If there ever was a year to count your blessings, this would be it.
Your Thanksgiving might look a little different this year — whether it’s a smaller group or a simpler meal — but the holiday remains a time to look around the table and choose gratitude.
In the spirit of this unusual time, we’ve collected some recipes and tips for making this Thanksgiving one to remember — for the right reasons.
Keep spirits bright
Don’t let the year’s troubles bring you down. Finding ways to adapt traditions or start new ones can keep Thanksgiving lively no matter the size. Take a look at these suggestions for keeping the day full of holiday spirit.
Move the party: If you’ve spent too much time this year looking at your own surroundings, getting away from it all may lift your spirits. Grab heaters and blankets and get cozy together as you enjoy the fresh air in your backyard. Or, rent a vacation home for the weekend for your small party and bring some simple decorations to create a fun atmosphere.
Share family recipes: Teach older children how to prepare specific dishes that have been passed down through the generations or welcome different family members to take over making specific dishes, such as the turkey or pumpkin pie.
Add group entertainment: Look for ways to bring everyone together. Organize a board game tournament or take a walk and reminisce.
Give thanks: Ask guests to jot down something they’re thankful for, then take turns drawing the cards, reading them aloud and letting everyone guess whose good tidings they heard.
Make giving a group effort: Consider volunteering as a group at a food pantry, adopting a family or two together, or finding another local cause that could use extra help.
Simplify your celebration
With fewer people at your table, you don’t need to go crazy in the kitchen. Follow these tips for a simpler gathering.
Stick to the essentials: Instead of giving into the urge to serve everyone’s favorites, limit your menu to a few crowd-pleasers. You probably don’t need five pies when you’ll end up serving just a slice or two from each. You’ll spend less time in the kitchen and more with your family.
Look for timesavers: If there is a dish or two everyone counts on, honor tradition. Otherwise, shop for time-trimming alternatives at the store, including heat-and-serve foods, deli specials, and bulk orders of freshly prepared items.
Shop local: Give local businesses a boost while doing yourself a favor. Pick up a pie or specialty dessert from a local bakery and ask about family-size sides available from nearby restaurants.
If you’re limiting this year’s gathering to just immediate family, you’ll likely want to downsize your meal. That doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice flavor, though. Use this as a chance to try some new recipes we dug up from the Local Flavor: Recipes We Love archives.
Bonnie Matthews’ Turkey Meatloaf
Originally published: April 20, 2016
- 3 pounds ground turkey
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped into three slices
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 tablespoons marinated sweet red peppers, chopped
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 slice of bread, cut into small cubes
- 8 ounces canned tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- In a bowl, mix together all ingredients, while reserving half of the can of tomato sauce. Place mixture into a well-greased pan and bake at 300 F for 75 minutes.
- Put remaining tomato sauce on top of meatloaf and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then slice and serve.
Bette Lou Brundage’s Orchard Harvest Stuffing
Originally published: Nov. 16, 2011
- 1 1/2 sticks butter
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 3 cups firm, tart apples, cut in chunks and not peeled
- 2 Bosc pears, peeled and chunked
- 1/2 pound mild breakfast sausage
- 5 cups cornbread, crumbled
- 2 cups whole wheat bread, crumbled
- 2 cups coarse white bread, crumbled
- 2 teaspoons ground sage
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Melt half of the butter in a pan. Add onions and cook over medium heat until tender. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Melt the rest of the butter in pan and add the apple chunks. Cook until lightly browned but not mushy. Transfer to mixing bowl with onions.
- Crumble sausage and cook in skillet until lightly browned. Add to mixing bowl, along with all remaining ingredients, and mix gently.
- Spoon into a casserole dish and bake at 325 F for 30 to 45 minutes.
John Romanaskas’ Copper Penny Carrots
Originally published: Aug. 9, 2020
- 6 cups cooked carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 1 small green pepper, chopped
- 1 can tomato soup
- 3/4 cup sugar (or a little less)
- 3/4 cup vinegar
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Cook and cool carrots. Add peppers and onions. Mix in other ingredients and pour over vegetables. Cover and let set overnight in refrigerator.
JoAnn Janssen’s Breaded Cauliflower
Originally published: Oct. 20, 2019
- 1 head cauliflower (average-sized, peeled and broken into florets)
- 1 cup flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon milk (approximately)
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs (approximately)
- Olive oil, for frying (enough to coat pan)
- Fill a gallon plastic bag with flour and another with bread crumbs.
