Hi, my name is Nichole and I have a holiday hosting problem.
It’s true, ever since I got into cooking and baking I’ve started hosting holidays until I managed to take over all of them. I leave the summer months to my mom because she has a pool, but Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter are all mine.
Over the years, there has been a lot of trial and error. I can remember back to the first Thanksgiving I hosted, wanting to have serve soup but only having a table that seated four and having a guest list of ten people. Back then I said I couldn’t wait until I had a house where everyone could sit down and be served. Today, I have a house, but I still can’t pull that off because the guest list has doubled and the house isn’t big enough for a table that serves twenty. 😀 Still, I like to think that one day we’ll be in an even bigger house that I’ve designed to have an insanely large dining room and kitchen just to host holidays.
Anyway, I’ve done posts each year about what you should do to prepare and instead of linking to them, I decided to make an all-inclusive comprehensive guide to hosting a holiday.
Let’s break this down into 6 simple parts:
1. Guest List
4. Grocery Shopping
5. Make Ahead
6. The Day Of
1. Guest List:
First, you’ll need to announce to your family and/or friends that you’re hosting an holiday. I make it simple and create an event on social media so I can invite everyone and we can post directly within the event if there is anything to discuss or organize further. Follow up with anyone who doesn’t say that they’re coming. *Note: I plan events 2 weeks to 1 month in advance.
2. The Menu:
The menu is the backbone of the holiday or event. My menus always have an appetizer, an entree, side dishes and dessert. I now have some staples that I serve each time because they’ve been perfected.
If there was ever a lesson I’ve learned, it is that you don’t need to make everything from scratch and you don’t need to choose difficult recipes. Also, never plan a menu where you’re making each item for the first time the day of the holiday. Choose foods with big flavors but limited ingredients. Pick foods that most of your guest list will enjoy. Create a balance with light appetizers if you’re having a heavier dinner.
One of the smartest things we’ve figured out for Thanksgiving is that we don’t need a monstrosity of a bird just because we have a ton of guests. Most of us prefer white meat so we now have started buying an average sized turkey and adding a large turkey breast as well.
We’ll start with food presentation. Make sure you have enough plates, utensils, bowls, napkins, etc. for the amount of guests you will be hosting. I like to pull out all of my platters and serving bowls and decide what will go on each, then write it on a sticky note and attach it to the dish.
If you’ve ever planned a seating chart for a wedding, you’ll know seating is not fun. For the holidays, I suggest simply making sure that you have enough seats or available sitting areas (couches can be included) for the number of guests you have attending. Perhaps it makes sense to rent a folding table and chairs if you have the space. Remember to also rent or purchase table linens.
4. Grocery List:
This is the part where you can easily become overwhelmed or forget something and end up needing to run to the store at the most inconvenient of times, so this is why there’s a step by step list.
1. Print a copy of each recipe you’re making. If it’s in a cookbook, mark it with a sticky note.
2. Go through each recipe and write down every single ingredient and it’s measurements. (Ex. 1 stick of butter)
3. Add up your repetitive ingredients to get a total. (Ex. Four recipes each calling for a stick of butter = 4 sticks of butter)
4. Cross off whatever you know you have more than enough of in your fridge/freezer/pantry.
*Note: you’ll want to have extras of the following: butter, broth or stock, flour, seasonings, cheese, onions and ice.
5. Write out the grocery list, categorizing it by section (produce, meats, dry goods, etc.) For items that keep well (butter, pie crust, canned pumpkin, nuts, cheeses, cranberries) you can purchase them in advance to break up a larger grocery expense.
5. Make Ahead:
You would not believe the amount of recipes that you can make ahead of time. This isn’t inclusive, but here’s a good start:
* Cranberry sauce can be frozen for 2-3 weeks
* Stuffing can be frozen for 1 week
* Dough for rolls can be frozen after the first rise for 1 week
* Pies can be made 1-2 days in advance
* (Most) vegetables can be chopped 1-2 days in advance
*Potatoes can be peeled and chopped 1 day in advance if they are completely submerged in water.
* Mashed potatoes can be made 1 day in advance. Refrigerate, then transfer to a crock pot with extra butter or milk and turn on keep warm.
A frozen turkey takes 24 hours per 5 pounds to thaw. (Ex. 20 pounds = 4 days)
To make stuffing with fresh bread, let it sit out overnight to get stale first.
This is a good time to re-read through all of your recipes. Know how much butter, cheese, etc. you need to have softened before you start cooking/baking.
For Thanksgiving, I take the day before off so I can nearly every recipe made. For Christmas and Easter I usually take a half day.
6. The Day Of:
Something is going to go wrong. Just accept it now. I’ve had it happen to me every holiday, every year. Be willing to adapt and let things go. Channel your inner Elsa. 😛
I write out a cheat sheet of what needs to go in the oven, for how long and for what temperature and keep it on the fridge.
If you’ve followed all of these steps, I’m fairly certain that you’re going to have an awesome holiday!
Please let me know if there is anything else that you’d like me to include!
And if you need a reality check, read my actual timeline from 2016 where the yeast didn’t rise, the cat needed attention and I got taken out by a migraine for a few hours.