How to Prep for Thanksgiving.

With my flurry of recent Christmas gift posts, it dawned on me that maybe I should take a beat and recognize we’re coming up on Thanksgiving first, especially as there were a number of questions about Thanksgiving prep and entertaining submitted by my Magpie tribe.

As a preface, I will say one of the highlights of our Thanksgiving meal for the past several years has been the reading of this moving prayer, which my parents also read every year and which many Magpie readers have adopted, too. (And rarely a year goes by when someone does not dab away a tear during its reading!)

Thanksgiving Tablescape.

I usually start with the runner/tablecloth/placemats and work out from there. I am drawn to an autumnal plaid like this, a burlap like this, or a quilted solid like this in the white. Then I’ll mix in items like:

PLAID NAPKINS, GINGHAM NAPKINS, OR LINEN NAPKINS IN NEUTRAL (DEPENDING ON RUNNER/TABLECLOTH SELECTION)

WOODEN SLICE PLACECARD HOLDERS

THANKSGIVING POPPERS (ALSO LOVE THIS SET)

OLIVE LEAF GARLAND

TURKEY COCKTAIL NAPKINS

PRESERVED BOXWOOD SPRIGS TO TUCK IN WITH NAPKIN

MY TURKEY TUREEN IS ALWAYS FRONT AND CENTER, USUALLY UP ON TOP OF A WHITE CERAMIC CAKE PLATE SO HE’S ELEVATED

ALTERNATE TO MY TURKEY: CERAMIC QUAIL (WHICH I ALSO HAVE…)

WHITE CANDLESTICK HOLDERS (FOR A MORE RUSTIC LOOK: THESE)

GOLD CANDLESTICKS

THE ENTIRE JULISKA COUNTRY ESTATE TABLE SETTING IN THE FLINT COLOR IS THANKSGIVING GOALZ

I love the leaf garland above as a simple way to introduce green, texture, and botanicals to the table, but I have also enjoyed putting together flower arrangements that make heavy use of winter cabbage, which you can often find at Trader Joe’s! Pair with other dark purple/maroon flowers and eucalyptus leaves for something inexpensive but elegant. Alternately, buy a ton (!) of white or orange mums and place them all in an enormous centerpiece vase. It’s amazing the effect you can achieve when you buy something inexpensive like that in volume — for example, I normally hate baby’s breath (Mr. Magpie will often remove it from floral arrangements before I see it — ha!), but if you buy it in big quantities and heap it into a vintage silver vase, it’s EPIC.

Thanksgiving Menu.

I’ve had a lot of questions about our Thanksgiving menu, and we are creatures of habit when it comes to this meal. We make the same exact thing year after year and though it’s pretty straight-forward, you should definitely check out the stuffing, cranberry sauce, and carrots (recipes follow) if you’re looking for twists on old standbys:

ROAST TURKEY

CORNBREAD + SAUSAGE STUFFING

ZIPPY CRANBERRY SAUCE

DANIEL BOULUD CARROTS

GREEN VEG (BRUSSELS, GREEN BEANS, MAYBE SPINACH?)

MASHED POTATOES

Shoop Cornbread + Sausage Stuffing

This is just rib-sticking good. It has some unique ingredients (an apple?!) and requires some advanced planning (we cook the corn bread from a Jiffy box a day or two ahead of time and leave some plain old white bread out on the counter overnight to dry it out), and then you need to finish it once the turkey is out of the oven and resting (because you make use of turkey drippings before baking the stuffing at the end), so it’s not exactly the easiest of dishes, but…I absolutely love it.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. In a skillet set over medium heat, brown 1 pound loose country pork sausage (you can absolutely use something like Jimmy Dean for this — I won’t tell anyone if you won’t) and transfer to a large bowl. Pour off fat from skillet.
  2. Set the skillet back over moderate heat and melt 6 tablespoons butter. Add 1 large onion (diced) and 1.5 stalks celery (diced) and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.
  3. Add 1 granny smith apple (peeled, cored, and diced) and cook for a few minutes longer, until everything is a little soft. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add 6 cups crumbled stale white bread, 2 cups crumbled stale corn bread, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 2 tablespoons minced celery leaves, 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage, 1 tablespoon minced thyme, and more salt and pper.
  5. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup turkey drippings or stock, 1/4 cup applesauce, and 1 large beaten egg. Stir. Add to the stuffing mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Transfer stuffing to a buttered baking dish, cover with foil, and bake 25-30 minutes, or until heated through. Remove foil for final 10 minutes of cooking to crisp up the top.

