Planning a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a small family gathering or a large crowd can be intimidating, especially if you've never hosted such a feast before. Here are some great ideas and suggestions to make sure that your dinner goes off without a hitch, and your guests will be raving about your festive presentation on Thanksgiving day!
- Decide on a theme for your table setting. This will make it easier for you to choose table decorations like a centerpiece, napkin and tablecloth colors, and any accents that you want to add. The theme can be something simple, like fall foliage, or more complicated, like the first Thanksgiving.
- After you decide on your theme, make a list of things you'll need to decorate your table. Decorations can include lots of things like leaves, pine cones, acorns, and other naturals can be gathered outside, so plan some time for a nature walk the day before your dinner to collect these items.
- Several weeks before the feast, plan your menu. Include as many things as possible that can be prepared in advance, such as gravy, cranberry sauce or preserves, rolls, and even potatoes or casserole dishes. Many dishes can be prepared, frozen, and then defrosted overnight and reheated the day of the dinner.
- Go through your recipes and make another list of the ingredients you'll need to buy. Make sure to add things like coffee, cream, butter, and other condiments to your list. Mentally walk through the entire dinner and make note of everything that's on the table.
- For any recipes that must be prepared the day of, do as much prep work in advance as possible. Dry ingredients and spices can be pre-measured, equipment such as a food processor or mix master can be cleaned and assembled ahead of time, and vegetables can be cut, chopped, or diced and stored in the refrigerator.
- Clean and polish your dinnerware ahead of time, and keep it in a dust-free location until you're ready to set the table.
- Delegate small chores like table setting and making place cards to your kids. They'll enjoy helping out, and it will keep them busy for a while so you can concentrate on other things.
- Let your guests bring some of the dishes. If you have a cousin who makes wonderful desserts and wants to pitch in, or someone offers to bring fresh rolls, let them! They will feel good that they are contributing and making things easier for you, and you'll have a few less things to worry about.
- After cooking, your turkey should be left to stand, tented with foil, for at least 20 minutes. This will give you time to use the oven to reheat other dishes that have been prepared ahead of time, so everything will be served piping hot.
- Make use of other appliances, like the toaster oven, microwave, or your crock pot. The oven is in high demand, so anything that can be cooked or baked in a different appliance is handy.
Once your guests arrive, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Relax, enjoy your company, and make sure you're not hiding out in the kitchen the entire time, missing out on all the fun!