Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? Family and loved ones gather around, we get to celebrate all the wonderful things we’re thankful for, and we get to feast on lots of yummy food! Food-centric holidays can be tough in many ways, but they don’t HAVE to be. If you’re having the family over to your place this year, there are ways to make hosting Thanksgiving easier, so you don’t have to stress out about it!
For all the eaters, there are tactics you can use to enjoy the heck out of your celebration without ending the day so stuffed that your pants won’t zip. I cover that in this post right here. For today though, we’re just talking about ways we can simplify the hosting process. (This post was updated from it’s 2016 version.)
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While there’s always a bit of hustle and bustle involved with hosting a big group over for a holiday dinner, there are things we can do to take it down a notch or two from stressful-and-chaotic to an excited hum. I’ll get the simplest idea out of the way first. It’s so simple I almost feel bad counting it as a tip, but it’s really the easiest way to decrease your hosting stress:
Ask people to bring a dish!
Thanksgiving is a time for sharing after all, and it’s not unreasonable to share the work as well as the fruits of our labors. Spread the work around so that it doesn’t fall only on one person (you!). Everyone pitches in to make one thing to share with the group, and everyone gets to enjoy each others’ specialty. Easy Peasy!
Even if guests are bringing something to share, the host usually still ends up making more than one thing. And the whole pot-luck idea doesn’t work for many people, so if you’re making the whole meal, then you’ve definitely got a lot on your plate!
Growing up, mom always made hosting Thanksgiving look pretty easy. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized most other people find Thanksgiving super stressful to host. A big piece of that stress is the oven, and the fact that so many things, or really, just about ALL of the things, need to be cooked in the oven. If your oven is taken up with a gigantic turkey for several hours, of course it becomes stressful trying to figure out how to get everything ready at the same time!
Thus, our family’s biggest secret for a less stressful hosting experience?
Free up the oven using the Nesco Roaster!Seriously. I had no idea everyone didn’t already use this thing. The Thanksgiving turkey takes up a LOT of space, and if it doesn’t have to be in your oven, then you gain back a lot of room AND your sanity!
This thing roasts the turkey on your counter top, freeing up the entire oven for all of the other awesome side dishes (because let’s be honest, the side dishes are where it’s at anyway!). If you’re going to be needing your oven for more than just a turkey on Thanksgiving, do yourself a big favor and get one of these bad boys (or any other brand). You won’t regret it!
Speaking of sides, the other big secret to a stress-free Thanksgiving that my family uses is:
Make things ahead of time!
I know there are a lot of people who do NOT like this idea, and that’s okay. But in all honesty, your guests aren’t going to know or notice if you make a few things the day before. By spreading out the work over a few days, it makes Thanksgiving Day itself much less chaotic. That oven that you just freed up doesn’t have to be used to actually cook everything that day. It can serve to cook some things and reheat others.
Yes, some things are better made the day of, like mashed potatoes, which do not reheat well. But other foods are equally as good the day after they’re made (and some are actually even better the next day). You will usually have an idea of which foods are best made the day of, and which can be made ahead of time and reheated. Even pies can be done ahead of time and put back in the oven to warm up as you eat the rest of the meal.
So take a look at all of the dishes you plan to make for the big day, and set yourself up with a plan of what can be made the day before and what needs to wait until the day of. Even if don’t cook things the day before, you can at least get some of the prep-work done so the cooking part is the only part left to do on the big day.
One of our favorite side dishes is roasted vegetables. You can roast them the day before, put them in a 9×13 or other serving dish, then just reheat that dish in the oven before the big meal. Squash and sweet potatoes are also really good roasted. I’ve got a great cinnamon-roasted veggie medley recipe that I’ll post up next week, so stay tuned for that one!
Be sure to check out my post on how to handle the abundance of food on Thanksgiving in a way that allows you to both enjoy the heck out of it, and also not end up feeling gross afterwards. I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!