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Thanksgiving Tip: Select a Menu

With Thanksgiving a couple of weeks away now is a good time to plan your menu. I planned mine over the weekend. Here are some things one should take into consideration when deciding what dishes to serve on the big day.

  • Start by choosing a theme. Traditional to modern, Italian to Southern, the possibilities for a menu's theme are endless.
  • Search a wide range of sources for recipes that match your theme.
  • Know your guests. If one friend is allergic to peanuts and another is a vegetarian, respect these dietary needs by serving dishes that everyone can enjoy.
  • Several vegetarians in attendance? Think about serving a vegetable entree that's a hearty alternative to turkey.

For the rest of my tips,


  • Combine new dishes with classic favorites. Every year my brother insists that I make the same pecan-topped sweet potatoes. I oblige and experiment with new recipes for the mashed potatoes and turkey.
  • Think about the texture and color of the food. The dishes should be pleasing to the eye and palate.
  • Avoid over-using a single ingredient. If you make wild rice stuffing with goat cheese, don't serve a spinach salad with goat cheese or goat cheese stuffed mushrooms.
  • Look at the cooking technique of each dish. Because the turkey will occupy the oven, make sure some items can be made on the stove, grill, or in a slow cooker.
  • Choose recipes that make sense and use seasonal ingredients. Caprese salad — as delicious as it is — does not belong on a Thanksgiving table.
  • Don't go overboard on the appetizers. Serve enough to tide guests over, but leave plenty of room for the main meal.
  • Consider your kitchen space and cooking gadgets. If you don't have a food processor, stay away from a pumpkin soup that must be pureed.
  • Ask your family to get involved! This year my sister came to me and said she was ready for more responsibility than mashed potatoes. She wants to make a dessert, so I said, go ahead.

How do you select a Thanksgiving menu? What will you be serving this year?

kristints kristints 8 years
I'm buying a Vegetarian Field Roast, making mashed potatoes, squash & cheese (similar to the one you posted, biscuits, a green bean recipe I found in Vegetarian Times.
soapbox soapbox 8 years
We too also do a southern thanksgiving theme, but we add my father's Hispanic roots to it. Homemade cornbread, plantains, collard greens and smoked turkey legs, the traditional turkey, canned cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese and a spice or rum cake and pumpkin is always on the menu. Bring on the cholesterol!
chiefdishwasher chiefdishwasher 8 years
Whatever menu involves the least amount of dishes is my favorite. I always buy a disposable pan to cook the turkey in.
mtiger mtiger 8 years
We have a very traditional Southern Thanksgiving at my house. It's always the same menu...but always delicious!
Dana18 Dana18 8 years
I have already started planning my menu. I will have Herb turkey, parsnip mash potatoes/ w gorgonzola cheese and chives. Brussels sprouts with pancetta, cornbread stuffing w/ sage sausage. Buttermilk biscuits and pumpkin pie with amaretto whip cream.
RosaDilia RosaDilia 8 years
It's always the same at my house. The only real American dish on the plate is the turkey the rest is full on latino. Arroz con guandules, tostones (fried plaintain), flan, empanadas, etc....
verily verily 8 years
We don't deviate from the traditional Southern menu because everyone demands a certain dish each year. If it's an extended family affair, it's pretty much what Rancher's Girl listed: turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, green rice casserole, jell-o salad, parker house rolls, sweet potato pone, cranberry sauce, and pie. If it's just my parents and siblings, then that menu minus a dish or two. Mom demands that horrible canned jellied cranberry sauce, but I've managed to convert the rest of the family to my fresh brandy and cinnamon spiked cranberry sauce. Dessert is usually cheesecake, pecan pie, and/or apple pie. We're not big fans of pumpkin.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 8 years
i don't think that it's going to be difficult at all. as usual, it's just immediate family and once i drag my sisters out of bed, i know they'll help out with the cooking and baking. but i'll keep these tips because i know down the line i will need them. lol.
Rancher'sGirl Rancher'sGirl 8 years
My family has ALWAYS served the traditional green bean casserole, which is yummy but not very exciting so this year I talked them into letting me serve a green bean dish that is a tiny bit beans, bacon, onions, and water chestnuts. If they aren't keen on it, I will serve the other dish for New Year's. I guess my menu would be considered "Texas Southern" :). My family's traditional menu has always included mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes, biscuits or rolls, the green bean dish, and pie for dessert. I will be straying from tradition this year by serving Cornish hens instead of turkey because there will just be me, my husband and his mom this year. I might make mini pies for dessert.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
thanksgiving is one of those holidays that can either be a great windfall and you can be really successful or it can be the total opposite. i think that it's a good thing that you're reminding us to think about menus and things like this now when we still have some time to plan.
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