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Throwing any large dinner party can be trying, but hosting Thanksgiving takes the stress from “I need a glass of wine” to “I need an I.V. of Pinot Grigio, stat.”
There is just so much pressure on Turkey Day—from the food to the décor to the ambiance. People have waited the whole year for this food coma, and everybody has their own set of expectations created by a lifetime of traditions.
We say: Let’s start a new tradition that doesn’t involve getting stressed out! Start by using these 16 ingenious Thanksgiving tips and tricks that will make your T-Day epic without requiring you to spend your November in a haze of planning and baking.
1. Print Out EVERY Recipe You Intend To Use
This goes for EVERY dish and drink—even a simple mixed drink recipe. The last thing you want to do on Thanksgiving is scroll hastily through your phone with flour-covered fingers as you try to remember how to make a dirty martini! Print out everything beforehand and hang it, along with the complete menu, at EYE LEVEL in your kitchen.
2. Don’t Wait Until Thanksgiving Day To Get Baking
You’re planning to wait until the morning of to start cranking out your pecan and pumpkin pies? What are you, a masochist? Bake your pies two to three days in advance. They will keep just fine in the fridge. Place them on the countertop on Thanksgiving morning to come to room temperature.
3. Do All Of Your Prep Work The Night Before
Cut the peppers. Dice the onions. Mince the garlic. Put it all in Pyrex or resealable bags. Not only will you save time chopping, you will save time cleaning all that up! And you will have clean countertops, cutting boards and knives ready to begin on T-Day. Better yet? Decide if there are recipes you can make a week or two in advance and then freeze.
4. Microwave Garlic Before Trying To Peel It
Stop fooling with sticky garlic all over your fingers. Microwave it for 15 seconds and the skin comes right off!
5. Set The Table The Night Before
This one’s a do-ahead no-brainer. If you are having a kids’ table, it’s a really cute idea to use butcher paper as the tablecloth and put some crayons in a pretty (non-breakable) cup or bowl. Kiddos can color to stay entertained between courses! (This also works for adults who are kids at heart and/or have had several glasses of wine.)
6. Make Festive Pumpkin Vase Centerpieces
Pumpkins are discounted after Halloween, so make the most of those savings. Get a few small pumpkins that will work on your table(s). Cut them open. Scrape out all the goo. Swirl a little bleach inside. Let it dry. Fill with flowers. Charm guests. Save money. Rule the world. (Check out some other clever ways to use discounted Halloween items).
7. Use Your Coolers
Break out any and all coolers you have. They have so many uses! First, it’s an easy way to keep drinks cool and out of the fridge, allowing you to save on valuable space and keep Uncle Bill out of your way while you’re in crunch mode.
Second, you can even use them to keep hot foods hot! Yep, just don’t put any ice in (obviously). Instead, just put the food in resealable containers and keep the cooler shut. Works well for things like macaroni and cheese, casseroles and any other dishes that hold their heat well or need to stay warm but not piping hot.
8. Wash Your Taters In The Dishwasher
No, really. Just lay them on the top rack and do a quick rinse cycle (no detergent, of course). Never waste time scrubbing a potato again.
9. Dry-Brine Your Turkey
Mix together a brine like this one with salt, pepper and dried herbs like thyme, rosemary or sage and then rub it all over the turkey. Wrap it up tightly and place in the fridge. The day before, take off the wrapping. This will allow the outside of the turkey to get dry, making for the crunchiest, crackliest skin when you bake it.
10. Use Muffin Tins For Everything
One muffin tin, so many uses. You can make stuffing muffins (Yes, really). Mini quiche. Ham and cheese bites. Focaccia rolls. Crab cakes. Baked brie bites. All perfect for feeding hungry guests and earning yourself more down time.
11. Don’t Get Too Fancy For Your Own Good
Use the microwave for the cranberry sauce. Forget whisking whipped cream by hand. Instead, use a mason jar (Just shake it up!). Use the pre-made biscuits… Hey, the Pilgrims wouldn’t have complained!
12. Add A Dash Of Baking Powder To Your Mashed Potatoes
This trick makes mashed potatoes more fluffy, turning a typical mashed potato recipe into everyone’s Thanksgiving high point.
13. Use A Pearl Necklace To Create An Awesome Pie Crust
Lay the pearl necklace along the edge of the crust for an easy way to give it that bakery-perfect design. (And, no, they don’t have to be real pearls!)
14. Use Your Slow Cooker Like It Is Going Out Of Style…
… And borrow as many as you can from friends! Crock-Pots are a party lifesaver. You can use them to make everything from macaroni and cheese and mashed or sweet potatoes to apple cider and green bean casserole.
15. Have Something On Hand That Anyone Will Eat
Anyone! Kids. Vegans. Vegetarians. Veggie soup is a great option (seasonal butternut squash soup can be made days in advance and then frozen or stored in the fridge if you need it). For kids, make sure to ask parents in advance about any allergies, and then have something on hand that they will enjoy. Even if it is just PB & J!
16. Serve Your Pie With Panache
Use a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter to cut small, round individual slices of pie. Top with a small bit of whipped cream. Awe your guests with minimal effort… and ensure that you have enough to go around!