- Crack eggs into bowl and whisk in milk. Place cauliflower floret in bag of flour and shake to coat. Then, dip in egg mixture and set aside. Repeat until about a handful of cauliflower florets are coated in flour and egg mixture.
- Place the handful of cauliflower florets in bread crumbs bag and shake to coat. Repeat until all cauliflower florets are coated.
- Heat cauliflower florets in oil on stovetop at 200 F for about 20 minutes. Then, poke cauliflower florets with fork. When cauliflower florets are tender, remove from pan and lay on paper towel to cool.
Mary Beth Weber’s Potatoes Anna
Yield: 6 servings
- 6 medium potatoes (Weber uses Idaho)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
- 1 teaspoon tenderizing seasoning (Weber uses Adolph’s meat tenderizer)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- Dried parsley flakes, to taste
- Peel potatoes and slice thinly.
- Place a layer of potatoes in circular fashion in a shallow casserole dish. Sprinkle some of the onion, tenderizing seasoning, salt, pepper and parsley over the potatoes.
- Repeat the process twice. Pour melted butter over the potatoes.
- Cover and bake at 425 F for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
Lisa Schoen’s Holiday Spiced Nuts
Originally published: Dec. 17, 2017
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups whole almonds, pecans or walnuts, shelled
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix the ground cumin, chili powder, curry powder, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, ginger and cinnamon in a small bowl just to combine, and set aside.
- Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium to low heat. Add spices and stir well. Simmer to release the flavors, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Place the nuts in a large mixing bowl and pour spice/oil mixture over nuts; toss well.
- Spread the nuts on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice during cooking. Remove the pan from the oven, toss the nuts into a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let rest for a while in a cool place and store in airtight container.
Janet Loewe’s Peace Pipe Pumpkin Pie
Originally published: Nov. 20, 2013
- 1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened
- 1 baked 10-inch pie shell
- 2 cups canned or fresh pumpkin
- 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- Spread ice cream in baked pie shell, then place in freezer.
- Mix pumpkin with 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt, spices and vanilla.
- Whip 1 cup of whipping cream until stiff, then fold into pumpkin mixture.
- Take pie shell out of the freezer and spread pumpkin mixture over the ice cream. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze pie for about 4 hours.
- To caramelize almonds, combine almonds and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a skillet over low heat. To prevent burning, stir rapidly as sugar begins to turn color. When almonds are caramel colored, remove and spread on greased cookie sheet or aluminum foil. When cooled, break apart almonds.
- At serving time, whip remaining cream, then spread around the edge of the pie. Garnish with almonds.
Stay in touch
New traditions and creative ideas can keep friends and family close if they can’t meet in person this Thanksgiving. These ideas can help you make the most of your intimate holiday gatherings.
Schedule a virtual party: Include those who can’t be at your party in person. Create custom holiday backgrounds to make your video chatting spot look more festive.
Mail gifts: Send goodies to loved ones ahead of time and then open them together during a video call. Or, consider packaging and sending small boxes of party essentials in advance to each person who’ll join your virtual party.
Give a care package: Help people who can’t dine with others or prepare their own meals by dropping off or sending a care package. Check with eateries to see what they offer; through Bob Evans restaurants, for instance, you can order a Homestyle Hug — a comfort food-style meal available for delivery.
Play games: Here are six games you and your loved ones can play together virtually:
- Charades: In this all-ages party classic, a person picks a word in a category and attempts to wordlessly act it out for his or her teammates, who have to guess the answer. The team with the most correct guesses wins. Find categories online or make your own.
- Bingo: Download free, printable bingo sheets online. Someone can be designated the caller, picking up random numbers however they please.
- Scavenger hunt: Life Between Weekends suggests parties choose a leader who calls out things to find. Participants then have a minute to find that item wherever they are, and whoever shows the item on screen first wins that round. The player with the most points overall wins the game.
- Pictionary: Attempt to guess what someone attempts to convey through a drawing. Whoever guesses correctly gets a point. Use the Zoom Whiteboard function to make life a little bit easier.
- Trivia: There’s plenty of useless information out there to quiz each other on should you want to go ahead and create your own game to play. Otherwise, you can find a ton of ready-made trivia games online.