Knife skills like a Ninja. A kitchen the size of Martha's. Renee Erikson as my best friend. A vegetable garden like Michelle Obama's. These are all things that would make prepping for Thanksgiving dinner easier - not to mention WAY more fun but in my reality it is just me and small group of friends (none of whom are Michelle, Martha, or Renee but I love them anyway) prepping an impressive amalgamation of all our favorite fall foods and Thanksgiving memories.
I have said it before, but a little preparedness goes a long way in the kitchen. Have a plan, know what you are making.
If I am cooking/baking several things, I get my ingredients out and put them in the dish or pan in which the item will be cooked. That way I am not running back and forth looking for things I KNOW I bought but can't find. This is especially helpful for anything that needs to be constantly stirred or requires you to not be walking away from it as it is being prepared. I also get out any prep mats, utensils, or prep bowls I might need for making that particular dish.
Having a solid plan also helps getting tasks done in a sequence so that the timing works out. I think timing is probably the biggest stress of putting on a big dinner, any time of year. By having a plan, you can prepare certain foods the week/weekend before. Make rolls and freeze the dough. Make a pie crust and keep it in your freezer or make cranberry chutney and have confidence that because you made it a few days early, the taste will be that much more complex and layered. My other trick to staying sane, is to set up "stations" for people to help. Everyone, always wants to "help" but for me, this adds to my stress. I learned a few years ago to have extra cutting mats and knives ready to go. You don't have to do all the peeling, chopping, or whipping yourself. I set up a mat, a knife, and a small bowl per station. The cutting mat and knife are obvious but the bowl is for scraps or peelings so that your helper can just dump the bowl into compost, trash, or the sink when they are finished without making multiple trips. This is especially important in smaller spaces that could get a little crowded. :) You have have someone open the wine, fix the cocktails, or set the table. (Setting the table is great thing to do ahead of time if you have the space to do so.)
The most important thing to remember is that the people that you spend Thanksgiving with love you or they wouldn't be there. Perfection is overrated and some of the most delicious things I have ever made have been utter disasters of their original dish. Go with it - make changes along the way. Ask for help. Accept help when offered. And if all else fails have an extra dessert - people will always eat dessert!
What's on my prep list:
Tovolo Soak n' Strain
Tovolo Prep n' Drain - I can't stress enough how great this is!
Tovolo Flexible Cutting Mats - you cannot have too many of these
Tovolo 5" Serrated Utility Knife
Tovolo 5.5" Santoku Knife - workhorse
Tovolo Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Spoons
Tovolo Stainless Steel Handled Spatula - how may do you have? I use mine everyday!
Tovolo Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
Tovolo Cocktail Shaker (this is really just for my benefit, no judgement)
Tovolo Tip Top Tongs - I use mine for reaching items on high shelves too.
Tovolo Dough Whisk
Tovolo Stainless Steel Whisks
Tovolo Magnetic Tri-Peelers