20 Recipes and Ideas for Thanksgiving
If ever there was a year (in my lifetime at least) of unpredictability and uncertainty, 2020 is it. It has wreaked havoc on my planner-by-nature-control-freak personality. There is no comfort zone this year. Plans change in an instant. Throwing in the proverbial towel on hosting any type of gathering has crossed my mind a few times. I love and highly regard tradition but maybe this year is attempting to teach us to focus on the purest part of Thanksgiving: gratitude.
Our celebration of Thanksgiving in 2020 may not look like it has in previous years. That does not mean we do not have reasons to give thanks. Sometimes it is the adjustments we have to make that lead to the traditions of our future. Whether you will gather at a table for two or twenty, or maybe you will be on your own this year, there are many ways to enjoy traditions. They might just need a little tweaking!
Here are 20 suggestions for your browsing pleasure!
1. Simplify The Turkey
These Thanksgiving Meatballs have it all: turkey, pork, sage, celery, onion and cranberry sauce! They are the perfect solution when you want all the flavors of Thanksgiving but a whole turkey is just too much. The cranberry sauce is actually a combination of fresh cranberries, honey, apple cider and Famous Dave’s Georgia Mustard Sauce. Any leftovers will be gobbled up (pardon the pun) within the week or can be frozen for a later meal.
2. Set A Pretty Table
Just because we may not be serving the traditional Thanksgiving meal or having as many guests as we would like, setting the table is a simple thing to do to make the day feel special. Use the china and special glassware, find some pretty napkins, buy the flowers, light the candles, put on the music … make the effort. Show the people you do have around your table how happy you are to celebrate with them. If you are alone, set the table with your favorite pieces, especially those that have sentimental value. I have a deviled egg plate that was a gift from a good friend who bought it at a garage sale for one dollar. She knew I loved that style of pottery. To this day, when I use that plate, wonderful memories of a sweet friend return to me.
To read more about this tablescape, click here.
Soup is my definition of comfort food. This Squash Soup with Cashew Cream is fall comfort in a bowl! Consider serving it as a first course with the Thanksgiving Meatballs or as the main dish with some good bread and a glass of wine.
Some churches have returned to in person worship services. Some have not. Most have found ways to share the message through social media outlets. Never in my life have I attended church so irregularly. I miss it and can’t wait to return to the hand shakes and “Peace be with you” greetings. To sing without a mask.
But, that does not mean I do not worship. It just looks and feels different and that is okay. I watch the sermons on Facebook. When a hymn comes to mind, I find it on Youtube and listen to a variety of talented voices sing it. Devotions have become even more precious, table prayers more sincere.
Here is an example of how you can have your own time of worship this Thanksgiving:
- Read Psalm 103
- Listen to or sing along with All Creatures of Our God and King
- View a sermon from a local church or favorite spiritual leader (here is one I like).
- Pray a prayer of gratitude
Come Lord Jesus, be our guest
and let these gifts to us be blest.
Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good
and His mercy endures forever.
5. Homemade Bread
If “homemade bread” sounds intimidating, let me assure you this recipe is as easy as 1-2-3. No kneading, no yeast … Beer Bread requires only three ingredients, gentle stirring and a hot oven. Just the smell of this bread baking will lift your spirits.
6. Embrace Technology
Social distancing is a practical and effective practice but I miss hugging my family and friends! A physical embrace to show love to others is as much a part of the Thanksgiving holiday as pumpkin pie. This year, there will likely be more than six feet of distance between you and those you love. How great is it that we have the technology to not only speak to them on the phone or computer, but see them too! Group calls create a virtual reunion allowing us to retell those old stories, laugh together and have those boisterous conversations. It’s not the same but it is something that may very well be a good memory from a difficult time. Set up that call with your loved ones. Take the time to pray together, give a toast and express your love.
7. Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t love a deviled egg? Me … that’s who. So why would I recommend it for Thanksgiving? Because so many people DO love them. They are easy to make (check out my post on the best method for hard-boiling and peeling eggs) and they can be made in advance. Traditional deviled eggs are welcome any time of year but consider adding some fresh sage and crispy bacon for a festive touch. It is also worth making more than you think you will need as they can be mashed up for egg salad sandwiches (maybe on that Beer Bread we talked about earlier?).
8. Have A Picnic
The weather is not a deciding factor for a Thanksgiving picnic. The simple act of laying a blanket on the floor invites a lot of curiosity, especially with kids. Pack up turkey sandwiches, apples with caramel dip, and a thermos of hot cider in a picnic basket and you have created a fun meal and a wonderful memory.
9. Watch Happy Thanksgiving Charlie Brown
Speaking of fun picnics … the Peanuts Gang knows how to do it! The whole message of this short show warms my heart. Friends gather around a ping-pong table to share a meal. Great disappointment is expressed over Charlie Brown’s menu: jelly beans, popcorn and toast. Good old Linus reminds them all that it isn’t the food on the table that makes the day special, it’s the friendship between them. It’s the perfect message for all ages.
