Dummy’s Guide to Thanksgiving Dinners (plus recipes)

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Thanksgiving remains to be one of the biggest and most important holidays in America and Canada. It is held annually, every fourth Thursday in November [in America; second Monday in October in Canada], and serves to celebrate the harvest festival [as well as thanksgiving for other blessings received in the past year]. It is usually marked by attending church services, saying grace, penitence, and of course, a big feast. The food consists mainly of turkey, potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, and cranberries, which were believed to be native to the Americas. Although, some regions have varied ways how celebrating it.

Picture this, you were chosen by your family to host the dinner. You were a little nervous about it because you want to serve something extraordinary and would leave a good impression, not disappoint them. What am I gonna serve? What should be on the table? Why does it have to be me why? These are some questions you ask yourself. You scoured the internet for ideas until you came to this article. Here, you can see a list of the possible food you can serve at the dinner which will impress your family. So sit back, relax, do not panic, and read this article for awesome ideas.

Commonly Served Dishes

  • Turkey is the feast’s traditional centerpiece. Everyone looks forward to eating turkey, be it roasted, smoked, maple-glazed, deep-fried, or even a simple instant pot. A few ways to mix it up might be to wrap it in bacon, brine it with citrus, turn it into a meatball, or rub chili on it. Just do not forget to serve it as it is a staple!
  • Stuffing – different ingredients could be used to create this wonderful dish such as bread, mushroom, sausage, or vegetarian. It will completely be up to your creativity in making this appetizing. 
  • Cranberry Sauce – what’s a Thanksgiving dinner without cranberry sauce? Am I right?
  • Potato – mashed, fried, boiled, or sweet, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a potato! One of the most versatile foods you can imagine.
  • Pecan Pie – a full-course meal won’t be complete without the dessert. Sometimes, we just have to give in to the power of our sweet tooth.
  • Pumpkin – a typical Thanksgiving meal has to have something orange in it. A pumpkin is orange ain’t it? You could make a pumpkin sheet cake, snickerdoodles, or even a ravioli.
  • Brussels Sprouts – a few ways to cook this would be glazed in honey balsamic, maple bacon, or whatever creative sauce you can think of.

If you want to add a little more *spice with a hint of fun* and change it up a bit, here are a few recommendations for each meal course: 

Appetizers

Fig and blue cheese bruschetta

1. Shrimp Cocktail is an easy and budget-friendly appetizer that will make your guests want more.

Preparation time: 15 mins Cook time: 1 hr 15 mins

What you’ll need: lemon, onion,  garlic,  old bay seasoning,  bay leaf, kosher salt, black peppercorns, large shrimp

Cocktail sauce ingredients:

ketchup, horseradish, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, black pepper

2. Fig and Blue Cheese Bruschetta is a simple and inviting dish that won’t make your guests feel blue. 

Preparation time: 20 mins

What you’ll need: olive oil, baguette, fig jam, blue cheese, and basil leaves

3. Herbed Deviled Eggs will make you end up grinning like the devil after tasting this oh-so-flavorful dish.

Preparation time: 25 mins Cook time: 20 mins

What you’ll need: large eggs, mayonnaise, dill pickles, pickle juice, fresh chives, fresh dill, yellow mustard, distilled white vinegar, hot sauce, kosher salt, black pepper

4. Pigs in a Blanket is the beauty of simplicity. Why not go back to the basics and get inspired by your inner kid?

Preparation time: 10 mins Cook time: 15 mins

What you’ll need: crescent roll dough, smoked sausages, large egg, bagel seasoning 

Main Course

Quinoa and mushroom stuffed acorn squash

1. Glazed Ham might make you think of Christmas but it will make your Thanksgiving merry too!

Preparation time: 20 mins Cook time: 3 hrs

What you’ll need: fully cooked bone-in ham, whole cloves, brown sugar, spicy brown mustard, Dr. Pepper or Coke, apple cider vinegar

2. Chicken and Dressing Sheet Pan Supper when a big meal overwhelms you, a small meal with easy ingredients will do!

Preparation time: 20 mins Cook time: 45 mins

What you’ll need: ciabatta, cornbread chunks, medium red onion, celery, carrots, kosher salt, black pepper, ground sage, ground thyme, bone-in chicken thighs, salted butter

3. Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas – if you chose Tex-Mex as your theme, here is your main course.

Preparation time: 45 mins Cook time: 1 hr

What you’ll need: medium butternut squash, vegetable oil, ground cumin, chili powder, kosher salt, black pepper, large onion, black beans, green enchilada sauce, corn tortillas, Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese, fresh cilantro

4. Loaf Pan Lasagna with Butternut Squash and Sausage for when you want to go Italian

Preparation time: 40 mins Cook time: 55 mins

What you’ll need: olive oil, medium butternut squash, salted butter, sweet Italian sausage, onion, chopped fresh sage , kosher salt, black pepper, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, lasagna noodles, grated mozzarella cheese

5. Quinoa and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash is a healthy way to celebrate using whatever mushroom you choose

Preparation time: 35 mins Cook time: 25 mins

What you’ll need: large acorn squash, olive oil, kosher salt, salted butter, maple syrup, fresh rosemary, quinoa, large shallot, shiitake and/or cremini mushrooms, fresh parsley, parmesan cheese, salted roasted almonds, black pepper

Stuffing and Sides

Scalloped potatoes with ham

1. Candied Carrots because whoever said carrots can’t be fun?

Preparation time: 20 mins

What you’ll need: carrots, kosher salt, light brown sugar, salted butter, apple cider vinegar, black pepper, fresh parsley leaves

2. Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon, you just cannot go wrong with bacon.

