When it comes to balancing a manic schedule, Julie Benz (of Syfy’s Defiance, ABC’s Desperate Housewives, and Showtime’s Dexter fame) knows a thing or two about keeping it together. As an avid home entertainer, she has learned a few tricks for keeping holidays like Thanksgiving functional and stress-free. With the help of Boston Market’s attached recipes and Benz's helpful tips, you can have a stress-free holiday, too!
Julie Benz's Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner:
Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes, but planning for the meal can be stressful and take time away from family and friends. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few shortcuts to help keep me sane… here are some of my favorite tips!
Don’t wait until the last minute to plan for Thanksgiving. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, sit down and write out your guest list. From there, you’ll be able to figure out exactly how much food and dinnerware you’ll need, and if you’ll be asking guests to bring any dishes. If you have a big extended family like I do, don’t forget to count chairs!
2. Cook ahead of time as much as possible.
Shopping early will get you bigger discounts, and quite a bit of prep work can be done in advance. Have your turkey salted, buttered, and in the pan a few days early, and make your rolls or biscuits the day before.
3. Use prepared sides to skip a few steps in recipes.
Starting every recipe from scratch can be overwhelming. I like to buy a few prepared sides and spice them up myself — for example, instead of spending time peeling and dicing, I pick up a side of mashed potatoes from Boston Market and then use them in my favorite butternut sage mashed potatoes recipe. It takes hours off prep time so I can make even more sides, or just move onto the next thing!
4. Keep the kids busy.
Having all the little ones around is wonderful, but can make for a hectic house. Have a few projects planned that the kids can help with while you cook, like setting the table, decorating cookies, or designing creative name cards for all the guests. These projects can be fun for the kids, and give you the time you need to prepare while also taking care of some of the items on your to-do list.
From Boston Market:
Inevitably, something will go wrong — take a deep breath, remember that everything will be OK, and enjoy the fact that you have the people most important to you there with you to laugh about it. If someone spills on the tablecloth or a side dish burns, it’s not the worst thing in the world — you can always make a last-minute trip to Boston Market for another side (they’re open Thanksgiving Day!).
Jamie Oliver's Tips For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner
If the thought of feeding a crowd this Thanksgiving makes you cringe, let Jamie Oliver take the stress out of your holiday meal.
The London-based celebrity chef stresses the importance of planning ahead, advice he admits is rather boring — but it works.
“Build a plan working back from when you see yourself eating your food,” says Oliver. To stay organized, he uses a chalkboard to map out big meals, but knows there’s probably a “clever app” around for those who’d rather hide their handwriting. (A couple or our fave meal-planning apps are The Joy of Cooking app or the Today’s Parent Mealtime app.)
Small kitchen chalkboards are also easy to find on Etsy and Indigo even sells giant peel and stick chalkboard sheets, if you want to follow Oliver’s more rustic lead.
For him, it’s all about giving the host time to enjoy the holidays. “Thanksgiving is definitely a time of year when timing and planning is everything because what it gives you in return is obviously better food and more time to relax with your friends and family,” he says.
Don’t be afraid of your freezer
Being prepared means you can work ahead, and it’s not too late to get started. Oliver’s latest cookbook 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy, which comes out on October 24, focuses on simple recipes that are easy to make at home, and in advance. If you’re cooking a big batch of something ahead of time, freeze it until you need it. As Oliver says be sure your food cools completely before putting on ice. And don’t just freeze everything in one giant container. To quickly cool your food, and to cut down on waste once it’s defrosted (you don’t want to reheat and re-freeze, as Oliver notes), portion it before sticking it the freezer.
Follow the same rules for leftovers, just be sure to date and label you’re putting away for later. Certain seasonal items — such as butter and pie — freeze particularly well, so don’t fret if you’ve bought too much.
One of Oliver’s new recipes includes a frozen banoffee cheesecake and he recommends a frozen dessert — like frozen s’mores or frozen black forest cheesecake — for an occasion like Thanksgiving. Make it well in advance (and save on fridge space) so you can focus on more pressing matters on the big day — such as cooking a giant turkey to perfection.
Stock up on staples
A fully stocked pantry will save you time on the big day. In Quick and Easy, Oliver shares his five pantry staples: olive oil (for cooking), extra virgin olive oil (for dressing), red wine vinegar, sea salt and black pepper. With these, you can dress a simple salad or quickly roast up veggies by tossing them in olive oil and sprinkling them with salt and pepper just in case someone forgets to bring a side.
In his book, Oliver talks about using a speed peeler, which is essentially a Y peeler. Swap out your regular veggie peeler and make the switch to one of these easy-to-find handheld gadgets to make peeling potatoes, carrots and yams a breeze.
