With Thanksgiving in the not so distant future, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of preparing a meal for a large crowd of people. With all the cooking and planning involved, we often lose sight of the joy surrounding the season and it's easy to forget to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends. Figuring out how to make the process painless, and even enjoyable, is possible by simply creating and following a set of preparation guidelines leading up to the big meal.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving:
Create a list of all the guests you would like to attend your celebration. Once invites are extended, follow up to ensure they all RSVP and note if they have any dietary restrictions or allergies so you're not met with any surprises at the last minute.
Create a list of all the recipes and ingredients you will need for your meal. To ease the stress of a major shopping trip right before the big day, you can start shopping now for nonperishable items like stuffing mixes, canned items, flour, and sugar. You can buy a turkey and pop it in your freezer. Make sure you check your local papers for coupons, as many stores offer great deals a few weeks prior to the holiday.
Don't be afraid to ask family members or friends to bring their own side dishes or treats; many people have recipes they would love to share at your meal. Just be sure to give them time to prepare.
One week before the main event:
Figure out how you will prepare your turkey. Frozen turkeys can take anywhere from 1-3 days to thaw, depending on the size, so take that into consideration. If you have any turkey questions, go to Jennie-O.com for answers.
Know you'll have a guest on hand that won't eat the turkey main course? Offer an alternative meat that has a short preparation time like a Hormel Cure 81 ham or rotisserie chicken, so your guests have another option and you won't have to do much additional work.
Start decorating your house according to your own personal tastes. Set tables with fresh autumn flowers or purchase Indian corn and squash and place them in a vase as a centerpiece. Have your children create fun, Thanksgiving placemats by using fallen leaves. If you need some inspiration, check out some of the great place setting and centerpiece decorations from Joan Hanson.
Start preparing desserts, casseroles and other items that can be refrigerated for longer periods of time like cranberry sauce.
Use the day before to wash and cook vegetables, prepare garnishes, and calculate cooking times for the next day.
Remember not to panic if you find that you have forgotten an essential item at the last minute. There are several products you can send a friend or family member out to the store that can be prepared in just a few minutes. Grab a can of cranberry sauce or try a Hormel Country Crock side dish like Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cinnamon Apples, or Homestyle Stuffing. Your guests will be just as pleased and are likely not to notice a difference if you serve them store-bought dinner rolls and pumpkin pie.
I wrote this post as a Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger. Please do your own research before purchasing products or using services. Your opinions and results may differ from mine.