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“May your stuffing be tasty. May your turkey be plump. May your potatoes and gravy have nary a lump. May your yams be delicious, and your pies take the prize, and may your Thanksgiving dinner stay off your thighs!” Anonymous.

When it comes to holidays, it is difficult to determine which holiday has the most significant meal. Is it Easter celebration or Christmas merriment? It is hard to say, but one thing is certain, the ONE holiday set around a table gathering is Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving dinner is more than a meal, it is essentially a dinner party or gathering, the main event for a momentous day, a feast day, and in some households across the U.S., an evening affair—that is until Christmas rolls around. It is understandable how one may become overwhelmed in preparation. There are so many elements to remember in planning an impressive event, but it can’t be forgotten that things don’t always go according to plan. So, instead of worrying about perfectly executing recipes and folding napkins, remember to continue forward because it will still be a success. Don’t stress!

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So how do you prepare for Thanksgiving dinner? What is to be done to plan THE dinner event of the year, an event enveloped with food and fellowship, but also requiring sophistication and strong impact? Well, first things first, as with any dinner party, you want a theme. We know our holiday is Thanksgiving, but does that mean you’re doing a fall harvest theme or scarlet and gold. These are important questions for determining how you will set your location, influence the atmosphere, and ultimately, present your dinner.

For many of us, Thanksgiving dinner is the ONLY meal of the day. We walk around the house smelling the aromas of what is to not nearly soon enough be placed on the table. So, appetizers are a must! Have a few selections available while main and side dishes finish. Keep in mind, your appetizers do not have to be overdone or complicated. Ensure they are suitable to taste and filling without deterring appetite.

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Now on to what everyone’s waiting for. The main course! You want to play harmoniously on variations. Let your dishes have a variety of color, taste, texture, and presentation. The meal should be just as appealing to the eyes as it is to the stomach. The key to making this work is ensuring everything blends without clashing. The easiest place to start is the main dish and then develop the side dishes to compliment. For example, one year, I did a baked red snapper with assorted peppers and complimented with stirred green beans and white rice. This helped the main dish shine.

Your side dishes can come from a plethora of options and generally amount to two vegetables or a vegetable and a starch, not including bread. Of course, should your attendance be large, it is best to keep the formula for each main dish pair two side dishes. Following with dessert, you can have one main dish, such as a large gingerbread cake, or a dessert platter with varying types. This ultimately depends on your guests. For any dessert, it is essential to have an appropriate pairing, such as a coffee blend or dessert wine.

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Some lifesavers for you: Keep your guest in mind. If you know you have vegan attendees, be sure to have supplementary items for them. Be careful to note other dietary restrictions such as allergies. Don’t stress yourself out in the kitchen. You don’t have to make everything at home from scratch. Outsource some of your dishes, like pies or stuffing. Start your meal the night before and if you’re a kitchen pro, set things to cook overnight.

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So how might your menu look? This menu, after taking the above considerations, was created with Canva (a wonderful place!). If you want to complete that formal touch, crafting a menu is an excellent addition as a precursor to the dinner.

Menu by Modestly M

While the menu is pivotal, it is important to not forget that a meal is upgraded by good company, good location, and good atmosphere. As you sit back and indulge in a delectable dinner, share stories, connect and have fun.

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