TIMELINE AND TIPS TO HOSTING A STRESS-FREE THANKSGIVING DINNER

The countdown is on….And I am super hyped!!!  Thanksgiving is a BIG DEAL in my home.  I love everything about it…looking for new recipes, planning the menu and hosting for friends and family.  Last year, I hosted close to 35 people at my house and did most of the cooking.  Yes, that’s nuts.  And yes, my feet are usually on fire for the rest of the weekend…but I would not trade it for the world…at least not now.

My goal is to share some of my staple go-to recipes in the next few days…but first, I wanted to share some of my quick tips on prepping for the big day.  If you haven’t started yet – you still have time!

Recipe Search:  A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I start to look for different recipes that I may want to try out.  My menu generally stays the same with all the key staples – but every year I try to add 1-2 new side dishes or new variations of a dish just for fun.  Its best to test out the new dish BEFORE Thanksgiving…but sometimes – I just take a shot to see how it turns out and if its worthy to make it on the dinner table.  By the way – we’re 5 days away from the big day – so if you’re going to try something new – today is the day.

Saturday:  Finalize your menu and make your grocery list.  You DO NOT want to wait until the last minute to start figuring out what you need. This year, I’m relying on Instacart to get as much as I can off of my list early. Note: Instacart is great for some things – but not everything.  Save the fresh produce, herbs, and meats for your own choosing for a day or two before.

Monday:    Clean out your refrigerator to make space for things you will need to keep cold while prepping…as well as leftovers.  If you’re hosting…this is also a good time to pull out all of your serving dishes and any décor you will need to use.  Don’t wait until the last minute to search for that perfect serving dish you haven’t used in the last 364 days…or worse – realize that it’s missing.  Also, take inventory of all the tools you need to cook and have them readily available – and working!  Nothing worse than finding out the day of that your thermometer konked out.

Make sure you have plenty of glass containers on hand for any leftovers.  I also like to have these containers handy for guests who like to make a to-go plate…so they’re not walking out with my good containers – cause they will.

Tuesday:  Start food prep.  I usually use this day to buy my fresh turkey from Delaware Chicken Farm early in the morning and keep it in the fridge until its brine time.  I also use this time to start cutting up any ingredients that I’ll be using:  onions, peppers, etc…chop them up and pop them in ziplock bags so they’re ready to go when its time to cook.

Wednesday:  First thing…brine your turkey in the morning so that it will have a full 24 hours to soak.  Trust me – its a game changer.  More on that later.

Make your cranberry sauce and desserts.  I try to knock these out in the morning so that I have the rest of the day to get any last-last minute items needed. Promise…it doesn’t matter how much I prep – there’s a moment of “Damn. I forgot to get the sour cream! BOB. I NEED YOU!!!!!!”

Make any side dishes that can be refrigerated and warmed up the next day.

Wednesday night:  Before bed…set your table.  Get that out of the way so you won’t have to worry about it the next day.

Thanksgiving Day:  I am usually up and in my kitchen by 6 AM.  We usually have dinner at 4 PM so that gives me a good 10 hours to get everything done.  Having a double oven helps…and having my trusted sidekick Fifi who helps me with prep.

To alleviate the kids and adults in my kitchen on a busy morning – I’ll make something quick for breakfast…usually its coffee and blueberry muffins.  If that doesn’t work for them – there’s always cereal!

I’ll then start with the main sides that are a bit more complicated to make:  greens, mac and cheese, candied yams.  For some of those items – I’ll prep and pop them in the oven closer to the afternoon when they only need about 45min – 1hr to bake.  I also tend to wait and roast my turkey and ham about 4 hours before dinner time, depending on the weight.

