|Norman Rockwell’s “The Thanksgiving Picture” (1942)|
I would say that Thanksgiving is the biggest and most highly anticipated dinner party of the year. People spend weeks preparing for this event. The guest list, the menu, the entertainment…there are endless things you could spend time on to plan the perfect day. Creating this American tradition can become very daunting and stressful. However with a little planning and preparation you will be able to enjoy the company of your guests and savor your delicious meal.
Below I have shared with you a few tips and tricks I have learned by watching others throughout the years. This year will in fact be my first year preparing the entire meal. I decided to follow my own advice to be sure that I can enjoy the day as well.
1. Plan your menu.
The food is after all the main event. By planning ahead you will be able to save a lot of time and stress rather than waiting until a few days before. First you want to figure out how many people you will be serving. This will give you a general idea of how much you will need to make. To start, you want to choose a few light appetizers to hold people over until dinner. You do not want anything extra filling or heavy as everyone will be too stuffed to enjoy their dinner. Crudités, a cheese platter, or any assortment of savory dips are all good options. Plus they can be prepared ahead of time.
For the main course, you of course want turkey. If preparing a whole turkey, figure you’ll need a pound per person. Turkey breasts are good substitutes if you are only serving a small crowd. As far as the side dishes, try not to go overboard. There are so many options to choose from this can become quite difficult. Before you know it, you are mixing up ten different side dishes on top of the turkey itself. This can get a bit crazy and time consuming. Narrow down your choices to a handful of dishes. This way you are not overloaded with left overs and you’ll be able to save yourself some time in the kitchen.
Now of course you cannot forget dessert. Pies are of course the traditional ending to a Thanksgiving meal. Although there are a plethora of other options. Again, try not to go too crazy and complicated. Three to five options, depending on your number of guests should be plenty. Just be sure to have enough for your each person to enjoy.
The table setting can be just as important as the food itself. You want decor that will showcase your meal, but not overwhelm it. I enjoy the neutral colors of the season. Tans, greens, golds, and browns are all perfect for tablecloths and napkins. Throw in some pops of orange and purples for accents as well. If your table is big enough, utilize the food as the centerpiece. Throw in a few votive candles and you have yourself a beautiful tablescape. If you however will not be using the table to serve, try a few small bouquets of flowers in autumn hues. Be sure that the displays are short enough for people to see the person sitting across from them. Again, use a few votive candles to create a nice ambiance. For service, I like to use white plates and serving dishes. This will really show off the food that you’ve spent hours preparing for your guests.
3. Prepare ahead of time
There are quite a few items on your menu that I’m sure can be made or prepped ahead of time. Desserts and appetizers can definitely be made a few days in advance. This will also free up oven space on the big day. Cut up any fruits, vegetables, herbs, cheese, etc. and package them all to the desired measurement ahead of time. That way when it is time to cook the dish of choice, your prep work is already complete. Cranberry sauce, soups, or any other side dishes that are able to be made in advance can be quickly reheated and served to, again, save you more time. I can not stress enough, the more you prepare ahead the easier your Thanksgiving day will be.
I hope that these few tips and tricks will assist in your Thanksgiving Day planning. Be sure to share any of your favorite recipes, ideas, or tips as well!