Preppy Kitchen‘s John Kanell shares his best tips for how to have a happy Thanksgiving, even during a pandemic.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! I love having family and friends gather around a big table filled with all of our favorite dishes to give thanks. This year is bound to be different, as people travel less and larger gatherings are on hold, but we can still make this holiday special and have fun at the same time.
Our mothers may not be flying across the country to join us, so I’ll be making my recipes for cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, and roasted Brussels sprouts, instead of relying on the grandmothers’ family recipes. You can still have a happy holiday at home with my tips for how to do it safely below.
Related: 35 Virtual Thanksgiving Ideas
How to Host Thanksgiving During the Covid-19 Pandemic
1. Do a Doodle poll.
If you’re having a much smaller gathering, then take a poll and see what dishes people are excited about. You can probably skip some of the sides and Thanksgiving desserts that would otherwise be relegated to leftovers.
2. Plan ahead!
You can make many of the side dishes and desserts a day or two ahead, so that on the day of you’re free to bake the turkey, pop some rolls into the oven, and enjoy more than a few moments out of the kitchen.
3. Have fun with the centerpiece.
Try something new! If you have little ones at home this is a great project for them to work on and take ownership of. You can pick up some materials for them to work with or let their imagination run wild.
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4. Play pastry chef.
Most years we bake an assortment of desserts for the table. If you have a smaller gathering then you may want to pare that down to one or two. This can be a fun opportunity to try some more detailed pastry or cake decorations that you previously didn’t have time for when there was a whole panoply of desserts to make.
5. Go the mini dessert route.
On the other hand if you love the mix of different desserts normally found on your Thanksgiving table then you can make batches of mini pumpkin pies, pecan pie bars, mini cheesecakes, etc. These make the best leftovers and you can often make them well in advance and freeze them for on demand treats later.
6. You don’t have to bake a whole turkey!
Most meat departments sell turkey breasts, legs and thighs. If you all like breast or dark meat, then buy only what you enjoy. Your bake time will be much shorter and there’s less chance of having your meat dry out.
Related: 50 Thanksgiving Activities
7. Make it a Zoom-giving.
Set up a time for a Zoom or Skype call with family and friends at the start of your meal to say thanks and virtually break bread. You can also schedule calls throughout the meal at different courses to give individual family members and friends more time and attention. Many of our grandparents and relatives cannot make the trip this year, but it’s still important to connect and know we have the love and support of those around us.
8. Go all out setting the table this year.
You may have a lot of empty seats but the table can feel so special if you dress it up. Make napkin rings with autumn leaves, sprigs of rosemary or scraps of fabric. A little creativity can make your everyday dinnerware look like a Thanksgiving extravaganza.
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9. Dress for the table.
We might be lounging in pajama pants 24/7 these days while we work from home, but one way to make the holiday feel special is to dress for the occasion. We don’t want Thanksgiving to feel like every other dinner we enjoy at home so make it stand out in every way possible. This is a day we only enjoy once a year, you can be as fancy as you’d like with no regrets.
10. Have fun with the holiday!
Aside from spending time together and enjoying a nice meal, there really are no rules so do what makes you happy. Try ending the night with a game of charades, Pictionary, or whatever games you love. If you have kids at home with some time on their hands, they can even design a board game for you to play as a family.
Now that you’re well-armed for Thanksgiving 2020, see how to cook a turkey two ways on the latest episode of Keep It Simple!