Entertaining At Home On Thanksgiving

I featured some fabulous Thanksgiving table décor yesterday, and today I wanted to share some of the best entertaining tips I could find to make for a less stressful holiday entertaining experience.

Plus, don’t forget to check in with the experts at Williams-Sonoma for some helpful advice during their free technique classes. This Sunday, November 15, don’t miss the Thanksgiving “Perfect Sides” class, and the “Desserts” class next Sunday, November 22. The hour-long classes are free and include tastings of prepared dishes, plus participants enjoy 10% savings on select same-day store purchases. Class size is limited so call the store at 636.536.4370. And hopefully you’ll already signed up at Williams-Sonoma.com because now through Sunday is their “Friends & Family” event where you can save 20% (10% discount on electrics).

Thanksgiving#1 – Start your preparation early:

  • Set the Table the Night Before. It’s a simple task, but it’s one thing you can cross off of your to-do list on the day of.
  • Empty All Dishwashers and Trash Cans the Night Before. Plus, line your bins with extra garbage bags so you don’t have to hunt down a fresh bag when the garbage starts to overflow.
  • Prepare as Much as You Can in Advance. Gravy bases can be frozen and vegetables can be cooked and refrigerated for up to two days. For dishes that can’t be made ahead of time, consider the prep work that you can do in advance—like peeling potatoes so they’re ready for quick mashing.

#2 – Give centerpieces a new home: Free up prime dinner-table real estate by moving oversize arrangements to the buffet. And don’t bother with elaborate floral fantasies: Just go “shopping” in your backyard for branches of holly, crab apple, or bittersweet berries. Then bring in-demand items — butter, gravy, cranberry sauce — to the middle of the table.

#3 – Embrace the idea of a kids’ table: To accommodate your youngest guests’ abbreviated attention spans (and your desire to linger over dessert), cover the children’s dining surface with kraft paper and set out pots of crayons for tic-tac-toe. Bonus: This tablecloth is a cinch to clean up. Also, go online for printable Thanksgiving Placemats – before or after dinner, kids can spend time coloring in these game-filled placemats. There are plenty of games to hold their attention when there’s a lull in the meal. Another idea is a fall Scavenger Hunt – If the weather is nice, send kids out to the backyard to search for a host of autumn items—like pine cones and orange leaves—while the parents finish dinner. If the weather isn’t cooperating—or it’s too dark to go outdoors—you can host a scavenger hunt in your home, too. Just hide paper turkeys in various rooms of the house, and include a list of clues about where kids can find them.

#4 – Don’t forget the doggie bags: Buy yourself some fridge space by sending guests home with leftovers that look — yep — good enough to eat. These takeout boxes are sold only in bulk, but trust us: You’ll find a million uses for such handy containers.

Here are a few tips if you’re serving the meal “buffet-style.” First, label the dishes: Nuts, jalapeños, sausage: Your menu can’t please everyone all the time, but you can allow for a caveat emptor. Spare vegetarians, picky eaters, and friends with food allergies the awkwardness of asking you to rattle off ingredients by labeling dishes clearly — an easy idea is to make leaves out of parchment-paper.

Second, organize the food layout with a definite beginning and ending. Set the plates, napkins and silverware/plasticware at one end of the table near the food, so guests know where to line up.

Finally, consider plate size. Guests tend to fill up whatever size plate they have, be it small or large. Go with a smaller plate (8 to 9 inches) so guests don’t overfill and waste food. They can always go back for seconds.