This Thanksgiving, the secret ingredient is 'gratitude'
November 8th, 2012
04:15 PM ET
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We're sharing our time-tested Thanksgiving hosting tips and recipes, as well as plenty from chefs, hospitality experts, celebrities, hosts and home cooks we love. Our goal – sending you into Thanksgiving with a confident smile on your face, and seeing you emerge on the other side with your sanity intact.

It might seem like a long way off - and a world away for people reeling from cuts to their food budget - but soon, you're likely going to sitting down to a dinner with loved ones (and a stranger or two), and feeling exceptionally lucky to be doing so.

Gratitude is the watchword, and it's incredibly easy to lose sight of that while you're bogged down in the details of serving a dinner that packs a certain amount of expectation. So how about giving yourself a break?

Buying | Cooking | Drinking | Hosting | Traveling

Gratitude is the watchword, and it's incredibly easy to lose sight of that while you're bogged down in the details of serving a dinner that packs a certain amount of expectation. So how about giving yourself a break?

This doesn't mean that you're not making your best effort to ensure that your guests have a great time, or that the dish you're bringing isn't as painstakingly made as it possibly could be. We're just saying that the warmth and welcome with which it's served will linger even longer than the leftovers.

Consider printing out these mantras and cross-stitching them on throw pillows or possibly taking them to the tattoo parlor:

1. Don't be a martyr, be a host.
2. You can never, ever have too much ice.
3. If they're your guests, they're very likely rooting for you.
4. Accepting offers of Thanksgiving help is a sign of sanity & inclusion not weakness.
5. There is no such thing as too much stock or too many containers for leftovers.

And a word to the wise - the sooner you get a beverage or appetizer into your guests' hands, or assign them the task of doing so, the more quickly they'll ease into the swing of things.

Un-buckle up, follow our ongoing Thanksgiving advice, and get set to have an absolutely delicious day.

If all else fails, repeat after us: "It's just a meal. It's just a meal. It's just a meal..."

Buying and Planning

Buy right and don't waste food

The dishes America likes best

Thanksgiving dinner for 8 for $70

iReport - Thanksgiving for under $30

Stocking up for the big day

Prep for the day and keep it all safe and clean

Avoid these dreaded dishes

5 Reasons to buy a heritage bird

What if it's just Thanksgiving for two?


Get your prep work out of the way

– – Turkey

Defrost that bird!

Safe time and temperature for turkey

Philippe Cousteau's perfect turkey and gravy (and an ethical dilemma)

Turkey tips you wish you'd known sooner

5 Turkey don'ts

Thaw that bird!

Out of time? Spatchcock that turkey!

Stress-free brining

Deep-fried indoor turkey – for science

– – Appetizers and sides

Crowd-pleasing (and easy!) appetizers

Stuffpuppies. Stuffpuppies! STUFFPUPPIES! (The only side you'll need to serve)

Brilliant Brussels sprouts

Mastering mac 'n' cheese for Thanksgiving

Make cornbread dressing like a southern grandmother

Gravy lessons from a master

Quick, simple vegetable sides

Don't fear the vegan - feed them

Everything you need to know about squash

Squash the winter doldrums

Slim down your dishes

A 5 ingredient Thanksgiving fix from a Food Network star

Tired of turkey? Make a bacon pig

Re-imagine traditional Thanksgiving dishes

Lechon: a Filipino family feast

Take care of your gluten-free guests

How to cook a country ham

Is it stuffing or dressing, and what ingredients does it need?

Pumpkin beyond the pie

– – Desserts

Master the chess pie

Make perfect pie

Best pies across the country

– – Leftovers

5 Tips for leftovers

Aaaaand even more leftovers

Can you get your leftovers through the airport?

Thanksgiving goes to the dogs (but is that OK?)


Hard cider to serve with the big dinner

Bubbles, bubbles solve your Thanksgiving troubles

Rosé for Turkey Day

Wine advice from our favorite bar

Bargain wines for Thanksgiving dishes

Brilliant cold weather beverages

Pitcher drinks and Prosecco are a host's best friends

The best wines for casseroles

When this is all over, you're going to want a drink - dessert wines


Dealing with difficult guests, vegetarians and surprise drop-ins - and not running out of food

Must 'Friendsgiving' be a thing?

Confessions of a cooking alpha

Round up the orphans and celebrate their traditions

When a picky eater comes to your Thanksgiving table

Embrace the chaos (and make excellent dairy-free mashed potatoes)

Remain calm in the face of Thanksgiving madness

How do you deal with family drama?

Last-second anti-freakout tips

Make your guests feel right at home

My first Thanksgiving with white people

el Dia de Las Gracias – Thanksgiving with a Latin twist

What to serve if Wolf Blitzer shows up

Where to eat if you're in Vegas

Thanksgiving stuck at your desk

How to get a drunk guest out of your home (safely)

It's not Thanksgiving without...leftovers and strays


The TSA won't swipe your pie – but will they take the cake?

