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10 Tips for Hosting a Stress - Free Thanksgiving

Chef George Llorens
George Llorens has been Executive Chef at Stew Leonard’s Norwalk store for almost 20 years. Raised in a resort town just south of Barcelona, Chef George moved to Paris and graduated from the Paris Culinary School in 1962. Five years later, after moving  to the U.S., George discovered Stew Leonard’s. It was love at first bite. His style of cooking reflects his Mediterranean and French influences, as shown in his signature seafood paella and truffle-filled beef Wellington dishes. His creativity as a chef  has  George in demand for all types of catering events, including celebrity parties like The View’s Elizabeth Hasselback’s baby shower. In addition to regular local and national TV appearances, George also made significant contributions to Stew Leonard’s two cookbooks: Stew Leonard’s Winning Recipes and Stew Leonard’s You Can Do It! Cookbook.
What do you expect when you are expecting guests? Cooking through the night? Missing china? Last-minute preparations? Cleaning and decorating? Hosting any holiday can be stressful, and with turkey-roasting, stuffing-baking, and cranberry-molding just the tip of the turkey on a laundry list of to-dos, Thanksgiving can frazzle even the perpetual host’s nerves. Advanced planning and preparations are key, so here are ten holiday hosting tips that will ensure your turkey day features a fabulously festive feast that leaves you and your guests to enjoy a delicious, relaxing Thanksgiving…thankfully!

1. Pick a Color, Any Color
When hosting a holiday happening at your home, choosing a color theme for the evening is a fun, creative way to bring the evening together. Use your color palette for décor, flowers, table settings and even food garnishes. For Thanksgiving, think warm, inviting colors like chocolate browns, burnt oranges and hunter greens.

2. Seasonal Centerpieces
Flowers can be expensive and they might even wilt before your have finished your hosting duties, so for a fun, flavorful centerpiece, try seasonal foliage and fruits. Fill a glass vase with red apples, cinnamon sticks, pine cones and herbs for a spiced centerpiece that is a treat for both the eyes and nose. Add some ornaments for some sparkle and shine.

3. Menu Maven
As your RSVPs roll in, make sure you know about any dietary restrictions or preferences of your guests. You then can cater your menu well in advance to the food fancies and comestible concerns of your attendees, ensuring a serendipitously satisfied crowd. Your best bet is to have plenty of variety—remember, it’s the spice of life, and it means there will be something for everyone.

4. Signature Sipping
Create a signature cocktail for your holiday feast to liven up the normal drink selections. Try a mulled cider or a “snow”-jito to get in the holiday spirit. Make sure you have all the ingredients for these delicious drinks, because, I can promise you, your guests will come back for seconds.

5. Pristine Presentation
Looks do matter, so this Thanksgiving, make sure your dishes are delightfully dressed as your guests begin to feast. Incorporate your color palette into your dish décor with fall flowers or leafy veggies like kale. Thinking about what dishes and platters you will use in advance, will help you make only one trip to the grocery store or flower shop, saving you from last-minute meltdowns.

6. Divide and Conquer
When it comes to preparation, don’t leave it all to day of. Turkey day faves like stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and gravy can all be made the day before—these items are still flavorful and delicious when reheated. That way, you won’t be under the gun with cooking and can greet your guests as they arrive for your scrumptious shindig.

7. How much is too much?
When it comes to cooking your holiday meal, it’s important to get a head count so you can plan your menu accordingly and not burst your budget with more food than necessary. Everyone likes to indulge during the holiday season, but when planning for your turkey purchase, one-and-a-half pounds per person is your best bet—two pounds if you want lunching leftovers. Also, never use a frozen turkey. Look for a free-range fresh turkey. Ask where the turkey comes from and what kind of food it has been eating. Excellent quality turkey meat is never dry!

8. Setting Up Shop
Most kitchens, no matter how large, aren’t equipped with enough oven space for the turkey, veggies, potatoes, stuffing and other side dishes all at once, so this turkey day, plan ahead! Items like Brussels sprouts, asparagus, green beans and mashed potatoes need to be made the day of, so maximize your oven’s capacity by putting the turkey in first thing in the morning on the first shelf of the oven, and reserving the bottom shelf for all the things that take time to cook, like sweet potatoes and stuffing. Voila! A warm, delicious, stress-free meal.

9. Dazzling Desserts
No matter how much turkey, stuffing and potatoes are at Thanksgiving, the best is always saved for last—dessert, that is! When planning your holiday meal, don’t forget about the sweetest part. Make sure to mix it up with many seasonal options like chocolate fudge squares, pumpkin cheesecake and, of course, apple pie. Something good for everyone!

10. Time Management
The most important tip for your Thanksgiving holiday, however, is to enjoy it! Make sure you don’t spend the holiday in the kitchen, and instead, go out and enjoy this precious time with your family and friends.
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