Brought to you by Gala Tuesday
Whether it is your first year cooking the turkey, or your fifteenth, chances are you are at least a little nervous. Your in-laws might be coming; your estranged cousin might open that closet where you threw all of the mess from your living room; or your boss might make a joke about how a raise is in your future if the food is good. Although the essence of Thanksgiving is wholesome, it seems like the stakes are a bit higher than most other holidays -- but maybe that's just me!
Here are my tips to make the day a bit more manageable:
Don't tell your guests what time the official meal will start
If you tell people that you will be sitting down to eat at 4pm, then they will expect to be fed at 4pm. Save yourself the stress of failure and of serving undercooked root vegetables by keeping the timeframe flexible. Luckily, it is a holiday where people expect to come early to watch the game, play a game of cornhole, etc. Take advantage of that!
Have plenty of appetizers
Although you will probably have a general cooking schedule in your head, your bird might need an extra twenty minutes. Present your guests with a cheese plate, pomegranate seeds, or other snackable munchies to keep them from poking their head in the kitchen.
Inform your guests of the menu far in advance
Especially if you are inviting newcomers to your holiday feast, or blending multiple families, let them know a few days in advance what you are planning on serving and what they can offer to bring. You don't have to make six different types of potatoes like Monica - just casually let them know that you will be making mashed garlic potatoes so they can adjust their expectations. There is nothing worse than your mother-in-law showing up and politely (and passive aggressively) commenting about how they always have scalloped potatoes for Thanksgiving......
Joey: Hey, Monica, I got a question. I don’t see any tater tots.
Monica: That’s not a question.
Joey: But my mom always makes them. It’s like a tradition. You get a little piece of turkey on your fork, a little cranberry sauce, and a tot! It’s bad enough I can’t be with my family because of my disease.
Monica: All right, fine. Tonight’s potatoes will be both mashed with lumps, and in the form of tots.
Monica: What, Phoebe, did you whip the potatoes? Ross needs lumps!
Phoebe: Oh, I’m sorry, oh, I just, I thought we could have them whipped and then add some peas and onions.
Monica: Why would we do that?
Phoebe: Well, ’cause then they’d be like my mom used to make them, you know, before she died.
Monica: Ok, three kinds of potatoes coming up.
Plan B: backup bird
If something goes horribly wrong - which it might!! - always have a backup bird. No, you don't need a second entire frozen turkey. My hack - rotisserie chicken. Of course, it is different than chicken, but if your bird catches fire, or if it doesn't defrost properly, have a backup. Just remember that a chicken is much much smaller than your 20-lb turkey, so you might want to buy a couple. You can cut/tear it apart when it is warm, and just reheat if needed. Plus, it freezes easily if your turkey turns out perfect. I am serious on this one though, don't leave anything up to chance!
Prep the day before
There are several Thanksgiving dishes that you can make the day before. There is no rulebook that says you have to make everything on that exact day. Your pumpkin pie? Your mashed potatoes? Your green bean casserole? That can all be made the day (or days) before and just reheated!
Plus, you should definitely prep and cut all of your ingredients the day before. It not only reduces the stress of trying to do everything at once, it will help you look like a real badass adult because you were prepared for the day.
Make the kitchen your safe space
If you have to, it's perfectly acceptable to make the kitchen your personal space. If you absolutely need the help, then pick that one person who won't judge you or make you feel self-conscious. But if you have prepped using the steps above, then you won't need help, and can keep those nosey neighbors from adding their two cents on how you cooked your gravy. Have your partner, roommate, or best friend help you by distracting those individuals and escorting them out of the kitchen. If you need the space - make it!
Take the time to set the mood
Set your table the day before. This is the most stressful part of hosting for me. I mean, there are those homes that you walk into and immediately feel loved and comfortable, and somehow all of their decorations match, but clearly weren't all picked up at Target last week. I have always wanted to live in a place that was inviting, but I just don't know how to make the decor work in that "I just threw these tree branches on the table, took a photo for Instagram, and it went viral! I don't even know how I did it!" way.
Luckily for me, I don't have to worry about it. This year I decided to skip the stress and just use Gala Tuesday's perfectly curated parties in a box. I don't have to shop online for hours trying to find the perfect place settings and centerpieces. Plus, because they include things like sophisticated (but disposable) plates and cups, less dishes later!!!!!!
Gala Tuesday offers a variety of options, but for a bit more, you can actually get a completely customized party! (If I had friends, I would definitely want to request a Gilmore Girls themed box for the premiere of the new season!! But since I don't really have friends, somebody else should definitely do it! And tag me in the photos so I can see how it turned out!)
My "Fall Fete" box arrived only two days after I ordered it! So it is perfect for those last-minute-completely-forgot-what-day-it-was moments. I am so glad that I didn't have to stress about the decorations. Now I just have to prepare myself for all of the compliments that I will get on the decor (compliments are hard). Plus, it includes these adorable and unique take-home boxes! See for yourself!
As stated above, I don't really have friends who live in the same state, so I used some unusual stand-ins for my photos...