Thanksgiving is THREE. DAYS. AWAY!
Did anyone just start crying or pass out? I hope not, but if you did, it's OK! You can calm down now, because Jules Clancy of the blog Stone Soup has put together a list of worry-free holiday cooking tips. 16 of them. Now breathe.
The first tip on Jules' list is to plan ahead. This is hands-down the single most important thing to do when hosting a Thanksgiving-worthy feast. If you can manage to break things down into a day-by-day or even an hourly game plan, everything will go off without a hitch. Also, if you haven't started shopping for the ingredients it'll take to make your dinner happen, start now. If you save everything until the Wednesday before, you'll risk forgetting something. It's also possible that stores will run out of things.
Another great tip she gives is to skip the starters. I don't know how many times I've indulged so much in the appetizers and not left enough room for the dinner...the best part! Jules suggests something light like a bowl of olives or some good bread and olive oil. If that doesn't sound like enough, go for a simple and elegant cheese plate!
As Jules notes, keeping the sides simple is also a great way to keep your stress level low and insure that your meal is one to remember. Not only does Jules provide a detailed list of tips in this post, but also a pretty tasty recipe for pecan crusted sweet potatoes…yum. Instead of mashing yours this year, why not try this? It’s so much easier her way.
Number 10 on her list seems like a no brainer to me, but if you don't already, please serve your dinner family or buffet style! The pilgrims did it and so should you. I don't know why anyone would want to serve a course-by-course plated meal on Thanksgiving unless they're serving the president. Sure, it looks nice. But you want people to be able to decide what they eat on their own. Plating each person’s meal before you sit down to eat also makes it much easier for the food to get cold and let’s be honest, not everybody is going to want those Brussels sprouts you worked so hard on. Your guests will appreciate having the freedom to decide on white or dark meat, canned cranberry sauce or fresh, gravy or no gravy. Get it? Good.
Lastly we have dessert. Jules suggests to either outsource your dessert from your guests or to make something ahead. I think this is a tip that most people embrace already, but it's a good thing to keep in mind on a holiday that is so focused on having everything homemade. For example, my mom can't bake to save her life. She has even managed to turn a boxed brownie mix into an inedible pan of tar. (Sorry, Mom.) Needless to say, she always has guests bring dessert no matter what the occasion.
Good thing we go to my baking-savvy aunt's for Thanksgiving...she always has homemade pumpkin pies on hand that she preps in advance.
Anyhow, if Jules' list hasn't calmed you down any, it has hopefully at least provided some great ideas for how to make your life a lot easier over the next few days. Remember, after all is said and done, Thanksgiving is about taking time out for family and friends to appreciate the little things. If your turkey ends up a little dry, so what? What matters most is that your guests have a great time and leave with full stomachs and happy hearts.
A few strong drinks never hurt either.