This year, for the first time in many years, I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with my mom. It’s the favorite for both my mom and myself, so you can imagine we’re pretty jazzed about it. In fact, we’re already working on planning our menu and figuring out the timeline.
If you’re hosting Turkey Day dinner this year, it’s wise to start planning now so that your meal goes smoothly and there are no last-minute surprises. Here are some ideas that can help you get a head start on preparations:
Determine your guest list. Figure out how many people are coming, and make sure you have chairs, place settings, glassware and flatware for everyone. This will give you time to buy or borrow what you might need to supplement what you own.
Plan the menu. I like to incorporate the traditional offerings that are part of my family’s annual meal (i.e. the turkey, my mom’s stuffing recipe, the pumpkin and pecan pies) with new recipes and ideas. With the November issues of food magazines on the newsstands now, it’s a good time to flip through magazines and recipe books, or search the Internet to find some new recipe ideas to incorporate into your meal. Why not try an interesting salad, or a different side dish? If you’re nervous that it won’t turn out well, try making it this week and serving it at dinner, so that you can practice and make sure it’s something your family would like.
Check for guests’ needs. Particularly if there will be new friends or family members at the table, ask around to make sure your guests don’t have any eating restrictions. This way you can make sure that you’ll have enough for them to eat. If you’re expecting vegetarian guests, decide what sort of entrée you will serve them, whether it’s a hearty lasagna, a Tofurkey roast, or a quinoa-stuffed squash.
Shop and bake in advance. Now’s the time to order your free-range turkey from the local farmer, if you haven’t already, and to make sure your pantry is stocked with all the staples and dry ingredients you need. You can even get a head start on some of the cooking and baking; pies (or even just the pie crusts) freeze well, as do certain casseroles and other side dishes.
Decide on your décor. If you like to go all out with holiday decorations, shop for them now before the selection is picked over. Better yet, if you have children, get them involved in making a centerpiece for the table from dried leaves and pinecones, or painting or drawing little pictures that you can use as place cards.
Share the wealth. With our nation’s economic woes, this is likely to be a tough Thanksgiving holiday for many families. As you do your holiday shopping and planning, consider buying a little extra to contribute to a local food bank, and make sure to deliver it well ahead of time so that it can be put to good use.