The most wonderful time of the year starts now. Are you ready?

Thanksgiving is upon us, and while it’s true that lots of (very exciting) other things await in the weeks following, the holiday that embraces all things savory and sweet is a favorite of mine. Food is the star of the Thanksgiving show and your kitchen is where it all begins.

With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks to help make sure your Thanksgiving is something to be thankful for:

A solid plan. If you are hosting this very special holiday celebration, planning ahead can help save you from an epic Thanksgiving disaster. Doing your research ahead of time to get recipes organized is always helpful, and (in some cases) figuring out a plan for how some family members can help deal with Great Aunt Sally who (upon arrival after you’ve been cooking for hours) thinks she knows best how to make the gravy or mix the cranberry sauce can benefit everyone if handled properly.

A foolproof turkey. Anyone who has ever consulted Google for the perfect turkey recipe knows the bittersweet truth. There are a million (allegedly ideal) ways to cook a turkey. To brine or not to brine? To stuff or not to stuff? What is the right temperature to cook a turkey? And for how long? In reality, this mystical creature we call the turkey is not all that confusing. Ultimately it is the pressure more than anything that has a way of getting even the most confident of home chefs into a tizzy. In our house, it has become a tradition to use Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey. We love it partially because Alton is a foodie hero of mine who taught me almost everything I know, but also because it’s been the reason for many a happy diner on Thanksgiving in my home. Also there is some pretty funny footage to help you along.

Some fabulous sides. Not all side dishes are created equal, but also not all side dishes need be created in the oven. When the most valuable kitchen real estate otherwise known as the oven is preoccupied cooking the star of the event, there are plenty of savory sides of deliciousness that can be prepared on a stovetop, slow cooker or even reheated in a microwave. Make-ahead mashed potatoes are always a hit (because how can you go wrong with plenty of butter, sour cream and cream cheese) or there are plenty of slow cooker ideas to choose from as well. We love the sweet potato recipe because it combines all the delicious flavors together with very minimal prep time.

Send in reinforcements. The stove top can be a hero on this special day that celebrates food, but why not utilize secondary (reliable) backup as well? Since having two kids under the age of three, I have found that it’s not that uncommon for me to set aside fancy, complicated recipes, that I used to enjoy cooking for my husband and myself, for easier ones I can throw together into a crock pot and simply let the magic happen. It may not be the most glamorous cooking vessel, but the slow cooker can be your tried and true best friend on the big day. From  turkey breast to creamed corn, there’s something for everyone that can all be cooked (and enjoyed) from a slow cooker.

The most wonderful time of the year starts now. Ready or not, here it comes! And I know it might sound cliché talking about all the gatherings and snowmen and traditions, but I don’t care, because (at least in my humble opinion) it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Whether you’re hosting or visiting a loved one’s house, the best (and most important) way to embrace all things Thanksgiving is to, in fact, give thanks. For everything.

The beloved words of Italian poet Cesare Pavese come to mind. “We don’t remember days, we remember moments.”

I think he was right.

So this year, take some time to embrace the foolproof turkey and fabulous sides. Enjoy that new-to-you recipe for sweet potatoes from the slow cooker. But also stop. Take a moment. And give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!

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David Hecht Kitchens