For many families, Thanksgiving is one holiday that involves a huge family gathering. But what if you want to have a smaller celebration? In this episode of The Lab, Daddy Clay shares tips on how to scale down your holiday dinner. Traditions such as cocktail hour can be altered to include nonalcoholic mocktails for the kids using beverages like ginger ale, sparkling cider and juice. Parents can incorporate an art project or let their children participate in creating the meal.
How to Have a Small Thanksgiving It happens every year. No sooner has the door closed on the last little trick or treater but we're bombarded with images of Thanksgiving. And it's always the same. A giant family gathered around an oversized turkey. Extended families passing the cranberries. Sixteen schmucks smiling happily. Don't these people realize that the recovery is barely underway? Budgets are still tight. More families than ever are having difficulty all gathering in one place for a big Thanksgiving celebration. We're dealing with a scaled-down Thanksgiving. Maybe just the nuclear family. Maybe even asking the question, "Should we even bother with the bird?" Our answer is yes. Today in The Lab, a little Thanksgiving. This is certainly been an issue even in my household this year. In the past, we've had big multi-generational gatherings at our place. But this year, not so much. And the economy is definitely a factor in that. My wife and I have been having a conversation about how we want to celebrate Thanksgiving. And even if we want to do it at all. After all, it's just going to be the five of us. And we have dinner together all the time. It seems sort of silly to have a Thanksgiving celebration. In the end, we decided to stay home, embrace some of our traditions and tweak others for our intimate Thanksgiving dinner. Whenever we have a big family gathering for Thanksgiving, we always start with a cocktail hour. And we want to preserve that tradition for our smaller group. So what we've decided to do is make some special non-alcoholic drinks for the kids, some mock tails if you will. And if we're going to do that, we like to mix different ingredients because that seems more fun and festive. We usually start with a base of something like ginger ale. And we love this Martinelli sparkling cider. It's really fun and delicious. We'll throw in a little fruit beverage like this pomegranate. And of course you've got to top it off with a class maraschino cherry and the sword, which of course, they'll poke each other with. Maybe even throw in an umbrella. I know, it's not seasonal, but it's still lots of fun. Maybe go for some cool soda pops if you've got a specialty store in your area. Check out this great pumpkin pie flavored soda pop from Maine Root. They've also got a great sarsaparilla. We also like to have a little project to do. This year, I'm going to hand out some construction paper, pens and scissors and we're going to create either a placemat or a place card for somebody else in the family. Going to invite them to draw pictures, maybe write a few words. Maybe even say something that you're thankful for about the other person in the family. When it comes to the meal itself, of course the big question is do you get a whole bird? You can find turkeys as small as 8 or 9 pounds but they're sort of hard to come by so you may have to pre-order at your grocery store. You may also want to consider just buying a whole turkey breast. You can usually find these at most grocery stores. Grill it if you want to. It saves you the hassle of having to roast both the light and dark meat to the same doneness. And opens you up to some more creative recipes. My wife and I have been going to Bon Appetit and also Epicurious to look up some cool and different recipes. Probably going to do something that's sort of a Southwestern theme. You definitely want to invite the kids to participate in creating the meal. Our kids are going to make a fantastic mashed potato pie. They do a good job of it every year. One of the things I usually look forward to the most about having a big group at Thanksgiving is we roll out a bunch of different kinds of wines. Pairing a traditional Thanksgiving meal with wine is always a little bit tricky and it's fun to try a whole lot of different things just little tastes at a time with a big group. Well, instead of picking a single bottle of wine and rolling the dice, I suggest that you try a split or a half bottle. Try two or three. Go to your local store. Pick up these half bottles, that's 375 milliliters. Of course with half bottles, you're going to be talking about a much smaller selection but you can still find some interesting things that pair well with holiday meals. Like this gewürztraminer which is one of my favorite things to have with turkey. This is going to have more floral and honey notes. A very sweet white wine. It's an Alsatian and it's delicious. A little cote du rhone might go well with your turkey. A little bit more of a full bodied red. And my favorite red is of course a red zin, this is a seghesio and it's pretty widely available. One of the most difficult things about this intimate Thanksgiving dinner is to manage your own expectations and feelings. Everybody would love to have a huge family gathering. Sometimes is just doesn't work out. But if you feel like your small Thanksgiving is a bummer, you're definitely going to communicate that to the kids. They're going to pick up on and they're going to feel bad about it too. So try to moderate those feelings as best as you can. After all, a small Thanksgiving offers you an opportunity to celebrate those things that are the most important to you and to us and to be grateful for them. Of course, we're grateful for you, those folks that watch us here at DadLabs. And so we want to wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Cheers. We'll see you next time here in The Lab.