my guide for low-stress thanksgiving hosting
I am one of those crazy people who enjoys hosting Thanksgiving. I love to cook, but more than that, I love being surrounded by my people in my home. And if I'm being really honest, the best part is that at the end of a day of eating, I don't have to get in my car and travel an hour or more to get home. My yoga pants are waiting for me. Well, probably I was already wearing them. Let's not split hairs.
I DIGRESS. Hosting Thanksgiving, while amazing in the stretchy-pants-department, does have a downside. It can come with a heaping spoonful of stress. The key to avoiding that stress is, of course, planning. I start my prep on Tuesday, and do most of the heavy lifting on Wednesday, so Thursday can be enjoyable and low-key. That way I can make happy memories with my people instead of memories where Mama is scrambling in the kitchen swearing under my breath (or loudly).
Whether you are preparing to host for the first time, or have hosted before but didn't enjoy the process, I've got you. Because it doesn't have to be so stressful. I can't do much for your weird family and awkward conversations, but I can set you up with my exact time table AND all of my recipes to set you up for success.
I'm going to break it all down for you, so you can take the pieces that work for you. The key pieces here are
BONUS - a way to keep the recipes and the timetable all in one handy place for maximum ease.
Let's start with the recipes. These are the actual recipes that I've used year after year. Did I type them all and blog them for you? NOPE. I'm not a food blogger, but I am an efficiency junkie. So I did track them all down online from real food bloggers. Work smarter, not harder. Spoiler alert: The Pioneer Woman features heavily.
Here they are, in the order in which I make them:
Pumpkin Pie - Libby's classic recipe by Martha Stewart. Why mess with perfection?
Dinner rolls - this is actually a new recipe that I'm going to test out for the first time from Handle The Heat! My go-to version is to use the frozen Rhodes dinner rolls and just bake them off per the package directions, or even just pull apart some Kings Hawaiian Rolls and call it a day. But I do enjoy making bread with my boys. AND this recipe looks super simple, so we are going to give it a go! I'm sure there will be some Instagram stories of this process the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, because kids baking bread is cute. I will also have a back up pack of Kings Hawaiian rolls in case things go south.
Green Bean Casserole - sometimes I change it up and use fresh green beans, but honestly, I think it's best just like they tell ya on the can. Mamas, this is one that the kids can almost make by themselves. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
Mashed Potatoes with Fried Shallots - I don't usually take the time to fry anything, but friends, this is worth it. Once you have these you will never go back to any other Thanksgiving potatoes. I know, that's a bold statement, but I stand behind it. It's from my girl, Ree Drummond.
Southern Cornbread Dressing - a take on my Grandma's famous dressing, as told by Ree Drummond.
Gulliver's Corn - this is another one that we've been having in my family for approximately 9 decades. Well, that might be a stretch, but for at least the 35 years that I've been on the planet. The only difference between this recipe and our family's version is that we don't bother with the Parmesan cheese on top. But you do you.
Cranberry sauce - friends, never buy that gelatinous mess from a can ever again. Cranberry sauce is delicious and so stinking easy. This is both of my big boys' favorite part of the meal. It's basically just dump, boil, stir, turn off, the end. Again, Pioneer Woman. This is one of those recipes that you can make your own. Sometimes I add maple syrup, or oranges, or whiskey. Whatever strikes my fancy.
ONTO THE BIRD! I take a slight departure from Ree here and hop into Ina's Kitchen. The main reason is because Ree is a turkey briner, and brining is not my favorite method (too messy and time consuming). Ina goes for butter and seasoning and aromatics, which is more my jam.
Turkey Gravy - this is a polarizing topic, because not everyone loves gravy, but people. Gravy is amazing. You need to have this deliciousness to pour over all the Thanksgiving things to make them even yummier. And I know that this isn't the most beautiful picture, but it tastes oh so good. And I bet you can guess who makes this. Yup. REE.
ARE YOU HUNGRY YET! There are so many shouty caps in this post but I'M NOT SORRY because Thanksgiving is the best.
Now for the timetable. Use the link below to download an editable version (excel) to customize to suit your recipes and chosen dinner time. This list also assumes that I'm making everything. If you have folks coming and bringing dishes, then you've just saved yourself some time.
Click here to download to editable file.
And now for the super bonus extra piece, a system to bring the recipes and the time table together. If you've been around here for awhile, you have probably heard me sing of my love for Trello. It's an app and software that allows you to organize information and resources into one place that makes sense to your brain. Think of it as a mega collection of post it notes that are organized, searchable, and you can take it wherever you go. And also it's completely FREE.
I've loaded all of these recipes (plus a couple of extras!), the timetable, and broken every piece out for you step by step, day by day (did anyone else just start singing the 90's Step By Step theme song? No, just me? OK). You can totally customize this to add in your own recipes and base it on whatever timeline you're working with. You can download the template for free here.
There you have it friends. My game plan for your best Thanksgiving hosting experience ever. If you use any of these recipes or timeline, please snap a photo and tag me @taralenneydesign . I'd love to see what you're doing! Soon you'll look just as happy as I do holding your dish of fried shallot mashed potatoes!
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!