Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks: Party Like A Pro

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sam’s Club. The opinions and text are all mine.

Ahhh… turkey day is nearly upon us and, if you’re like me, you’re about to lose your mind due to the long list of things you need to get done before the big day. Not to mention Christmas right around the corner! Well, in an effort to ease my mind and give myself a bit of time to prep I decided to head out to Sam’s Club® and search for great tips and tricks for planning the perfect Thanksgiving party.

Holiday entertaining can be the ultimate challenge.  But with affordable, gourmet selections from Sam’s Club®, you’ll be party planning like a pro for the best holiday season ever.  Get started at FoodNetwork.com/party, your one-stop source for great tips, recipes and behind the-scenes videos with Sam’s Club® Members.

You can also get tips directly from the pros! Check out Chef Robert Irvine, host of Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible Ambush as he ambushes an unsuspecting Sam’s Club member to help solve problems and party plan like a pro.  In this video, Robert provides his ideas for the perfect center plate protein to make sure your next dinner party is a smash!

In addition to great food from Sam’s Club, I’ve also asked bloggers what their favorite ways to help save them time (and sometimes money!) when hosting or attending a Thanksgiving party. If you’re like me and need a game plan to keep your mind at ease, read along to find out all of the great tips I discovered.

Thanksgiving Checklist
1. Create a checklist

One of the easiest ways for me to stay on track with big meals or events is to have a checklist. A place I can put everything I need to do and have the satisfaction of checking off each little box as I go along. Luckily, Tonya Staab wrote a Thanksgiving checklist featured on Blissfully Domestic that should help each of us prep and plan for this Thanksgiving.

2. Prep ahead

One of the easiest things to do when prepping for Thanksgiving is to do things in advance. Rachael Nash Wunderlich of Adventures in Wunderland suggests to make pies and put together casseroles the day before, then on thanksgiving day you just rotate the casseroles in to bake and all you really have to worry about is the turkey and potatoes.

Need help on those potatoes? Check out these mashed potato tips from Dish over Dinner. Or do what I do and make a twice baked potato casserole (recipe coming soon!) that you can prep in advance.

Prepping doesn’t stop with food. Consider setting up the buffet with dishes and decor while placing post its and labels to indicate where dishes should go on the big day. Put out anything you can in advance so you aren’t rushing to put things together on the day of the party. We also set the table a few days before too.

chocolate espresso pecan pie3. Keep drinks and dessert simple

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to keep it simple. Delegate some items so that you aren’t burdened with many different dishes. One tip Joann Wooley of Sign4Baby thinks helps a lot is to have your guests be in charge of dessert and beverages.

Now if you really love to bake and that’s your thing then consider delegating out some side dishes instead. Consider this chocolate espresso pecan pie from Baby Birds Farm for your main dessert and then have guests bring other pies to add to the mix. That way you can spend more time on other aspects of the meal.

And drinks can be kept super easy. Ask guests to bring their favorite bottle of wine and then for the kids make this easy crock pot apple caramel cider featured on Catching Up With Kate.

4. Remember food allergies

Its important to remember that not all guests can eat everything on the table. Try to accommodate guests food allergies says Melonie Gallegos. It may be a small change you make to  a recipe or simply preparing a dish without one ingredient but your guests will sure appreciate it!

Know of a guest who’s gluten or dairy free? Try this delicious pumpkin pie I made with coconut milk. Cook it up in a dairy-free, gluten-free crust and you have an allergy friendly dessert!

green bean casserole

5. Make sure to think of the leftovers

No one wants to miss out on the delicious left overs so consider buying 2 turkeys if you are hosting a big family gathering suggests Joann Wooley. Or plan to make a double batch of that favorite casserole everyone loves. And make sure to pick up plenty of goodie bags and dishes from Sam’s Club so you can send leftovers home with your guest. The one thing I always regret each year is not taking enough leftovers home!

7. Don’t Overcook the Bird!

Now I’ve only cooked two turkeys in my life. One with a brine, the other without. And the only thing I was concerned about was dry turkey. So I did a bit of research and found that cooking the turkey with it’s breast down for half of the cooking time allows the bird to cook evenly without overcooking the white meat. By flipping it back over 1/2 way through I can still get that gorgeous golden brown crisp skin everyone loves.

8. Keep it Simple

I had to laugh when a fellow blogger suggested to simply purchase everything already made. Heather Delaney Reese of It’s A Lovely Life mentioned that her best Thanksgiving ever was the year they bought everything at Sam’s Club (and split the cost with friends). Sam’s Club has a truly impressive array of holiday foods from the entire meal-in-a-frozen-box to just the sides (fresh or frozen) to just the ingredients for a homemade feast. Now I’m all about home cooking 99% of the time but when it comes to these giant meals for parties keeping it simple just makes it easier on everyone.

9. Entertain your Guests

There really can be too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to prepping Thanksgiving parties. So make sure you have something for your guests to do (or eat) while you’re finishing up.

Make sure there’s a ball game on for the guys and the black Friday ads out for those who shop early. Some bloggers may have mentioned getting into arguments with their mother-in-law. Jillian Warner of Mommy Testers tip is one we should keep at heart – keep your mother-in-law out of the kitchen! Or simply give her all of the salad fixings and set her at the table to get to work.

Thanksgiving Kiddie Table

10. Enjoy yourself!

With all of the prep and work that goes into a Thanksgiving meal, remember to enjoy yourself and the time you have with your family. Don’t sweat it if something goes wrong. Because you’re with people who you care about and just want to have a good time. Plus… if dinner is a huge disaster there’s always dessert!