Keep Reading Friendsgiving Tips
Shop Hosting Pieces:
Split Up The Menu
For me, Thanksgiving can be intimidating since I’m not the most skilled when it comes to the kitchen. I love potlucks because not only are you not responsible for ALL the food as the hostess, you get to try other people’s dishes and recipes. I wanted to keep this lunch easy breezy (and stress-free), so we stuck to things that were easy to snack on. For example, we used the kitchen island as a snackable charcuterie space. I also picked up a pre-sliced turkey (thanks Honey Baked Ham) and rolls so people could assemble their own sandwiches. We divided up other dishes including a tossed avocado salad, sweet potato casserole and freshly baked cookies and apple spice cake – with real apple sauce and spice! (Eric always steps it up with the desserts!)
Call Your Creative Friends
I knew this year I wouldn’t have as much time to put off a full table setting on my own like last year, so I called my friend Angela – who was also my wedding planner – to help me pull things together. In addition to offering full event styling, she recently started offering floral design too. She put together a color board of inspiration and from there created the most beautiful centerpiece and accent bud vases. She also coordinated all of the place settings that came together so perfectly!
Angela used a combination of matte black plates and candle holders along with rustic accents and wooden details. The natural wooden handles of the flatware tied into the wooden bud vases. She kept everything else very simple with a few small pumpkins and gourds for some extra color. The beaded glasses brought in a hint of glamour that really elevated the place settings.
Having someone who can help with decor and design will really free up the stress of running around town all week prepping for your event. If you have a friend who has an eye for details, don’t be afraid to ask for their assistance setting up! Or if you have a friend who loves hosting and/or collects serving ware, ask her to co-host and share some of the legwork with you.
Relax Over the Details!
Asking and accepting help instead of taking on all the work myself has been one of my biggest lessons learned this year since having Bennett! At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how grand your table looks or how carefully curated your menu is. (Let’s be honest, people could have shown up with boxes of chicken nuggets, and I would have gladly eaten them off the fancy plates all the same.) All that matters is that you are surrounded by your favorite people and that you get to take a time out to enjoy their company.
However, I am very THANKFUL that I have creative and skilled friends who were able to step in help plan this year’s Friendsgiving. I would not have gotten to eat delicious homemade desserts if Eric wasn’t such a pro in the baking department. And I honestly would not have been able to put together anything nearly this beautiful without Angela – See more of her event work at Angela Marie Events!
Julie Benz’s Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving - Recipes
With the unseasonably warm weather here in Dallas, it seems as if Thanksgiving is months away, not days! Are you in holiday calendar shock, too? Whether you are having 3 people or 30, there are ways to avoid feeling rushed and forgetful this close to my favorite holiday of the year- Thanksgiving!! Why is it my favorite? Because its about giving thanks, not things. To fully enjoy this relaxing day of reflection, getting organized ahead of time is key.
Ready, Set, Turkey! What to do, what to do?! Where do you begin to make sure even the cook can relax on Thanksgiving? We’re a little bit OCD around here at Michelle Lynne Interiors Group (AND my home) – so much so we think it should be “CDO” because that’s alphabetical, hehe. Here are some tips that we follow at my house to make sure we enjoy this special holiday, no matter the number of guests we are serving.
Thanksgiving is not the time to be a control freak. If Old Aunt Martha’s gravy is a showstopper, don’t be an attention hog and try to replicate her delicious dish – let her make it! She’ll probably appreciate being needed. Isn’t that what the first Thanksgiving was all about? Everyone brought something, it was the first group effort. When your guest asks “What can we bring?” TELL THEM! Everyone wants to help out, and if you know they can’t cook, tell them to bring wine. There is no such thing as too much wine!
Last year, Charlie and Norman listened closely to Grandma’s pie crust demonstration.
Buy that frozen turkey as soon as they hit the stores. Keep it in the freezer until the instructions say how long it takes to defrost in the fridge and be all set for Turkey Day. Purchase potatoes and other veggies that have a long shelf life early. I break up my holiday shopping beginning in October- any canned goods, spices and other staples of the pantry are stocked and ready to go. Another bonus is it breaks up the big grocery bill! If you can make any side dishes early, then make it! My favorite cranberry sauce recipe can be made days ahead and kept chilled in the fridge. I also make the mashed potatoes the day before, put them in a casserole dish with pats of butter on top, and reheat in the oven. The butter melts over them to keep them extra moist and tasty. More butter is more better!