10. Autumn Granola
Snacks. Snacks make everyone feel better. This Autumn Granola is a combination of nuts, oatmeal and dried fruit that has been sweetened with maple syrup and applesauce. Cinnamon and nutmeg add just the right touch of fall flavor. Put a small cup beside each place setting or fill individual bags to serve as party favors.
11. Deliver A Meal
Whatever you choose to make for Thanksgiving this year, check on friends and neighbors who might be unable to have company or travel even short distances. It takes only a few minutes to fill a disposable container with a selection from your meal and drop it off at their house. Put a note with it telling them how you appreciate them. Sharing a meal can mean a great deal even when it feeds people who are not in the same home.
12. Perfected Green Bean Casserole
Did you know that math plays an important role in making the perfect green bean casserole? Seriously! Ever heard of ratios? The biggest mistake people make when preparing green bean casserole is one of ratios. The amount of cream of mushroom soup is dependent on the amount of green beans going into the casserole. Too much or too little and it isn’t worth making. Here is my recommendation: five:one. Five 15-ounce cans of green beans (well drained) and one 10 3/4-ounce can of cream of mushroom soup (no milk added). When fully heated through and bubbly, add a thick layer of those crunchy fried onions, return to oven for five minutes and serve.
Another tip? If your oven is full, warm the green beans and mushroom soup in a pan on the stove top. Pour them into a shallow baking dish and top with onions and bake for 5 minutes right before serving!
13. Ask Others To Tell Stories
However you spend your Thanksgiving, the telling … and retelling … of stories is it’s own form of entertainment. In my family, my nephews and niece will tell stories about me that they weren’t even alive to have witnessed! They have heard them so often, they take license. So often, it isn’t until our loved ones are no longer with us that we wish we had asked them more questions. Take that time now. Whether in person or over the phone or via Zoom, ask questions. Ask grandparents what Thanksgiving was like for them when they were little. Ask your parents what they remember about their first Thanksgiving as a couple. Ask guests about their favorite traditions. Kids love to be asked their opinions … what they have learned about Thanksgiving or what they would choose if they determined the menu for the day. It is an easy way to get closer to those you love.
14. Fried Apples
Apples are one of the quintessential flavors of fall. This is one of the simplest recipes and most impressive side dishes. Fried Apples aren’t really fried at all. I think my mom has always called them this because they were made in a frying pan. The preparation is actually more of a sauté and steam. Serve as an accompaniment to turkey or pork chops, as a topping for pancakes or add to a grilled cheese sandwich!
There’s a little something for everyone when you create a charcuterie or grazing board! It is easy to incorporate a Thanksgiving theme using flavors from a traditional feast. This board is loaded with: deli turkey, peppered salami, marinated olives, cheddar cheese, cranberry Stilton, stuffing flavored cheese curds, carrots, clementines, grapes, dried apricots, dried cranberries, sesame honey cashews, gingerbread crisps, and multi-seed crackers. A few springs of fresh rosemary add a bright and aromatic freshness to the board.
16. Turkey Breadsticks
Picasso I am not. But kids do not care how artistic you are … they just want to make things! These turkey-shaped breadsticks were made using my recipe for Alphabet Breadsticks. The little leaves were made using small cookie cutters. Divide the dough and let the kids (young and old) be creative.
17. Send Your Gratitude
As much as I love technology and the ability to have visual conversations with family and friends, a hand-written note in my mailbox warms my heart. A picture drawn by a child, a funny or thoughtful card, or a heartfelt letter will melt away miles of separation. Take a few moments to think beyond your immediate family. Is there anyone who has played an important role in your life that you haven’t seen or talked to in a long time? Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to reach out and thank them.
18. Pumpkin Parfait Cups
Can’t imagine a Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? Maybe interested in a slight variation from the traditional? These individual Pumpkin Parfait Cups have layers of crushed graham crackers, a pumpkin filling and whipped cream. That little gummy pumpkin on top? Cute, huh?
Don’t roll your eyes! Turn on some music … fast and fun, or slow and romantic … and dance. Dance with the kids. Dance with your sweetie. Dance by yourself. Yes, shoulder dances from your chair count too! Teach those youngsters the Alligator. Find a Youtube video and learn how to Swing. Ask those youngsters to teach you the Floss. Be silly.
20. Say Cheers!
About a year ago, a song was released by Maroon 5 named “Memories”. The lyrics to the chorus of the song are:
Here’s to the ones that we got
Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not
‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
Of everything we’ve been through
Toast to the ones here today
Toast to the ones that we lost on the way
‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
And the memories bring back, memories bring back you!
Sharing a special drink, toasting those you love and recounting memories expresses gratitude and respect for the gifts of family and friendship.
This Pomegranate and Rosemary Moscow Mule is a festive option for this time of year.
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!
Let me take a moment and thank you for joining me here. Your comments and likes fuel my efforts and help me get to know you better. I love this work and I hope I have encouraged you to embrace your time in the kitchen and around your table.