Published On: November 9, 2020


Whether it’s your first time cooking and hosting for Thanksgiving or you’ll be having a much smaller group than usual this year; these tips and tricks will help you plan a cozy, festive day!

Hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving doesn’t need to be stressful; our easy pointers below will help you get organized and make sure the host has fun too.

1. Make a Plan

Anytime you host a gathering of any size it’s important to create a little plan for yourself!  Jot down how many people will be joining you, any dietary restrictions, a list of menu items you’d like to serve, how you plan to setup your space to serve food and drink, seating, any special entertaining gear you need to buy or borrow, and a loose timeline for the event.  As you finalize your menu you should add details to your plan for when you’ll shop, prep, and finish each dish. Seeing everything broken out day by day leading up to the event makes it feel less daunting and a list makes sure you won’t forget any details.

2. Ask for Help

Once you have a plan in place reach out to any guests who will be joining you to see if they have a traditional dish they’d like to bring or other way they’d like to help. People really love to contribute to the festivities, even if it’s just bringing a bottle of wine or a dessert they picked up at the store. Need a larger serving platter? Someone to create a playlist? Someone to bring ice?  Just ask!

3. Figure Out Furniture

If you’re not used to hosting a sit down dinner or don’t have a table large enough for guests it’s time to get creative!  Use a folding table covered with a pretty cloth or tapestry to setup a pop up bar or buffet to serve dinner, bring desk chairs or folding chairs into the mix to create additional seating, and use small side tables, desks, or console tables to help with serving at the table or to put desserts on.

4. Set a Cozy Scene

Decorating your table and home for Thanksgiving doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or require a set of fine china!  Bring the outside-in for a pretty seasonal display. Arrange a mix of pine cones, seasonal gourds and mini pumpkins, colorful fall leaves, and lots of votive candles down the center of your table or on your buffet for a festive look.  If you want to set the table for a sit down dinner you can add inexpensive chargers under your everyday dishes for an upscale vibe.

5. Do As Much in Advance as Possible

One of the keys to stress-free hosting is to do as many tasks as you can well before the actual event. Shop the week before, make as many dishes in advance as possible, set the table and decorate days before (bonus! Your place will look festive while you party prep). It’s also a great idea to lay out the serving pieces you’ll need and label them for each dish.  That way you won’t be scrambling for a spoon last minute!

6. Keep Appetizers Simple

When you menu plan for Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving -don’t go overboard on the snacks!

The last thing you want to do is spoil everyone’s dinner with an overload of appetizers.  Our favorite option? A beautiful seasonal cheeseboard that’s perfect for grazing as you finish putting dinner together. Check out our piece on creating a Fall Snackboard and scale down your serving amounts as needed.

Autumn Cheeseboard

7. A Classic Menu Goes Cozy

A smaller group of people means you may want to scale back on some Thanksgiving classics – unless you’d like lots and lots of leftovers!  If a whole turkey feels too daunting or like too much food for your group, consider switching to a single turkey breast or a turkey tenderloin.  Both cook in a lot less time and won’t take up your oven space for hours.   You can also easily roast a combination of vegetables on a single sheet pan at the same time as your small-scale turkey. Try roasting halved Brussel sprouts on one half and cubed sweet potato on the other half for a fun seasonal mix.  Once they’re tender you can garnish and serve each separately for two different side dishes! We love brussel sprouts drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a crumbling of blue cheese like imported Gorgonzola or Danish Blue.  You can top your roasted sweet potatoes with a traditional mix of mini marshmallows, maple, and pecans topping or try chopped fresh herbs and orange zest for a bright and healthy twist.

8. Add an Upscale Edge with Cheese

Want to know our favorite way to take a simple dish and make it more elegant and flavorful? Add luscious imported cheese!  If you need menu-planning inspiration, here are some dishes that are perfect for a small group:

A seasonal make-ahead soup is also always a win and our Pumpkin Bisque with Asiago Sage Toast comes together in no time thanks to convenient canned pumpkin.

Pumpkin Bisque with Asiago Sage Toasts

It’s great to offer lighter fare with your holiday dinner and our Arugula Salad with Pears, Blue, and Brie has a delicious mix of fall flavors and pairs perfectly with traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

If you’re looking for a unique side dish to pair with your turkey try our Roasted Delicata Squash with Brown Butter, Crispy Sage, and Pecorino Romano. Or for a fun and modern twist on basic sweet potatoes you’ve got to try our Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with imported Manchego Cheese.

9. What to Drink?

To keep things simple when hosting it’s a great idea to setup a self-serve bar so guests can help themselves. Start out with a pre-made pitcher of your favorite seasonal cocktail or some bubbly plus apple cider, water, and seltzer for non imbibers. When it comes to pairing wine with the main event at dinner Pinot Noir can’t be beat – it has enough body to hold up to the flavors of the side dishes without overwhelming the turkey.  Don’t forget to put out pitchers of water and plan for post dinner coffee to enjoy with your pie!

10. It Wouldn’t be Thanksgiving Without…

When it comes to traditional Thanksgiving desserts, pies are a must-have!  You can bake or pick up pies from your local bakery a few days ahead. (This is also an easy menu item to ask guests to bring.)  Here at I Love Imported Cheese we’re also big fans of incorporating cheese into your dessert course!  Try our easy Baked Apple with Imported Cheddar or a gorgeous Caramel Apple Baked Brie.  Another unique dessert idea that’s fun to relax with after dinner is a European style cheese course.  Be sure to check out our piece on How to Create a Cheese Dessert Course for inspiration.

Baked Brie Recipe

Caramel Apple Baked Brie

Because no matter the size of the group or the cooking skills of the host; this is one holiday that is truly about spending time with and being thankful for friends and family. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!