Waiting until the last minute to pull together a holiday feast is for those who like to live dangerously. A checklist, advance planning, and the right tools will let you greet the holiday season feeling prepared and confident. This countdown to Thanksgiving gives you a simple idea each day to help you get ready for the big feast. You can apply this countdown to large gatherings you host any time of year.
Invite your guests. Send an email out this week for a general head count so you can start a menu plan.
Start gathering your recipe ideas. Why not start a new side dish tradition with Savory Mashed Root Vegetables? You’ll need a trusty swivel-action blade vegetable peeler for all your veggie side dish plans.
Have a tear-free holiday season. A food chopper can tackle onions in seconds. Get one now, so you’re ready for all your veggie prep.
Florists get busy right before the holidays, so place flower orders now.
Make a playlist. Cue up your favorite tunes that evoke sweater weather, home, and gratitude. Consider some rootsy, acoustic background music or golden age big band jazz.
Here are some basic rules to keep in mind for about 25 guests:
- 2 gallons of lemonade, punch, or tea if alcohol is being served.
- 4 gallons of lemonade, punch, or tea if alcohol is not being served.
- 2 alcoholic drinks per person for the first hour and 1 drink for every hour after.
- 1½ lb. of ice per guest.
A well-stocked kitchen and quality tools will make holiday meal prep much easier. Here’s a list of essential kitchen tools and pantry staples you’ll need to get holiday meals on the table without the fuss.
This week, decide what menu items you can make ahead of time and freeze. Soups and casseroles are good candidates. Leakproof containers will be your holiday BFFs before and after the big meal.
Decide on side dishes. Will you go traditional or get inventive with dishes that will surprise and excite your guests?
- Savory Herbed Stuffing
- Pecan Crumble Sweet Potato Casserole
- Roasted Vegetable Salad with Apple-Cider Vinaigrette (Check out this helpful Roasted Vegetable chart for prep tips and roasting times.)
- Moroccan Meatballs with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
- Autumn Baked Ziti with Squash
- Apple, Beet & Carrot Salad
Consider vegetarian options for your menu.
Plan your desserts. Plan on a 3-inch wedge (⅙ of a 9-inch pie) for each guest. Stock up on dessert-making must-haves like batter bowls for mixing, stackable cooling racks to save counter space, and a pastry blender for the perfect homemade pie crust. Here are 10 tips to avoid most common pie-baking problems.
Turkey Thawing Tips: Refrigerator thawing will take 24 hours for every 4 lb. of turkey. Put your whole turkey breast up on a Large Baking Sheet. An 18 lb. turkey will take about five days to thaw in the fridge. Once thawed, that bird can stay in your fridge for four days before cooking.
Basting Tip: Give the bird a one-time greasing with a baster, then roast without peeking. The more you open the oven door, the longer the turkey takes to cook!
How do you know when the turkey is done? After about three hours in the oven, insert an oven-safe thermometer deep into the thigh without touching the bone. Start checking the turkey for doneness about 30 minutes before the recommended cook time. Your turkey is done when the temperature reads 180°F in the thigh and 165°F in the breast or stuffing.
Use the weekend before Thanksgiving to clean the house and clean out your fridge. Reusable cleaning cloths can outlast 15 rolls of paper towels which makes them a great choice for your wallet and the planet.
Write your holiday grocery list and get to the store. If you forget something, you’ll have a few days to run back out and get it.
Assemble and bake your pie in a beautiful stoneware pie plate. The stoneware draws moisture away from the food so baked goods turn out light and crispy.
Chop, chop, chop. Prep as many fresh ingredients as you can. You’ll be giving your knives a workout, but luckily a high-density polypropylene cutting board will protect your countertops and help prevent knives from dulling.