Surviving the BIG Day…

Howdy friends!  Well, it’s that time again.  It’s the day that either strikes fear in the heart, or fills one with excitement.  Yep, I’m talking about Thanksgiving!  Turkey Day…the big T. 

For those of you who will be cooking the feast, take heart.  And, particularly if you are hosting for the first time (perhaps with the new in-laws), this segment is especially for you.

I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for over 20 years, and I’ve made just about every mistake in the book.  Fortunately, I have friends and loved ones who were very understanding, back in the days before I cooked for a living.  Now, it’s become a bigger holiday for me than Christmas, to be honest, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! 

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things that have really made the difference in my stress level on Turkey Day.  I simply do not believe that any meal is worthwhile if the cook is a frazzled mess by the time they make it to the table!  It’s just not worth it.  So, here are ten tips that will help you have a very smooth Thanksgiving meal:

One- Do as much planning as you possibly can.  This will save you time and save you money.  Plan your menu, and from there, make your grocery list.  It’s probably a good idea NOT to try a bunch of new recipes for this particular meal. It’s a challenging enough meal—don’t stretch yourself too thin. 

Two—check the papers, check the internet, check social media sites.  They will all have coupons.  You can save some good money on your Thanksgiving shopping if you do a little research.

Three—Remember that you can do a LOT of cooking the day before.  Most stuffing recipes, all of your pies, your sweet potato casserole and even your salad can be made a day in advance.  Start the night before and then all you have to do is re-heat.

Four—Make sure you remember that unless you have a kitchen like Mario Batali, you won’t be able to cook everything at once.  So, time it all out.  Figure out which items can bake together, and just how much room the bird will take up in your oven.

Five—If your family likes mostly white meat, then it’s not a sin to get an extra breast of turkey.  You roast that the night before, then get a smaller bird for the day of, and no one will be the wiser!  I do it all the time!  Then, I take all of the dark meat and make turkey soup!

Six—Don’t forget to brine!  Brining is the process of soaking poultry in water and salt to make it more moist.  And BOY! Does it WORK!!  Google “brining” to find your favorite recipe, or just go to the Food Network website.  You can even find videos on YouTube which will show you how to do it.  It’s the most divine way to prepare your turkey for roasting and ensure that it’s the juiciest evah!

Seven—if you are planning for a house-full, make a list of what I call “busy work”.  When people come to my house, they feel guilty for just hanging out and always want to help.  Often, it really isn’t helpful!  But, of course, you can’t tell them that!  So, I make a list of things—“get all guests drinks”, “help set the table”, “make sure each dish has a serving spoon”, etc. etc. These are simple things, yes, but they’ll feel helpful and by having a pre-made list of tasks, you won’t have to be thinking while you’re rushing to get everything on the table!

Eight—Don’t forget, a glass of wine always helps!

Nine—Remember, you don’t have to provide every item on the menu, especially if this is your first time!  Let your guests bring their favorite side dish, or pies or rolls, or whatever.  Delegate!!  It will relieve your stress and make your loved ones feel as if they have contributed.

And finally, remember, when you sit down at the table, RELAX.  There aren’t any food critics sitting opposite you.  No one is going to write a bad YELP review if the cranberry sauce is too tart.  The important thing is that you are opening your home to people you care about.  You are sharing a table together on a day when we all count our blessings, and most of your guests will just be happy to be with you.   Because the key to every great meal is sharing it with old (and new ) friends. 

So, do a little advance planning, take a deep breath, and relax.  It’s only a meal.  And even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly, they’ll all be asleep watching football within an hour anyway.  😉

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