Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving or inviting a crowd for another celebratory meal, you know that the menu guides the planning. How will you manage cooking times, oven space, make all your fam favorites (including those that haven’t been updated for generations) and satisfy all tastes? With all of the preparing (and dare I say at times…stressing?) it’s natural to compensate by over doing it. Not this year. Use this holiday meal GPS and you will get where you want to go with less stress and more time for the joy of the season.
Plan Your Route
Planning is key to a successful holiday meal. With so many fabulous recipes and holiday cooking specials (that no doubt make it look very easy), it’s natural to want to make everything. But your holiday table doesn’t need three different root vegetable dishes or too many sides for that matter. Rather, plan a main dish (protein), two-three starchy sides (if three, then you can prepare less of each) and 2 vegetable dishes. Note: Guests will want to contribute to your meal. Unless you want to make it a potluck event, I recommend requesting appetizers or desserts.
Head to the market. This is where it can get a little overwhelming. Plan a minimum of two trips to the store. Several days before your holiday meal, purchase non-perishable goods. Keep in mind that this is your first opportunity to update your Great-Great-Great Aunt Millie’s stuffing recipe by ensuring you purchase better-for-you ingredients (whole grain bread and low-sodium chicken broth, for example). Remember that frozen turkeys take several days to defrost safely in the fridge, so pick up the turkey on this trip too. Just before the big day, return to the store for the perishable foods you need to complete your meal. Shop early in the day for the most options and least stress.
Last Leg of the Trip
The menu has been planned and the food is on deck just waiting to become your next fabulous festive meal. Avoid roadblocks by mapping out cooking times and temps; make meals ahead of time the day before and then take advantage of day off…by the time guests arrive all should be made except the turkey. While the turkey rests (which is an important step to avoid creating Turkey Lake on your tables), you can warm things in oven. Note: Depending on the size of your party, I recommend setting the table the night before or early the day of.
One Hour to Go
You’re almost there! Use this last hour to double check your table, place serving pieces for your meal and the appetizers your guests will be bringing. Ensure that your dishwasher is empty and ready to be easily refilled. Finally, take a moment for yourself to refresh. After all, it’s been a long road trip.
You did it! Now is the time to relish and give thanks for the beautiful meal you can share with family and friends. No matter what, you have put together a meal to remember and an evening to treasure. Enjoy your destination…something tells me you’ll be visiting again next year!
Need directions to a balanced holiday meal? We’ve mapped out a route for you right here:
Note: Review these recipes and dice vegetables all at once to save time.
Wild Mushroom Stuffing (make ahead and warm while the turkey cooks)
Apple Onion & Cranberry Stuffing (make ahead and warm while the turkey cooks)
Sweet Potato Wedges with Apple Cider Reduction (these can cook while the turkey rests)
Orange-Scented Green Beans with Toasted Almonds (cook on the stove top)
Apple Crumb Squares (prep the crust and casserole dish for this dessert ahead of time and slice apples just before cooking; cook this dish while the table is cleared and pair alongside whipped cream or vanilla ice cream)