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Planning for your Thanksgiving Dinner (gulp)

For 3 straight years, I hosted out of town guests, put on a meal to serve 12-18 people and then went on call for my job at either 3 or 6 that day. Last year I split the dinner with my neighbor, didn’t host anyone, had another neighbor deep fry our turkey, and didn’t work that day. Thanksgiving was like a vacation!

But if you are hosting and you are stressed out, I have some thoughts for you to make life a little easier.
1) Make everything ahead of time. I know this sounds crazy, and I would never have done it if I wasn’t forced to by my circumstances, but you will enjoy Thanksgiving so much more. I plan that everything is made by the day before and just has to be placed in the oven the morning of. I had time to socialize with my guests, I wasn’t stressed out, my kitchen was not a complete disaster and as I was making things, if I didn’t have an ingredient, no big deal. I just went out and bought it without putting the meal in jeopardy.
2) Think through the timing of everything. I only have one oven, so my appetizer goes in first, Than the turkey and sweet potatoes go in. An hour later, the sweet potatoes come out and are put in an insulated container the turkey is joined by the dressing. Half an hour later the green beans are put in the oven. Turkey, green beans and dressing come out at the same time, and rolls go in while the turkey rests. All of these things cook within 25 degrees of each other, so they can share an oven. Figure out what time you want to eat and backtrack all the times from there and WRITE it down. That way the day of, all you have to do is look at your times and know you will be fine.
3)You can’t make everything. Even if you aren’t making everything ahead, don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. I don’t make gravy (let’s hear the collective gasp) but I make an awesome cranberry sauce the week before. I only make sweet potatoes and not regular and sweet potatoes. Don’t sweat it. No one will be hungry when they leave the table.
4) Sit down with all your recipes and make a master ingredient list. Put all the dairy together, all the canned goods together etc. I know exactly how much of each ingredient I need to put on the Thanksgiving meal. And then save your list! Next year pull it out and you are good to go.
5) If you are not a pie making type of person, no worries, I’m not either. Make this wonderful pumpkin cheesecake instead! You won’t regret skipping the pie.

6) Set the table the night before. Just do it, one less thing to do when you really want to spend the day with people you care about.

Yes, this method take an amount of pre-planning that does not come naturally to me, but I love having the day to actually give thanks and enjoy my friends and family in a way I can’t if I am in the kitchen. We don’t often have these set aside times to enjoy one another, so take advantage of this special time and don’t spend it annoyed and frazzled.  

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