I don’t use fancy dishes for Thanksgiving anymore. I mean, everyone is usually sitting around watching football in their jeans. Eating on fine china while dressed like you are at a tailgate never made any sense to me. Times have changed. I dress up everyday dishes with colorful linens and pics from a craft store to make the table a little extra special- they always go on sale after Halloween anyway. Only have one set of dishes and need them now? No worries- set the table ahead and use paper plates until the big day- with the table set for a few weeks, you’ll feel like you live in a home decor magazine.
Dress up your everyday dishes with candlesticks and craft pics for a festive table.
If you are having overnight visitors, get there rooms ready weeks ahead- if no one is currently using them. I freshen the beds by changing the sheets and airing out the linens. Run a dust rag over the hard surfaces at the last minute.If you kids rooms are going to turn into guest rooms, have them start clearing out toys and things so older guest wont have tripping hazards in their temporary private spaces. Think about where your guests can put their suitcases and other personal items. Take a close look at the bathrooms your guests will be using- think about how YOU would feel comfortable if you were the guest using it. Is there room for them to put stuff? Are there enough towels for everyone using it? Tackle these chores well in advance and you wont be scrambling right when you hear the doorbell ring. If you missed Michelle’s blog about preparing for holiday guests, click HERE.
5. Set up a cooking plan for Turkey Day.
This goes back to the first tip- delegate. Make a plan ahead of time, even that morning, to assign tasks. If Grandma is making the pies, let her know when the ovens are available for her use. I used to think it took all day to cook a turkey because my mom would be in the kitchen all day. She took care of most everything herself. Breaking up the tasks that you delegated and letting everyone know when it’s their turn in the kitchen will give you, the hostess with the most-est, a little time to catch your breath. Same goes for cleanup. If you can get your helpers to clean as they go, you wont have the entire days worth of fixin’s to clean up from. Or maybe just let the men do the cleanup? (Yeah, right!)
Everyone loves Thanksgiving, unless you’re a turkey!
6. Leave enough time to relax.
Sitting down to eat shouldn’t be your only break. Get out of the kitchen when others are in there- or sit down and be a guest in your own kitchen (remember that aforementioned wine?). This is your day to celebrate, too. And maybe, right before Grace, you can be thankful for everyone at your table for a stress-free Turkey Day.
Thanksgiving Day is for yoga pants.
By adjusting a few things and letting go of control, your Thanksgiving Dinner can be stress free. Learning to accept help and by planning ahead means the cook can enjoy the holiday, too. And if Aunt Martha’s gravy is as good as she says it is, it’s okay if the turkey turns out a little dry. Enjoy and be thankful for your families and friends!
P.S. I am also on Instagram and Houzz if you want to follow me!
Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner
Serve A Movable Feast Entertaining at home is most successful when guests are made to feel at ease. Whether the setting is an outdoor porch, fireside in the den--even a card table set up in a corner--the goal is to make the space inviting and comfortable and to encourage mingling. Cocktails: Set up self-service cocktails like soft drinks, wine, and beer in a spot that will not interfere with last-minute traffic between the kitchen and dining room. Appetizers: Light snacks like spiced nuts or farmstead cheeses also allow guests to help themselves while you add the finishing touches to dinner. Guests: Offer a selection of shawls or throws for cool weather or large, cozy floor pillows for comfortable fireside entertaining. Provide sufficient chairs: Guests, such as grandparents, who prefer to be seated will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
OUR PLAN-AHEAD GUIDE
2 Weeks Ahead Order specialty foods--turkey, ham, seafood--and be sure to check delivery dates. Gather your recipes, take stock of the pantry, and make a grocery list. Do the same for the table: Assess everything that needs to be cleaned, purchased, or borrowed.
1 Week Ahead Place flower orders and gather together your serving pieces. Now is the time to polish the silver. Make and freeze any foods that will hold until Thanksgiving. Shop for all dry goods. Assemble all necessary table linens and clean or press any that need it.
2 Days Ahead Buy all produce, dairy products, and other perishable items. Set the table and set up an area for drinks and appetizers.
1 Day Ahead This is prep day! Make the stuffing assemble, cover, and refrigerate the sweet potatoes cook the black-eyed peas, and chop the vegetables. Measure out all of the ingredients for the cheese grits and corn pudding. Clean the shrimp and measure the bisque ingredients. Complete the pumpkin pies and chill them. Most important: Clean and truss the turkey, set it in a roasting pan, cover, and refrigerate.
Thanksgiving Day Early in the day, plan the times that items should be roasted, baked, or heated on the stove. Create a task list of what still needs to be made from scratch and what will only need heating through. Double check that all of the serving pieces are ready for the meal and take a walk through the house to make sure each area in which you will be entertaining is set up as planned. Be sure to leave time to tidy the kitchen and be ready for guests. Put flowers out and light candles just before they arrive.
