Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Big Bird Thanksgiving

No, the title of this post doesn't refer to that friendly fellow from Sesame Street. We're talking about big ol' turkeys, specifically Thanksgiving parties large enough to require cooking that big ol' turkey. We've got a few tips on serving up a an extended family-and-friends-size Thanksgiving dinner.

When buying your bird, aim for about 1 pound of pre-cooked meat per person. If you are a bunch of big eaters and love leftovers you can increase that to 1.5 - 2 lbs. If guests over-indulge on appetizers and sides, and you find yourself with too much turkey, you can always pop the leftover meat in the freezer for later. Be sure to serve up a few traditional sides your family loves, but add in at least one new recipe to keep things fresh. Who knows—you just might create a new tradition!

When seating spills over your average dining table it's all too common to relegate certain guests to the "kids" table, which often contains no actual kids as families grow older together. Rather than separating the group into two or three sections, try creating an "L" or "T" shape with your tables. It's a great way to keep the heart of the dinner in one place and encourage a shared conversation among guests.

Plan ahead to keep things organized. An inexpensive collapsible garment rack in your entry way can keep coats and scarves tidy without cluttering up a freshly made bed (or, in my case, it means I don't have to clean my room just to put coats in it…yes, I'm lazy). Avoid dirtying more dishes and filling up your fridge by buying disposable storage containers to pack leftovers in for guests. Purchase white takeout boxes from a restaurant supply store. Print, cut and adhere these free downloadable labels I found over at TomKat Studio to your boxes, and people will be extra impressed with your planning skills. Set up a "leftovers buffet" on the counter for guests to load up their own boxes as they leave, allowing you to put your feet up and relax.

Finally, consider hiring help. I don't necessarily mean hiring outside staff—even catering teams need a holiday. Instead, look inside your family circle for a few pre-teens and teenagers you can offer cash incentives to for arriving early to help with set-up and food prep, as well as washing dishes and taking out the trash. Give them their instructions in advance. They'll be glad for the cash, and you'll be glad for the free time.

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