27 November 2013

Thanksgiving Sanity Savers

Despite the picture of perfection that Martha Stewart and Food & Wine magazine covers portray, hosting a holiday is no easy feat. And although I love to entertain, I am a little. bit. fussy. about the details. I have pretty high expectations of myself (admittedly, totally unrealistic expectations considering my lack of domestic abilities). But I've learned two things: It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful; and some preparation can make it look (and feel) stress-free.

via Martha Stewart

Last year, when the Sailor and I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time, we spent hours thumbing through magazines and cookbooks looking for the perfect recipes. Rather, he did most of the recipe review and cooking. And I did the prepping and organizing.

There were a number of tools that I used for the first time last year and modified this year, which has made it a breeze to plan!

As far as prepping the serving areas -- bar, buffet and table -- I used a list based on entertainer extraordinaire Jenny Steffens Hobick's planner.

Here's my list along with a few tips:

  • Find a spot in the pantry or in a corner of a room, out of the way, where you can begin to organize and assemble things for the bar, table and buffet.
  • Stick little labels, post its or pretty holiday stickers on serving dishes will make it easy if guests or children volunteer to help get food on the table.  Having a prep area with the serving dishes set out ahead of time keeps the cooking area traffic-free and prevents the hostess from rummaging through cabinets and drawers for serving dishes and utensils.
  • Decide where appetizers will be served, and have small plates and napkins available for guests. Do the same for dessert.
  • Designate counter space or a table to serve as overflow for dishes that need to be washed.
  • Be sure to have containers, foil and ziplock bags available for guests to bring home leftovers.


Real Simple has a three page Trouble-Free Thanksgiving Prep List Worksheet, which breaks down each dish, the cooking time and temperatures, and the prep that can be done the day before Thanksgiving.

After gathering all of our recipes, we went through and filled in the worksheets, paying special attention to the second sheet that details the hour-by-hour preparation and cooking time. It's more difficult than you might imagine to try to get everything out of the oven and on the buffet table all at once!

Our "day-before" list (i.e. what we're working on TODAY!) includes tasks like:
Make dough for rolls
Brine turkey
Prep cranberry sauce
Cook turkey stock
Brown sausage for stuffing
Roast sweet potatoes
Caramelize onions
Blanch green beans

At the same time we filled in the worksheets, we also made a grocery list complete with quantities (well...last year I didn't include quantities...lesson learned).


My favorite! 

If you're printing your recipes, you might want to consider putting them in plastic sleeves to keep them clean. Although we originally found many of the recipes we use in cooking magazines, links to the online versions are below:

Turkey and Gravy
Stuffing with sage and sausage, Serious Eats
Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Caramelized Onion, All Recipes
Green Bean Casserole, Williams and Sonoma
Turkey Brine, Martha Stewart
Cranberry Clementine Sauce, Anne Burrell
Parker House Rolls 
Mashed potatoes, The Pioneer Woman
Persimmon-Pumkin Pie, Giada DeLaurentiis
Apple Pie, Sailor's mom's secret recipe

Happy Thanksgiving!

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