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Planning & Hosting A Large Thanksgiving Feast




Every year I host a large Thanksgiving Feast at our home. It’s a tradition that started almost 7 years ago and it’s still going strong. We have family come in from all over the country to stay with us and help celebrate Thanksgiving. For the past few years we’ve had around 18-20 people at our annual feast but this year I think we’re going to approach the 30 people mark. I love to hostess and entertain but don’t get to do much of it during the year so I go all out on Thanksgiving! It’s a lot of work but over the years I’ve developed a system for making it all run smoothly. 


6 Tips For Hosting a Large Thanksgiving Feast


1. Make a guest list and get a firm headcount. I typically have my final head count by the first week of November and then I add 3 to my final count because we always end up with an extra body or two. Plus, it’s better to have too much food than not enough!


2. Plan your menu. I have a very established menu now but it took me a few years to nail it down. This is the part where you can reach out to other people for assistance if you want to. For example, my mom always brings the ham, the stuffing, and rolls. My sister is in charge of the turkey and the collard greens. That leaves the appetizers, the rest of the sides, and the desserts for me to prepare. I’m sharing my favorite recipes below!


3. Make a checklist. I break my checklist down by the week and I involve my family. Everyone has jobs to do. For example, I assign cleaning jobs to my kids the week of Thanksgiving. Matt is off of work the day before Thanksgiving so he has a job list too. Making a checklist is the only way to make sure you don’t forget to put clean sheets on the guest bed for any overnight guests. I’m a visual person, I need to see the list in order for everything to get done on time. 


4. Go disposable. Seriously, the last thing you want to do after a full day of entertaining is deal with dishes. I always use disposable plates, silverware, napkins, and cups. Now I don’t just grab the ugly generic stuff- I get the pretty ones but the point is I don’t have to wash dishes at the end of the evening. 


5. Start cooking the day before. There are quite a few things on my menu that can be made the day before. I will ** them down below beside the recipe so you know. All the pies are made the day before, the pumpkin crescent rolls, the cranberry sauce, the deviled eggs….it saves so much time on Thanksgiving Day. 


6. Create stations. In order to keep things flowing when the food comes out I create different stations around the kitchen and dining areas. I set up the plates, napkins, and silverware in one station for people to grab on their way to the food.  The food is laid out on the main dining table buffet style for people to serve themselves. Then I have the cups and beverages set up in another station for people to circle around to after getting their dinner. It keeps everyone moving in the same direction- like stations in a Kindergarten classroom. When dealing with a large crowd of hungry people it’s always best to have a system or it’ll become a free for all. 





My Appetizers


Bacon Wrapped Brown Sugar Smokies


1 pkg Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies

1 pkg thick cut bacon

1 cup packed brown sugar


Cut each bacon slice into 3-4 pieces. Wrap each sausage with piece of bacon; secure with toothpick. Place in baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until bacon is browned and sugar melts and forms sauce.


Cream Cheese Sausage Balls **


1 lb sausage, uncooked

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 1/4 cups Bisquick

4 oz shredded cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 400. Mix ingredients until well combined. Roll into 1 inch balls. Bake for 20-25 minutes.


Pumpkin Crescent Rolls**


8 oz cream cheese, softened

15oz can pumpkin

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 T flour

2 T cinnamon

1 t pumpkin pie spice

8 pkgs crescent rolls

1/2 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 375. In mixer bowl, blend cream cheese, pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, flour and spices until combined and smooth. Unroll crescent rolls, separate and lay flat. Evenly spread 1 ½ T of pumpkin mix over dough. Roll into crescent shape and sprinkle top with sugar. Bake 11-13 minutes until golden brown.


Triple Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms


48 medium white mushrooms

10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed

4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

2 oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


Using damp paper towel, wipe mushroom caps clean. Remove and discard stems. In colander, squeeze liquid out of spinach until dry. In bowl, mix spinach, feta, cream cheese and 1/4 t salt. Fill each mushroom with heaping t of spinach mix. top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.


Sweet & Spicy Deviled Eggs**


12 large eggs

1/2 cup mayo

3 T apricot preserves

1 t curry powder

1/2 t salt

1/8 t cayenne pepper


Place eggs in large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Peel and cool completely. Cut eggs in half lengthwise and gently squeeze yolks into bowl. With fork, mash yolks with remaining ingredients until smooth. Spoom mix into white halves and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.


