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  1. #11
    umsh is offline Silver level (200+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by hellokitty View Post
    OMG, did they volunteer you to do this? I'm having anxiety just reading this and I am an experienced cook. However, hosting people for that many days, with a toddler underfoot and having to feed them 3 meals a day?!? I hope that they will help you with some of the cost of food... I like mikala's idea of outsourcing a lot of premade stuff that you can throw together for a meal to make your life easier. Use disposable plates and silverware or you will be doing dishes until the end of your life! I really hope that they help you more than just bringing a casserole!!!
    Yeahhh...pretty much...I was really hoping we'd go to them but they all wanted to come here. I am happy they want to come but there's just a lot going on for me right now - they are four different families so they have more kitchens to work out of. And only two kids (rest are adults). We are just two families (my parents and us) and I have four kids (though my girls are old enough to be helpful now), having some health issues that have flared recently, and I am going back to work this week after all these years home with the kids. Anyway, it'll all come together somehow. Definitely outsourcing premade stuff for the other non Thanksgiving meals and using disposables every day except Thanksgiving.

    I'm sure they'll want to cook, but I'm not sure that I want them to do more than one casserole or dish, because there just isn't that much space for so many of us to work.

  2. #12
    umsh is offline Silver level (200+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    That's a lot!!!

    My family is very spread out, and because it's always been hardest for my family to travel (only ones with kids, DH with an inflexible work schedule, etc.) I'm often the one hosting - the main meal and guests for many days surrounding it. For the days leading up to the holiday meal, I stick with only 1 "served" meal a day -- dinner. I try to plan things I can do in advance too.

    Breakfast: I make sure I have a few popular cereals, and stock up on English muffins, bagels, butter, cream cheese, yogurt, and fruit. I tell people in advance that I won't be serving a breakfast, show them where things are, make sure the toaster is out on the counter, and tell them to serve themselves whenever they wake up/get hungry.

    Lunch: Occasionally I'll make a big batch of chicken salad (I like this recipe and it tastes better a day or two after it's made anyways: https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-yog...e-kitchn-28363) -- but you can buy delicious chicken salad at the store too! and I stock up on lunch meat, sandwich bread, crackers/chips, etc. Around lunch time I'll often pull food out and set out a stack of plates, but then invite everyone to just come serve themselves. I'll also cut up a bunch of vegetables in advance to throw out for snacking (again, this is an easy thing to buy instead of do yourself, though!). After the first couple days, if we have leftovers from prior meals, I'll often pull out and warm those up as well.

    Dinner: Here's a few meals I've used in the past. They're things that are either easy to make in advance, or something fairly simple that can be thrown in a slow cooker in the morning:
    *Lasagna - super easy to pre-make and freeze, also super easy to buy from the store and skip the making it step! If you don't want to use store-bought but need easier, Baked Ziti is way easier to make and also freezes great: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/easy-ziti-bake/ (you can easily add meat to the sauce if you prefer)
    *Enchiladas - Make a couple pans and freeze. I'll just serve it with beans (in this case usually just refried ones from a can!) and rice, tortilla chips and salsa, and maybe guac if I'm feeling fancy. (For someone who doesn't like cooking, this recipe is super easy, quicker than most, and everyone always loves it: https://everydayannie.com/2007/11/19/benchiladas/)
    *Crockpot Taco Soup - https://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/2...ot-recipe.html So easy, super filling, can be a meal in and of itself. I'll often also have cut up avocado, but it's not essential. My kids love it when I have Fritos or Tortilla chips, but also not essential!
    *Spaghetti and Meatballs - meatballs can be store bought, or made in advance and frozen. Sauce also can either be store bought or pre-made and frozen. The day you're going to serve it, pop the meatballs and sauce together in a slow cooker several hours before dinner to heat through. Then you just need to make pasta and serve. I usually do a salad as well, and maybe some bread -- again, save time by buying premade salad mixes or salad can be made in advance.
    *Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup - https://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/2...bean-soup.html Another one like the Taco Soup that's easy to do in advance, make in large quantities, etc.
    *Crockpot Tuscan Pork and Beans - https://thewanderlustkitchen.com/cro...ork-and-beans/
    *Chicken and Wild Rice Stew - this recipe was a huge hit with my guests a few weeks ago.....I had a bunch and literally served it to them for dinner then 3 straight days of lunches and no one complained! Just serve with bread!
    *Burgers - can easily pre-make, or can buy them, serve with store-bought potato salad/macaroni salad, baked beans, salad
    *Chicken on the grill (if you live somewhere you're still grilling!) - you can marinate it in advance (even well in advance, just freeze it in the marinade and let it thaw in the fridge a day before cooking)
    *Order pizza!
    Thank you sooooo much! This is so incredibly helpful to have all this written out in this level of detail and with all the links. (btw the chicken and wild rice soup link is missing, can you please post that?). These are all great ideas. You're right, I don't need to kill myself cooking every single meal every day. I love your breakfast idea and think I will definitely do that. I have a favorite chicken salad recipe too (https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/...recipe-2014291), but I'll have to try yours. Thank you for all the dinner ideas. As for grilling, it's hit or miss how cold it'll be on Thanksgiving, it's possible, but I can't count on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    Thanksgiving itself:
    *Consider your oven space. I literally write out a schedule and often pick the pans I'll need to put in the oven and test to see how things fit. If you're roasting chicken (or likely multiple chickens, with the # of people?), that will take up a lot of the space. However, the chickens can/need to rest after coming out of the oven - so cook them earlier, take them out, tent with foil, and then pop the rest of your sides that need to be heated up into the oven at that point. The chicken will be fine to sit for a bit.
    So I only have a single oven, 2 9 x 13 dishes can fit side by side on each rack (and I do happen to own 4 dishes that size), but I've never tried cooking with all 4 in there at once. I'm not sure if things will cook evenly like that, guess I will have to try or look that up. My mom has a double oven, so maybe she could do all the chickens.

