A Quick Note on Thanksgiving Menu Planning

You probably know by now that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Saying that is really putting it lightly. I actually sort of become obsessed with Thanksgiving the entire month of November. It’s all I can think about. I’m not exaggerating. At any given point, something along the following lines is racing through my mind: Should we fry the turkey? Should we cook the stuffing inside or outside of the bird? What kind of cranberry sauce should I serve? What’s a clever way to do place cards? Should we add an element of excitement and make everyone wear funny hats? Do I have time to learn how to decoupage chargers before next weekend?

Then, there’s the hours I spend searching for inspiration. In these cases, I think more along the lines of the following: If I click through another slideshow on Food & Wine, I know I’m going to find the perfect healthy side. If I keep browsing Martha Stewart, I know I’ll come across the best alternative pumpkin dessert. If I repin a few more cocktail ideas on Pinterest, I can show the list of possible drinks to my brother and have him help me edit it down.

I could go on and on like a crazy person about my obsession with Thanksgiving, and while that may be entertaining, it’s kind of ridiculous and really does you no good. Since this will be the 8th Thanksgiving meal that I’ve hosted and planned, I’m sharing a little wisdom. Here’s the two most important factors to consider when planning your Thanksgiving dinner:

1. The previous year’s menus. I change my Thanksgiving menu every November. It’s boring to serve the same old turkey and green beans year after year — I prefer to change things up. I’m not saying you have to give up tried and trusted family favorites, just keep things exciting by making a couple different new dishes each year. Last November, I didn’t serve mashed potatoes, so I may include them on this year’s menu. Looking over past menus is also a great way to see what worked and what didn’t work.

2. Who’s coming to dinner. As in your guests. Being a good hostess means that you won’t overlook your loved one’s dietary needs. Offer a meatless main for vegetarians and dairy free sides for vegans. Thanksgiving is about appreciating what you have and I’m grateful for the people who are attending my dinner, so I like to make them feel as special as possible. I ask new guests about their holiday traditions, then try to incorporate them somehow into the meal. I set a beautiful table with a seating chart that makes each guest feel comfortable. After the meal, I send everyone home with their favorite leftovers (because Thanksgiving is nothing without the leftovers).

It’s also important to consider the oven space, cook time, preparation order, ease of recipes, wine pairings, etc. Here’s how I plan a general menu.

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