Following on the heels of our very relaxing September Unplugged, we thought we’d share with you our Fall Holiday edition…
Thanksgiving Unplugged : Seven Ways to Take it Easy This Holiday
1. Follow a Magazine Menu from Start to Finish
If you’re stuck for ideas or looking for something new, or if you simply want to opt out of the meal-planning altogether, be a copycat. Follow a menu in a magazine from start to finish. Some of my favourite online resources are: Canadian Living’s No Stress Classic Turkey Dinner, Chatelaine’s Amazingly Easy Thanksgiving Dinner Menu with our Best Ever Roast Chicken, and Real Simple’s 4 Thanksgiving Menus.
2. Choose Tried and True Classics
If you really must plan your own menu, select the best from your cookbooks and online resources. Our own Whiskey Fig Cranberry Sauce is, by and far, one of our most-loved recipes. [Although, we think our Ginger Cognac and Bourbon Old Fashioned Cranberry Sauces are also the bomb!] We also heart Huffpost’s 25 Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas 2015, the Thanksgiving recipe guide from TheKitchn, and Chowhound’s Thanksgiving Section. For veggie lovers, the New York Times‘ annual Vegetarian Thanksgiving collection is always amazing!
3. Signature Cocktail, Signature Mocktail
Don’t go crazy trying to please everyone. Simplify your drink options. Choose one beer, one red, one white and/or one cocktail to serve to the adults. Our favourite simple fall cocktail is Apple Cider with Canadian Club or Cinnamon Whiskey. We serve this hot or on the rocks, depending on the weather. Check out Food and Wine’s Thanksgiving Cocktails for other recommendations or the LCBO site for a great Harvest Brunch idea. For the kids, you might try cider “with a twist” [i.e. a sliver of citrus and nothing more], sparkling water with oj and grenadine, old fashioned hot chocolate, or steamed milk “lattes” with a drop of honey, vanilla, or, dare I say it, #pumpkinspice or #pumpkinspicesyrup.
4. Opt for Casual Elegance
Don’t fuss too much with your decor and tablesetting! It might just make people uncomfortable! Why not try one of our “colour-your-own” tablecoth ideas: This Year Everyone’s Sitting at the Kiddie Table and Fill-in-the-Silhouette Holiday Table Setting? [We’re doing cartoon panels for this year’s pie course]. Go out and get some pinecones and fall leaves and strew them over the table with some led tea-lights. Or, set each place with a childhood photo of the guests. A simple white tablecloth and napkins from a discount shop like Winners or Home Sense, a vintage blanket or bedsheet sheet from your local ValueVillage, or even a paper or plastic set-up from the dollar store is easily glammed-to-the-nines with a visit to your local florist [we heart East of Eliza] for a sweet table arrangement. And don’t be afraid to tell your florist the budget you are working with. A good florist will be happy to accomodate!
5. Players Gonna Play, Play, Play, Play, Play
Other than asking people to discuss or write down what they are thankful for [and, to be honest, I’m not a fan of putting people on the spot like this], there’s no better way to get people in the Thanksgiving spirit than by encouraging them to play together. Leave decks of cards around the house. Set up a kiddie-sized chalk board or white board in the living room beside a game of Pictionary. Put a football with a ribbon on it on the front hall table or by the coat hooks, maybe with a to-go cooler full of beer. While you’re at it, get your guests to select the music. Ask them to create their own Thanksgiving “play lists” by pulling out your “old” box of CDs, cassette tapes or records, by leaving the tablet out with your itunes library “exposed” for all to see [prepare to be teased!], or by logging on to Spotify.
6. Don’t Over-Think Your Hostess Gift
If you’re a guest, don’t overthink it. Opt for one of our choices for The 5 Best Host and Hostess Gifts of all time:
Ask the host or hostess which florist they use and, a few days beofre the event, send a centrepiece or a bouquet to match the one they’ve already ordered. Or, hey, slackers, if you want to bring flowers from the corner store on the day, make sure you also pick up scissors and ribbon, get those flowers out of their plastic wrap, and create a bit of a bouquet before you hit the front door.
- Alcohol or Sparkling Water
Choose a favourite bottle of wine, a classic spirit, or a box of amazing local brew. If you’re unsure of what to purchase, visit the Vintages section of your LCBO or your favourite liquor store and ask one of the experts for a recommendation. If you’re watching your own intake or if you know your hosts don’t drink, bring along a fantastic bottle of sparkling water. But watch out, you might end up spending more money on the water than on the wine!!!
- Amazing Tea Towels
Tea Towels are never out of place in the kitchen. We have friends who collect cool towels on their travels that always stir up amazing conversations when we visit. Can’t visit Paris before your Thanksgiving dinner? Shop local. We love the selection at Collected Joy on Kingston Road in Toronto! If you just have to shop online or in mall-land, these weights and measures towels from Indigo are super-cute and useful.
- Macarons or Artisan Chocolate
Who doesn’t love a macaron! And you don’t have to bring a ton to please your host. [Seriously, if there aren’t enough for the table, then he or she will have to keep them for themself!] Toronto’s Bobbette and Belle makes the perfect macaron – and we mean, each and every flavour. A bar of exquisite chocolate can also never be wrong. We love both the milk and dark chocolate and sea salt bars from Toronto’s Soma Distillery location. [Again, a little goes a long way!]
- Good or at least Good-Looking Cheese
Head out to a really good cheese shop and choose one very good wedge or block of cheese to bring to the party. Go simple, and bring it wrapped in butcher paper and twine. If the cheese is soft and requires a cracker or breadsticks, bring a little box of fancy crackers or breadsticks. Or, if you run to the grocery store last minute and choose something cheap and cheerful from the fridge, fake it! Rewrap it in parchment and twine as above.
7. Every Couple of Years, TAKE A BREAK!
Okay, so here’s my “dirty little secret” for 2015. I realized, the other day, that I’ve been serving up Family Thanksgiving in style every year for at least a good decade. So, this year, for Thanksgiving, we’re going out on Sunday for a Chinese feast of Lobster, Beef, and Peking Duck. Then, we’re coming home for a game of football in the park and homemade pie [that the kids are going to make]!!!! Get out the spray can of whipped cream!!! I can’t be more excited!! So, why not do it, too? Why not take a break every couple of years? Go to dinner at a friends’ or family, dine out, or order a full meal from a hotel [Toronto’s Royal York does a Thanksgiving to Go]. You can even pretend you made it!! Then, donate your time and energy, or at least the price of a meal, to a local charitable organization like the Daily Bread Food Bank!