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    *Potatoes - you can easily make mashed potatoes early in the day and pop them in a slow cooker on low/warm.
    Great idea, do you have a recipe you like? Could I make it earlier in and keep it in the fridge and reheat? Or that would affect the texture too much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    *Roasted veggies sound delicious but will also take up a lot of oven space for that many people. If you have more than one slow cooker, I've made this corn recipe in advance and re-heated in the slow cooker: https://www.melskitchencafe.com/creamy-confetti-corn/ If you want it completely done in advance, this green bean recipe is amazing, and I think it tastes better on day 2 -- https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/cr...een-bean-salad
    Thank you! Everything I've made from Mel's kitchen cafe has been good so this looks like a good option. And I love the idea of something made completely in advance so I'll try the green bean recipe too. You're right, roast veggies probably won't work bc of oven space...our family alone eats an entire half sheet pan in one sitting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    *Bread or rolls can either be store bought, or take-and-bake type things baked earlier in the day.
    *Outsource desserts - it's easy for others to bring desserts, either store-bought or homemade. Ask several people to bring a pie and there will be plenty for all. If outsourcing wont' work, buy them so you don't have to mess with making them. (ideally, send one of those relatives staying with you out to purchase them the day before!)
    *Most dishes that will be baked in the oven can be made several hours in advance, even the day before, and just baked before eating (sweet potatoes, stuffing/dressing, etc.) - just remember to pull them out of the fridge a few hours prior so they start to loose the chill or they'll take too long to heat!
    Definitely buying rolls for sure. I love to make desserts but maybe I'll pass that on to my girls and they can do it the day before. And good point, if that feels too stressful, I can always buy them.
    Do you think I could make things like the sweet potatoes and stuffing or other oven dishes as early as Monday before guests come?

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    *For guests actually staying in my house, I've started outsourcing full dishes. I tell them what I'd like them to make (or ask them, if I don't know what kinds of things they like to do), ask them in advance to give me a list of ingredients they'll need, and then I give them a specific time (either on Thanksgiving or the day prior) that is their time in the kitchen to cook. This helps avoid too many people crowding the kitchen at any one point. Depending on your relatives this may be more hassle than it's worth, but I have several who enjoy cooking and want to do it, so I've found it works best to assign something specific to them.
    They all love to cook, and I know they'll make something...it's me who wants avoid chaos in the kitchen with too many people trying to work around each other. Deciding the actual times they can have the kitchen is brilliant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    *Look through your recipes, often you can pre-chop veggies, pre-measure ingredients, etc. the day before, so it's easier to pull together.
    *One last thought -- it sounds like your parents are still close by? If that's the case, people can cook some of the dishes at their house and bring them over right before the gathering. Frees up kitchen space and oven space. For several years recently, my Mom has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the extended family, but she has my Aunt cook the turkey at her house. No one in our family cares about carving a bird at the table, so my Aunt cooks it, carves it and puts it on a platter, and brings it over right before dinner. It works fabulously! If someone in the family is willing to either cook a turkey or roast those chickens you're planning at your parents' house, that would save you some major effort and will still produce a classy meal.
    Definitely will plan to do all the prep work on Wednesday and write that down as part of my plan.
    And yes, I think the doing the chickens at my parents' house will be a huge help. My mom is asking what they should do so, so this is the ideal item for my parents to handle.