Andrew Zimmern's top airport dining

Your must-eat places while you're at home for the holidays

Still stressing? Leave your question in the comments below and we'll do our best to get you back on track.

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Filed under: Cooking • Feature • Holiday • Holidays • HolidayShopping • Make • T Minus • Thanksgiving • Thanksgiving

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soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. rarirurero26


    I've just found some stuff that is really amazing, please take a look and tell me your thoughts

    Warmly, raracupiez

    May 12, 2017 at 4:52 pm |
  2. How to get Facebook friends

    Social media is a jungle, and you better learn to pimp your own profiles.

    July 7, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
  3. Skeptimist

    Back to the secret ingredient; Gratitude.
    I get mine at the grocery store.

    Our local supermarkets have bar-coded cards at the checkout.
    I just hand one to the cashier to swipe a donation to the Food Bank.
    (Technology ain't all bad.)

    It gets better when I stop by the red kettle out front.
    I really like to surprise the lady or guy with the bell.
    They've been out in the cold wind all day so when they thank me, I reply,
    "Thank YOU for your service – you've helped me be a better person than I was when I got here."
    Then I get a hug.
    Sometimes I get lucky and see parents give the money to their kids to put in the kettle.

    Then I drive home, smiling and thankful.
    For a little while I've become what I needed to be when I grew up.

    November 28, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  4. shar

    No turkey for us but we enjoy all of the usual sides–stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread etc. There is so much to eat, we don't even miss the bird. Oh, and we are not vegetarian but we don't care much for turkey or any other meat so we just save our money for other things. Meat is pretty darn expensive these days anyway.

    November 14, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  5. Jorge

    To all you PETA freaks out there, five words.

    Gobble, gobble, CHOP; Happy Thanksgiving...

    November 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Giving Thanks to Meat


      November 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Noxious Sunshine

    Shiiiiiiiiiiiii we don't need a holiday to be dysfunctional. That's a daily thing for us. WOO! And people wonder why I'm so gone in the head. lmao

    November 12, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • Noxious Sunshine

      On the other hand, we're not super close with extended family anyway so we don't visit or any of that. It's always just immediate family and not always all of us either. Usually either my brother or sister don't make it for Thanksgiving. Probably neither of them will this yr. Not sure. Hell, we may not even -do- Thanksgiving this year – we're all too broke.

      November 12, 2012 at 5:33 am |
  7. Barbara-Michigan

    "I like a close-knit family on the other side of the country." -George Burns

    November 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  8. Elaine

    yay! thanksgiving!

    November 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  9. traveldoc

    While living in South Korea, we hosted a "Geographic Orphans' Party" on Thanksgiving. Everyone invited brought either 'what I cannot do without on Thanksgiving', or a traditional food from their country of origin. We supplied the turkey, smashed potatos/sweet potatos/green bean casserole and other 'leaner veggies', plus pumpkin and apple pie. There were about 30 of us in a tiny on-post housing unit, we ate in shifts, and it was the most fun I've had as hostess!

    Since returning home, we've continued the party theme, inviting families (or parts of families) who were unable to go 'home' for the holiday, families from Europe who found themselves working at a local business and spoke little or no English, and families of those "on call" at the local hospital. Again, we had tons of fun, with the unbelievable mash-up of cultures!

    And always, always, always: Saturday Night's Left-Over Party! Friends who had their own TGiving parties (and some returning guests from our own party) were required to NOT EAT ANY leftovers on Friday, then bring them all to our home on Sat. That way, shoppers were done with crazy Fri rituals, we allowed a small introduction of Christmas into our celebration (sharing fond memories or Christmases past and family traditions, singing a few carols with someone playing piano or children on their instruments), and everyone else's leftovers were brand new foods for the rest of us! Win- Win!

    Would love to hear other stories of 'different' TGiving Celebrations!

    November 9, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  10. Vegann

    Consuming a turkey of ANY type is nothing short of barbaric. Do NOT tell me "Oh, but it's organic/free range/guilt free/whatever. YOU are barbaric. Period.

    And as a mother in law, I have a DUTY of correcting my children. I HAVE TO! If not for me, your lives would be an even bigger mess than they are. You NEED my advice and guidance. Accept it.

    November 9, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • matty

      Animals eat animals and humans are animals. I thoroughly reject the idea we should not be eating meat. And i am someone who has gone through the process of catching a live animal, removing the edible flesh and cooking/eating it. I understand the sacrifice of a life is required, but i accept it as part of our natural order... and turkey on thanksgiving is about my favorite meal of the year.. Go preach to the choir, I dun wan hear it.

      November 10, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Barbara

      I assume you are never invited to Thanksgiving dinner?

