This year I find myself cooking for the family at my in-laws. While not ideal to be traveling on Thursday and being responsible for the meal, I've come up with a plan that should make this much easier. Listening to the Lazy Genius podcast episode about hosting Thanksgiving helped me strategize my plan. Kendra made me realize that I first needed to get clear on why I am making Thanksgiving dinner, or else I’d end up being a resentful grump, and no one wants that…
I'm going to be straight with you: The food is important to me. Thanksgiving has always been about feeling the love through feasting. It is what makes or breaks Thanksgiving for me, so making the meal myself is an insurance policy that I will have a happy belly by the end of the day. Since my family is the one with food sensitivities, we usually have to strategize and avoid many of the dishes in a potluck situation. This year I’m making all of the dishes allergy-friendly and delicious. Most people won't know they are gluten-free or dairy-free, and I've compromised on some dishes where it might be worth it for the day (like the stuffing, where we seem to tolerate sourdough in moderation). But I also want family to gather and my kids to have tons of hugs on this day, so that helps to think about when the overwhelm kicks in.
My plan is to make ahead as many dishes as possible and minimize the day-of preparations. I am simplifying wherever possible, taking shortcuts where I can, and only preparing the dishes that are important to our family. I plan to buy gluten-free pie crusts from the freezer section, for example, and use a pre-prepared cranberry sauce for the appetizer. But most of these dishes are made from scratch, just the way I like them.
I've broken down the tasks on a timeline so I can stay on track and spread out the work over the week. I've also coordinated dinners so that we can finish up any leftovers in my fridge and piggy-back on some of the other preparations happening. Here's what that looks like:
The beauty of this method is that I get to do most of the cooking in my own kitchen. (I love my kitchen!) and the casseroles are ready to serve in their baking dishes when they come out of the oven. So I don't have to bring a bunch of serving dishes. If someone coming really misses mashed potatoes, that is easy enough for them to bring and make the day of if they want to. And the best part - I don't have to be in charge of the clean-up afterwards!
Happy Thanksgiving friends. I hope you have a great time and get to relax and enjoy being with family.