1. GATHER YOUR IDEAS AND RECIPES: Check out the mountains of magazines in the stores; eye catching pictures can help to inspire your menu. Browse the internet for some more ideas (foodnetwork.com, marthastewart.com and pinterest.com are my favorites). Take some time to watch the cooking channels highlighting holiday suggestions.
2. DESIGN YOUR MENU: Create diversity by including some traditional favorites from the past as well as adding a few new recipes that can become favorites in the future. Try to balance your menu with color, texture and flavor to entice your guests. And remember…you want to make twice as much as usual for leftovers!
3. CREATE A SHOPPING LIST: Write down all of the items from each recipe to make a master shopping list. You might want to break your shopping into several trips if time allows: packaged & frozen items the week before, turkey the week of, produce 1-2 days before you cook. Try not to get caught up in all the frenzy; there will still be frozen turkeys the day before the big day – you just may have to flash thaw the turkey or eat later in the day! If something you want isn’t available, choose something new!
4. PLOT A TIMELINE: Timelines detailing when things should be completed helps to avoid snafus like having two things needing to be cooked at the same time on the stove or in the oven! It helps to construct one by working backwards from the time of the meal. Try to do as much as possible ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy doing something special or spending time with your company.
5. CHOOSE YOUR SERVING DISHES: This will save guessing which food will go in which dish on turkey day. Label the dishes with the food item that belongs to it so others can help you put the food on the table and everything will stay hot longer.
6. SET THE TABLE: This is a great time to showcase your special dishes! Choose your favorites, wash and dry ahead of time and put aside covered to avoid dust. If you’re lucky to have a separate dining table, set it up early in the week to make sure it looks the way you want (again, cover with a tablecloth to protect). If not enough time, set it early in the day and always take advantage of extra hands!
7. CREATE A CENTERPIECE: Professional arrangements should be ordered at least a week in advice; cut flowers/arrangements can be purchased in most grocery stores up to the day. Think about alternative centerpieces to flowers: edible arrangements are wonderful substitutes – use what’s in your refrigerator (lemons, oranges, artichokes or asparagus make great choices). Get kids involved and make a paper cornucopia or turkey…this could add interest to your table and inspire conversation among your guests.
8. PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER: Clean your main rooms a few days ahead, then do a quick run through with a duster the day before. If you’re entertaining overnight guests and have a separate area/room for their use, make sure the bed has clean sheets/blankets and there are a set of fresh towels; add a special touch with an amenities basket like those found in hotels – sample sizes are readily available in most pharmacies or discount stores or a ready make basket can be purchased from a wholesale store.
9. ADD SOMETHING DIFFERENT: Try adding music to your special day: use a portable cd/mp3 player with a speaker, the computer or even music channels on the television to set the mood. This will help create a welcoming environment for all those who enter your home.
10. RELAX AND STAY FLEXIBLE: Try to find some pockets of time each day leading up to the big Turkey day to relax: 15 minutes of a relaxing activity will lower your stress levels – walk, exercise, meditate or just breathe! And there’s bound to be mishaps – remember to stay flexible and accept whatever comes your way – you’ll work through it.
Cheers to a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving!