As the leaves begin to fall, the Pittsboro and Chapel Hill areas become steeped in holiday traditions that will carry well into the coming new year. November? November is dedicated to recognizing all that we have to be thankful for while enjoying delectable meals. Whether you prefer turkey or ham, pumpkin or pecan, this is the season for hosting friends and family.
Residents of the Ryan’s Crossing community have much to celebrate whether opening the doors to their brand-new home for the first time or second. With kitchens that would be the envy of the most experienced chefs, homes here are perfect for large gatherings! And, with plenty of room to spread out in gorgeous open floorplans, hosting duties may be permanently assigned to those living in this luxury neighborhood.
Thanksgiving demands a well-thought-out game plan that often includes purchasing “extra” of everything to avoid shortages on the big day. Build your menu now so that trips to the store in the coming weeks aren’t overwhelming or inclusive of last-minute panic as you add to the Thanksgiving day inventory. Why shop in advance? Supermarkets will become much more crowded as the month carries on as shoppers empty shelves of items that may be needed in your home!
- Don’t forget to ask invitees about dietary restrictions and how they would prefer any handled. Often, those with specific food needs are happy to bring along a dish that works for them in a shareable quantity!
Before you head to the store, organize your list by aisle to streamline your trip. Purchase all non-perishables in advance and leave the “best when fresh” items for a quick trip the days before the holiday.
The most dreadful (yet common) words spoken on Thanksgiving Day? Uh oh, the turkey is still frozen. Whether your method is roasting, deep-frying, smoking, or using a pressure cooker, a fully thawed turkey is a critical key to success. When to begin? Plan on 24 hours of thawing for every 5 pounds of turkey. Use those thawing days to map out a terrific dry rub or brine!
- 20 lb turkey? Put it in the refrigerator on Saturday evening! 30 lb? No later than Friday morning. Wait to season your turkey until the night before cooking as this will allow the flavors to meld without becoming overwhelming!
Side dishes often steal the spotlight as a relative’s famed mashed potatoes or a friend’s delicious casserole make a requested appearance. When invitees ask what they can bring, don’t be shy! A great hosting method for this holiday is to encourage participants to fill up the side dish or dessert table. This also alleviates the stress of juggling oven space or wondering if sufficient serving platters are available.
- Create a separate drink station, away from the kitchen, to lessen crowding around counters as prep work reaches bustling.
Setting the table for Thanksgiving can also be a group effort and the more festive, the better! Look no further than your own backyard for some natural decorations. Did you know that much of the country purchases pinecones for decoration!?! How lucky for residents of central North Carolina to have unlimited inventory just steps away. Showcase a favorite tablecloth or create a centerpiece made of candles. Remember those handmade turkeys of elementary school days? Why not have your guests re-create them to hang from a festive string of waiting garland? Even a simple bouquet is enough to take a holiday table to the next level.
As a holiday host, the most stressful part of the day may be ensuring that everyone feels welcome and comfortable. Don’t discount the use of festive name tags or even assign an enthusiastic attendee to the duty of introductions. Place light snacks strategically to create mingling areas, away from traffic patterns, with seating angled to encourage chatter.
- If hosting a range of guests unfamiliar with each other, place a conversation starter basket in each sitting area. This allows guests to pull a question from the basket such as “What’s your favorite sports team?” or “Tell me the best movie you ever watched.” Another option? Similar starters on cute nametags such as “Hello, I’m John, Ask me about my trip to Italy!”
As dinner winds down, the work returns as clean-up begins. No need to pass on offers for help as that mountain of dishes will appreciate the extra hands. Select a few folks to help while encouraging the remainder to steer clear of the kitchen. Turn on a football game, holiday parade, or even the National Dog Show. Now is not the time to worry if plates are going back to the correct cabinet – let your helpers use their best judgment and follow up later!
Thanksgiving is often the most involved holiday as planning and preparation centers around endless dishes that will bring crowds to your home. In the end, it won’t be the food that your guests remember, it will be the stories. There will be moments of chaos, failed recipes, and a few spills but none of those things matter. Take a deep breath and embrace the joy of hosting on this day filled with gratitude.