Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. Food, family, and friends come together for what is always a memorable day. For some, it’s just another day with family and friends. For others, it’s the kick-off to holiday shopping. For me, it’s the beginning of the holiday season. A time of year that is filled by spending time with family and friends over great meals. If you’re planning to host a dinner or party this year, I have a few tips to help take some of the stress out.
Tip 1:Start with a plan
The military is great at strategic planning. When I was in the Royal Navy I learned to start with the end goal in mind and work my way backwards to create a plan. When cooking for large groups I start by making a list of every dish I want to serve. From there, I make a list of all of the ingredients needed and then a list of what needs to be prepared and how long each dish needs to cook. During that process I also note what can be prepared the day before. Certain items like desserts, casseroles, and other sides can be prepared the day before. A lot of your prepping—chopping, slicing and measuring out certain ingredients—can also be done the day before.
Tip 2: Prepare first, cook second
Before I begin cooking I will organize everything I need. I will pull out all of the ingredients, pots, mixers, knives, dishes and anything else I will need to use to cook. This keeps me from scrambling to find something in the midst of trying to cook multiple dishes. Next, I’ll review my menu and figure out what needs to be cooked and served first, what dishes can be cooked, set off to the side and reheated, and what dishes can be cooked together. Answering these questions is important if you are cooking multiple dishes with limited space. If you didn’t prepare them the day before, casseroles can be cooked, set off to the side and then reheated while the turkey is being finished and carved. Or, if you have two items that cook at separate temperatures, one at 350 and one at 400, you can cook them together at 375 (as long as they aren’t baked goods).
Tip 3: Involve others
Cooking should be fun. I always involve those around me when cooking, especially my daughters. Kids love to help in the kitchen. At most ages kids can help with the measuring and mixing of ingredients. If you have an island in your kitchen line it with plastic wrap and make that their workstation. Any mess they make can then easily be cleaned afterwards. Another tip to help ease the process is to clean as you go. Have others help you clean dishes you’re no longer using. You’ll be thankful at the end of the day when there is less to clean.
Tip 4: What to do with the left overs
Planning on what to do with the leftovers can be just as important as planning for the meal. Let’s face it, if you’re a small family hosting a large party there’s only so much turkey and mashed potatoes you want left over in your fridge. While I’m out doing my grocery shopping I purchase several of the reusable plastic containers. At the end of the meal I give the containers out to the guests and encourage them to take the leftovers home. Everybody wins with this tip.
I hope you enjoy the great food and good times with friends and family this holiday season.