      November 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Jorge

      I'll have to remember that (fleetingly), the next time I tear into the juicy, tender flesh of some beast I have charred over coals, with my greedy, yellowing fangs...ARRRRGNNNNNN!!! But not before I teach it to fetch...

      November 13, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  11. VladT

    I work at a hospital, so I will be at work during the day of thanksgiving, so I will be traveling next month to be with family for a belated thanksgiving/Christmas celebration

    This year, there will be a small get together with my "family of friends," that we are all looking forward to with a grand pot luck, and then watching Addams Family values. A fun tradition to watch on Thanksgiving, and if you don't know why, I encourage you to watch the movie.

    Happy Turkey day, all

    November 9, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • KQ

      Eat me!

      November 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
      • VladT

        Bravo! :)

        November 10, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  12. Fiona

    Advice for mothers and mothers-in-law everywhere: if you are invited to celebrate Thanksgiving at the home of your daughter or daughter-in-law, remind yourself that it's not your home, not your party, you should not insist on being the center of the room at all times, and that if you have anything negative to say about the preparations just keep it to yourself. Both Christmas and Thanksgiving are forever ruined for me because of years of manipulation, belittling and downright bad behavior of my mother-in-law and my own mother. These holidays should be happy events. Don't infect your children with your own unhappiness.

    November 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • Freud's Ghost

      Get help – soon.

      November 9, 2012 at 6:48 am |
      • Fiona

        Uh, Freud's Ghost...someone who goes out of his way to anonymously spit at another anon person online is in great need of psychiatric help. I suggest you take a good look at your life.

        November 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
        • Freud

          The way you poured your heart out on a food blog indicates you're the one who needs help fraulein.

          November 12, 2012 at 6:47 am |
      • nick

        Freud's ghost – You must be a lucky someone's mother in law.

        November 11, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Jerv

      I completely understand, Fiona. I have excused myself from all family holiday functions because of all the dysfunction and am much happier for it. Eatocracy rocks!

      November 9, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Barbara

      Don't invite them.

      November 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Jorge

      I agree with you Fiona, mothers-in-law are the reason that even if people did not want to go fast with the wind in their hair and humanity suddenly reviled the concepts of Corvette, Miata and Jeep, two-seat cars would still continue to exist...

      November 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  13. Patines

    On behalf of the turkeys, please, please have mercy!!

    November 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Eater

      Bite me. Oh wait, that's my job. Bite YOU!

      November 9, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  14. MashaSobaka

    Last year I had to stick in town and hosted Thanksgiving for some colleagues. I took care of the bird (roast chicken, because I don't much like turkey and no way was I going to roast a monster of a bird for a handful of people anyway), desserts, and homemade bread. All the guests brought some side dishes. We had sweet potato curry, fantastic mashed potatoes, delicious salad, and some good was a win all around. This year I'll be with family and I'm hoping to God that my grandmother lets me help like she did last Christmas. She gets downright nasty when she's overworked.

    November 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  15. California Girl

    go turkey free!

    November 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  16. Mike Sheehan

    Last night on i26 I saw a tractor trailer driving with turkey on the back. Completely open, at 39 degrees, the 65MPH windchill brought it down to 29. We thought it was a snow storm, but it turned out to be the feathers being ripped off by the wind. Maybe some of us can sacrifice taste and tradition for compassion this year.

    November 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • jls108

      Agreed. If people even knew about half the amount of suffering that goes into the many millions of turkeys that suffer and die for our gluttony fest each year they may reconsider the turkey part.

      November 8, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Fiona

      I agree. I'm a vegetarian who will be enjoying some version of squash this Thanksgiving. Mercy for the animals.

      BTW, that hellish truck ride is the fate of all meat animals, dairy cows when they are no longer productive, and horses auctioned for meat. Horses have it the worst because they are trucked to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. They have days of travel with the unrelenting cold in winter and the searing sun in summer, hours of delay at the borders, no water while waiting. No food.

      November 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
      • VladT

        Good thing vegetarians don't engage in hyperbole.

        "All meat animals?" Seriously?

        November 9, 2012 at 8:22 am |
        • Fiona

          Glad: seriously. Did you think those free-range, organic, prep-school-educated critters drove to slaughter in limousines? Even the most carefully raised organic heifer still gets trucked to the same slaughterhouse that her less privileged brethren are sent to. Do some research.

          November 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Jorge

      Boohoo, sto-o-op it, sto-o-op. You're making me cry on my steeak...

      November 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  17. Truth™

    Things I love about November:

    – The start of ski season (but not yet tourist season)
    – Cooler weather, but no too many blizzards (at least in recent history)
    – The last lull of the year before year end madness
    – Seeing Kat on live television talking about "Spatchc0cking" with a straight face...:)

    November 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'm gonna do my damndest for you, sir.

      November 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
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