How do you keep Thanksgiving stress-free?

Don’t forget to enter the “Holiday Party Planning” sweepstakes running from 10/22 – 12/31/15 and make the holidays just a little brighter! The Grand Prize winner will receive a $500 gift card and 1 year Plus membership ($100 value). 5 1st Place winners will receive a 1 year Prime membership ($100 value). 5 2nd Place winners will receive a Wolfgang Puck 10 piece Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set ($29.99 value). And 10 3rd Place winners will receive a Kitchen Aid 3pc Chef Knife Set ($15.98 value). 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., 21 years or older.  Ends 12/31/15.  To enter and for complete details and odds, visitwww.foodnetwork.com/party. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sam’s Club. The opinions and text are all mine.

Creating The Perfect Thanksgiving Tablescape

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Today we’re sharing our tips on creating the perfect Thanksgiving tablescape. Insight for this post was provided by GE Café™ Series.

Creating The Perfect Thanksgiving Tablescape

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I’m starting to plan out our Thanksgiving table. I love being able to create a festive tablescape for the holidays even if we don’t host Thanksgiving at our home. It keeps things fun for dinnertime. Why leave all the fun to my mother-in-law, right? And why not keep the house festive all month long? Plus if we get unexpected guests we can entertain easily without worrying about decor.

I haven’t talked much about our new home but one of the things that frustrates me is the fact that we don’t have enough room in our home, nor do we have an adequate kitchen, to host a holiday meal… yet. Luckily we have plans to remodel our kitchen and dining room so that we have the space, and appliances, to accomodate entertaining along with our every day meals.

So for now I focus on what I can control – the decor and festive tablescapes!

Last year we went with a simple centerpiece to decorate the table so this year we’ve continued with the simple approach. By using pumpkins and squash we picked up at the pumpkin patch right before Halloween, I was able to repurpose a few of our fall decor into a nice tablescape that was festive and coordinated with everything else I had.

Creating The Perfect Thanksgiving Tablescape - fall foliage and squash

Keep The Center Simple

Since we typically keep a buffet of food in the kitchen, the center of the table is for decorative pieces to keep things festive. By utilizing some gourds and squash and placing them along with some leaves on top of a burlap runner, I can create the look of Fall without too many pieces.  I was able to utilize the orange leaf print table cloth that I use for Halloween again for our Thanksgiving tablescape. I’ve also used a cinderella pumpkin here to serve not only as a centerpiece, but as a place to put the pie for dessert at the end of the meal.

When you want to keep conversation flowing, keep the centerpiece low. That allows guests to converse across the table. If there are a few taller pieces, make sure they’re seperated out so there are spaces between to make eye contact. Also, if you’re using candles, make sure they’re unscented. There’s nothing that’ll ruin a dinner more than a scented candle when you’re trying to eat food. 

Creating The Perfect Thanksgiving Tablescape - place settings

Have Fun With Place Settings

I love creating fun place settings for my guests to enjoy. This year we found some party poppers from our most recent trip to one of our favorite cooking sho that had a festive turkey theme. These are great conversation starters when guests sit down because they want to open them and discuss what they got inside. Sure they’re normally at the kiddy table but why can’t the adults have fun too? I’ve also created fun place cards and napkin rings to keep the table fun and entertaining for everyone.

While I do keep our plates and silverware near the food at the buffet, I leave a bowl for the guests to take to the buffet with them for their salads so they have room on their plate for other foods. Don’t you hate when you put the salad on your place first and it takes up a ton of room? No? Just me? I also like to leave a napkin at each place setting. I’m always that person who gets to the table after getting her food, sits down, and has to get back up to grab a napkin because I forgot it or didn’t have any hands free.

Creating The Perfect Thanksgiving Tablescape - centerpiece

Keep Versatile Pieces

It’s a great idea to have some key pieces from your tablescape to utilize from one holiday to the next. Consider investing in some timeless colors or colors that work with various seasons. Green can work for the fall and winter seasons depending on what you pair it with. Orange works for Halloween and Thanksgiving. And red can work from Christmas to Valentines Day to patriotic hoidays. I also keep a few basic colors of place mats as well on hand to switch it up. Cream, green, and blue are in my current rotation. 

Creating The Perfect Thanksgiving Tablescape - a simple, easy idea for Thanksgiving dinner

Now that I’ve taken care of our tablescape, I can focus on testing out a few of our favorite recipes to contribute to our holiday meals. And next year I’m hoping that I’ll be preparing a holiday meal in our new kitchen. With the research I’ve done on appliances, I’m starting to narrow down exactly what I want. And first things first, out with the electric stove and in with a gas stove!

Since I love to cook, I am aiming to purchase appliances that will last a while and keep up with my passion in the kitchen. I also have to keep in mind my husband’s love of baking. Luckily I can “Take Food Further” through the power of GE Café™ appliances. These appliances bring the expertise of the restaurant, home, during holiday timing.

With the GE Café™ Series I’ll be able to get the details designed to help the meals I make become masterpieces. From slow roasts to quick sears, from soups to sauces, the advanced cooking technology and intuitive design of our ranges can take every meal further. And boy do I need that! With each burner specialized for precise boiling, simmering and searing I won’t have to put up with the frustration that I feel with our current kitchen.

How do you simplify the holidays?

Disclosure: Insight for this post was provided by GE Café™ Series.



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