Monday, November 14, 2011

Hosting Thanksgiving 101

So, Thanksgiving is slightly less than 2 weeks away. If you're like me (a total foodie freak), this is YOUR holiday! It's a day where the sole attention goes to the food and the family rather than gifts and all of the other distractions that come our way all year.

For the past two years I've hosted Thanksgiving. You can see my recaps here:

This year I will be hosting my third annual Thanksgiving (assuming I'm not in labor since I'll be over 38 weeks pregnant at that point!) but I am keeping things simple so please don't yell at me for hosting. I decided to compile a list of tips that I have used over the years to make the process easier. I hope you find these helpful, it keeps me sane and keeps my husband from leaving me... because believe me, there is nothing less attractive than a freaking out 38 week pregnant woman.

Tip 1: Plan the menu. Like, now. If you're hosting and still don't have a menu you need to get on that immediately. I tend to write down my whole menu on my computer with links to any recipes. I also contact family to see what they are willing to bring (which this year is quite a bit since I'm taking it easy). Some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes from the past can be found here.

Tip 2: Once you have a detailed menu, label next to each recipe what container it will go in. For example, my list says "Corn Casserole- White 9x13 dish". This takes all the guess work out of it. Want to take it a step further? I also write what I'll serve it with. So next to "Corn Casserole- White 9x13 dish" it also says "Silver Lenox spoon." I learned this after my first year of running around without enough serving ware.

Tip 3: By this Thursday, one week out from the BIG DAY, you should have your grocery list made and ready to go. I simply go through each recipe and write down the ingredients. Once that's done I take the list and tally up how many of each items I need (some items like "sour cream" will show up in 2-3 recipes, so I make sure to tally just how many containers I need). Also, for good measure, add an extra box of butter to your list. Both years I've hosted I've ran out of butter. I never learn.

Tip 4: The weekend before Thanksgiving is the time to deep clean the house and make sure all of the serving ware is clean and ready. This is also typically when I do my food shopping. Me and every other looney tune in the state of NJ. Just expect to spend a lot of time in the store. Also, if you are ordering anything from a bakery (like rolls, pies, etc.) do it now too.

Tip 5: If your turkey is frozen, figure out when you need to defrost it. Most likely it needs to be in the fridge by the end of the weekend to completely defrost. Here's some helpful info on defrosting if you're stuck.

Tip 6: At some point on Monday or Tuesday go back to your list of recipes and see what needs to bake at what temperature and for how long. Then make a list with times for each dish to enter the oven and the temp it needs. I find it helpful to also include things like "take a shower" and "put the appetizers on the table" in my time schedule. It might seem trivial but these are things that fall behind when you're busy!

Tip 7: The day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, is more or less go time. I spend that day working like crazy. I chop all of my veggies, including potatoes (which you can submerge in a bowl of water in the fridge to keep from turning colors), and package them. I brine my turkey. I also use this day to bake my rolls, make my herb butter, assemble my corn casserole, and prepare any dish that can be prepared. I don't cook anything but I have as many things prepared as I can. I then store everything in the fridge with notes on the tin foil of how long/what temperature. 

Tip 8: That night, before you go to bed, set the table. 

You'll be glad it's done. If you want to be crazy and make little edible place settings like I do, you can. If you think I'm nuts, it's ok... 
This is also the time to do any last minute cleaning and make sure your house is set. Don't leave that for Thursday, it's just too much.

Tip 9: Wake up early enough to get the turkey in the oven with enough time to cook before your guests come. ( BTW- jumping ahead a bit, but I saw a great tip on Rachel Ray for keeping the turkey warm when it's done- take it out, cover it with foil, then cover the foil with a large blanket/towel. She said it keeps it perfectly hot- I can see that working quite well. It also allows you freedom to take it out a couple hours early and use the oven for other things, or so Rachel Ray claims.)

Tip 10: Pull out that handy dandy list you made in Tip 2 and Tip 6. FOLLOW YOUR LIST. If you're a list person like me this is extremely satisfying. If you're not... you probably stopped reading this insane list some time ago. 

Tip 11: Have fun. This is supposed to be fun! If you set a potato on fire (like I did one year...) it's all good. Just keep trucking. 

...and above all else, remember this day is about family. So enjoy your time with them.


  1. I was nodding along with you as I read your tips. This is also my third year hosting and I'm starting to feel a bit more prepared than my first two previous years! Have fun!

  2. Just as an fyi, if you cover the turkey with foil and towels, it will keep cooking for a lot longer, since the heat is trapped in. Make sure it doesn't dry out! (I speak from experience lol)

  3. Your edible place settings are adorable!

  4. aw very very cute! i am def excited about turkey day this year! cooked my first BIG turkey last year and it turned out PERFECT so im gonna try to cook another big bird :-)