Thanksgiving Dinner Planning Tips

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how much to serve


Well, here we are with the Holidays fast approaching. Next week, people! The anxiety is real! I have been making a shopping list for a month and yet I haven’t set foot into the grocery store yet. I’m a slacker. Don’t be like me. But on the bright side, I have informed all my relatives that I will be hosting Thanksgiving, what time to arrive, what to bring and what not to say to so-and-so to avoid an all out brawl at the dinner table. Now it’s time to get shit done; hit the aisles, prep all the goodies, thaw the bird, yadda yadda. I have been harassing my family in order to get a pretty solid idea of how many people I am going to be feeding. My sister, who I speak to on a bi-annually basis has received a phone call from me every other day this month. Do you think she has confirmed her place at our dinner table? No, she has not, because she is a pain in my ass. But it is because of people like her that it is very importnant to prep and plan your feast before hand. You might get the extra 5 or so non-committed guests that stay for dinner and you better have a plate for them dammit, she’s your sister! (Did I just mock my mother?!)

Since we moved into this house a couple years ago we have been hosting Thanksgiving. We have tons of room both indoors and out for family to gather and stuff themselves and now that I have figured out how to plan a large meal without having 75 lbs. of leftovers… seriously.  A couple years ago I made 5 pounds of damn bourbon carrots thinking that the same 26 people who showed up randomly the year before would be joining us again. They did not. I didn’t ask for and RSVP and I went fucking crazy with vegetables.  Besides being a giant waste of some good bourbon – I had 4 pounds of candied freakin’ carrots left over that nobody wanted. maple-bourbon-carrotsIt wasn’t that they weren’t delicious, because they are so fucking delicious but with all the other amazing left-overs, 3 day old mushy carrots aren’t on the top of the list.  I had just done some lousy planning and made more food than my guests could eat. This is the time to be thankful for the things we have not mad because your guests can’t pack away pounds of liquored-up tubers. It hasn’t been the worst Thanksgiving disaster but it sucked having to get rid of so many left-overs weeks later.  I have painstakingly perfected my skills to cook the right amount of shit so that everyone still gets their Day-After Turkey Sandwiches without forcing my family and friends to eat leftovers into mid-December. I’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to!

Below are some tips that I have compiled to help you plan and host an amazing, stress-free Thanksgiving Feast for your family and friends.

This easy Feast Planning Chart will help you plan how much food you need to prepare depending on your number of guests. You’ll need 12 bottles of wine if you’re feeding 20 people – I have no clue what your guests will drink 😉

Prep and store

No one wants to spend all their time in the kitchen when you could be enjoying the overly-competitive touch football game on your front lawn while sipping on one of the recommended 12 bottles of wine, amirigtht? After you have a tentative number of guests its time to kick yourself into gear. I usually start 2 days before Thanksgiving and go hunt down the turkey fryer and all the serving dishes. I get the tables set up inside and make sure I have enough chairs. (Oddly enough, I never have enough chairs. Its like a curse.) THAW YOUR TURKEY! We deep-fry ours so we have to have a completely thawed bird. Last year our turkey was 25 lbs. and it took us 4 days to thaw. Yup – 4 damn days. Depending on the size of your turkey, you should probably think about thawing that sucker out now. If you are still not up on the latest food trends, now would be a perfect time to fry your turkey! I can’t even describe how juicy and wonderful a fried turkey is. Try it, I guarantee you will love it.

You should make your salads and appetizers the night before. Desserts and bread can be made in advance also – although I usually tell my guests to bring a dessert. This way you get a sampling of everyone’s favorite sweets and it frees up your oven for your other dishes!   You should also hit the liquor store the night before. Not because you need a stiff drink (or maybe you do!) but because you want to make sure you’re not making a last minute beer run when you should be relaxing watching football. Plus, it’s nice to have a glass of wine while you start preparing Thanksgiving morning. You want to drink that early then you better plan ahead and get the goods the day before!

See the Feast Planning Chart to help you decide how much of the goodies you will be needing! Pretty handy! Twelve bottles might seem a tad excessive especially if you’re like me and have a family of beer drinkers. It’s always nice to have several bottles of red and white on hand for the occasion but you know your guests and their preference, so go with your know-how and tweak to suit your tribe!

There are a few sides that you can easily make in the slow cooker: mashed potatoes, creamed corn. If you get all the ingredients in the crockpot the night before all you have to do is turn on the slowcooker when you wake up and they’ll be ready to serve by mid-afternoon.

Appetizers and Salads are kind of like the bread & butter of the feast, well, except there is real bread and butter – but you get my drift. For Thanksgiving I cook for 20 people so I prepare two salads, one leafy green salad with dried cranberries, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette and this year I’m going to have a creamy cucumber salad. Remember, suit your guests tastes and not Pinterest expectations!

Set it and forget it

No, no this isn’t some Ronco infomercial. I’m talking tables-scape and how you should set the table(s) before you start cooking. For most people this is something that they do last, but I know that my kitchen is a damn disaster the whole day while I am cooking and I’d rather not be digging through my cabinets searching for that one dish for the pickles while my gravy burns.

Make yourself a big cup of coffee and gather the kids to help you with table cloths, place settings and centerpieces. If you do buffet style dinner you can plan your layout and set all the serving dishes and utensils out. Plan a place to put your drinks and appetizers so that guests can help themselves without getting in the way.  This is just one less thing you will have to worry about when you are surrounded by hungry family anxiously awaiting the feast. Now you will have more time to focus on cooking and football! We have a kids table that we set out crayons and coloring pages – that way the kids can occupy themselves with some activity other than stabbing one another with their forks. I’ve seen people suggest crafts for the kids table too, which I think is a great idea. We have really mild weather still, so I can set the kids out on the porch to do crafts.

I also like to have a large stash of storage containers. Everyone wants to take left-over goodies from Thanksgiving dinner. I make sure that I have containers that will hold a couple servings of each dish for guests to take with them. Disposable storage containers are on my Thanksgiving shopping list! Set them out in the kitchen so that once you have come out of your food coma you can transfer all the extras to-go! This will also keep you from searching for something you’re willing to part with and help you save room in you fridge!

It might seem like a lot to get done and with a bunch of kidiots running around it might be a little hectic, but it is important to remember that this is a day to enjoy. Be thankful for your family and friends and your holiday will go far beyond your expectations!

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