Holiday gatherings: Stay sane while you entertain

By Kaylene Morrill Wheeler

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 2:00 p.m. MST

Hosts should also remember that they do not have to make everything from scratch. When store-bought items, such as bakery rolls and pies, are “sufficient and delicious,” Cline recommends buying them to cut down on stress.

Be proactive

No host wants to discover halfway through dinner that there is not enough food to go around.

“Depending on how many proteins you are offering, for example for Thanksgiving, we allow one pound per person for turkey, 5 ounces finished per person of ham and 4 ounces per person of mashed potatoes,” Maxine Turner, president of Cuisine Unlimited Catering and Special Events, wrote in an email while she was out of the country. “Keep in mind that the larger the menu, the smaller the portion people will take.”

Cline is the author of a new cookbook, “Feeding the Masses” that includes ideas, recipes, serving suggestions and more for feeding large groups of people. Cline offered a few of these serving-size guidelines specific to Thanksgiving.

For a group of five people, Cline suggested serving sizes of one 14-ounce can of cranberry sauce, one pound of vegetables and a half gallon of beverages. This, however, does not account for large servings, second servings or having leftovers.

Of course, in order to know how much meat to buy, it is necessary to know how many guests to plan on. According to Turner, hosts should invite 20 percent more than the number of people they would like to serve.

“The rule of thumb is that during the holidays, only 70 percent to 80 percent of your invitees will be able to attend,” Turner said. “Use this as a guideline in initially preparing your menu and, eventually, your shopping list. Request an RSVP 10 days prior to your party date.”

Both Turner and Cline suggested creating a list of everything that needs to get done for the big day and when each item must get done. Having a timeline can ensure that all the food is ready at the same time and that nothing is forgotten.

A to-do list also makes it easier to delegate tasks to guests should they volunteer to help. Depending on the guests, they can help with either the food or tasks unrelated to food.

Even with a timeline, however, problems may arise if there is not enough room in the oven for everything that needs to be cooked. Utilizing roasters, slow cookers and stovetops can help with the overcrowding that can occur in the oven.

Still, Thanksgiving Day stress can be greatly reduced by planning and preparing some food ahead of time. Cline said pies and potato casseroles, among other things, can often be made the day or two before Thanksgiving. The more that can be done ahead of time, the more enjoyable Thanksgiving Day will be.

While food is central to Thanksgiving, many other aspects of the day must be planned. House cleaning, for example, should be planned for and completed in advance of Thanksgiving Day. Other things to consider are seating arrangements and décor and what to use for dinnerware and serving equipment.

“Set your table and tablecloths and things like that day before,” Cline said. “If you’re going to use the china you haven’t used for a while, you’d want to wash it and dry it a day or two before and get your tables and chairs set up. I’ve been to gatherings where an hour and a half before the meal, you get 25 people trying to set up chairs and tablecloths and iron things. In my book, that’s stress.”

Be mindful of food allergies

Food allergies can vary in terms of seriousness; for some, exposure to allergens might cause a slight rash, while for others, it can mean a trip to the hospital. It is therefore important to communicate with guests about special dietary needs.

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