5 Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Dinner with Easy Recipes
Thanksgiving, while a holiday we all love celebrating, can be a super stressful event to plan for too. Family and friends are coming over and a full-course meal to prepare, it&rsquos very easy to lose the celebration in the midst of the kitchen commotion.
We aren&rsquot Thanksgiving dinner gurus or anything, but we&rsquove sure learned a thing or two over the years of hosting these yearly dinners. A Thanksgiving dinner doesn&rsquot have to be &lsquoperfect&rsquo, remember the true essence of this holiday is about being thankful for everything you have and enjoying the company of the people you will be sharing the Thanksgiving dinner with &ndash not how Masterchef-perfect your turkey is or how lavish a smorgasbord you have prepared on the dinner table.
Here are some of our no-fuss, tried and tested tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner:
You know how family members can be, your brother-in-law was going to invite his girlfriend, and then they split. Your grandfather who has retired in Hawaii suddenly announced he will be in town for Thanksgiving and will be joining you for dinner. These things are unexpected and totally out of control but what you can do is to stay on top of your headcount and always follow the rule of thumb of preparing more food than not enough.
Stick with the basic and traditional Thanksgiving courses. Carefully select your menu with your guests in mind. Creating a menu like this that everyone can eat will save you time from tailoring a dish for a single person&rsquos preference.
It&rsquos healthy to challenge yourself once in a while, but not to the point of overkill that would totally ruin the fun out of planning for a Thanksgiving dinner. Opt for the 5-ingredient pumpkin pie with the ingredients you already have, rather than the complicated one that will take you a few confused trips along the grocery aisles.
After selecting your Thanksgiving menu, list down all the ingredients and supplies you need to buy, while simultaneously scanning your cupboards to see what you already have in stock. You can take this further by organizing your lists by the grocery aisles to save you from running around. Purchase items in advance, except for perishables that you should get a day or two before Thanksgiving dinner.
Accept all the help you can get. Delegate guests to bring something and they&rsquod surely be more than willing to. It could be a bottle of wine, or their own family secret recipe of the classic cranberry sauce. You can also ask someone to stay behind instead of bringing food so you have an extra hand to help clear out the dishes.
Read the full article on Healthy Women here for more tips on planning for a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner.
Now that you&rsquove got those tips jotted down, we&rsquore going all out on the Thanksgiving dinner advice by sharing a few easy recipes that even beginner hosts can do.
8 Tips And Tricks For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving
I love the holidays. This is my favorite time of year. It also happens to be the most stressful time of year for me&ndash the crowded stores and streets, the overwhelming list of to-do’s in my head, and the pressure of making everything perfect. The truth is, all of those stresses are avoidable. You can’t change the crowd, but you can avoid it. People can help with your list. Nobody is holding you to perfection but yourself. It’s time to make Thanksgiving about thankfulness again, instead of the what-if’s and what you haven’t done.
8 Tips And Tricks For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving:
1. Make a list.
We have all had to make a grocery run on Thanksgiving, if not multiple times because we keep forgetting things. Making a list and checking it twice, Santa-style, is the easiest way to get everything you need so that you don’t have to worry about the thing you forgot. It seems so basic, but a list is the easiest way to remember everything next time you’re at the store.
If your grocery store has an online order/pick-up situation, you get everything without driving back and forth!
2. Shop early.
If you know what you need, avoid the crowd and go a day early to the grocery store. That way you can beat the crowd and get your choice of produce. Quality ingredients will always make your food better, so why not get them before you feel like you have to fight for them?
3. Consider disposable silverware.
The Thanksgiving cleaning mountain is difficult to climb, especially after eating a heaping helping of turkey. But if you are willing to go disposable, even partially, with your dining ware you can significantly reduce your clean up. Metallic plastic “silverware” even looks like the real thing and comes in both silver and gold.
4. Don’t try new recipes.
You do not know what you will end up with while trying a new recipe. You may even miss a step. Stick with the tried and true. If you really want to try something new, take it for a test run in a small batch before the big day.
5. Delete Pinterest this week.
The last thing you need to do is try to compare yourself and your home to a staged professional photoshoot. You don’t need that stress or self-criticism in your life. Do something simple, something that you like.
6. Get some cooking out of the way.
Some dishes, especially cold ones, can be made in advance. Make any dips, spreads, sauces, desserts, casseroles, or salad dressings a day early and put them in the fridge until you are ready to reheat or eat them.
