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Easy Organized Holiday Entertaining

From a Professional Home Organizer, Mary Schmidt

I always love this time of year, despite the days getting darker earlier this season is all about staying warm and being connected with friends and family. What could be better than sharing good food with friends and family around the fire and catching up? Yes, it takes prep work to pull off a smooth Thanksgiving weekend in my home, but it’s always worth it. And this year I’m especially excited for the holidays as I’m hosting 17 family members. I’ve learned though over the years from hosting large groups one thing is essential for a smooth day: organization. And I’m excited to share with my clients how I manage the big day in my home.

First, remember prepping with detailed lists will prevent you from making extra unnecessary trips to the store. Organize your lists by category: beverages, sides, condiments, desserts, etc…

And the night before, set your table to set the stage for a great day ahead.

Now let's talk about the refrigerator. I recommend giving it a thorough cleaning several days before Thanksgiving. Take everything out. Get rid of expired items, toss things that have been opened for a while too. I clean with 3 parts hot water and 1 part vinegar. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray the sides, shelves, and drawers. Turntables are a great way to organize your fridge, and I also like clear acrylic bins to store items. Have fresh fruits and vegetables pre-washed in air-tight bags or containers for easy appetizers on hand. And don’t stress over complex appetizers on Thanksgiving; it’s ok to let your guests get a little hungry for the big meal! Do make sure you have an accurate meat thermometer on hand though.

One important trick to alleviate stress Thanksgiving day: make casseroles and as many sides ahead of time then label each dish with a sticky note and heating instructions. This way if guests are helping you, they can easily find what you need and pop it in the oven. And if you prefer, a turkey can always be made the day ahead and warmed in a crockpot or a roaster. If your guests are local, consider buying some extra Tupperware or disposable leftover containers if you are planning on sending leftovers home.

For beverages, I like to set up a self-serve bar area ahead of time and make a simple holiday punch for guests. I also recommend a few labeled coolers filled with water and juice in the kitchen, especially if you have little ones running around. This works well for adult beverages too, considering your refrigerator is probably full and makes for an easier flow in the kitchen. If the weather is cool enough, you can also utilize a table outside for desserts that should be chilled. And go ahead and make your desserts two days ahead!

Finally, don’t be afraid to accept help when it’s offered! This is a great way to catch up with your company. I hope you have a wonderful happy healthy holiday season!

Mary’s Favorite Cranberry Recipe

1 pound fresh cranberries (4cups)

1 1/4 cups of sugar

1 cup water

One whole orange unpeeled, seeds removed and chopped fine

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 cup of crushed pineapple, drained

Ground cinnamon to taste

Wash berries, set aside. Bring sugar and water to a boil, add the berries oranges, and cloves. Simmer over high flame, stir frequently until cranberries pop. Add the pineapple and cinnamon cool and serve.

You can always make this a few days ahead of time, but if you want something easy to make on Thanksgiving Day, this will add a lovely festive aroma to your home.

Autumn Spiced Rum Punch

2-3 Apple (granny smith, honey crisp), chopped.

1-2 oranges, sliced with peel

1 pear, chopped

2 cups spiced rum

1 cup orange juice

1 cup cranberry juice

2-3 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or a punch bowl. Stir ingredients until well combined.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving

Once you are ready to serve, pour punch in glasses filled with ice

Garnish with cinnamon sticks

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