It's November 5th and Thanksgiving Day is exactly three weeks away. (Cue Psycho-esque scary music here.) Whether you will be serving a house full of guests or a special dinner for two, preparing your kitchen ahead of time and thinking through your entertaining plan of action now can definitely save last-minute hassles on the big day. Here are some of our ideas and tips for getting ready for the impending holiday crunch.
- Prepare the Kitchen. Before things get crazy, organize your pantry, fridge and freezer, use things up (go all Iron Chef on it!) and make yourself aware of which holiday pantry basics you have or need.
- Attack the Task List early. Write up a non-food related To-Do list with chores such as "create a centerpiece" and "polish the silver" and "vacuum the house." Write this one up in time to get a couple of things crossed off every day for the week or two leading up to the big day.
- Plan Ahead. Plan meals and make shopping lists, being mindful of how much to buy and serve for how many people. Use the chart on our holiday website to help you figure it out.
- Choose Crowd-Friendly Recipes. If you will have guests staying in your home, don't forget to plan for meals other than Thanksgiving Day. Choose hearty, satisfying, affordable recipes. Big-pot meals with self-serve condiments are ideal: chili, curry, red beans and rice, stew, etc.
- Use the Freezer. Prepare big freezer-friendly recipes ahead so you can just heat and serve later. And don't stop at lasagna and soup, breads and muffins and cookies freeze well, too.
- Learn to Cook at Least One Thing. Choose a perfect entertaining dish to become your sought-after signature item for the season to take along or serve at home.
- Practice Makes Perfect. Trying out some new dishes? A stressful, busy "game day" kitchen may interfere with your best efforts, so a practice run may be in order for any new recipes with a multitude of ingredients, cooking steps or both, such as a fancy dessert.
- Cook something for everyone. Chances are your guest list may include someone with a special diet need. Big holiday meals are actually perfect - since there are so many dishes, there is bound to be something for everyone. Check with your guests to make sure you are aware of their needs, and review our tips on Entertaining Guests with Special Diets.
- Enjoy the More the Merrier. Guests almost always ask what they can bring, and usually enjoy contributing! Make a short list and be prepared when asked, leaving leeway for creativity and culinary talents.
- Don't be Shy of the Full Potluck. Most people like to show off their favorite holiday dishes. Give them an opportunity to share them!