How to Host Thanksgiving for the First Time

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Two weeks ago, I hosted an early Thanksgiving for my family at my new place. Since we are all traveling in different directions, we wanted to put some time on the calendar to come together as a family and celebrate the holidays. I spent two weeks dreaming up the perfect menu and immediately got to work on the table design and creating a signature cocktail. In the process, I navigated how to host Thanksgiving for the first time filled with a delicious and menu and perfectly timed food prep so everything is ready at the same time.

How to Host Thanksgiving

One: Prep your menu two weeks in advance.

When I volunteered to host Thanksgiving, I immediately go to work on prepping my menu. I didn’t want to make a Turkey so I opted for Cornish Hens. Researching my menu made compiling my grocery list much easier. It also helped me look for ingredients that I could buy for multiple recipes. With my list of must make recipes, I used those ingredients to build my other menu items. Like with my pear tart- it called for puff pastry so I decided to make an appetizer utilizing the other puff pastry.

Two: Gather all your non-perishables and shelf staples 4 days before. Plan another grocery trip for 2 days before.

Cream of mushroom soup, spices, pie crusts, cream, cheeses, etc. should all be bought early on to avoid any sort of shortage that may come up when you go to the grocery store for your perishables. Perishables to buy before Thanksgiving would be fresh vegetables and fruit. Going twice enables you to collect all your must-have ingredients first and then gives you an opportunity to get anything you may have forgotten on your first trip.

Three: Set Your table on Monday.

You’re going to have way too much going on Thanksgiving day to set the table for your guests. Get it out of the way and set it on Monday. I like to keep it simple with the décor but include elegant touches. I used all my leftover mini heirloom pumpkins from Halloween, votive candles, and added touches of silver dollar eucalyptus that throughout the week will dry out but still look fresh and pretty on the table.

How to Host Thanksgiving

Four: Prep and cook the majority of your items on Wednesday.

I made my dessert and appetizer the night before, stuck it back in the freezer and pulled it out minutes before I had to pop it in the oven to prepare for my guests. Casseroles and any sort of salad can be prepped the night before and stored in the fridge overnight. If you are brining, Wednesday is when you want to start brining your bird.

Five: Day of cooking coordination.

Since you’ve prepped your menu weeks in advance from step one, make sure you write down the cooking times of each dish to coordinate with your planned dinner time. Also keep in mind that each time you add another dish to your oven, you’ll want to increase the oven 5 degrees Fahrenheit to compensate for the number of items cooking in your oven.

Six: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

At the end of the day, the goal is reconnecting with family so the food and drinks don’t matter so much as the time you spend together. Leave the dishes to stack up in the sink, get some couch time in with your family, and don’t stress perfection over completion. I love being able to pick up a couple of things with HoneyBaked Ham like a bone-in half ham for my gatherings. They lovingly prepare it so that I can share it and they make it so easy to have a meal ready for a crowd and everyone loves the leftovers if you’re lucky to have any! Utilize your strengths and take the easy way out. Store-bought pie crust almost always tastes exactly like homemade.

Find more Thanksgiving inspiration here with my recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving Tablescape, spiced pear tart recipe and easy cardamom ice cream, a truffle mushroom tart, buttermilk brined Cornish hens (great for Turkey also), butternut squash and autumn glory apple salad, and a bourbon prosecco spritzer. If you need some Thanksgiving outfit ideas, check out an easy neutral outfit and the perfect sweater dress looks here. The Holidays can be overwhelming, check out my tips on managing stress for this time of year here.

Happy Holidays!

Author: Cynthia

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