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Thanksgiving Success: From Start to Finish

This year as you prepare for Thanksgiving, do you envision a dinner table surrounded by loved ones and filled with delicious foods that you have prepared together?  Does the thought of making Thanksgiving dinner cause you to break out in a cold sweat?  Do you fear the judgement of hungry guests or do you feel up to the challenge of crafting the perfect Thanksgiving dinner?  

Keep reading to find out how to avoid common Thanksgiving mistakes and serve a meal that is memorable for all of the right reasons!

1. Craft a Master Plan.  A majority of your Thanksgiving woes can be avoided if you have a plan.  About a week before Thanksgiving, sit down and write out a schedule for cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  List all of the dishes you are responsible for.  Be sure to include preparation time as well as cooking time.  Pull out the recipes for your dishes and double-check that you have all of the ingredients on hand.  If your guests are bringing dishes that need to be heated, make sure to include them in your plan as well.

2. Be a Team Player.  Don’t try to prepare all of the dishes for your Thanksgiving dinner.  If possible, encourage your guests to bring a dish.  Just be sure to coordinate what they are bringing so that you don’t end up with 5 bowls of green bean casserole!   If you are not able to have help from your guests, try to include some items that are ready-to-serve from the grocery store or a local bakery.  

3. Don’t Overdo It.  Everyone likes Thanksgiving leftovers, but try to avoid preparing too much food!  Carefully consider how many guests you will have and how much they will reasonably eat.  If your list of dishes to serve is too long, try to narrow it down to your guests favorite dishes.  Eliminate the ones that no one is particularly attached to.

4. Timing is Everything.  Be sure to allow enough time in your plan to prepare each of your dishes without being rushed.  Inevitably something will take longer or require more work than you planned for.  Don’t let this throw you.  Ask your guests to help you in the kitchen or to serve appetizers while you prepare the meal.  

5. Don’t Overcrowd the Oven.  As you plan your Thanksgiving menu, include dishes that can be prepared on the stovetop, in a crockpot, or in the microwave.  This will free up oven space.  Remember that the turkey will need to rest for about 30 minutes after it has finished roasting.  This is the perfect time to reheat stuffing, brown dinner rolls, or heat through casseroles.

6. Use Those Pan Drippings.  Pan drippings are liquid gold!  They can be the base of a delectable gravy or a wonderful addition to stuffing or mashed potatoes.  Instead of letting them go to waste, pour off the liquid and scrape the delicious turkey bits from the bottom of the roasting pan.  Now you are ready to incorporate these juices into your recipes.  

7. Serve Your Dishes at the Right Temperature.  As you plan, include dishes that can be served at a variety of temperatures: cold, hot, and room temperature.  This allows you to avoid a crowded oven and gives you the opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of side dishes.

8. No Soggy Stuffing.  Prepare your stuffing in the oven in a casserole dish or on the stovetop to keep it light and fluffy, instead of mushy.  Stuffing cooked inside of the turkey is unsafe and full of bacteria.  

9. Bounce Back from Dessert Disasters.  If your pie crust crumbles or your cake falls apart as you slice it, don’t worry.  Scoop pie filling into individual serving dishes and top with whipped cream and crumbled pieces of the crust or cookies (like shortbread of vanilla wafers).  Cut a cake into chunks and alternate layers of cake and whipped cream in individual bowls or one large serving dish.  Remember that a multitude of dessert tragedies can be covered with ice cream!
 
Sources: http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_and_
techniques/8_biggest_thanksgiving_mistakes_and_how_to_avoid_them?page=3
http://www.pbs.org/food/features/five-common-thanksgiving-mistakes-and-how-to-avoid-them/
http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-shortcuts/7-thanksgiving-blunders-to-avoid-125101

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