How to Host Thanksgiving Dinner and Still Stay Sane

Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/marksurman/">Mark Surman</a>/Flickr/<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons License</a>

Some people start breaking a sweat when they think about all the work involved in hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. But the holiday need not be a "Top Chef" drama — you can host a beautiful Thanksgiving at your house with less stress, less mess, and plenty of time to sit down and sip some wine before the first guests arrive.

Here are five ways to stay sane... starting now!

#1 Do trial runs on new recipes before the big day. I love trying new recipes, but Thanksgiving Day is not the day to make family and friends your guinea pigs. If you're making anything for the first time, make it the week before so you have a chance to tweak the recipe to your liking. After all, who can complain about a week-long Thanksgiving feast?

#2 Utilize all available heat sources in the kitchen. Those of you who have two ovens, I envy you. The rest of us have to make do with what we've got, and that includes a single oven, toaster oven, barbecue grill, stovetop, even the slow cooker.

Plan ahead and you can have an entire meal full of hot dishes without stacking 'em on top of each other in the oven. If you grill the turkey, that frees up the oven for stuffing. If you make the mashed potatoes in the morning and keep them warm in the slow cooker, that frees up the stove for sauce and gravy. If you roast the root veggies the night before and warm them up in the toaster oven, that's one less dish to cook when it's crunch time.

#3 Don't want to spend all day in the kitchen? Make it a potluck. One of the first things guests usually ask when invited to dinner is, "What can I bring?" Don't be afraid to answer.

If you're hosting a large gathering and have limited time or resources to prepare everything, it's perfectly acceptable to take care of the turkey while guests bring side dishes and drinks. Ask your loved ones to show off their specialities (no one ever turns down an opportunity to share a favorite recipe), while the non-cooks can bring cheese, olives, wine, cider, flowers, or even just help with setting the table.

#4 Inventory your plates, cutlery and glasses ahead of time. Once you go through cocktail hour, appetizers, the sit-down dinner and then dessert, it's easy to run out of dishes long before you reach the digestif. Don't do that awkward last-minute dishwashing to free up more forks; simply ask another guest to supplement with a second smaller set of tableware (including napkins and coffee mugs) that you can dip into should the need arise. If you're particular about looks, IKEA, Target, and Home Goods are ideal places to raid for cheap, complete dinner sets.

#5 Always start Thanksgiving dinner with a clean and empty sink. There is nothing worse than finishing an amazing meal, only to face a pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen — from three hours ago. When you're prepping all the food, wash as you go or run the dishwasher right before you sit down to dinner. This cuts cleaning time in half and relieves your guests of polite obligation to clear the kitchen. Because honestly, all we really want to do after dinner is pass out in our food coma.

Happy Thanksgiving planning!

About the Author

Linda Ly runs the award-winning blog Garden Betty, which chronicles her adventures in the dirt and on the road. From her South Bay abode, she shares farm-to-fork recipes, raises backyard chickens, bakes bread and makes jam and sti...
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