Thanksgiving is almost here. I kind of can’t believe it. November is one of those months that just flies by, and this is part of it. We just had veteran’s day off, and next week I have a two day work week. Which is good, as we are hosting, and I need to get ready!
I figured I would share a few tips for a less stress (there is always a bit of stress when hosting any sort of event, don’t kid yourself into thinking otherwise) Thanksgiving. We happen to be hosting 10 people, including my parents, younger brother, husband’s parents, and his sister, her husband, and their 2 year old. We had a very successful Thanksgiving two years ago with the same crowd (although the 2 year old was about a month old at the time), and in a smaller place. We have a great entertaining space, so we should be good for that, as well as a fabulous new table.
If you’re like me, you stress a bit about what the table should look like. I scoured Home Goods and found some really great candlesticks to go in the middle (pictures coming soon), and my parents have a plethora of bittersweet that I will have them bring me. Add some candles, plain white plates, red napkins, and bam, instant holiday cheer. Another option is to use cranberries as decorative items. They’re cheap, and totally holiday appropriate! Just throw them in a small jar or vase, with or without tea lights. Or scatter them on a platter and plant candles in between (thanks food network for that one).
To make the holidays a little bit easier on you and your wallet, have your guests bring food. This doesn’t work so well if they are coming from super far away, but my guests are coming from an hour to an hour and a half away. Nothing a good cooler and a bit of time in the oven can’t fix. I always make the turkey (more on that later), and the gravy and mashed potatoes (that husband of mine actually makes these). I usually make a dessert as well.
My mom will bring a leftovers turkey, which is a brilliant idea. She has already cooked and carved a turkey for me, all she does is bring the meat so that everyone can go home with delicious leftovers, and I don’t have to stress about cooking a 30 pound bird. She also gets the carcass so she too can make soup.
The rest of the food is usually divided up by who likes to make what, or who has a great recipe that everyone requests (like my mom’s wild rice and goat cheese stuffing).
Another pro tip is to have everyone bring their own Tupperware for leftovers. That way, you’re not trying to hunt it all back down after the day is over. Kitchen bags work well too in a pinch.
Now for the turkey. I’ve been using the same recipe for a few years now, this one. I will warn you, Giada’s cooking time is off, and I ended up with a slightly undercooked bird. But I had plenty of time to pop it back in the oven. Another thing you will definitely want is an oven thermometer, as well as an instant read thermometer for the bird. I got a new instant read for Christmas last year, and it’s the best thing ever.
I also brine the turkey the night before, usually in just water and kosher salt. I don’t know the recipe off the top of my head, but my husband claims it is written on the side of my “turkey bucket” as I call it. I have never not brined one, so I couldn’t tell you if it really makes a huge difference, but I happen to like the way it turns out, so I don’t mess with a good thing.
We usually go pretty casual for dinner itself. Due to space restrictions we do buffet style, and will continue to do so. It makes your table look less crowded, and it’s just easier for you. Unless you happen to have a certain cat that likes to jump up on the counter when there is company around. This year it will be a bit tricky, and we might have to lock him in the bathroom during dinner, as we have no other rooms with doors.
I generally don’t do seating arrangements, although this year I am toying with the idea of place cards, just because they add a little bit of formality and prettiness to the table. But I also don’t like to tell people where to sit. I also get weirded out when I get to sit at the head of the table at my house, especially when parents are present. That one I’m just going to have to get over.
As far as everything else goes, I kind of go with the flow. We generally clean up after dinner, lounge around, digesting, and then break out dessert and coffee. I always like to have games on hand, in case anyone wants to play. People always watch the football game, as my dad is a Dallas fan, and they ALWAYS play on Thanksgiving. Luckily for him we have DVR, so he won’t miss a thing. That also means they have to stay until the game is finished.
For our first Thanksgiving two years ago with both of our families, we weren’t really sure what was going to happen. Everyone got along, and according to my husband, for who Thanksgiving wasn’t a big deal (it happens to be my favorite holiday, along with Halloween), he and his sister marveled at how great it really can be. Sure it is about the food, but it’s also about family and friends and just being together. I am so excited to host in our new home, and I hope to try and assign a photographer for the day. Maybe my dad. Or my brother-in-law.