Planning Thanksgiving Dinner - Christmas Tree Market Blog

The Ultimate Checklist for Planning Your Thanksgiving Dinner

November 27th, 2013

It’s that time of the year again. But before you get stressed out trying to plan the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, check out the simple, yet effective guide that we at Christmas Tree Market blog have put together for you. It’s time to sit back and actually enjoy the company of friends and family as you reflect on the many blessings you’ve received throughout the year.

The Menu

1. First decide whether you would like to host the dinner party or organize a potluck. Whether you’re busy taking care of your family or at the office, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Family and friends appreciate being included in the planning and preparations.

2. Turkey – There are several types out in the market. Here are the more common ones:

– Natural – Contains no additives and is minimally processed. These have the strongest turkey flavor. Special care must be taken as they can easily become overcooked making the meat dry and tough.

– Free range – These birds are not kept in cages, allowed to roam free and feed on natural vegetation. If you feel strongly about the manner the birds are raised then this type is for you.

– Organic – These birds have been fed with organic feeds and are not treated with antibiotics.

– Kosher – The method with which the turkeys have been slaughtered adhere to Kosher law. They are also immediately salted to draw blood. This is similar to the brining process resulting in a moist and tenderer meat.

– Heritage – These are raised in small farms and pastures. They have stronger dark meat flavor.

Fresh vs. frozen turkey – It is always better to buy fresh turkey whenever possible. Freezing tends to adversely affect the texture of the meat.

3. Pie – Pumpkin is a perfect Thanksgiving dessert table staple, but just about any pie will also work. I’ve officially been assigned 3 pecan pies this year.

4. Side dishes – Look beyond the usual Thanksgiving recipes such as mashed potatoes, green beans and cranberry sauce. Try new recipes such as sweet potato gratin, squash salad and poached pears.

5. Cheese platter – Step-up your Thanksgiving menu by incorporating a cheese platter. Try creamy camembert, savory gouda or sharp-flavored Roquefort cheese.

6. Wine selection – There are no hard and fast rules to choosing the right wine. No need to fret about getting it perfect. The idea is to find the wine you are comfortable with both in price and flavor. Try refreshing sparkling wines that have the right acidity and fruity tones to complement sweet flavors. Rich flavors work well with red wine. For a no-frills dinner, Zinfandel is a good choice. But, when in doubt, ask the sommelier at your local grocery store or wine shop.

See more of my favorite recipes here.

The Dinner Table

1. Centerpieces – Wow your guests with inspired centerpieces that complement your Thanksgiving theme. Here are some ideas:

– Fall flowers such as chrysanthemums, roses or mums are popular centerpiece choices. You can place them in a basket or rustic vase for added drama.

– You can scatter pumpkins, gourds, fruits and leaves around the table for a more casual and relaxed feel.

– You can also opt for whimsical candles that add personality to your table.

2. Place cards – Custom made name cards give your party a more personal touch. Printable name cards in various designs can easily be found on the internet.

3. Choose your best china and silverware to complement your theme. You can choose traditional white plates. Basic white plates are great because you can get creative with napkins, chargers, or even salad plates.

4. Napkin holders – Go for festive napkin rings. While several options are available in stores, you can also ask your kids to get involved and help you make them. Craft cute napkin rings from recycled materials or construction paper. You can also wire beads together for a more polished look.

5. Glasses – Aside from water goblets and beverage glasswares, don’t forget to include wine glasses if you are serving wine.

6. Kid’s table – Consider setting up a kids table if you are expecting your guests to bring their children. This allows adults to enjoy uninterrupted conversation while kids enjoy bonding with children their age.

Setting the Mood

1. Lighting – Dim the lights for a more intimate and relaxed mood. Candles provide a nice soft glow to your Thanksgiving interior.

2. Music – Don’t forget to put together a playlist that will get everyone in a party mood. And if you don’t have time for a playlist, Pandora is an easy choice. Our family loves the Frank Sinatra station, especially for holiday meals.

After the Party

Left-overs – Avoid waste and transform holiday leftovers into new dishes. Your turkey and be made into a yummy turkey sandwich or turkey salad. Leftover mashed potatoes can be cooked into potato cakes. While cranberry sauce can be used for cranberry pie. You can create delicious meals with a little creativity. My own family’s favorite dish using leftovers is Turkey curry.

So there you have it. Just follow our guide and have a seamless and hassle-free Thanksgiving dinner party. You will never miss out on all the fun ever again.

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