7. Ask for help.
A significant amount of stress during the holidays can come from feeling like there is too much on our plates. Simply asking someone to mash the potatoes, follow a simple recipe, set a table, or run some errands can make your life easier. Sure, they may not do thing exactly the way you like, but you can be thankful that someone is there for you, willing to help, and a part of a holiday that is all about coming together.
8. Plan for leftovers.
Get your Tupperware ready because there will be extra food. The best part about this is that you now have the next few meals figured out. If you don’t want it all, make sure to add plastic plates and tin foil to your shopping list so that you can give some food to guests as they leave.
The Bob Evans Farmhouse Feast Can Help You Have A Stress Free Thanksgiving:
When Bob Evans Restaurants reached out to partner with me to host a “Stress Free Thanksgiving,” I had only previously hosted Thanksgiving once! I wasn’t exactly sure how stressed I was going to feel when the day arrived. I arranged to pick up the heat and serve meal at 4:30 PM on a Saturday evening and by 6:30 PM my guests were sitting down to a full Thanksgiving spread!
Thanks to the pre-cooked Farmhouse Feast I spent a total of just 1.5 hours of active cooking time. And the bulk of that time was spent standing around talking to our friends as the food baked in the oven!
Everyone at the table raved about the food. The food was delicious! It tasted homemade – maybe even better, to be honest. I have never made stuffing that didn’t come from a box and my own mashed potatoes have never tasted that good! And even though I like to cook, I don’t think I could have matched the taste in my own kitchen!
My guests guessed that the meal cost $200-$300 and were amazed to find out the largest Farmhouse Feast only costs $114.99 here in Columbus! The average Thanksgiving meal costs $20-$30/per person so my guests weren’t that far off. We all considered the price of the Farmhouse Feast to be quite the deal, especially if you add in the time saved in preparation. The Farmhouse Feast for 4 starts at just $49.99!
Expert Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Thanksgiving Potluck
Know what makes Thanksgiving a whole lot less stressful? Ask everybody to help out and bring dishes to share instead of cooking everything yourself.
Of course, having your friends and family pitch in can lead to a whole different kind of headache: Will guests show up with the promised cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and cheesy cauliflower, or will they go rogue and bring something totally random and unsuitable?
To guarantee your feast is fab, here are 8 easy steps to host a successful Thanksgiving potluck that&aposs freak-out free.
1. Create a sign-up sheet.
Yup, there are apps that help organize the menu at your shareable feast. Many different apps, actually. But, as much as we love technology, these helpful apps require that everyone download and use them, no matter what type of mobile device they&aposve got glued to their palm. As an alternative, you could start a spreadsheet and share it on Dropbox or Google. Or you could dive into Pinterest and find the cutest Thanksgiving potluck signup sheet to download, print and pass around, old-school style. If you&aposre hosting/coordinating, try and get all the bases covered without sounding too bossy. Ask everybody to grab something from one from these categories:
2. Make menu planning fun for all and all for fun.
A classic Thanksgiving meal is fairly predictable, from the roast turkey and stuffing to mashed potatoes and pecan pie. But for a potluck, be sure to leave a little wiggle room to include traditional dishes from other cultures. That&aposs the joy of a shared spread, after all. Does your BFF love lumpia on Turkey Day? Or steamed rice instead of taters? Let them bring it!
Need gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes? Or maybe you&aposre a vegan? Planning ahead will help avoid holiday sad face.
Got friends who swear they can&apost cook? No worries. They can check out grocery store deli counters and bakeries, where they can find everything from appetizers to prepared side dishes and desserts. For example, they can top a store-bought pie with whipped cream and a dusting of ground cinnamon.
Beginner cooks can find dishes they&aposre comfortable with in this collection of quick and easy Thanksgiving recipes.
3. Figure out how much food you need.
It&aposs easy to go overboard when everyone&aposs bringing a dish, but there&aposs an easy way to calculate how much to prepare:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp grainy or Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
- 1 small bunch kale
- 8 large Brussels sprouts
- 1 small apple, diced
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Dressing: In a small bowl or jar, shake or whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and honey.
Salad: Pull the kale leaves off the stalks, discard the stalks and stack and thinly slice the leaves. Halve the Brussels sprouts lengthwise and thinly slice, discarding the stem ends. Put the sliced kale and Brussels sprouts in a bowl. Add the apples and feta, drizzle with dressing and toss to combine. Serve topped with pecans. Serves 6.
To hear the full interview with Mary Halpen and Julie Van Rosendaal, listen to the audio labelled: Best of Bridge members talk cooking over the years, Thanksgiving meals