Episode 35: October 31, 2012
by Amanda Thomas
Thanksgiving dinner is a true American tradition and hands-down my favorite holiday. When I was 22, I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner. I had just moved to Phoenix from Minneapolis, and was feeling a little homesick. Luckily, my sister lived in Albuquerque at the time and she accepted my invitation to come join me for Thanksgiving dinner. Even though it was just going to be her, my nephew, and me, I was thrilled that I would have a little piece of home for my first holiday away from the Midwest.
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In spite of the small list of attendees, I went all out with my menu. Not only did I fully commit to the spirit of the holiday and buy a whole turkey, but I made potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, broccoli, stuffing from homemade croutons, and even a homemade apple pie. I made so much food that I had to eat leftovers for the next 6 days, but I was officially hooked on hosting Thanksgiving Dinner. I’ve hosted people at my home almost every year since then.
Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, or are a seasoned veteran, today’s tips are lessons I’ve learned from years of experience and are guaranteed to make your holiday a success!
Tip #1: Invite Early
The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner is to plan early. Once you commit to yourself to hosting, the first thing you need to do is invite every single person you want to come to your dinner. Even if your friends and family are spur-of-the-moment types, they very likely commit to their Thanksgiving dinner plans by the first week of November, so start putting your feelers out there ASAP. And don’t make assumptions, actually invite. Just because you mentioned to your best friend that you are hosting dinner, doesn’t automatically mean she’s coming to your event. You still need to formally invite her so she doesn’t accept another invitation because she doesn’t want to crash your dinner.
On the flip side, don’t assume that your friends aren’t able to make it simply because their family is close by. It is more and more common for baby-boomer parents to hop a flight to visit their siblings in another state, leaving their kids behind to fend for themselves on Thanksgiving. Invite anyone and everyone you would want to have at your dinner, and then let them tell you if they can make it or not.
Tip #2: Plan Your Thanksgiving Recipes
Once you have at least a couple of RSVPs, it’s time to start planning your menu. If you’ve never hosted Thanksgiving dinner before, or are looking for some new and fresh recipes, hop on over to a recipe website like Food.com or Allrecipes.com and search for “Thanksgiving Recipes.” You will get everything from traditional green bean casserole, to new twists on sweet potatoes. Once you have your recipes written down, start watching your local grocery store ads for sale prices on your ingredients. Most of the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner go on sale 2-3 weeks before the actual holiday, so stock up early to save!
Another reason to have your Thanksgiving recipes written down is that your guests will inevitably ask, “What can I bring?” If you have your recipes planned out, you can tell them exactly what items you need to fill in the blanks. If you realize that you are low on desserts, ask a friend to bring a pie. If you absolutely hate cooking vegetables, ask your sister to bring her famous corn casserole. And when your vegan friend asks what you’re going to be serving, you can show her the menu and ask if she would like to bring a vegan dish to share with the group.
Tip #3: Cook in Advance
For years, I used to cook everything for Thanksgiving dinner on the day of the meal. It was a little bit of an adrenalin rush for me to make sure everything was coming out of the oven and off the stove at the same time. I would wake up at 7am, start preparing, and get cooking just in time to clean up before our company arrived. I thought this method was great; I even had a timeline that I used year after year. Then, a couple years ago, I wanted to get into the holiday mood earlier, so I started preparing Thanksgiving dinner the Wednesday before the holiday.
The next day, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. My casseroles were all premade in the fridge, just waiting to go into the oven. My vegetables were chopped and ready to be steamed. And my desserts were just sitting there looking at me. By the time my guests arrived, I actually had my hair and makeup done, which was NOT standard practice in years past. It was so stress-free that I have done it every year since. Obviously some things can’t be cooked early, like the turkey, but almost everything else in the meal can be prepped and ready to just pop on the stovetop or into the oven.
While it may seem intimidating to host Thanksgiving dinner, armed with these tips and a little planning, I promise that you can do it. Help is there if you need it, either from your mom or the Butterball hotline, so just commit to hosting and get started with your planning. Besides, if you like someone enough to invite them into your home for a holiday, they probably like you enough to forgive you if your turkey comes out of the oven golden brown on the outside, and frozen solid on the inside.
If you have any questions on hosting Thanksgiving dinner, post them in the comments section below, on the Domestic CEO Facebook wall, or find me on Twitter where I’m @TheDomesticCEO. Or, if you’re looking for some recipes to get you started, check out my Thanksgiving Board on Pinterest.
Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.
Apple Pie, Recipe Box and Woman with Pie images courtesy of Shutterstock