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  • Suzanne Yearley

Thanksgiving Countdown: Tips and Tricks for a Hassle-Free Holiday

November 11, 2017

Suzanne Yearley




I had big plans for Thanksgiving. I wanted to give you everything that you needed to be prepared for the holiday weeks ahead.  I have definitely fallen short of that goal, and am disappointed for letting you down. I hope to do much better next year.  But modern life is like that; sidelining our best intentions and interrupting our plans. So although I am planner who likes even more cushion, this time schedule is probably more realistic. So you are less than two weeks out, but do not fret. You can still pull off a beautiful holiday without stress. Here are a few tips to help with that. You can always save it for next year, and start earlier. At least that is my plan!


My Thanksgiving survival list:


Two months to one week out (sweet spot this year!):


1. Plan your table:

  • Order any dishes or glasses that you need to accommodate additional people.

  • Order centerpieces.

  • Place orders for any rentals such as tables, chairs, linens, dishes, etc.


2. Begin to explore menu ideas: 

  •  Think about dietary concerns, number of people, mood of dinner (casual, buffet, elegant seated, Southern-flavor, New England Style, vegetarian, etc.)

  •  Another important thing to consider: a mix of dishes that can be made ahead and reheated and perhaps one or two to finish right before serving. This is particularly important for a stress-free holiday!


3. Enlist kitchen help; family or otherwise.


4. Make and freeze any items that you can: this will save invaluable time later.

  •   stock for gravy (Express Chicken Stock from the Lentil Soup Post  can be used)

  •   pie crusts (See today's post for Flaky Pie Crust)

  •   crisp topping (freeze in zip lock or other containers, put frozen topping on cut up fruit (such as next week's post Apples for Crisp or Pie) mixed with sugar, flour and flavorings, bake and serve.

  •   carrot cake (can be frozen, completely frosted, or the layers and frosting can be frozen separately, thawed, put together and served.)

  •   pumpkin bread

  •   sweet potato puree (such as today's post Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Vinegar)


Preferably, one to two weeks out:

  1. Finalize the menu.

  2. Confirm number of guests.

  3. Divide responsibilities.

  4. Make the grocery list

  5. Divide the list between pantry and fresh items

  6. Shop for pantry items with a longer shelf life.

  7. Order your turkey.

  8. Order wine.


One week before:

  1. Make a detailed prep list and divide by day.

  2. Make a time line of when foods need to come out of fridge/go into oven/be reheated so that dinner will be ready on time.


A few days to one week before:

  1. Work on prep.

  2. Set table.

  3. Set up serving dishes with labels so everyone knows what dish goes where.

  4. Complete grocery shopping.

  5. Wash greens and leafy herbs and store in refrigerator to crisp.(3 days before maximum.)


One to two days before:

  1. Make mashed potatoes. (See next week's post on Ahead-of-the-Rush: Garlic Mashed Potatoes.)

  2. Put together Butternut Squash Gratin, if serving. (See next weeks post on Butternut Squash Gratin with Sage and Caramelized Onions.

  3. Make other make ahead dishes.


Day of the Holiday:

  1. Take a deep breath.

  2. Complete your prep list.

  3. Get dressed.

  4. Execute your plan.

  5. Pour yourself a large glass of wine. You deserve it.

  6. Fill the water glasses.

  7. Smile! You are hosting a beautiful meal.

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