For the past 20 years, my husband and I have happily hosted a large Thanksgiving gathering at our not-so-big house. Through trial and error, we've developed a process that seems to work.

With one exception. There's a stress-filled 45 pre-dinner minutes when, for reasons unknown, everyone congregates in the kitchen.

Yes, the same overheated, space-challenged, patience-testing room where the hosts are stirring gravy, uncorking wine bottles, mashing potatoes, carving the bird and attending to a dozen other last-minute tasks.

Not this year. To keep the anxiety to a minimum, we're going to (politely) declare the kitchen off limits, corral our guests into the living room and distract them with libations and snacks.

None of these five make-in-advance appetizers — culled from recently released cookbooks — is particularly Thanksgiving-like, which is their appeal. They won't be competing with the Main Event in the dining room.

They'll also keep guests out of the kitchen, since none of the recipes require time in the already overburdened oven. Additionally, while this holiday is all about abundance, not one of these vegetarian dishes is so heavy that it will fill anyone up.

Let's leave the Thanksgiving tradition of stuffing ourselves to dinner.