Preparation time: 45 mins Cook time: 20 mins

What you’ll need: thick-cut bacon, vegetable oil, onion, butternut squash, kosher salt, low-sodium chicken broth, heavy cream, maple syrup

3. Zucchini Fritters with Chipotle-Lime Crema – spice it up, girl!

Preparation time: 15 mins Cook time: 15 mins

What you’ll need:

Zucchini Fritters: zucchini, kosher salt, egg, scallions, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, vegetable oil

Chipotle-Lime Crema: sour cream, mayonnaise, hot sauce, chipotle chili powder, ground cumin, kosher salt, juice of lime

4. Caesar Salad Spears for the healthiness piercing through the heart

Preparation time: 30 mins Cook time: 20 mins

What you’ll need:

Croutons: salted butter, extra-virgin olive oil, french bread, italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black pepper

Dressing: extra-virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, anchovy filets, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, juice of lemon, kosher salt and black pepper, parmesan cheese

Salad: romaine lettuce hearts, parmesan cheese shavings

5. Scalloped Potatoes with Ham – you’ll surely be humming, screaming, and galloping with glee after a bite

Preparation time: 20 mins Cook time: 1 hr

What you’ll need: butter, yellow onion, ham, half-and-half, heavy cream, flour, black pepper, russet or yukon gold potatoes, cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, parsley (optional)

Dessert

Caramel apple cheesecake

1. Caramel Apple Cheesecake – say cheese!

Preparation time: 30 mins

What you’ll need:

Crust: nonstick cooking spray, graham cracker crumbs, salted butter, light brown sugar

Cheesecake: honeycrisp or granny smith apple, jarred caramel topping, cream cheese, light brown sugar, all-purpose flour, large eggs, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, kosher salt

Topping: honeycrisp and granny smith apples, ground cinnamon, water, jarred caramel topping

2. Chess Pie, the classic that never gets old

Preparation time: 15 mins Cook time: 3 hrs

What you’ll need: unbaked pie crust, butter, granulated sugar, large eggs, yellow cornmeal, all-purpose flour, milk, lemon juice, vanilla extract, pinch of salt, powdered sugar 

3. Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Maple Buttercream – not sure if drooling due to so many words or just imagining the taste

Preparation time: 15 mins Cook time: 2 hrs 15 mins

What you’ll need:

Cake: nonstick baking spray with flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, apple pie spice, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, chunky applesauce, vegetable oil, milk, large eggs, vanilla extract, walnuts

Frosting: butter, powdered sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract, salt, heavy cream

4. Chocolate Wacky Cake – ready for my chocolate high!

Preparation time: 10 mins Cook time: 1 hr 35 mins

What you’ll need:

Cake: all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, kosher salt, vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, brewed coffee

Icing: unsalted butter, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, chopped pecans

5. Biscotti – hoping my sweet tooth won’t ache after eating one too many of these.

Preparation time: 15 mins Cook time: 50 mins

What you’ll need: unbleached all-purpose flour, baking powder, kosher salt, espresso powder, vanilla extract, eggs, sugar, semisweet chocolate chips

Sauces and Dips

Spinach artichoke dip

1. Dill Dip – a sour cream-based dip so easy to make yet so flavorful that will make you crave for more. 

Preparation time: 5 mins

What you’ll need: sour cream, pickle juice (from jar), dried dill, dried parsley, dried minced onions, garlic powder, black pepper, fresh dill, cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery sticks, radishes, bell pepper slices, potato chips

2. Creamy Whipped Feta Dip – using a whole block of feta, you can create a fantastic dip that could go with almost any dish.

Preparation time: 5 mins

What you’ll need: feta cheese block, cream cheese, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pita, honey, fresh mint

3. Spinach-Artichoke Dip – one of the oldest dips you can remember but it never goes out of style.

Preparation time: 5 mins Cook time: 25 mins

What you’ll need: butter, garlic, spinach, salt and pepper, artichoke hearts, butter (additional), flour, whole milk, softened cream cheese, crumbled feta, grated parmesan, grated Pepper Jack cheese, cayenne, Pepper Jack, pita wedges, tortilla chips, crackers

As with every other good meal,

an important element would be your chosen drinks. Depending on the type of food you have served, there are a variety of drinks to match. Examples may be a plain old wine, classic martini, margarita, sparkler, juice with different twists, cider, and a lot more. Water may be fine if you think so. It’s completely up to you what you feel is the most appropriate considering the food, occasion, as well as your guests. Just make sure you have served one.

These are only some suggestions on what you can serve in your own Thanksgiving dinner. You are free to choose which one you will serve or if you want to tweak some of the recipes and make them your own. A few tips that can guide you will be to prepare earlier so that you have ample time to put together your menu and obtain the right ingredients. Another, it will be nice to have at least a theme so that the food that you are going to serve does not feel like it’s all over the place. It would look a little more organized and not too overwhelming for the guests. Take your guests’ preferences too in planning. Know if they have allergies to any food, if they are restricted from eating something, or if someone is quite a picky eater. Finally, Thanksgiving is a time to relax and spend time with your family or friends. Avoid stressing yourself too much and make your guests feel at ease too. Ultimately, what’s important is you had a great time with your loved ones, and that simply makes it special.

For full recipes and more food choices for you to mix and match, you may visit this website.