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Thanksgiving: Tips and advice about cooking the big dinner

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Thanksgiving is less than 3 weeks away. Can you believe it? I think I am still somewhere in the middle of August. But no matter where I am, Thanksgiving is still just a couple weeks away.

This year will be my 7th ( or is it 8th) year hosting Thanksgiving for whoever decides to show up.
In those years I have experienced it all; the turkey that refused to cook, the turkey I forgot to thaw, burnt bread, undercooked potatoes, vegetarians, tiny kitchens, and tiny dining rooms. Heck! One year I went into labor after I pulled the ham out of the oven! I came home 4 days later with 2 babies!

Yea, that one took the cake.

So, it is safe to say that when it comes to preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I am ready for anything. With that in mind, I thought I would compile a list of do’s and don’ts for those who may be cooking the big dinner for the first time. Hopefully it will help you out. And for those of you out there you are also “old hats” at Turkey Day, please feel free to throw your tips and tricks into the pot, too!

1) “A Man without a Plan, is not a Man” – ( quick! Name that movie!) Same goes for women, too. It’s a really good idea to not only plan out your entire menu, but write out the grocery list, too. You do not want to have to rush to the grocery the day before Thanksgiving because you forgot brown sugar, trust me.

Planning also means taking in to consideration things like oven space, cooking times and temperatures, dietary needs of your guests ( i.e. small kids or allergies) and logistics. Don’t plan on cooking every single dish on Thanksgiving day. It won’t work ( trust me). Plan your menu around foods that can be made in advance. Dishes like dressing, mac – n – cheese, fruit salads, pies, cakes, and even the holiday ham can ( and should!) be made at least one or two days in advance!

2) You are not Bobby Flay and you are not Sandra Lee, keep it simple. – My very first Thanksgiving, I poured over all the magazines trying to come up with a menu fit for royalty. In the end I think I did one new dish and then made everything else I was comfortable with. I didn’t worry with a “tablescape” either. I did get a new tablecloth and a nice bouquet of flowers at Kroger and that was about it. The food  and family are the star here, not the napkin rings.

3) Keep your guests in mind – If you are having people over, remember to take their tastes in to consideration. Make sure there is something for everyone. Don’t cook nothing but sushi and squid if you are having a family with small children over. Kids and sushi don’t mix. Also remember that chicken broth is not a vegetarian item!  Vegetarians everywhere will appreciate this. It is also a nice gesture to make a vegetarian their own main course. Our friend Carrie used to come to our Thanksgiving dinners before she got re-married and I would cook her her own stuffed acorn squash. I didn’t want her to feel like she couldn’t have a big fancy dinner just because she didn’t eat meat.

4)Help! Help! Help! Take help wherever you can get it. If a guest asks you what they can do, give them a job. If they want to bring something, let them bring it. If you see a lazy man sitting on the sofa, send him out for ice. This does not have to be a one woman show, and you will be happier if it isn’t! Delegate! Delegate! Delegate!

5) Other ConsiderationsI asked for suggestions on Twitter and a couple friends sent these very helpful suggestions in;

Ancient Fire Wines said: Don’t underestimate how much wine to have. “Family gatherings go quicker with liquor.”


Quit Eating Out suggested: One of my “do’s” is getting a plan for meals for out of town guests: breakfast, lunch & dinner… not just TDay dinner.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. And remember, it’s not about what you eat but who you spend it with that makes the holiday special.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Okay I could hardly read what you wrote from laughing so hard at the cartoon. Is it Far Side? If not it’s the same type of humor..which I love. A little sick and demented. ;o)
    I’ve finally gotten Thanksgiving down to a science..but a little secret. The first year I cooked a turkey for my husband and I (this was many moons ago) I cooked it with the entire bag of giblets in it! No one told me that they stuffed a bag of guts back in the turkey! I have learned a lot since then..and my family is most grateful. lol
    Great post!

    1. It is Far Side! I so miss that comic strip. I can’t believe you cooked the bag of giblets. I guess no one mentions that you have to stick your hand inside the turkey to check for innards! 🙂

  2. HEY THERE – Thanks so much for the tips. I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year for the first time in many years (long story) and I’m in a panic!! I’ll use those tips, for sure!.

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Jodie is a wife, mom, writer and lover of chickens and gardens. She runs her family's winery by day and cooks and writes by night.

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