Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving Dinner Preparation Tips

Imagine a perfect thanksgiving day.  Everything prepared on time, turkey done to perfection, a clean kitchen, and you - a relaxed and gracious hostess.  It's not impossible.  In fact, it's very easy.

There is nothing worse than a frazzled perspiring hostess and a kitchen that looks like a bomb exploded in it to make your guests uncomfortable.  

  1. Planning is number one for a reason. No plan = a hassled hostess.  By now you've probably made your menu. (I hope so.)  During my younger years, my menu was made one month in advance. For a large party, I routinely started two months in advance. Now take a good look at that menu. If you have many dishes that require a lot of  last minute prep, get rid of them. Quantity of dishes does not equal quality.
  2. Some shopping can be done a week in advance.  A frozen turkey can take as many as 5 days in the fridge to thaw.  Frozen veggies, canned goods, and condiments can all be rounded up weeks in advance.  Have a detailed list and cross things off as you get them
  3. Three days in advance purchase all your fresh items, and the day before send hubby out for the rolls. 
  4. On Wednesday do all your prep work.  Clean veggies for relish trays, chop celery and onions for stuffing, clean lettuce and bag it all up. If you have room in your fridge, you can even make your sweet potato dish.  Send hubby out for rolls.  If you have an early dinner, make sure you have some yummy special bread so later in the day the guys can have turkey sandwiches.  Football always makes them hungry!
  5. Step five is very important and one I see few hostesses, even experienced ones, do!!! Completely SET YOUR TABLE!  Make sure your glasses sparkle and your silver or stainless is spotless.  Put out all serving dishes and the serving utensils. LABEL the serving dishes. Sound funny? It's not. I can't tell you how many times in the early years, after all the guests had left, I realized I had forgotten to serve a dish. That was a sure sign I had too many dishes.
  6. On Thursday, depending on what time you will have dinner, throw together your stuffing and get that bird in the oven.  A BIG hint - put the turkey in earlier than you think is necessary. A turkey wrapped in foil can sit around on the counter for up to 45 minutes with no harm done.
  7. Now make your mashed potatoes and put in an oven proof dish.  Put together salads, relish trays and put butter on the table. Put dinner rolls in baskets and cover with napkins.  Assemble veggie dishes.  If you have planned properly, all the side dishes will fit in the oven when the turkey comes out.
  8. Clean as you go!!!  I'm lucky 'cause hubby does that for me. If you have young children, have hubby watch them or hire a neighborhood girl or teenage realtive to do that for you.  You can also appoint a teenage relative to help serve.  If there are lots of young children in your family, round up a willing teenage relative or two to entertain the kids.  Reward your helpers with a nice gift certificate to their favorite store.
  9. Try and serve a desert that can be made the day before.  And don't be afraid to buy a few deserts.  Throw away the packaging and no one will be the wiser.
  10. If you are having cocktails before dinner, set up a bar away from the kitchen area.   In my present house the laundry room is small and located right off the kitchen.  I already have a pretty skirt across the front of the washer and dryer so I only have to throw a pretty table cloth on top of the machines, put out a bunch of candles, a small arrangement, and voila - a bar. My hubby makes the first drink for each guest and after that, they're on their own.  Simple.
  11. What if something does not turn out quite right?  Do not, I repeat, do NOT say one word to anyone. If it is really bad, hide it under the sink and get on with having a good time. Sometimes a "disaster" can turn into something really nice. One time I decided to splurge on an expensive mixed fruit tart at Costco.  I put it on the back seat and on the way home had to slam on the brakes.  Well, that tart looked pretty bad.  I got out my very best crystal glasses, spooned bits of crust, fruit, and the custard filling in layers with some homemade whipped cream. After dusting the top with cocoa it was pretty elegant.   It was  a huge hit and no one was the wiser.
  12. Now take a shower, put on makeup, style your hair.  Take out turkey, pop in the side dishes, fill water glasses, put out relishes, open wine and put on table, and light the candles. Pour a glass of wine and take a break before your guests arrive.  You will greet your guests looking pretty and calm. Your kitchen will sparkle and so will you.
How About That Table Arrangement?

Keep your table arrangement narrow and long if you have a rectangular table so it doesn't take up a bunch of room.  And also keep your arrangement low so people can see each other and talk. And, please - no scented candles on the table.

This is an example of a good centerpiece - simple and elegant. It might need to be a tad shorter, but you get the idea.

Or this one from Rose Petals of Ashville:

Adding  some votives to this arrangement would make it perfect.

While I find this next arrangement to be absolutely stunning (love the colors), it would be a huge impediment to conversation. If you're lucky enough to get such an arrangement, save it for the buffet or the coffee table.

This is a rather cool "zen" sort of arrangement. I love the sentiments written on the rocks.

 To keep from last minute confusion, have place cards and have hubby or your "assistant" help when seating guests.

I am a firm believer in the children sitting at the table with the adults.  I hated being relegated to the "children's table" when I was growing up. That never happened at our home, but very often did happen at the homes of relatives.  If you expect young children to learn how to properly behave during meal time, they must be given the opportunity.  Besides, Thanksgiving is all about family, isn't it? So what if 18 month old Bobby throws a roll at Grandma?  Sounds kinda fun!

And always remember to give thanks...


Anonymous said...

Adrienne - this is fantastic advice, not only for the holidays, but for any gathering during the year. I've bookmarked this page. Thanks so much!

Mark in Spokane said...

Good advice indeed. My mother always sets the table the day before any major festivities, and your advice regarding early food preparation is another bit of wisdom she passed on as well.

A lot of this stuff isn't rocket science, but people entertain on a large scale so rarely anymore that very few of us really know how to go about it.

Great look to your blog, by the way. Very nice. You've obviously put in a good deal of work here. Well done!