Preparing a Thanksgiving feast ranks high on the entertaining stress-o-meter. Expectations, traditions and a home full of guests can make even the most seasoned host lose sleep.
But don't let the anticipatory list making, house fluffing and food preparing become more tiring than it needs to be. Some expert advice and helpful products can make Thanksgiving entertaining more stylish, fun and fret-free.
Kevin Sharkey, executive creative director at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, begins with a why-didn't-I-think-of-that idea:
"If you have performance anxiety about the day, what if you [threw the party] the night before or after? Sometimes I think the only reason to have Thanksgiving is to have sandwiches the next day. So have a great lunch or cocktail party instead," he suggests.
Guests are just looking for a convivial atmosphere, so don't bother with fancy appetizers. As Sharkey points out, guests won't remember the homemade potato chips you slaved over; they'll remember the stressed-out you.
Serve simple things on interesting plates or in silver bowls, and it all looks special. For example, West Elm has Shanna Murray's gold-penned bisque stoneware salad plates. (www.westelm.com)
Instead of a complicated bar, come up with one fun drink to serve as a showpiece, then add a few bottles of wine and sparkling water. If you're doing a casual Thanksgiving meal or a lunch, consider setting out an interesting variety of craft beers, as well as vegetable juices and iced tea for the nondrinkers.
Better Homes and Gardens has suggestions for make-ahead nibblers such as mini gruyere puffs that can be made ahead of time and frozen, or mini meatballs in a tangy apricot sauce that can be re-warmed in a slow cooker during cocktail hour. (www.bhg.com)
At Realsimple.com, you'll find lots of make-ahead appetizers, salads, sides, breads and desserts for Thanksgiving.
If you do plan to host on Thanksgiving day, keep the menu simple.