Holidays such as Thanksgiving can be wonderful times of the year, but when unplanned can become very stressful. There are many things you can do to make this stressful time of year run more smoothly. Today I will discuss ways to make the dinner portion of a holiday much easier. First you need to make a list of the people you will be inviting. You will need a turkey or ham big enough to feed them, so you should go to the store a few weeks before and purchase either a ham, turkey, or both that are large enough to fee everyone with some to spare. If you do buy one bigger than you need you can use the leftovers for other things too. So don’t be worried about getting one perfect, but always apt for a larger one than a smaller one.
You then need to plan what dishes you will cover, some people may opt for fixing everything and not having their guests bring anything but themselves, others might want to ask them to bring a side dish and a dessert. If you want to have your guests bring an item, you need to tell them what items you will be furnishing. At our dinners, we always furnish drinks, turkey or ham or both, dressing, baked beans, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy for turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and rolls. We tell our guests to bring whatever they want, but this is what is covered. This helps them decide what to bring.
You can make some dished a day or two in advance and then reheat then. I suggest making your mashed potatoes ahead of time because they can easily be reheated with the addition of butter to make them taste freshly made. All you need to do is boil them, and then mash them adding just your milk and salt. When you get ready to heat them again just add your butter and they will be perfect. You can also make sweet potatoes in advance. All you need to do is mix them up ahead of time and then bake them as you normally would. The day of your dinner, just put them in the oven to reheat. They actually get better when they are warmed the second time. You can also save time by making your green bean casserole. Just mix it up like you normally would, but don’t bake into until that day. You will save time because you won’t have to mix it all up and prepare it that day. Your stuffing can also be mixed the day before and baked the day of the dinner.
Other tips to help you are to take your turkey out and get it thawed in time for dinner. This is a big mistake that many people make when they get ready to cook their first big family dinner. You should remember it takes at least five hours per pound to thaw a turkey. For an easy menu for beginners you can look at this one at All-Recipes here. The key to stress-free dinners is planning. Always make sure you have a game plan for the order of operations. A turkey or ham take up a lot of room in the oven, so you should try to do as much ahead of time as you can and allow yourself plenty of time to do the last minute items.