    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    Planning:
    *I literally sit down and write out every single step of every single day. For Thanksgiving, I write out a very detailed schedule -- down to things like "Start dressing bird" "preheat oven" "bird in oven" "pull stuffing out of fridge to come to room temp before baking" -- with specific times. There's so much going on that I get incredibly stressed if I try to keep it all in my head, and always end up forgetting something. I print it out and have it easily viewable all day. I pull out all the serving dishes I plan to use and label them (post-its) with what they'll be used for, so I'm not scrambling last minute hoping to find the right dish for everything.
    *Paper plates/disposable dishes! Will save tons of energy. Walmart usually sells nice extra-large Thanksgiving themed plates I've been liking the past few years.
    Definitely gonna do this. I like your idea of writing it down to the exact detail along with times.
    And I wouldn't have thought about nicer disposables! You're right, that will help a lot and free up the dishwasher for at least some of the serving dishes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    I know that I just wrote you a novel -- I hope some of it is helpful! Good luck. I hope you're able to find time to have fun and enjoy your family, even with all the craziness!
    Thank you so so much for taking the time to write it all out. I can't tell you how much this helps to alleviate some of the anxiety I'm feeling. Thank you for sharing all the recipe links too! I decided from this week I'm going to start making one recipe per week of the things I want to serve while everyone is here to see if I need to tweak anything. I need to start writing out my overall plan soon too.

  3. #13
    umsh is offline Silver level (200+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by trentsmom View Post
    Lots of great ideas here already! I only cook Thanksgiving for a few people, and even then I make most things ahead of time. We decided a few years ago that the side dishes were much more interesting than the main meat, so I started getting already cooked ham and turkey breast from Costco. Those are sliced the day before. Do you have a grill? That's a great place to cook chickens or a turkey breast. I'm sure there are recipes for other sides made on the grill, too.
    You're right, and we feel that way too - everyone is more interested in the sides than the meat. Although the meat is definitely a necessity. How much in advance do you make things? Since I've never hosted before, I've always made my 2 or 3 items the day of. We do have a grill but can't guarantee the weather will cooperate for grilling.

    Quote Originally Posted by trentsmom View Post
    Definitely write out everything that needs to be done. That way anyone who wants to help can consult that.

    Ask those coming (or maybe a select few), "What dish do we need to have in order for it to feel like Thanksgiving to you?" I ask this question for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not that their chosen dish will be made, but it's a good way to focus the menu. DS1 dislikes Tgiving foods, so I have added a relish tray with different types of pickles and olives.

    Good luck!
    Getting my Google spreadsheet ready soon! And this is brilliant to ask everyone what they'd like. I know my cousins will want to make some of their favorite side dishes, but I think I still need to plan to make the majority of the items.

  4. #14
    Liziz is offline Emerald level (3000+ posts)
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    First, congrats on the job!

    Chicken and Wild Rice Stew: https://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/78...-chicken-stew/

    Cooking with 4 pans in the oven: I've done it and it definitely affects cooking time (slows it down) and browning ability of oven. Also be careful because the steam from the items on the lower rack can condense on the upper rack and drip back into the food on the bottom if there's not enough space for air to circulate. I've made it work by rotating items several times throughout cooking, though. It's best for if you're just using the oven for heating something, vs. trying to brown or roast.

    Mashed potatoes: I don't actually use a recipe! I just boil a bunch of potatoes (sometimes in chicken broth, sometimes in water), drain them, then throw in copious amounts of sour cream, butter, salt, cream, and occasionally cream cheese. When I can, I also like to roast several heads of garlic in advance and add the roasted cloves, too. I've never done it any earlier than the morning of Thanksgiving, so I can't speak for doing it a day or two in advance, though I know I've seen plenty of articles that say it's possible.

    Making Sweet Potatoes and Stuffing early -- I've made stuffing a day prior and reheated on Thanksgiving. It turned out just fine. Sweet potatoes would likely depend on how you make them! I do a mashed sweet potato that's mixed with spices, butter, brown sugar, and bourbon, with a brown sugar pecan crumble topping. I can make the sweet potato mixture in advance, and also the topping, but I don't mix them together until the day of. With both of these, my biggest caution is that the recipes as written expect an already-warm mixture going into the oven, and if it's fridge-cold it will take FOREVER to cook. Large dishes will take several hours to come to room temp out of the fridge (and if you do eggs in your sweet potatoes - I don't, but know many do - that may not be so safe). (Also I'm happy to share the sweet potato recipe if desired, but I don't have it online and don't have the time to type it right now, but let me know if you want it and I can do it later).

    Lots of people have given great tips - I'm glad you're feeling less anxious!
    Lizi

  5. #15
    umsh is offline Silver level (200+ posts)
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    I am so sorry I am replying so late! I got completely overwhelmed with adjusting to work and man, the last few weeks have been rough with work and health issues. Your advice (and everyone else's here) really helped me plan everything out well though, and I'm so grateful for that. I definitely had 4 pans in the oven but only for reheating and browning, not actual cooking. Your sweet potatoes sound really good! I passed that one off to my mom. Overall everything went well and I'm so glad it did. Now we're on to round two of visitors in two weeks! Thank you for the stew recipe! It'll come in handy in a couple of weeks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    First, congrats on the job!

