18 Inspiring Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Jan Scott November 1, 2016

Last Friday my youngest son and I donned our woolly wear–€”toques included–and spent a blustery morning at an apple orchard, collecting fruit for the coming weeks.
Some pieces will be used for snacking, while others will be turned into tarts and folded into blondies (laced with bourbon and pecans, I might add) for our Thanksgiving feast. We’€™re hosting 24 people on Sunday, and serving turkey with the usual trimmings. So today, I’€™m rounding up our favourite recipes for the holiday weekend in hopes of offering a little inspiration for your own weekend eats.


I don’€™t deliver much in the way of appetizers when it comes to serving a big holiday meal. After spending the better part of a week planning the perfect menu, brining a turkey and baking homemade desserts, I don’€™t want to see my friends and family fill up on a pound of nuts. Instead, I keep things simple by offering a modest cheese and cracker platter, or a good old-fashioned relish tray, made up of assorted pickles, briny olives, and fresh vegetables.

One year, when we woke up to frost on the ground, I warmed some soup from the freezer and passed it around in demi-tasse cups for a soothing pre-dinner sip (a huge hit with the guests, I might add). A seasonal soup, like our pumpkin and apple or butternut squash are popular choices for the fall, but really, any flavour will do, as long as it’€™s a smooth purée that can be sipped.

Side Dishes:

Truth be told, turkey doesn’€™t excite me the way the side dishes do, so it’€™s those that I turn to when it comes to filling up my plate. Orange and honey glazed carrots with thyme, roasted Brussels sprouts with mustard sauce, and French green beans with toasted almonds are three of my favourite dishes to consider. Of course, there’€™s also an abundance of mashed potatoes, and sausage stuffing on the table, not to mention cranberry sauce and gravy.

Main Event:

Does anyone eat anything other than turkey? I know sometimes people opt for ham or prime rib for their Christmas dinner, but I honestly don’€™t know of anyone that doesn’€™t serve turkey for Thanksgiving (side note: if you do offer something different, please let me know! I’€™d love to hear about it). Our tutorial on how to cook the perfect turkey is pretty much all you’€™ll need to get the main part of your meal on the table this weekend.

Here’€™s a tip, if you’€™re serving a big crowd like I do: the largest turkey I can order is 25 lbs., which is no longer large enough to feed our group. I don’€™t have the oven space to make two turkeys, so a few years ago I started ordering turkey breasts and leg rolls instead. The average breast is approximately 5 ‘€“ 6lbs and serves 8-10 people. Leg rolls are slightly smaller, and feed roughly 3-4 people. The meat is boneless –€“ not great if you’€™re looking for a carcass to make soup the following day – slices up easily and creates very little mess. I buy turkey wings and bones a few days before Thanksgiving and roast them for my gravy and accept the fact that because I have so many people around my table I won’€™t be making turkey stock after the meal, a small price to pay.


The best part of the meal for some, no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a selection of desserts. I usually make three ‘€“ a pie or tart, something cakey, and a small 2-3 bite nibble. Here are some excellent choices if you’€™re still wondering what to serve:

Classic pumpkin pie
Maple walnut pecan pie
Gluten-free pumpkin cake
Cocoa beet bundt cake
Harvest apple caramel cake


There are always leftovers of some sort lying around after Thanksgiving. Here are some creative ways to make use of what’€™s hanging around post holiday dinner:

The leftover turkey sandwich
Thanksgiving leftovers your kids will love
Slow-cooker turkey stock

So, how many people are you hosting this year? Or did you get invited to someone else’€™s house? What’€™s your favourite part of Thanksgiving dinner?

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