Thanksgiving celebrates what everyone brings to the table: good food, love, laughter, and thankful hearts.

If you haven’t planned your menu, now’s the time. One tip I learned from a friend many years ago was, once you have your menu planned, copy and staple the recipes together (I like to add the year on top) and file away for the next year. It makes menu planning much easier, especially if they are your favorite recipes. Of course you can also create a file on your computer and do the same thing.

TIP: If you love to read cookbooks, create a “Holiday Menu” journal where you jot down your favorite recipes, the cookbook they are in, and the page number for easy reference.

Are you serving a pre-dinner soup? Remember there’s still time to win $100, and you can try my Sweet Pumpkin and Barley Sage Soup.

Brining a turkey is a wonderful way to enhance its juiciness and flavor, but it seems that the process is intimidating … until you actually do it and taste the difference.

Here’s my brine recipe. Yummy!

TIP: If you’re really in a bind, you can buy turkey brine “blends,” by rushing in to your local Williams Sonoma. So easy!

Don’t forget to ask your guests to help by bringing what you need them to bring. Planning a Thanksgiving meal (especially for a large crowd) is a lot of work. Write out the menu, figure out what YOU want to make, and then fill in the slots by asking your guests to contribute.

TIP: Make sure your guests know what time you plan to serve dinner. Make it clear if you want them their contribution “table ready” or if there’s time to prepare it in your kitchen. IE: green beans or salad.

Write out (I love having a plan!) and prepare as much as you can the day or two before Thanksgiving. I’ll be baking my sweet potatoes the day before, cooking, chopping, involving my family as much as I can.

Here are a few of my side-dish favorites:

Easy Sweet Potatoes (recipe in my book) :)
Smashed Potatoes, Parsnips and Rutabaga
Sweet Potato Cran-Apple Gratin
Brussels Sprouts Braised with Cream and Dates
Fresh Green Beans
Carrot Souffle

Last year I made Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Apples, but I added cranberries, too. Oh, boy! Check out Pioneer Woman’s step-by-step recipe.

I’m going to leave desserts up to Tidy Mom. Check out her 3rd Annual “Love the Pie” party. If you scroll down, you’ll find hundreds of pie recipes!

Thanksgiving is pie, wouldn’t you agree?

TIP: Think ahead to a separate place, possibly outside of your kitchen, where you can display the desserts. They are usually so beautiful, it’s enjoyable to walk into the dining or living room to see them displayed on a buffet, top of a piano, or a table.

Lastly, set the table. Friends, it’s not too early to be thinking about a welcoming table for your guests. My suggestion is to simplify. Make your table receptive by only adding the dishes you need, not cluttery and crammed with excessive dishes. Head to the great outdoors to bring nature in.

TIP: A low-line centerpiece makes conversation much easier than having to look around pillars and over-the-top flower arrangements.

Last year I journaled a 4-part Thanksgiving guidelines post, so if you feel you’re behind, you can catch up here:

Week 1: Stress-Free Thanksgiving – Invite, Plan, and Delegate
Week 2: Stress-Free Thanksgiving – Organize your Recipes & Shopping Lists
Week 3: Stress-Free Thanksgiving – Space, Table, & Turkey Planning
Week 4: Stress Free Thanksgiving – Write Out Chores, Include the Family

How are your Thanksgiving plans coming along? Are you feeling stressed or right on schedule? Or, if you are not hosting this year, what are you bringing to the table?

The winner of the Harry and David basket is Andrea from Recipes for Divine Living.

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