No matter what size your gathering will be this year, if you offered to host Thanksgiving, we want you to know that we are here to help! It is arguably the most important meal of the year (no pressure!), so make it special! If you’re asking, what have I gotten myself into? You can do this. Take a deep breath, check out this list of practical tips and prepare to make tackling turkey day look easy. Heck, you might even enjoy it!
Tip #1: Don’t Turn Down Help
You’re doing the heavy lifting by cooking the main meal and offering up your home as the host of Thanksgiving dinner. Even if you’ve let us do the cooking, you still have much a lot to do and most invited guests will respond with “What can I bring?” Prepare a few answers for when the offers of help roll in. Being a good host doesn’t mean you’re responsible for every single thing. People genuinely do want to contribute something, so if you don’t have an answer they might all bring a cheese tray (ok, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing). Consider letting someone else bring the wine, appetizers, dessert or even extra chairs. Maybe ask a close relative or friend to help with the dishes after. Just don’t ask the person who’s always late (you know the one) to bring the appetizers!
Tip #2: Make It Ahead
Get ahead of the game by preparing as much as you can one to two days before. First, write out your Thanksgiving plan, collect recipes, and gather items and ingredients to avoid a last minute run (or two!) to the store. Chopping vegetables, toasting nuts, making stocks and sauces, baking desserts, brining the turkey, and assembling casseroles can all be done the day before. Anything that cuts down your time in the kitchen while your guests are around is a good thing. Your friends and family came to see you, so you don’t want to spend the whole time cooking. And you deserve to enjoy the day yourself, too.
Tip #3: Keep Guests Engaged (especially the kiddos)
Giving younger invitees things to do can give your Thanksgiving get together a relaxed vibe and may even give everyone a chance to enjoy their meal at a more leisurely pace. Chances are the adults will join in the fun, too. Offer younger kids a chance to get involved in the meal prep by setting the table or heading outside to collect colorful fall leaves for decorating the spread. Older kids can get in on the action by peeling vegetables or taking guest drink orders with a notepad. Set up a classic kids table for dinner time that’s stocked with paper placemats (how about this cute one that was drawn by our Zingerman’s illustrator?) and crayons to draw what they’re thankful for (again, great for everyone). For dessert, in addition to the pumpkin pie, put out some cookies or cupcakes and embellishments (think frosting, sprinkles, granola, candy corn, chocolate, and dried cherries). Have a few party games and a cocoa and coffee bar at the ready to fight off a food coma after the big meal and keep the fun going longer!