Turkey Day always seems to sneak up on us. November rolls around and Thanksgiving is immediately on your mind, you have nearly a month to plan the perfect dinner, but the next thing you know, the big day is just right around the corner. It all sounds so stressful, but the good news is, it doesn’t have to be. It only takes a few days to plan a lovely, enjoyable Thanksgiving celebration. All it takes are simple details and plan-ahead organization. As a personal chef, most weeks feel like the week of Thanksgiving for me. These tips that I use every week to plan my dinners and events will put you right on track to being the host with the most on Thanksgiving Day.
Plan Ahead and Make Ahead
-Grocery shop over several days. Three to four days before, buy all items that store easily over time. One to two days before, buy items you want to serve at their freshest.
-Use a “lists” app to grocery shop. Write out your menu then create a different grocery list for each dish you plan to make. Check off each ingredient as you go.
-Clean your refrigerator out before you go grocery shopping. It’s great to start the holidays with a clean, organized fridge, plus you’ll need plenty of room for all the ingredients you bring home.
-Make ahead as much as possible. It may surprise you what all can be made a stored in plastic containers days before – dressings, sauces, even some veggies can be chopped a day or two before. When storing, label containers by using tape and a marker. Reheat or finish day-of.
-Write out an organization sheet. It should include days of the week and what you plan to make and store on what day. Highlight and cross off as you go.
Don’t Overcomplicate the Menu
-Make dishes with few ingredients. This will help your grocery trips flow and your days in the kitchen quick and easy.
-Don’t insist on having all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. If it helps, narrow it down by taking a poll and choose the most requested dishes.
-Know it’s ok to have a simplified dinner. One main dish and two to three sides never hurt anyone’s feelings. As long as the food is really delicious, everyone will be happy.
-Ask your guests to be responsible for the appetizers or desserts. That takes one course off your back and will make you feel more at ease when in the kitchen.
Entertain with Organization
-When guests arrive, they will immediately ask if they can help with anything. Give them a glass of wine and put them to work. It helps to already have a list of what each person can do.
-Have simple appetizers out when guests arrive. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just a few little nibbles for everyone to snack on before the big dinner.
-Scatter appetizers on different tables and in different rooms. This gets guests mingling and keeps them out of the kitchen while you work.
-Set up a drink station away from the kitchen. Consider having one simple signature cocktail, wine, beer, water, and various non-alcoholic beverages. Everyone can serve themselves – it keeps them occupied and you don’t have to worry with asking what every guest wants to drink when they arrive.
Make the Day an Event
-Don’t just have a dinner party. Have a party! Be prepped for guests to come early and spread each course out. It’s also fun to pair wine or cocktails with each course then have coffee, espresso, or cappuccinos with dessert.
-Set a beautiful table. Include your nicest dishes and a floral or DIY centerpiece. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive, just make the effort. Also, consider setting the table the day or night before - less to worry about on Thanksgiving Day.
-Ask everyone to dress up. Seriously, what ever happened to the days when people dressed up for dinner? It’s Thanksgiving – it only comes once a year – dressing nicely is a must!
-Have plenty of entertainment. Football on in one room, music playing at dinner, and maybe a holiday movie to end the night. There should be something for everyone.