Bite Size Crab Quiches


1 tube large refrigerated Buttermilk biscuits

1 can crabmeat, drained

1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/4 t salt


Separate each biscuit into 5 equal pieces. Press onto the bottom and up sides of 24 ungreased mini muffin cups (discard rest of dough). Fill each cup with 2 t crab and 1 t swiss cheese. In bowl, combine egg, milk and salt. Spoon 1 1/2 t into each cup. Bake at 375 for 15-20 min or until edges are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes.


My Side Dishes


Corn Pudding Casserole


1 can cream corn

1 can whole kernal corn

2 eggs

8 oz sour cream

1 stick margarine

1 pkg sweet cornbread mix

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Melt butter in casserole dish. Add cream style and whole kernal corn. Add cornbread mix and sour cream. Beat 2 eggs with fork in bowl and add to mix. Stir well. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, uncovered.


Cranberry Apricot Sauce**


2 bags fresh cranberries

1 cup orange juice

1 cup apricot jam

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 t ginger

1/4 lb dried apricots, finely diced


Stir all ingredients together in large pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until berries pop and sauce starts to thicken, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temp. Cover and chill.


Green Bean Casserole


1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup milk

1 t soy sauce

4 cups cooked, cut green beans

dash of pepper

1 1/3 cup French’s Fried Onions


Mix soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Stir. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes.


Made Ahead Party Potatoes**


7 1/2 cups  water

12 T unsalted butter

2 t garlic salt

2 t onion salt

2 pkgs cream cheese, cubed and softened

1 can evaporated milk

16oz sour cream

1 pkg Hungry Jack instant mashed potatoes

bacon, cooked and crumbled


Heat water, butter, garlic salt and onion salt to boiling. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese, evaporated milk and sour cream, stirring until cream cheese is dissolved. Stir in potato flakes, mixing until all ingredients are well combined. Spread mixture into greased baking dish. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Top with crumbled bacon.


Praline Sweet Potato Casserole


3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup sugar

1 stick butter + 3 T

1 T vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 t cinnamon


Melt stick of butter in casserole dish. Mix cooked sweet potatoes, sugar, vanilla, eggs and milk together until well combined. Pour evenly into casserole dish. In small bowl, combine pecans, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add remaining 3T butter and rub in with fingers until mixture is evenly moistened and forms clumps. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until topping is browned.


Whiskey Glazed Carrots


1 stick butter

2-3 lbs baby carrots

1/2 cup whiskey

1 cup brown sugar

1 t salt

1/4 t pepper


Melt 1 T butter in large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in 2 batches, cooking 60-90 seconds each. Remove from skillet. Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining butter. When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over top. Stir together then add carrots to skillet. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking for additonal 5 minutes until sauce thickens. Serve immediately.


My Desserts


Dark Rum Pecan Pie**


1 cup sugar

3 T butter, melted

2 cups pecan halves

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2 t dark rum

1 frozen pie shell


Mix sugar and butter until well combined. Add pecans, eggs, corn syrup, and rum; stir until combined. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Reduce temp to 350 and bake 35-40 minutes longer or until filling is set around edge but center jiggles slightly. Cool completely.


Pumpkin Streusal Pie**


1 can pumpkin

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 large eggs

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t ginger

1/2 t nutmeg

1/2 t salt

9″ unbaked pie crust

Streusal topping:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup cold butter (no substitutes)


Heat oven to 425. Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in bowl until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 and bake 30 minutes. Combine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup flour in bowl. Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter until mix resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie and bake an additional 10 minutes.


Sweet Potato Pie**


2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup half and half

4 T butter, melted

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 t vanilla

1/2 t cinnamon

9″ unbaked pie crust


In bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat sweet potatoes and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and half and half; beat 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add butter, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon; beat until blended. Pour mixture into pie shell. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until filling is puffed and set around edges but center jiggles slightly.


Turtle Cheesecake **


Apple Crumb Pie**


7-8 medium apples, peeled & sliced

1/3 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

pinch salt

dash of lemon juice

1 t cinnamon

9″ unbaked refrigerated pie crust

crumb topping:

1 stick butter, cold

1/2 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup flour

1 t cinnamon


Combine apples with flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice in medium bowl. Gently stir until apples are well coated. Pour into pie crust. Combine topping ingredients and mix until resembles coarse sand. Spread over top of pie. Bake at 325 for 1 hour 20 minutes.


 Of course, these are just the recipes for the dishes I prepare each year. For beverages we try to keep it simple- sweet tea, apple cider, red and white wines, and a few varieties of soda. I really do enjoy hosting our large gathering every year. It’s a lot of work but it’s also so much fun. It’s the one time of the year when both sides of our families come together in one place to celebrate. 

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