By Chris Dato • November 26, 2014
Whether it was an oversight on your part or a last minute cancellation, the chaos of the holidays could find you with a whole party to plan in the time it takes to thaw a turkey. Luckily, A successful Thanksgiving dinner can be easier thank you think. Here are some essential tricks for hosting a triumphant Turkey Day.
Don’t be an early bird
As your Wednesday morning panic sets in, you will be inclined to spring into action. Making a dart for the door may not be the best move, because you will be competing with the traffic and chaos of other last minute hosts. Instead, take care of the things you don’t have to leave the house for. Clean up, look for old tablecloths or decoration, and make a list of everything you will need to streamline your shopping. Set out for your shopping later in the evening, once the crowds have gone home. 24-stores can really come in handy here, and even consider finding stores that will be open on Thanksgiving morning.
Store-bought with style
If you are following the first tip, you do run the risk of a potentially limited selection for some items. Keep an open mind while you are shopping, and look for opportunities to put a personal touch on store bought items. Some fresh fruit over premade pound cake can add a gourmet touch, and takes almost no effort!
Maximize oven Space
Speaking of space, oven space is going to be at a premium. To start, make sure that the racks are spaced to allow for the maximum capacity. Make a schedule of what time each item needs to be put in so that everything will be done at around the same time. Combine foods into the same pan where possible, like cooking the turkey right on top of the vegetables. This presents anther opportunity to get creative with your dishes.
Once you have efficiently used every ounce of your oven, your microwave is going to be your partner in crime as Turkey Day approaches. As a college student, I have experienced first hand the versatile cooking capabilities of a microwave. Seriously, I have made a Chocolate cake in a microwave using Diet Coke and cake mix. Frozen food comes chopped and prepared in a convenient bag that doubles as cookware and is ready in a fraction of the time of comparable oven items. Often you will find healthier options than you might expect and much more appealing entrees than the TV dinner meatloaf some of you might be picturing.
Why even get turkey?
At the risk of a bald eagle swooping down and grabbing me for sounding unpatriotic, don’t feel obligated to serve turkey. Turkey takes forever to thaw, takes up tons of room in the fridge and the oven, and takes a week to cook. Plus, no matter how careful you are, it always comes out dry. Consider a less traditional entre that cooks faster, like these bacon wrapped chicken pieces which are easy to prepare, will cook in a fraction of the time of turkey, and will add a unique element to your Thanksgiving Dinner.
Clean as you go
One of the key elements to pulling off a last minute Thanksgiving dinner is efficiency. Once an item is done cooking or being served, give the pan a good scrub and dry off so that is can be reused. This will keep your kitchen from getting cluttered and slowing down the cooking. Spending the little bit of extra time here will severely cute down on the number of dishes you are left with.
Alcohol. Lots of alcohol.
The appropriate amount of alcohol is essential to any successful party. Luckily, this is an item that stores are seldom in short supply of. Be sure to stock up on enough alcohol to keep everyone in good spirits at your get together. Consider setting up a bar area for people to serve themselves, so you can stay free to tend to the other hosting issues at hand. Also, an abundant supply of alcohol is a good patch of other areas where your preparation may have been lacking.
Going along with the idea of minimizing dishes, consider using plastic cups. They are inexpensive, disposable, and always easy to find. To add a personal element, make sure to leave out black markers. Guests can use them to put their name on their cup, or go with a more creative design if they feel so inspired. After dinner, use the markers and cups as the basis for a drinking game. (Right off the bat, I’m picturing ‘heads up’ with a sip for every wrong guess)
Buffet style serving, obviously
With all of the other plates you have to keep spinning, you certainly don’t have time to be serving them as well. Don’t let this make you feel like a bad host though. Standing in the kitchen cafeteria line is as much a part of the tradition of thanksgiving as football or parade balloons of outdated cartoon characters.
Center of Attention
This is where you take your party from last-minute to lavish. Centerpieces offer just about the most bang for your buck when it come of party preparations, so take a little time to throw together a few. The best part is that they do not have to be costly or complicated. It is beyond easy to find instructions for how to make your own, such as these from HGTV. They will add an element of elegance that will erase any minor evidence of last minute planning.
Chris Dato A Southern California kid born and raised, Chris is happiest with sunglasses on his face and sand under his back. Although a self-proclaimed master money saver, he prefers the term 'responsibly frugal' to 'cheap.'