then leisurely make green beans on my stovetop and toss together a salad while guests were hanging out with me in the kitchen.

Yay!  Thank you, Jennifer, for these tips that will get us perfectly prepped to host a fun and relaxed Thanksgiving!