Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tips for a Stress-free Thanksgiving

Whether your Thanksgiving table looks like this

Or like this

Chances are you are probably experiencing some food anxiety as well as some family anxiety in anticipation of Thanksgiving a week from today.  We all know what this is like; that aunt who always gives you faint praise for the dinner you have worked so hard to create, when you know she's had so much gin she can't taste anything.  Or the parents who criticize every aspect of your house, yard and children. We all know who they are and who we might be if we are visiting someones home.
With that in mind, I've developed a few tips for keeping sane during this very stressful time of the year, so that the table doesn't look like this....

Try and set the table a day or two ahead, cover it with a sheet  to keep dust and kids, and pets off of it. 

Fill your washing machine with ice and chill your drinks/wine/sodas in there; the water drains out and your don't have to be lugging coolers around.  Great wines for pairing with turkey are Reisling, and Pinot Noir.
If you are having more than 8 people at the table, set up a buffet line; more than 8 at the table makes it difficult to pass platters.

If you set up a buffet, make sure all your platters will fit on the tables---label each place where a platter will be placed with post-its.

Have teens or young adults help seniors to their chairs, and help them with the buffet line.  

Use a meat thermometer to register done-ness---170 degrees.  

Always let the turkey rest at least 30 to 45 minutes before carving (trust me, it will still be hot)

NEVER use the plastic pop-up meat thermometer that will come in the turkey (actually remove it from the bird) It works on a moisture principle and when there is no more moisture in the bird it pops up--giving you turkey jerky or the Griswold Family Turkey. 

Get your knives sharpened this week--no one wants to see you next week.  

Make a few things ahead and refrigerate or freeze them.  Good choices are: most sweet potato dishes without egg, green beans can be cooked a day ahead, cranberry relishes benefit from being made ahead, butternut squash (either side dish or soup) gravy (you will have to look here to find out how)  desserts.  

Make a shopping list and include the non-cooking items like napkins, and plastic trash bags, and paper towels.  

Always start the party with a clean dishwasher and a clean trash can--nothing worse than having to take the trash out in the middle of the party.  

Give yourself permission to order things: veggie trays, rolls, desserts.  All of these things take time, and energy, and if you have great sources for any of them---use them!  

Make your company feel welcome---traditional Thanksgiving is what they are expecting, so if you decide to serve turkey curry instead, warn your guests.  

This year as we give thanks I am reminded of the years my family spent in Japan, when my husband Chuck served in the Navy. Our house was open to everyone, and we adopted lots of singles who would come for the holidays, as well as couples, but the men who were without their families tugged at my heart.  This year we have troops with and without their families stationed around the world, making a difference for our country. To celebrate this most American of holidays in a foreign country is surreal to say the least, but to do it from a tank, or in a remote area of Afghanistan must make it even harder.  We all need to remember and give thanks for the men and women and their families who serve in our military; whether we agree with their mission or not, they choose to serve and for that I am grateful.


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