Making dressing for Thanksgiving and Christmas is a lot easier than you think, especially when you don't put complicated stuff in it. Some people put weird things like oysters, nuts, apples or stuff like that. I'm somewhat of a purist and a lazy one, at that. I don't even put miscellaneous turkey parts like livers or such. About the only thing in my dressing is celery, onions, sage and chicken broth. And cornbread.
Make a pan or two of cornbread. Two feeds about 8-10 people as a side dish. I use the packaged cornbread mix. For two packages you'll need 1 1/3 cups of milk and 2eggs. You can make it way ahead of time and freeze it for later.
Crumble up the cornbread and add a few slices of toast. The bread will soften and complement the texture of the cornbread. Chop a whole onion then about the same amount of celery. Add salt and pepper then a couple of tablespoons of either poultry seasoning or sage. Start adding chicken broth and stir it all up. Taste. Add whatever it needs. Taste.
My step-mother had a best friend whose family we always shared Thanksiving with. Lois claimed she couldn't make dressing without Martha to help her taste her way through the process. And considering that Lois was actually a horrible cook and dressing was about the only thing she made well, I was always grateful for Martha's help. This taught me how much fun communal cooking can be. It always helps to have a second opinion from somebody you feel free to ignore if you choose. I've tried to do this with my daughters with mixed success. They have trouble tasting dressing before it's cooked--even though everything in the dressing is fully cooked already. I find this a bit odd since they have absolutely no qualms about cookie dough which we all know is full of salmonella-ladened raw eggs.
You can cook it before the dinner and re-heat it later. It's all already cooked so I don't stress out over how long or how hot. Our family is used to the crusty texture of the top with the smooth insides. Cooking it in the oven is the only way to achieve this.
If you're into numbers and times cook it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The main thing is to heat it enough to soften the onions and celery and to bring out the flavor of the spices.
Now, a word about the logistics of big meals:
Ovens really get run through their paces on Christmas or Thanksgiving. Timing is everything. Don't be afraid to write it all out on a timetable. You want to avoid trying cook the macaroni and cheese while the turkey is still cooking. I've learned that crock pots and roasters are great for keeping things hot when the oven is being used for something else like the mac and cheese. You can keep the gravy warm in the crock pot. Mashed potatoes, too.
Assemble it all. Call the family to dinner. Put the rolls in the oven. By the time you get everyone to the table the rolls will have had their ten minutes to cook. At the sound of "amen" the rolls will be ready. You might want to hold hands during the prayer. This keeps children from grabbing food.
Make sure you make the pies the day before. They are one food group that will actually get better if they sit for a day. But you'll need some dire threat to keep folks from sneaking a piece before dinner. Maybe God's wrath or taking presents back to the store.
Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.