    Chicken and Wild Rice Stew: https://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/78...-chicken-stew/

    Cooking with 4 pans in the oven: I've done it and it definitely affects cooking time (slows it down) and browning ability of oven. Also be careful because the steam from the items on the lower rack can condense on the upper rack and drip back into the food on the bottom if there's not enough space for air to circulate. I've made it work by rotating items several times throughout cooking, though. It's best for if you're just using the oven for heating something, vs. trying to brown or roast.

    Mashed potatoes: I don't actually use a recipe! I just boil a bunch of potatoes (sometimes in chicken broth, sometimes in water), drain them, then throw in copious amounts of sour cream, butter, salt, cream, and occasionally cream cheese. When I can, I also like to roast several heads of garlic in advance and add the roasted cloves, too. I've never done it any earlier than the morning of Thanksgiving, so I can't speak for doing it a day or two in advance, though I know I've seen plenty of articles that say it's possible.

    Making Sweet Potatoes and Stuffing early -- I've made stuffing a day prior and reheated on Thanksgiving. It turned out just fine. Sweet potatoes would likely depend on how you make them! I do a mashed sweet potato that's mixed with spices, butter, brown sugar, and bourbon, with a brown sugar pecan crumble topping. I can make the sweet potato mixture in advance, and also the topping, but I don't mix them together until the day of. With both of these, my biggest caution is that the recipes as written expect an already-warm mixture going into the oven, and if it's fridge-cold it will take FOREVER to cook. Large dishes will take several hours to come to room temp out of the fridge (and if you do eggs in your sweet potatoes - I don't, but know many do - that may not be so safe). (Also I'm happy to share the sweet potato recipe if desired, but I don't have it online and don't have the time to type it right now, but let me know if you want it and I can do it later).

    Lots of people have given great tips - I'm glad you're feeling less anxious!
    Last edited by umsh; 11-28-2021 at 12:54 AM.

  6. #16
    umsh is offline Silver level (200+ posts)
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    I am incredibly late to reply and thank everyone here for helping me...it really helped me tremendously. I took everyone's advice and made a spreadsheet down to the dishes and timings and made all my main sides on Sunday (yes...FOUR days before Thanksgiving...everything turned out completely fine). I knew I wouldn't be able to do anything while working and unfortunately I've had some health issues as well (why does everything happen at the same time??).

    I was not in great shape health wise, so I just accepted everyone's help as much as I could. I actually didn't do much in the way of the rest of the meals while everyone was here, my parents (God bless them!) did most of the cooking, but we got take out and one night my cousin's husband did burgers. I had a plan but basically couldn't really execute it, but everything still fell into place. I'm still really grateful that the Thanksgiving meal worked out as well as it did. I doubled all my sides and the second dish of everything wasn't touched, so I'm freezing it all for when round two of family comes in two weeks! I'm not sure how it'll hold up, but I guess we'll see.

    Thank you all so much. I really feel like I can host and do Thanksgiving again pretty easily (I won't need to cook such a huge amount next time, so that alone will make it easier!).

    I wanted to share my spreadsheet which really helped me plan and feel more organized executing everything, but can't figure out how. And all the recipes turned out so good, I'm sharing recipe links. Thank you!!

    Brie Bites
    https://www.wellplated.com/brie-bite...b-URU0IQpEz0j4

    Baked Mashed Potatoes
    https://www.melskitchencafe.com/crea...shed-potatoes/

    Confetti Corn
    https://www.melskitchencafe.com/creamy-confetti-corn/
    (thank you to whoever originally shared this!)

    Cranberry Bread
    https://www.lifeoverlunch.com/cranberry-bread/

    Harvest Apple Salad
    https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/aut...nd-feta-salad/

    Cranberry Cake
    https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/cra...hristmas-cake/

  7. #17
    Liziz is offline Emerald level (3000+ posts)
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    I'm so glad everything came together well, and that family stepped up to help when you were down and out! And geez, I'm so sorry to hear you were sick while having visitors, that's rough to have on top of everything else! I hope you're recovering and feeling better at this point.
    Lizi

  8. #18
    umsh is offline Silver level (200+ posts)
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    Thank you! It'll take a while, but I'm getting there!

    Quote Originally Posted by Liziz View Post
    I'm so glad everything came together well, and that family stepped up to help when you were down and out! And geez, I'm so sorry to hear you were sick while having visitors, that's rough to have on top of everything else! I hope you're recovering and feeling better at this point.

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