For Thanksgiving Day we wanted to celebrate with a big delicious meal, even if it was just the two of us this year. It was our first attempt at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and not only did we have a lovely time, but it was a success in hosting a holiday meal for two. I suspect that many of you will be hosting smaller gatherings this holiday season so I thought that I would share some tips (and new recipes) with you that might help you plan your little gatherings as we head into the holidays.
- Set a schedule. Schedule the time you want to eat first. It gives you a point to work backwards from while you are figuring everything else out. This may take a bit of time and planning but it’s worth it. Take your menu and look at how long things bake, what needs the oven, what can be baked at the same time because of compatible temperatures or space considerations inside the oven. Then convey that into a chart or a list and bust out the different color pens to get yourself on a schedule of what needs be cooked first, second, etc. It may not be exact but it will keep you on track. We started cooking dinner around 10:00am and finished around 2:10pm, which was only 10 minutes off schedule. I’d say that’s pretty good.
- Plan ahead. If you can do it ahead of time, then do it ahead of time. I made the mini pumpkin pie and mini apple pie and set the table the day before Thanksgiving. Planning is my #1 tip for easy entertaining no matter how many people you are hosting. I have to admit that I did not do as much ahead of time as I normally would if I was hosting a bunch of people. However, I still think that this is an important tip because it’s good to spread out the work so that you’re not doing everything in one day, which can be tiring and overwhelming.
- Take your time and do something that you love to do but wouldn’t normally have time to do if you were having a “normal” hectic holiday. In past years, we’re usually up early and running around with errands, as we travel from one family to the next over the Thanksgiving weekend. Yesterday I stayed in bed later than normal and watched some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (which I always watched when I was a kid). Plus, I wore sweatpants (which to be honest has now become my normal everyday attire) instead of uncomfortable dressy clothes. This tip is more geared to helping you cope with the sadness if you’re missing your loved ones. I found this helpful in an effort to try to focus on the positives of a Thanksgiving for two.
- Set the table. Even though it was just the two of us, I still set a lovely table scape and settings. Don’t go crazy through because you still need room for all of the food.
- Skip the appetizers or go light. We opted to focus our calories on the dinner so we skipped the appetizers. If you prefer to have some pre-dinner nibbles, I recommend keeping it simple and light with a cheese board for two.
- Make small portion recipes or don’t make as many side dishes or both. Let’s face it, Thanksgiving dinner is all about the wide variety of dishes so we opted to make a bunch of dishes in smaller portions. I peeled three potatoes instead of ten for the mashed potatoes, we halved the squash recipe, we found a recipe that only makes 6 popovers instead of twelve, we didn’t use up the carrots even though we only had a couple spares. That sort of thing means there will still be leftovers (which are awesome according to my husband) but a few days worth instead of a month worth that you have to freeze so they don’t go bad.
- Try a new recipe. Usually I say don’t try new recipes when you’re entertaining, but I say to go for it when you’re just feeding the people you feed everyday. If the recipe is a fail, then who cares. Eat one of the other many side dishes instead or heat up that frozen pizza and it will be a funny inside family joke for years to come. We tried a number of new recipes yesterday and aside from one dish being too salty they were all a success. Did we get lucky? I don’t know or care but I’ll take wins where I can get them. They are all recipes we’d make again for sure.
- Make a family recipe. This tip was important to me this year. If we can’t be together with our families, I wanted to make sure that we stayed connected through the recipes that came from them. So dust off your recipe box to find one or call a loved one to get that recipe that you always look forward to at your holiday gatherings.
- Shortcuts are fine, Ina Garten says so. If Ina says it’s okay then who am I to argue with a food expert. Prefer boxed stuffing? Perhaps you don’t feel up to the challenge of making your own gravy? There are excellent options available at the grocery store, use them and don’t feel bad about it.
- Stay connected virtually. It’s not the same as an in person experience, but video chats help to stay connected with family and friends. Also, we recommend taking pictures of your day and send them to loved ones throughout the day. We took picture of each other cooking, the food, the mess in the kitchen, the cleanup, and even the pile of leftovers (which had to each be put into separate containers because I don’t like different foods touching each other… yup, I’m 5 years old).
Here was our Thanksgiving Day menu yesterday.
- Turkey breast (about 8 pounds)
- Stuffing/dressing (courtesy of Kraft Stove Top Stuffing)
- Cranberry sauce (courtesy of Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce)
- Gravy (we used a jar of Heinz Turkey Gravy)
- Mashed Potatoes
- Green Beans and Bacon
- Creamed Corn
- Butternut Squash Casserole
- Sautéed Carrots
- Apple Pie for Two
- Pumpkin Pie for Two
Thank you for stopping by. I’m very grateful to all of my readers. Have a lovely and safe holiday season!