I’m hosting my first Thanksgiving at our new home! And that means a chance to combine traditions with new ideas, one of my favorite things to do. This year, I’m breaking it all down in my Host a Holiday Dinner series, starting with part one: menu brainstorming.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Initial Brainstorming

When I get ready to make a big meal, the first thing I do is gather a lot of information. In this case, Thanksgiving is a holiday filled with major traditions, but it also offers the opportunity to introduce some fun and new dishes into the mix. I’m starting by gathering ideas dish by dish. I’m leaving out the main course, because we are making a traditional turkey, but everything else is fair game.

When I start planning a fancy meal, I like to layout all my options and then make selections to see what works well together. I always try to mix and match a few combinations before settling on the final menu. I’m excited to try to incorporate some of these dishes from fellow bloggers into my menu this year!

Menu Brainstorming: Hors D’ouevres

These are the first impression for the guests, so I want to make sure they are tasty and fun. It’s always a good idea for everything in this category to be bite sized and finger food. I don’t want anything too messy, but I do want a few fun treats to kick off the meal.

Menu Brainstorming: Seated Appetizers

Here’s the soups and salads. For Thanksgiving, I may decide to skip a seated appetizer course entirely, but I like to collect a few ideas just in case. I love fall seasonal soups because of their creamy textures, and fall salads are always a fun blend of fruits and nuts.

Menu Brainstorming: Bread Service

Bread is my favorite food group, so it’s always fun to come up with an interesting bread to serve with a fancy dinner. I like to considering what kind of infused butter could go with each of these. And of course, I have to consider gluten free options to make sure the whole family is covered!

Menu Brainstorming: Stuffing

My favorite part of any good Thanksgiving dinner is the stuffing, so I’m not going to skip out on considering some fun options for this category. I love that you can basically put anything in stuffing, as long as there’s some stale bread. You can’t beat that!

Menu Brainstorming: Potatoes

If we don’t serve traditional buttery mashed potatoes with plenty of garlic, I’ll probably get in trouble! But that doesn’t mean I can’t brainstorm some fun alternatives. Maybe we;ll have two potato dishes, or maybe it will inspire me to doctor up the traditional mashed ones a little more.

Menu Brainstorming: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are like dessert but as part of the main course, which is brilliant. You know I couldn’t leave that out! But I am considering some savory presentations, or even something really unique like these puffs. I feel like I can have a lot of fun with experimenting in this category.

Menu Brainstorming: Veggie Sides

Thanksgiving can get a little carried away when it comes to rich and heavy sides, but I can balance it out a little with a few vegetables. Or I could make my veggies rich and heavy too. In any case, there probably should be some healthy-ish stuff on the table, whether it’s in a casserole or not.

Menu Brainstorming: Cranberry Sauce

I’ll admit, I’m a jellied cranberry sauce from a can type of person. But I have been experimenting with jams and relishes a lot more lately. Maybe it’s time to take a chance and come up with a fun homemade version of the traditional condiment. Maybe I’ll keep a can on hand for nostalgia too, though.

Menu Brainstorming: Dessert

We’ve made it to dessert! It’s my favorite course, but sometimes I get so carried away with the rest of the meal that no one has any room left for sweet treats. I’m thinking of making some of these throughout the fall, since I won’t be able to have them all for Thanksgiving.

Menu Brainstorming: Cocktails

And finally, for the most important part of any meal, probably: the drinks. The perfect cocktail can tie together all the dishes of any meal. I always like to have a signature cocktail for each course, so I may get to try out a few of these!

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10 thoughts on “Host a Holiday Dinner: Menu Brainstorming

  1. I’ve never planned or made a large meal for any kind of gathering, just brought apps or side dishes to others’ events. But this is giving me such inspiration for whenever I DO get to host something of my own!

    1. It’s fun but can be overwhelming! Hopefully you’ll get some ideas even for bring-along side dishes if you’re not hosting soon.

  2. We attend a Thanksgiving celebration with my husband’s side of the family in early November, and then a smaller Thanksgiving celebration with my sisters and kids. Generally, my brother-in-law provides turkey, stuffing, and potatoes, and everyone brings a couple of dishes. Thanks for the great ideas, I like to bring one dessert and one nontraditional side.

    1. That sounds like a lot of fun! There are definitely a few fun dessert and side ideas here, so I hope you find one that you and your family love.

    1. Thank you! I’m excited to start combining them together to see what works. I’m sure your family will love any you might try too!

  3. How nice to have so many recipe options in one place!! I LOVE hosting holidays — sadly our current apartment is far too small in the living area, but our next place will surely have room. Bookmarking this for future reference. 🙂

    1. Glad to hear it! I get it, we are so excited to finally have the space to host after years of apartment living. I hope you’ll get the chance to host again soon and try a few of these dishes.

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