Zippy Cranberry Sauce

This is another novel take on a classic and the flavor is amped and sharpened with the addition ginger, lemon juice, and granny smith apples. It’s more of a chunky, tart condiment and serves as an excellent foil to creamy mashed potatoes and fatty stuffing. We make this the day before and it keeps beautifully.

In a saucepan, combine 1/4 cup dried apricots (finely chopped), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup raisins, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir while simmering for five minutes. Stir in 3 cups fresh cranberries, 1 granny smith apple (peeled, cored, and chopped), and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Daniel Boulud Carrots

We make this recipe year-round and often serve it with roast chicken and steak, though the flavors (thyme! garlic!) make it a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving menu. It is our absolute favorite preparation of carrots. Full recipe here.

For dessert, I often make the pecan sorghum pie I mentioned here! I might make a traditional pumpkin pie this year instead, as I simply love it and do not eat it enough. I’ll probably use the Martha recipe for it.

Thanksgiving Outfits.

I shared some thoughts on Thanksgiving dresses here, but several of you have asked for less formal options.

Casual: I like the idea of a statement sweater like this, this, this, or this with some fashion-forward jeans. Alternately, love this plaid cape thing with light-wash denim.

A little dressier: Coated jeans in a fall color (brown, rust, moss green) with a cableknit sweater in cashmere or cotton (the longer length on this one would be flattering, too) OR this shaker knit tunic sweater. Any of the above outfits would look amazing with these flats or this tweed bag! Such good fall colors, and so versatile.

Even dressier: bow-front trousers and a puff-sleeved top (white) with jeweled pumps (currently dying over these).

For little girls: I love this dress, this gingham romper set, this gingham dress with a big monogram on the front, this blue velvet romper (mini has the dress version, but it’s now sold out!), a flannel jumper, and this plaid poncho (less formal).

For little boys: I bought micro a head-to-toe look from Nanos that is similar to this; I also always love a cashmere set (look for less with this), a cableknit sweater with brown pants, loafers or smoking slippers (omg).

For Mr. Magpie: this flannel with jeans for football watching and this sweater with corduroys caught my eye.

Thanksgiving Finds.

Finally, a couple of other miscellaneous finds that caught my eye:

THIS VINTAGE TURKEY PLATE!

PERSONALIZED DOORMAT

BAYLEAF WREATH WITH BURLAP HANGER

P.S. Still settling into our new digs, still evaluating various purchases. Will do an update on all of our picks soon but one addition to the line-up is this rug for our master bedroom, which Serena & Lily is generously sending me and I am crazy excited about its arrival. I’ll take pictures of the room soon as it’s the closest to complete out of everything. (Our living room isn’t far off either, but we need to hang art!) Mini’s room and the dining room need a lot of love…so much to figure out.

P.P.S. I found the comments on this post on going from 0-1 children vs. 1-2 children fascinating.

P.P.P.S. Do you live with regret?

4 Comments

  1. I always love reading what other people eat/make for Thanksgiving! Everything you’ve posted sounds so delicious.

    I’ve been looking for a new entry mat and love the personalized PB one! And the bay leaf wreath reminds me of ones my mom used to have when we were growing up (I think hers were from W-S, too.) Want to order one!! xx

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