How to Add Some Festive Flair to Your Thanksgiving Entertaining

Canadian Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family, feasting and taking note of the harvests from the year. Whether you are entertaining in a gourmet kitchen, city condo or at the cottage, the tradition of gathering with loved ones and breaking bread is celebrated year after year. Family recipes are passed down and although tweaked over time the fixings are fairly typical. This Thanksgiving I encourage you to spice up those classic dishes and start some new tasty traditions.

We all have our tried and true turkey recipes, and when it comes to pleasing a table full of empty bellies, it's completely reasonable to keep this recipe card in the rotation. But turkey

aside, there are many ways you can add some to your dining table. Don’t let the food steal the entire show; this holiday is the perfect opportunity to show off your personal decorating style. There really are no rules when it comes to table settings, so have a little fun. Nameplates are a great way to personalize your guests' dining experience, not only does it solve the awkward seating arrangement situation, but it makes your guests feel special.

Entertaining Tip: why not include a line on the back of everyones nameplate that reads, 'I'm Thankful For...' Be sure to have a small jar with writing utensils handy. Have everyone pass their nameplates to the person sitting across from them and read them aloud over dessert.

The idea of having a big beautiful centrepiece on your dining room table is a novel idea, but not very practical for a large potluck style meal. Within minutes of everyone gathering at the dining table, the centrepiece will be moved to the side to make room for all the delicious food. Instead, try incorporating candle accents, seasonal wreaths or a tall floor vase with wheat stalks – these simple additions will radiant fall vibes without taking up prime turkey real estate.

In addition to stepping up your festive décor, classic recipes could probably use a tune-up as well. Turkey stuffing is a key player in your family dinner roster; it’s also the perfect canvas to get creative. For the sweet tooth, try adding apple, fig, pears, cinnamon or butternut squash to your recipe. For the savoury palette, sausage, pancetta or parmesan will kick your stuffing into full-flavoured overdrive. For a healthier alternative, skip the bread altogether and try a quinoa and wild rice recipe. If you are a traditionalist but don’t want to bring the same old stuffing to the table, try experimenting with different types of breads such as sourdough, pumpernickel, multi-grain or even cornbread. Still not convinced? For 35 recipes that are sure to spruce up your stuffing, click here,

Serving Tip: why not serve your stuffing in warm mugs! You can make individual servings and leave them warming in the oven. This will leave additional room in the center of the table for other more colourful dishes.

Every Thanksgiving table should be adorned with at least one show-stopping dish, and of course, I’m talking about dessert. Pumpkin and apple pie have had their time in the spotlight. Although seasonally delightful, the pumpkin and apple have been tragically typecast. This long weekend, I urge you to think outside the box when it comes to a family-pleasing dessert. Apple crisp cheesecake is a sweet and savoury spin on a classic, while apple crisp cookie cups are the perfect size when you think you couldn’t have one more bite. Why not put the pumpkin to use in a cannoli, truffle or whoopie pie? I know this all sounds ridiculous, but I promise the risk will pay off once your guests lay their eyes (and mouths) on these unique and seasonal desserts.

Cocktails have made a huge comeback over the last few years. Move over wine! Make room for a signature showstopper cocktail. Not only are they delicious, but they also have a wow factor when done right. Having a batch already made for when your guests arrive will not only buy you some time while you finish cleaning up in the kitchen, but you will also impress with your fancy barista skills. This easy Apple Cider Whiskey Punch can be made in a large batch and served when your guests arrive or left out prom style.

Ingredients: 8 cups apple cider (non-alcoholic) 2 bottles (473 ml) of dry hard cider (such as Brickworks Ciderhouse Batch 1904) 2 bottles (500 ml) of ginger beer (such as Crabbies) 1 ½ cups of whiskey (such as Jameson) Juice of 1 lemon Several dashes or orange bitters (to taste) 1 orange sliced into rounds (for garnish) Cinnamon sticks (for garnish)

Combine all the good stuff (ciders, ginger beer, whiskey) with lemon juice and bitters in a large bowl or pitcher, stir. Top with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Leave out with a large serving spoon for your guests to self-serve or have a pitcher and garnish ready to serve as needed. For the original recipe, click here.

Be warned, following the above recommendations may result in house guests lingering, excessive flattering compliments and requests for repeat dishes in years to come. It’s always a good idea to have environmentally friendly carryout containers on hand so you can send your guests home with leftover parting gifts. They will thank you.

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