How to Host Your First Thanksgiving Dinner

Do the holidays make you feel like a kid again?  The crisp fall air, football in the yard, aromas of baked goods wafting through the kitchen?  Everything is so comforting and relaxing!  Then you grow up.  Feeling giddy like a kid is great, but when it comes to hosting your first Thanksgiving soire, you want to be prepared and ready to host like an adult. Whether you make it entirely homemade, or you have some help, there is lots to plan and do. You don’t want to wake up on Thanksgiving morning and realize you forgot to defrost the turkey!

How to Host your First Thanksgiving Dinner by Haute31

“One year as a teenager I was at home while the rest of my family was gone for the holiday. I wanted to surprise them with a mini Thanksgiving feast so we could still share in it together.  You never realize how much the adults in the family do to perfect the biggest meal of the year until you’re the adult.  I knew how to make the sides, bought the 2-slice pack of pumpkin pie (since only me and my uncle like pumpkin), and bought the turkey.  The only problem was that I underestimated the time it took to defrost the turkey.  The day of my family’s arrival I was defrosting the bird on a shoe rack in the clothes dryer!  Thankfully, the meal turned out great and no one got sick from my crazy cooking techniques.” – Amanda

We want you to be fully prepared when playing hostess for the first time.  Impressing friends, family, and potential in-laws with your kitchen savvy is a big deal.  And you can do it!  To help, we’ve created this handy guide to help answer some questions and give tips along the way to make your first holiday as a hostess a smashing hit!

Delicious 2-Hour Turkey Recipe from Haute|31

The Basics
Don’t pressure yourself to make everything homemade from scratch.  Remember that you can also make and freeze certain foods ahead of time to save precious time on Turkey Day.  There is no shame in making your first Thanksgiving “semi” homemade.  If you have time the weekend before Thanksgiving, we recommend baking the pie and freezing it.  On Thanksgiving morning dessert is as simple as taking the pie out of the freezer.  It can be warmed in the oven or defrost on its own throughout the day.  Do the same with the bread or rolls that are on the menu.

Make sure that the food shopping is completed early enough.  If a store runs out of a particular ingredient, you’ll have time to search for it elsewhere.

“My family loves everything pumpkin. One Thanksgiving, we didn’t shop ahead of time. My cousin (Amanda’s husband) and I called every Publix around town to try and find canned pumpkin. Apparently there was a shortage that year. We finally found a store who saved us one can. They kept it at customer service and I ‘accidentally’ took two cans. I’ll never know whose can of pumpkin I stole that day. ” -Cindy

Your hosting does not compare to anyone else’s.  This does not have to be Mother’s Thanksgiving 2.0.  Decide what details and dishes are important to you and spend your time investing in those.  If the decor is different or the stuffing recipe doesn’t have sage in it, the world will not end.  If you were chosen for the job, then everyone already has faith in you.  Don’t doubt your hostess skills because they don’t look identical to someone else’s!

Things to consider
What time of day will the meal be held?  This will affect what time you put the turkey in the oven, how to juggle oven space making and heating the sides, and what exact foods you’ll have on your menu.  Will everyone be enjoying breakfast together?  That will affect the dinner time table, too.  Amanda’s family always had a mid morning breakfast and late afternoon dinner, whereas her husband’s family grew up not allowed to eat a thing until about 1 o’clock in the afternoon.  If you’re playing hostess, you can set the rules.  However, be mindful of family traditions, especially if blending two families together.  What compromises could be made to honor both families? (Some people have a hard time embracing change!)  A great idea is to set out a simple, healthy appetizer.  Hanna’s family always puts out a veggie tray for people to munch on while dinner was in its final stages of preparation.

How many people will be attending?  This determines if you need to make 20 rolls or 40, a half casserole or two whole casserole, etc.  Will little ones be attending the feast as well?  They won’t eat nearly as much so keep that in mind when planning portions.  Too much food is always better than too little.  Especially if your family and friends are like ours and they bring their own tupperware anticipating leftovers!

Do any guests have allergies or dietary preferences?  If Aunt Sally has gluten sensitivity, Uncle Bill is diabetic, and Cousin Joe’s girlfriend is a vegetarian, these are all things to consider.  Though the whole crew shouldn’t be punished by not getting turkey, sugar, or wheat, you may want to have some alternatives.  It also is worth considering if the salad should get bacon mixed in, or have it served on the side.

If you don’t have old family recipes, or want to try something new, we’ve provided a recipe for each of the courses and an easy alternative in case you’re either short on time, or are still new to the kitchen.

Spinach-Artichoke Dip Appetizer - Alton Brown’s Recipe or Publix Brand

Turkey - Hanna’s 2-Hour Turkey Recipe or Roast just the turkey breast

Mashed Potatoes – Tyler Florence’s Recipe or Instant Mashed Potatoes

Gravy – Barefoot Contessa’s Recipe or McCormick Instant Gravy

Stuffing – Classic Stuffing Recipe  or Hanna’s favorite stuffing: Stovetop

Cranberry Sauce – Emeril’s Recipe or Ocean Spray Canned Cranberries

Green Bean Casserole – Classic Recipe or Easy Haricot Verts

Bread - Sweet Potato Biscuits or Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Pumpkin Pie – Paula Deen’s Recipe or Marie Callender’s pre-made pie

Home Decor
How everything looks is nearly as important as how everything tastes!  Think about what details are important to you.  Do you want everyone to have individualized place settings or name cards?  Do you mind washing dishes or would fancy paper plates suit the day better?  Do you love everyone’s individual expressions of gratitude?  Consider having a blank board and let everyone decorate an area with a drawing or magazine clipping of what they’re thankful for!

Check out this post for other great ideas: Amanda’s Thanksgiving Table

Haute|31 wants to see your Thanksgiving decor on Instagram #HauteHoliday

Are you on Instagram?  We want to see your Thanksgiving Day decor and menu!  Instagram your pics with #HauteHoliday and we’ll feature our favorites!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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