Countdown to Thanksgiving

My top 7 tips for a Stress Free Thanksgiving

Last year’s table in Montana. Just simple greens from the woods and tons of votive candles made for a show stopper table.

It”s finally here- November. And that means three things: Family, football and food. I have hosted more Thanksgivings that I can recall at this point. The Thanksgivings that are the most memorable are when I ask everyone to pitch in. Don’t be a martyr and try to do everything yourself. The worst Thanksgiving I ever hosted was when I made an over the top menu and did EVERYTHING myself- sherried mushroom soup- ugh, too many appetizers (don’t fill your guests before the big dinner) and I didn’t have time to make a proper gravy. I thought my sister in law was going to get up and walk out when I said there was no gravy. Who could blame her!?

Last year was probably one of my favorite Thanksgivings. Hunky Hubbie & I hosted all our children and their significant others at our home in Montana. It was small, intimate and perfect. Our children are all grown now and have become great cooks. They pitch in with the dishes, they chop, they bake and they are so much fun to be with. I don’t think I have ever been so relaxed and so happy on a Thanksgiving.

Follow my simple hints based on 30 years of entertaining and your Turkey Day will be filled with happy memories and fantastic food. After all- that’s what it’s all about.

  • 1. Plan your menu

It’s a great idea to sit down and plan the week, plan the guest list and the menu. Anything that needs to be ordered in advance- do it today.


Pie from the local bakery?

Smoked turkey?

Cross these items off the list. Don’t forget to plan who is going to pick everything up.

Kimmons and Philipp made an incredible chocolate dessert last year.
  • 2. Delegate

Take look at your guest list and ask folks to bring their special dish. My mother -in -law makes the BEST sherried cranberries and I always ask her to bring them- done.

Prep work is THE key to a great Thanksgiving

Have guests coming that do not cook? Simple- have them bring wine and bread. Be specific as well. If you want a Bordeaux , ask for a Bordeaux. Champagne- how many bottles? Brut? Would Prosecco work? A guest who is not big into cooking or food will appreciate details. If they bring wine, be certain to have them bring it chilled or in a cooler. Your fridge is going to be stuffed. Dinner rolls or bread? Perhaps they live near a great bakery. Ask them to pick up the bread & a lovely basket for serving as well.

Think through the menu and stock up on pantry staples.
  • 3. Shop & Polish

Look at your menu and stock up on items that you can get in advance. Freshen up your collection of herbs and spices, canned pumpkin, cornbread mix, olive oil, chicken broth, cocktail mixers. Look for butter on sale and freeze until you need it. Pull out your stemware, silver and china. Do you need extra serving dishes? Take time to polish up your silver and check stemware for cracks or water spots. Go ahead and iron your table linens. Also, grab extra storage containers for leftovers. I never seem to have enough once Thanksgiving rolls around because all my prepped food in in my plastic storage containers. And my biggie- get your knives sharpened. When was the last time you had someone professionally sharpened your knives? Sharp knives are essential for great cooking.

This Thanksgiving buffet was filled with dishes brought by my family.
  • 4. Prep, Prep , Prep

First thing- clean out your fridge and freezer and pantry. Do it today. Make room for the big day. Okay, now look at your menu and decide what can you really prep in advance and make a timeline for those items. Need to have chopped nuts? Chop them early and freeze. Cranberry sauce is an easy one. It can last in the fridge for days. The last two years I have found a recipe for make ahead Turkey gravy and it has changed my life. I make the gravy two days in advance and warm it up just before serving. I will post the recipe in a few days so look for it. It’s a game changer for me. Take that one really tough dish and look at the components. What can you make in advance for easier cooking on Thanksgiving Day? The pie crust? The cornbread for the stuffing? Prep.Prep. Prep.

A few simple ingredients makes for beautiful appetizer before the big event.
  • 5. Don’t Blow the Main Event

Appetizers- Less is more.

It is so tempting to make beautiful appetizers for the big day, but really, do you want your guests filling up before Thanksgiving dinner? I want my guests hungry when they sit down to eat a meal I have worked on for weeks. Instead of an involved heavy appetizer consider a simple platter of nuts, olives, fruit slices and crackers.

a table elaborately decorated with crystal, china , candlelight and flowers
Preparation is everything when serving a big crowd for the holidays
  • 6. The Table Time to pull out the good stuff

Come on- isn’t the table what it’s really all about? This is a great time to think through what your table theme will be. Pick one and stick with it. Wheat sheaves, nothing but candlelight, pumpkin and gourds, a bounty of beautiful flowers? In the photo above, that year I had an elaborate floral arrangement for my foyer but kept the tables simple with wheat, faux birch candles from Pottery Barn and white pumpkins. Remember little things like place cards. Last year I found a gal on Etsy that made beautiful printed napkin rings. I printed her art work on heavy card stock. You can see them on the first photo on this post. Have plan, stick to it and then stay off of Pinterest.

An all white table of antique linens, my Lenox gold band china, vintage stemware and simple sterling
  • 7. Self Care

It may sound silly, but what are you going to wear? Do you need to make hair appointments? Maybe get your nails done a day or two before Thanksgiving? Make those appointments today. Plan time in the day for a little rest, time to get dressed and have a glass of wine before everyone arrives.

Remember, Thanksgiving is all about family and friends. Planning ahead will allow you to really enjoy the day and your guests. And don’t forget to pick up extra dish soap and dish towels- someone has to wash all that china!

Same year- the formal dining room had wheat in mercury glass containers and loads of votives.

Don’t forget to stock up on cleaning items like Dawn Dish soap ( best for degreasing), have plenty of clean dish towels ready to go and do not overload your disposal. Pop food into a compost bin to avoid your disposal jamming on the big day.

Our happy dish brigade .

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