EXTRA TIPS:

  • Game Plan:  If not this plan…then find a game plan that works for you!  Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for the person hosting.  So it’s best that you come into it with a plan…and reliable help.
  • Identify a cleanup crew:  After all of this cooking, you should not be the one responsible for the cleanup.  So thankfully, I can put my nieces and sister to work throughout the day, keeping the kitchen clean and dishes washed.  By the time dinner is ready – mostly everything is in disposables so it should be a somewhat easy clean-up.
  • ASK:  Don’t be afraid to ask your guest to bring something…especially those that you won’t need to lean on for the cleanup crew.  Wine, drinks, ice, cheese platters, water, are all items that you shouldn’t have to worry about – especially if you’re handling the food.
  • Enjoy the day.  Fill your house with music…Drink wine while cooking..Assign someone to take photos and most of all – be grateful for the moment.

Happy Hosting!

A SUPER HERO TURNS 3!

AJ turned 3 this past August….and as every year before – it was time to capture my new little 3-year old – in all of his glory.  I also wanted to capture a reflection of what he loves and is into at this moment…and right now, its all about superheroes and being a “big boy.” He will even tell you… “I’m the Man.”

In similar fashion to Bobbi’s 4th Princess Diaries Shoot, we incorporated his favorite superheroes (a mix between the Incredible Hulk and Super Man.)  And we got him all dressed up looking like a mini GQ model in his light blue suit.  Here are a few of my faves from the day.  Thanks to Erica Rodriquez for always being down for my ideas…even shooting him in full costume in the middle of the day at the metro mover.  And Toni Lowe definitely nailed the looks.

Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog

Wait…you thought Bobbi Elle was not gonna crash the party??? Ha! NOT!
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog
Super hero Photo Shoot; One Balanced Mama Blog

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TRUNKS AND TREATS…HALLOWEEN DEETS!

2015…I had no clue what a “trunk-or-treat” was…I just knew that I got a notice from my kids school – and I was to show up with my car and hand out treats.  Welp – I was in for a rude awakening. Parents had their trunks decked out with Halloween decor…you can tell they put some thought into it.  And you can tell…I didn’t.  Exhibit A below:

one balanced mama; trunk or treat
This was my attempt at trunk or treat decorations a few years ago. Sad indeed.

Came a long way in 2017….this year I went with a Super Heroes theme for our costumes and trunk decorations.  I used superhero capes that I already had in AJ’s toy bin from his birthday party.  These are great because they come with masks and they also have a girls set.  Got them on Amazon.

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Presenting…Super Woman, Bat Girl, Incredible Hulk…and The Black Panther…We got ALL the superpowers!!
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The first year I showed up in yoga pants…this is pretty impressive.  Thanks Party City!
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Found some of these gems at Home Goods, Michael’s and Target a few years ago…and they will be used for the next 15 years…
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ART IN THE PARK – HALLOWEEN EDITION!

I actually dreaded going to the pumpkin patch this year. I thought of the heat, the mass crowd and the limited rides that everyone stands in line for – and I begrudgingly put the date on my calendar. Only because my kids always have a blast…cause – kids!

Thankfully, we received an invite by my kids’ art teacher to a program she launched called “Art in the Park.” It was the perfect set up…a gorgeous day in Miami…under a pavilion…at a beautiful  UNcrowded park…overlooking the beach…with plenty of arts and crafts to keep the kids busy. Plus, there was a playground AND a carousel. It was a definite YES on our end…the scene was Crandon Park on Key Biscayne.

This might be the way to go if you also dread heading to the patch. For me – I love getting photos of my kids at a pumpkin patch…nothing is cuter than seeing your babies sitting on pumpkins or trying to pick them up…Exhibit A below.  But this time – I wanted to go a less fussy route while providing an environment where my kids can be creative and still have fun with their friends.   So grab some art supplies…some pumpkins…some kids…and voila! You have a party! Sharing some of the fun from our day!

EXHIBIT A:

pumpkin patch photos; one balanced mama
Bobbi Elle’s first pumpkin patch visit…at 9 months old.

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Bobbi Elle with her art teacher Miss Susie, who hosted the day.

One Balanced Mama_0178.jpg; art in the park
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