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Preparing Ahead for Special Dinners ~without Stress + A few recipes
Thanksgiving Dinner without Stress
Whether you are expecting four or forty people for Thanksgiving or any dinner this year here are a few tips that I have found make the actual event a breeze. I hope that these will ensure that you will enjoy dinner as much as your guests!
Two weeks before the event make a grocery list of all of the necessary items so that you will not have to make numerous trips to the grocery store. Sit down and think through the entire meal from appetizers, pallet cleanser, meat, vegetables, stuffing ingredients, potatoes, wine, dinner roles, butter, jam, dessert, coffee, mints, etc. depending on how fancy or casual your meal will be. I love using linen napkins for fancy decor in the water or wine glasses. If I don't have enough to accommodate all of my guests I have found that the dollar store often has beautiful colors of paper napkins that look delightful in the glasses.
Next make a list of how many people will attend the dinner. Ten days before the event set up tables making certain that you have enough chairs to accommodate all of your guests for comfortable seating. Also decide at this time whether you will serve buffet style or at the table.
The next day you will begin to bake. I like to make cookies and things like breads I can freeze first. If I am having overnight guests I do all of the "freeze" baking that day. That way I have muffins, cookies and breads frozen so that I can pop them out of the freezer while they are here for breakfast and dinner, etc.
About a week before the dinner make certain that you have clean, ironed tablecloths. If you do not, buy new ones. Bed Bath & Beyond has amazing sales and coupons making them great prices. Then you will count out your dishes, knives, forks spoons, wine glasses, etc and arrange them on the table. I often don't have enough of the same dishes to accommodate everyone so I have a theme for each table. One Christmas table, one snowflake table, one Thanksgiving table, etc. Make certain the glasses and silverware are free of water spots now so that you will not notice that as you are sitting down to dinner.
Next you will put salt and pepper shakers on each table with clean ready to use jam and gravy dishes on each. Be certain to place several serving pieces on each table for meat, vegies, gravy, jam, etc. unless you are just having one main buffet table. I love decorating each table with candles and a bit of a theme.
The following day I shampoo or vacuum the rugs, wash sheets, floors, etc making certain that each bedroom and bath has special touches for my guests such as decorative tissue, a new candle, soaps, extra toothbrushes. The next day I clean all of the bathrooms.
Two days before the meal I make cranberries, twice baked potatoes, and gravy. I use bouillon instead of drippings from the turkey or chicken. It is so nice to make the gravy ahead of time. It alleviates one more last minute thing. You can make twice baked potatoes or mashed ahead of time and heat them that day. I try to make everything ahead that I possibly can. I was quite surprised at how much my family enjoyed twice baked or mashed with cream cheese, butter & milk added. They were tastier the second day!
To make the gravy ahead I just dissolve 4 or 5 chicken boullion in a cup of hot water. Then I shake 4 T of white flour in 2 C skim milk until the lumps are almost completely disolved. I pour this into a plan and add some dried or fresh parsley with a dash of garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Heat while wisking constantly. When it begins to thicken remove from heat. Chill in refrigerator. The next day when you heat it you can add milk or water to thin the mixture as you heat it. Be certain to stir it while it is heating so that it doesn't scorch. It is delicious with mushrooms or turkey bits added. Double this recipe if you are having a dozen or more guests or if you know your guests enjoy gravy.
I bake the pies last of all the night before. I love baking pies as you can see from my previous hub on Apple Crumb Pies. I cook the meat the day of the event although I have cooked the turkey and ham the day before. It did turn out quite nicely and it was so nice to have the mess completely cleaned up, meat sliced and ready to heat. We have gone back to cooking the turkey and ham that day though. It makes the house smell so wonderful!
I hope that these simple tips of starting in advance and doing one thing a day to get ready for your guests whether you are having a crowd or a simple dinner for four, will make preparing more enjoyable and your dinner more relaxing for you and for your guests!