The time for holiday gatherings is upon us once again, with Thanksgiving barreling down the rail and Christmas following closely after. These get together with friends and family are usually welcome and full of good cheer. However, we also know that they can be rather stressful, especially if you’re one of the lucky ones chosen to host this year. For those of you who are hosting their very first Thanksgiving meal, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to help reduce the stress involved with any holiday get together, and we here at ThinkCrucial are here to help with our three-part series on making your holiday gatherings a little less stressful. This week, we’ll focus on seven things you can do to make your first time hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner easier on you.
Let’s face it, you might be able to wing it and have everything come out okay, but chances are, something is going to get left undone. Don’t take the risk. Start with the big things, like what time you need to put the turkey in, the guest list, and who’s supposed to be bringing what. Add things as you think of them. Keep the list on the refrigerator for easy access.
Another good way to organize is to start with what time your meal is supposed to start and then create a reverse timeline from there. Set alarms on your phone so you know when things should be started.
Prep the Week Before
Set the table the night before. That’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about and you’ll be able to get ahead of potential problems like not having enough wine glasses. If you have pets, cover the place settings with a clean sheet so you don’t end up with paw prints on the bread plates.
If you’re getting a fancy tablecloth, remember that it needs to be ironed. You can do that the day before too. It’s not just food prep that takes time. You also want to vacuum and run a spot check of your house. Put away things that you don’t want to become conversation pieces. If your guests have children, put valuables and fragile items away.
Make Food Early
Depending on your menu, there are things you can probably make in advance. If you’re going to be baking pies, bake them the day before. Your oven is going to be taken up by the turkey and stuffing, so account for that. There are many dishes that you can make ahead of time and simply reheat by popping them into the oven for a few minutes. Be prepared for people shopping for last minute items, so get things like canned pumpkin and cranberries now.
Thaw Your Turkey Early and Brine It
On average, you need 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 pounds of turkey. So if you have a 16 pound turkey, you need four days of it sitting in your fridge. That means you should start thawing it on Sunday, right? Well, start thawing it on Saturday morning and it should be thawed by Wednesday morning. You can then spatchcock it and then let it brine. Trust us. Learning to spatchcock a turkey will change your life.
If you forget to thaw your bird, you can brine and thaw at the same time if you have a cooler. Take 1 cup of kosher salt and dump it in the cooler. Add 2 liters of hot water and stir so the salt is dissolved. Add 4 liters of cold water to the cooler and you have your basic salt brine. Put the frozen turkey in breast side down and add cold water to cover the bird. You don’t have to add ice, because the frozen turkey will keep the water cold enough to keep it below the danger temperature.
Why brine it? Brining makes your bird flavorful and moist by allowing water to infuse the bird and adding flavor at the same time.
Have Drinks Ready For Guests
You can chill your wine in the fridge or keep the beer cold. Whatever you do, make sure your guests have a drink at hand. Keep soft drinks for people who are driving or who don’t partake. You can even make this great simple festive Thanksgiving cocktail. It’s a variation of a vodka spritzer, but you can make it in a pitcher and let people sample. Take 1/2 cup of fresh cranberries and muddle them in your pitcher. Add 1/2 cup simple syrup. Add 2 cups of good vodka and add 12 ounces of club soda and 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and then pour into glasses filled with ice cubes.
Let People Help
You don’t have to do it all yourself. There’s no shame in letting friends bring over their favorite variation on a green bean casserole or even bring a couple of pies. The more you let people help, the more it becomes a celebration of friends. So when someone asks you if they can bring something, don’t be shy. Tell them what you need, or what you don’t want to make. This is a time to celebrate with friends and family, after all.
Remember to Relax
This is your day to celebrate and have fun as well. Make sure you allot time to shower and get dressed. Set out your favorite scent in your aromatherapy diffuser. Peppermint blends well with the smell of roasting turkey as does lemongrass. Both are also natural pick me ups and will help keep you energized. Put on your favorite playlist while you’re getting ready. And most of all, have fun.
We here at Think Crucial hope you have a great holiday season. We hope that you can find the moments in the hustle and bustle and mess that let you enjoy your friends and family. Next week, we’ll go even more in depth on turkey prep and discuss some different ways you can make that bird sing.