I’m not one for pumpkin pie, but one of my kids love it, so I always bake one for our Thanksgiving dinner. But because we are a group of 22, one pie isn’t nearly enough to feed everyone, so I actually prepare three different desserts for our holiday meal.
It sounds complicated and time consuming, but it really isn’t. The pie gets made the day before the dinner, and my son helps, so that’s easy enough. I usually have a cake of some sort—carrot always feels right for the season—which is baked about a week in advance and stored in the freezer until the morning of our dinner, at which point I remove it and smear a thick layer of icing over the frozen cake, leaving it to slowly thaw over the course of the day. (As an added bonus, cakes are actually easier to frost when they are frozen). And lastly, I like to include something with either apples or pears, because they are readily available, inexpensive at this time of year, and loved by everyone.
As soon as I spotted the Extra-Crispy Peach and Blueberry Crisp in Charmian Christie’s new book, The Messy Baker, I knew it was destined for my Thanksgiving dessert table as long as the fruit was swapped for something more seasonal. As you can see from the recipe, the ingredient list is short, the directions very simple, and the result is so tasty you’ll have a difficult time not devouring the filling and the topping before both make it into the oven.
I’m officially calling this the easiest dessert I’ll make this Thanksgiving, and if you’re looking for something simple to add to your meal, or to take to someone else’s house (this travels very well!), I encourage you to give this dish a try. You definitely won’t be disappointed.
Get the full printable recipe for Extra-Crispy Cardamom Pear and Cranberry Crisp.
Bringing family and friends together for a holiday meal is a seasonal ritual for most of us. We invite, plan, organize, cook, clean, and then welcome guests to our home. While the adults mix, mingle and chat, the young ones in attendance typically scurry off and play before the meal is served.
Entertaining these lovely little people can be such a fun addition to any celebration, but it can also cause a touch of anxiety to the host, or possibly even the parents. Keeping everyone occupied and well behaved isn’t always easy, but here are five methods I always employ to ensure everyone is happy during a holiday meal.
1. Be Sure to Serve Something Kid-Friendly
An essential rule as far as I’m concerned. I’m fairly familiar with the likes and dislikes of the kiddies who make their way to our home for special occasions, and I always try to include them in my meal planning process. This doesn’t necessarily mean I serve chicken fingers or mac and cheese, but I do try to ensure there is commonly liked vegetable available, fresh bread, and meat that is sure to please everyone (turkey usually does). There is nothing worse than attending a dinner with nothing available for the kids to eat. If you’re lucky enough to have small children who will eat anything, then this won’t be an issue for you when you go to another home, but keep in mind that not all children will eat like yours. Be sure to have something familiar on hand so everyone will enjoy your dinner.
2. Designate a Special Space for the Kids to Eat
This doesn’t have to be a kids’ table per se, although if you have the room that can be a welcome idea for the young eaters. At our annual Christmas party, the dining table is transformed into a buffet and the smaller kids usually seek refuge from the standing adults by gathering under the table to eat. They love to have a secret space to call their own and the big people can move around freely without trampling the little ones. If space for a designated kids table is an issue, set pillows out around the coffee table and let the kids sit on the floor to eat, or consider allowing the children to eat outdoors at a patio table while the adults enjoy their meal inside. In any of these situations the kids will be more entertained and less bored if they don’t have to sit and listen to adult conversation. I can also attest to hearing some really sweet discussions taking place between cousins, which makes this type of seating arrangement worth any hassle it may cause.
3. Paper and Pencil Crayons are Your Best Friends
Those who know us well know that when our boys were little we didn’t travel far without a stack of paper and a container of pencil crayons. Waiting for dinner, or waiting for tablemates to finish their meal can be a boring task. Paper and colouring utensils provide a vehicle for fun games, comic book drawings, sketching, scribbling etc. Placemats can be designed, maps of the house/garden can be drawn and words games created. This is the easiest way to keep kids of all ages entertained and happy at the table.
4. Specialty Dinnerware
I find it surprising how this simple idea can make such an impact on the kids. My mother-in-law almost always purchases fun themed plates (usually with pumpkins and/or turkeys) for the kids to use during mealtime. They clamour for their favourite item in the group and happily eat off their designer dinnerware. In our house we have small cups with built-in straws, which are always a favourite for the visiting children. Be sure to stock something special in your cupboard and the kids are sure to feel extra special while dining.
5. Plan a Fun Activity or Two
This is the Holy Grail of all of my entertaining tips and tricks. We have done trips to a nearby park, pumpkin carving, scavenger hunts, donut eating on a string, bobbing for apples, and charades. The latter is a favourite of the group and one that can be played during the meal. Place a small bowl in the centre of the table with the names of all the guests in attendance, and have each child draw one name and act as that person the entire time they are eating. This is especially funny when there is a large family gathered together.
Tell me, what are your trips and tricks for entertaining children at holiday meals?
Image of the kids’ table from Shutterstock.