Thanksgiving is approaching faster than some of us are ready for, and in a sense, it feels like a chance to start anew given the last two years. You may be picking up the mantle again to host that fabulous gathering or taking that step to host for the first time. No matter where you land on that scale, hosting major holidays comes with a little anxiousness. Hopefully I can give you a little hand with some suggestions of ways to help make it a little easier.
The beverage selection doesn’t need to be overwhelming but it also doesn’t need to be sparse. Provide the basics: water, tea, Coke, and then a few items for people to make their own drinks. Get one or two sparkling sodas or waters, some citrus juice, simple syrup (super easy to make) and some garnishes. Voilà! You have a fun little way for guests to get creative crafting something new. Some of my favorite stores for these options are Trader Joe’s, World Market, and Aldi. If you want to provide alcohol, stick to two or three options for the each type of alcohol. Some good wine choices are Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Malbec, or Beaujolais.
Basic Simple Syrup Recipe:
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
Instructions: Place water and sugar in a pot on the stove and heat until the sugar has dissolved. You can flavor the syrup by steeping herbs, fruit, or tea in it for at least 30 minutes once it is removed from the heat.
These don’t need to be fancy. Keep it simple as y’all will be having a huge meal later. Think charcuterie board and let your creative juices flow. Trader Joe’s and Aldi have a great selection of meats, cheeses, crackers, dips and toppings. Play with flavors and try something new. The key is to pick something that isn’t going to utilize precious time and oven space. If it does need to be cooked, make it the day before and reheat it in the microwave.
Figure out the week before how you want to cook your turkey. This way, if you are roasting it you can plan your day of preparation list around cooking times and temperatures. It will also help you in planning the rest of your dishes. If everything is a casserole then you’ll run out of oven space quickly. Consider choosing dishes that allow you to utilize your stove, the microwave, toaster oven, instant pot, and slow cooker. You could even use your slow cooker as a way to keep a dish warm until dinner time. Try mixing it up by using a different cooking method. For instance, since there will already be mashed potatoes, maybe roast the sweet potatoes instead of mashing. In place of a vegetable casserole, maybe try a more elaborate salad or other type of vegetable option. The sky is the limit and maybe in the process you’ll discover a new Thanksgiving favorite.
The turkey can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time making it. Don’t stress; there are people on the internet who can help. One of my favorite sites for recipes, cooking techniques, and articles is Serious Eats. When I was put in charge of the turkey two years ago, I was nervous and didn’t want to screw it up because it’s the “main event,” right? So I went to my trusted sites and looked at cooking options. I ended up dry brining the turkey and it was delicious. The skin was a little salty but the meat was surprisingly not. It wasn’t dry either like you think would happen when it’s covered in salt; instead, it was actually juicer because salt draws out the natural liquid in the meat instead of adding more water like a traditional brine would.
Another method I came across was Spatchcocking. I knew you could do this with a chicken, but never considered it with a turkey. Spatchcocking actually makes the turkey cook quicker along with several other positive results. So if you don’t have a lot of time this could be the best option for you, so long as you are confident enough to give it a go.
Also, set an alarm on your phone to pull your turkey out of the freezer at least three days before so it has time to thaw plus the time it needs to brine if that is the direction you are going.
I am always up for dessert and am usually in charge of bringing the apple pie. I also feel like it’s the area that sometimes has an overabundance of items that people won’t necessarily eat. This isn’t terrible for leftovers if you like dessert, but if it’s a dessert you don’t like, then you end up throwing it out afterwards and feel badly about wasting food. So here’s what I say: provide three desserts, maybe four. If it’s a large gathering then have more, but the idea still applies: keep it simple and limited. People get overwhelmed by options. Have the traditional pumpkin pie and apple pie but then also offer something such as brownies, cheesecake, or chocolate chip cookies. Yes, it may seem weird to also have those, but this way you’re not stuck with various types of pumpkin desserts and you have a little something for those who don’t like the traditional pies of the season.
Last but not least, delegate. Delegate, delegate, delegate. This is hard because we have a natural tendency to want to be in control and for some it’s harder to relinquish that, but it will help alleviate some of that unwanted stress and make for a more enjoyable time. At the end of the day, don’t stress. People won’t care if there’s turkey or hamburger helper for dinner. What matters is that you are together with those who are important in your life.