Thanksgiving Ideas

Thanksgiving is this week, and this one will likely be much different than usual for many. This year, even if you cannot have the big gathering that is usual, it is important to make the day special. You are worth the effort, and I believe that keeping the day special will help us all get through. For us, it won’t be any different, as we have spent the holiday with just the two of us for many years now. What makes it Thanksgiving here are the turkeys on the tablescape, the parade on TV, football in the afternoon, and a special meal. This year we won’t be having any gatherings on the weekend after, so we will work a little harder at making this year feel like a holiday. Start with doing just a little something extra. If you go all out for autumn decor, you are ahead. But if you don’t have Thanksgiving decor, look to what you do have and make it work. Even a simple pie pumpkin with some pine cones and candles can make a table seem festive.

Put your autumn theme quilts on display. I add some turkeys to the decor in November.

Watch a Thanksgiving show on TV. You can’t go wrong with Peanuts.

Of course, cooking is the way most of us celebrate, and even if it is just for two (or even one), make a festive meal. Our preference for the meal is turkey with a sourdough dressing on the side, but we have also done Cornish hens from time to time. We skip the potatoes, have an interesting vegetable side dish, jellied cranberry sauce with the can indentations in my grandmother’s dish, and a special dessert.

For both long time and new readers, here are my most popular Thanksgiving posts from years past, with emphasis on smaller gatherings for this year. How To Brine and Bake a Moist Succulent Turkey, doesn’t take as much space as you think.  I show you how to make room in the refrigerator, too. With many of us buying smaller turkeys this year, or even just a turkey breast, this might be more doable for you.

A nice Thanksgiving for two might include a Panko Turkey Breast. This one has a deviled panko crust that keeps the meat moist and delicious, and a bonus bakes in just about an hour. Fewer leftovers come from baking only a half breast, but still should be enough to do some soup if you like.

Or try my Garlic Roasted Turkey Breast.

A special side dish we like is my Roasted Garlic Spinach.

This year we may just have to do my latest recipe of Cheesy Baked Acorn Squash. I am thrilled with the comments you all have left on that recipe! Thank you so much!

Have a special breakfast, like my Breakfast Casserole, and serve it on special plates or your best china. That post also has my turnovers recipe.

My Caramel Apple Coffee Cake is delicious for breakfast too, and My Sweet Babboo has given it the seal of approval.

Get out some special things for Thanksgiving and set a pretty table. You may not have turkey plates like I do, but you can use the good china. If you don’t have any turkeys for the center, use greeting cards you have made or received on the table with autumn leaves, or get a turkey or pumpkin from the dollar store. Scour the thrift shops for a ceramic turkey. Remember, you can always donate it back after the holiday if you don’t have storage space.

It is only going to be one holiday season for this pandemic and all its restrictions, so be safe this year. Stay well. Remember what we have to be grateful for, our health, our families and our friends, so help keep them safe, too. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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28 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Ideas

  1. Certain foods are “expected” at Thanksgiving. My son in law, raised in the same place as me, grew up with the canned cranberry sauce, and “has to have it”. The rest of us like the whole berry sauce that I make (See Cosmopolitan Cranberry It is fun to divide the menu amongst my 2 daughters. This year my assignment is the green beans, the pumpkin and apple pie, and the whole berry sauce. In the past we always invited a neighbor who lives alone, but this year we can’t because the governor has restricted how many people you are “allowed” to have for Thanksgiving! I’ve finally hung my Autumn wall hanging.

  2. kathyinozarks

    Lovely post-it’s mostly only been the two of us too for the holidays. early years in our marriage we invited several couples and singles that were alone and would invite them over for a feast-everyone brought a dish if they could. I always go all out with the turkey the sides and my homemade pies. this year I bought a butterball turkey breast tenderloin-something totally new for me-I think I will use my grill pan for it. Happy Thanksgiving

  3. Brenda @ Songbird Designs

    It’s definitely a different Thanksgiving this year, but still SO much for which to be thankful!! I grew up with that canned cranberry sauce, and there’s nothing like it! We have only one daughter and SIL, and they usually have Thanksgiving with his family, and we have a tradition of having the kiddos that night while they shop and having a wiener and marshmallow roast on the Little Red Campfire. We make S’mores and have a great time. This year they are coming here for Thanksgiving. I see them everyday when I pick up the boys from school for them, so feel safe in that. I’ve already been asked for our usual Christmas favorites. My DD specifically asked for my corn casserole and dad’s fried Cajun turkey breasts. My SIL recently was diagnosed with diabetes, so the other favorites including sweet potato casserole, and dressing will be “lightened” up. Plus we will have green beans and I will make a mashed version of your acorn squash recipe! Of course Peeps has to make his mom’s famous chocolate fudgy pies for dessert! All Gary’s family used to gather here for Thanksgiving and boy was the house full of laughter with his mom and her three sisters! I miss that. Glad we will have at least a small family gathering with family we see daily.

