- 1. Meal planning starts with a pen
- 3. What can you buy instead of make?
- 4. What can you ask guests to make?
- 5. Make a list of what to do on the day of
- Check out these recipes to up your kitchen game:
Ina Garten is no stranger to hosting friends and family for a large meal. So she know how much of a daunting task it can be to plan, shop, cook, prepare and serve a meal can be. Hosting a holiday like Thanksgiving only adds another layer of pressure to make everything perfect.
So how does Garten, who’s written cookbooks about parties and is famous as the Barefoot Contessa, keep calm and cook on?
“The first thing I do is I make a plan for the whole week,” she tells USA TODAY. “So I decided what I can do on Monday, what I can do on Tuesday, what I can do on Wednesday.”
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The best part about having a solid plan of attack? It means you’ll have more time to spend with guests once the big day arrives.
Here’s Garten’s fool-proof advice on hosting a seamless dinner:
1. Meal planning starts with a pen
Garten advises you to write out all the dishes you plan to serve. Include appetizers, main dishes, sides, desserts and drinks. Once you have all that, it’s easier to build shopping lists, figure out cooking times and develop a strategy.
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2. What can you make in advance?
Part of Garten’s plan always includes deciding make-ahead items and budgeting time to do so earlier in the week. A lot of dishes served on Thanksgiving can be made in advance and re-heated.
“The cranberry sauce, if you’re making it, you can make it on Monday and put it in the refrigerator,” she says. The same goes for mashed potatoes and spinach gratin. Both dishes can be reheated easily.
And, you can also set the table in advance — even a week in advance. She added that flowers tend to look better the second day, too.
Pro tip: It’s better to reheat in the oven, but a microwave works in a pinch.
3. What can you buy instead of make?
After deciding what to make in advance, consider what you can buy pre-made to save yourself time and effort.
“(I can) actually go out and buy pecan pie that’s totally delicious,” she says. “And I don’t have to make it. And I remind myself all the time, my friends aren’t going to have more fun because I made it myself.”
In fact, it’s just the opposite. Garten says her guests will have more fun if they know she’s relaxed and happy rather than exhausted.
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4. What can you ask guests to make?
Finally, after deciding what you want to make and buy, consider what your company could bring.
She advises taking into consideration what people like to make.
“If I know a friend makes a really good apple pie, I’ll ask them to bring it and then they feel like they’re part of the team and that you trusted them to make a really good apple (pie),” she explains.
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5. Make a list of what to do on the day of
While you an overarching plan will help, breaking out a day-of plan is essential, too.
“Also I make a list for the day that at 11 o’clock I have to do something at 12 o’clock to do something else. And you know the turkey goes in the oven at a certain time and it comes out at a certain time,” she says.
By knowing exactly what she needs to do when she needs to do it, Garten avoids feeling overwhelmed. “So it’s not like ‘Oh my God, how am I going to get this all done?’ If you just follow your roadmap, you know it’ll work.”
Check out these recipes to up your kitchen game:
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hosting Thanksgiving? How to reduce stress according to culinary icon Ina Garten