Stress Free Thanksgiving

Other Eden’s Guide to a Stress Free Thanksgiving

Every year since our marriage started in the 1990’s, I have hosted either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at our house.  I am by nature a “last minute Lucy” and this has caused me A LOT of unneeded stress.  Thankfully over the years  I have developed a system to help me avoid the last minute chaos of poor planning.  I used to start sweating the moment the calendar page flipped to November, but now I have my to-do list arranged week by week and that is key to a stress-free Thanksgiving (or any holiday) dinner for 4 or 24.  I hope this guide will help you to not only look forward to preparing a big meal, but also to enjoy the process.  I love entertaining and cooking all my favorite foods for all my favorite people to enjoy, but I do admit the holidays add a little extra measure of anticipation (or maybe anxiety is a better word.)  We all have visions of Martha Stewart’s Holiday Table with her handmade Thanksgiving decorations, beautifully set dishes, elegantly folded cloth napkins not to mention 6 different courses all made from scratch.  The pressure we put on ourselves to pull off the perfect holiday is intense.  But fear not….a wonderfully, beautiful holiday is entirely possible without the stress!  Here’s my plan to make the holidays a little less stressful.

First Week of November:

Pull out all your serving dishes to see that they are in good repair.  There is nothing worse than realizing your turkey platter is cracked and won’t hold your 25 lbs turkey the day you are planning to use the turkey platter.  This happened to me a few years ago! So, check all your serving dishes, platters, and cake/pie pans.  It never fails that over the course of the year several wine glasses get broken leaving me with not enough glasses to serve the amount of guests I have coming.  So-make sure everything you are planning to use to serve your guests are in good shape and that you have enough.

Second Week of November:

Gather all your table linens to make sure that they are ironed (yes, you read that correctly) and not torn, stained or damaged.  I always use cloth napkins no matter how large the crowd I am serving.  How many occasions do we actually have to bring out all the good china, crystal, silverware and cloth napkins? Think of it as a labor of love to your loved ones.  I also wash my tablecloths and napkins right after a dinner party and then iron them before putting them away.  I don’t want to be having to iron anything the day of my event.  Ironing long tablecloths and then folding them is going cause you to have to iron them again…instead of folding them, roll them and store them that way.. They will stay nicely ironed for your next event. 

Third Week of November: 

Plan your menu! I know most of us have dishes we’ve been serving or have been served our whole lives.  This year I am still serving all my favorites, but each with a different twist, which I will share in another post/blog. After I decide what the menu will include, I make a list of all the ingredients needed along with the wines I intend to serve. I buy all the non-perishables the beginning of this week.  At the end of week, I buy the refrigerated items including the turkey.  Most turkeys are frozen when they are delivered to the grocery store and will need a good week in your refrigerator to defrost. 

Thanksgiving Week: 

I usually set my table two or three days ahead of time. I do not want to be worrying about table setting the day of my dinner! I also assemble all the dishes that can be made ahead of time on Monday.  My sweet potato soufflé, stuffing, and a few other casseroles can all be made on Monday, ready to bake on Thursday.  On Tuesday, I bake my cheesecake (Martha Stewart’s Classic Cheesecake recipe is the one recipe I will never tweak or change!) I also make any other desserts than can be made ahead of time and save baking them after dinner.  On Wednesday evening I prepare my Turkey and put it in the roasting pan.  Then it is all ready to go first thing in the morning. Thanksgiving morning I make a very simple breakfast….and by simple, I mean SIMPLE.  I buy Trader Joe’s frozen croissants. (Just remember to leave them out the night before.  I have forgotten this on more than one occasion!) Because I slow roast my turkey, I have plenty of time to assemble any last minute dishes, cook my cranberries and drink a few glasses of wine.  I also get my coffee pot ready to brew so I can serve after -dinner coffee for those guest who like coffee with dessert. 

That’s it! It’s really not overwhelming when you make a plan and then execute the plan. I hope you find this guide helpful and that your Thanksgiving will the be most joyful one yet!

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