  4. Linda B

    So agree that it has been a most unusual year, but still so much to be thankful for! Appreciate all your creative energy, Carole that you share with us. So fun!
    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  5. karenfae

    we too have had just Thanksgiving for the two of us before so it is no big deal. I got a bone in turkey breast and will have stuffing. I too buy the can of cranberries and I love it – hubby hates it – so it is mine, deviled eggs, pumpkin pie, I will try the cheesy acorn squash of yours – again that is mine – corn for hubby. Our daughter will run over in the morning for a short visit outside and pick up her pumpkin pie that I will have made for her but she will have Thanksgiving meal with her husband and mother in law who lives with them – all are being safe this year as it should be. Have a good day and your table is always so pretty – thanks for showing us how nice dinner for two can be!

  6. We are going to try smoking our turkey this year. It will take a lot of time and be something new for Thanksgiving. I haven’t decided if our traditional sage dressing will go with smoked turkey or not… But definitely cranberry.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Julie

    This sure was a mouthwatering post between your recipes and all the delicious comments! Since our parents passed away, we have mostly spent the day on our own and being introverts we don’t miss the hub-bub. A celebration is still a celebration of you make it one. I dropped off a box of hand-knit hats at a local food co-op for distribution on Thanksgiving. The usual volunteer server opportunities have evaporated with a resurgence of Covid cases, but donations were allowed.

  8. Thank you for the encouragement and fabulous ideas for this years Thanksgiving. We do have so much to be thankful for! This year I went turkey tenderloin (a changed from cornish hens) any suggestions on for this 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

  9. Mary Stori

    A lovely reminder Carole that we have a lot to be thankful for and that Thanksgiving day can still be an enjoyable one with a little effort…let’s not give into this virus….celebrate instead!

  10. We will be having a zoom Thanksgiving this year, but in truth, we’ve not been altogether since Em went off to college back in 2011. We have a big turkey, we are going to can the turkey breast meat for later. DH has requested a cherry or pear/cranberry pie so I’m debating about doing pumpkin…I don’t need to eat a whole pie! 🤣

  11. What an inspirational post is so perfect for this time of year and this particular year. Yes, we are worth the effort to make Thanksgiving special. I love all your ideas. Thank you.

  12. Jean McKinstry

    Celebrate safely at home, with less people than usual, but it is what you remember and be so thankful for that makes it special. The tab e setting, plates that signify a special time in your life, and the cranberry jelly slices, it all looks wonderful.

  13. Marie

    I am constantly amazed at the time and effort that you put into your website of so many practical suggestions to keep us tuned in….. love following you.

  14. Joan Sheppard

    I tried making “healthy” food, and I tried making nouveau food, and it’s always the old favorites they request. One day a year won’t hurt anyone. There is always the fight over the giblets, the table games after dinner (Trivial Pursuit) because no one has the energy to move! So this year will be a zoom game. Thanks for the apple cake recipe, going to make it now while I still have apples!
    Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving

  15. Debbie Miller

    Gorgeous pictures and ideas as always but the dish with the sliced cranberry sauce really hit home! I too have my grandmother’s dish. It is the golden iridescent carnival glass and my mother always sliced the cranberry sauce and placed it in the dish just like yours. It is only used at Thanksgiving and Christmas and holds so many memories!

  16. Thank you for the “pep talk”!! I was going to rather ignore the holiday and NOW you have me making a shopping list! I loved your suggestions and it makes me feel like it is all “doable”!!

  17. Melanie

    Yum, your post today makes me hungry. Great ideas and recipes. Thanks, Carole. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your DH. We are doing TG alone too, plus our anniversary is next week, so we celebrate much during TG week, many blessing and we are grateful. Hugs, m

  18. Darci Marshall

    At least this year I won’t have to fight with the family over the turkey neck! And I wholeheartedly agree that brining is the way to go! Happy Thanksgiving

  19. Thank you for all the ideas for food and decor. Your example and gentle encouragement mean a lot today. Thursday is my birthday, and we are having filet mignon, baked potatoes creamed spinach and cherry pie instead of turkey. That will come later in the weekend. Just the two of us this year, but I will use the placemats, pumpkin and star, that we made during AJ a few years ago and set a nice table just for two! Happy Thanksgiving!

  20. thedarlingdogwood

    It’s not uncommon for us to be just the three of us, so not too different this year. I still cook a whole turkey because we love the leftovers!!!! Turkey pot pie, turkey soup, turkey croquettes–yum! This year I am not doing any baking as the pastry arts student at the community college were selling a bakery box with assorted baked goods, and it includes challah and an 8″ pie, so I don’t need to bake anything!

  21. Julia J. White

    Your post, including pictures, is so lovely. Thank you for your positivity! Everything looks lovely and your suggestion to make the holiday lovely is well taken. I love the little fall quilt, and the pumpkins and pine cones. Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. I so agree Carole, even if Thanksgiving is just for a few or two, it is so important to celebrate and honor this American holiday! Keep calm and carry on in the strong USA way! I’m sure your meal will be delicious, Happy Thanksgiving Carole!

  23. Terri Gartman

    Thanks so much for the cheesy acorn squash recipe. We had it last night and it was so good. My husband is not a veggie eater and he liked it well enough to have half of his. That leaves the other half for me for lunch today, win/win! I appreciate your willingness to share all your ideas.

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