Compose your guest list of those you love and are glad to have in your life and include them in the meal preparation. Including your guests can be as simple as asking them to contribute a dish to the meal or you can invite a few to be a little more hands on and actually prepare the meal as a group at your home.
When assigning out parts of the meal, it’s best to determine what “makes sense” to alleviate stress on you as host. If Aunt Sue is driving 2 hours to enjoy the holiday meal, a room temperature appetizer or salad will likely be a better choice for her to bring than the masked potatoes which should be served piping hot. If your son is notoriously late for family gatherings, perhaps assigning him a dessert or some beverages is the best approach.
Managing a Big Meal in Your Home
If the entire meal is to be created in your kitchen, create a timeline or vision of how and when the preparation should flow. In most cases your main course will take time to cook, so plan how and whether your side dishes, rolls, and dessert will fit into your overall timeframe. Utilize crock-pots to expand your ability to keep foods warm and consider which items can be made in the days prior to the event to prevent a time-crunch. Ask for help as needed and be sure to leave some easy last-minute preparations available to assign to guests who “want” to help as they arrive, such as tossing a salad or stirring the gravy.
When it comes to the actual meal, serve what you want, keeping in mind that any family traditions will need to be served as well. To prevent cries of “Where’s the…” or “Why are there nuts in the…” its best to stick to the well-loved recipes you’ve always served while adding in new ones, rather than changing up the tried and true. If you always cook a turkey, add in a ham or vegetarian dish instead of replacing the item. And, if you’re cooking a turkey, please use a meat thermometer to judge doneness and forgo basting the final hour of cooking to create a golden, crispy skin.
Lastly, keep in mind that this is a meal to be enjoyed by all who enter your home, including you. Take a break to relax and enjoy the meal alongside your family and allow everyone to help with clean up. You’ll be grateful you did, and so will they!