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How To Host A Potluck Thanksgiving Dinner

  • Nov 11, 2009
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Can you believe the holidaze are already here? I can't! When I haven't been able to travel home in the past, I made it a point to make sure that all other holiday orphans were and still are welcome at my house. Here's what I've learned in the past and these tips have saved my life, many times- hopefully, it'll cut down on some holiday stress for you!
The super easy way to invite your crew over to your house, not only has a potluck option but, will allow you to ask guests to bring different things and help you keep track of who's bringing what. In a word, lifesaver.
As the host/ess, it is your responsibility to provide the turkey. Plan on 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person, you'll have plenty for leftovers, if you want to send guests home with some. Another helpful tip- let the turkey sit for 25 minutes so that the juices have time to set. The perfect temp of a perfectly cooked bird? 165F measured in the thigh.
Have friends that REALLY can't cook or have the local take-out restaurant on speed dial? They don't get off so easily...let them know that they can bring drinks either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, depending on what they drink. It's not fair to force your lightweight friends bring bottles and bottles of booze. However, they can bring a bottle or two of their favorite beverage. For wine, plan on 1/2 bottle of wine per guest. You can check out my list of Drinks To Keep You Warm for some fun holiday ideas.
More specifically, who's bringing what and where to put it. Before your guests get to your house, make sure that you know where to put each of their dishes. Put post-its at each placement, so guests know exactly where to put their dishes so they can start enjoying themselves. If your guests will need to reheat their dishes, make sure they stick a post-it with temperature and instructions in case they need it to cut out confusion. Also, that will let you know to keep the oven going (suggested temps for reheating are 350-375F).
Helping Out
If you have some guests that have recently lost their jobs or can't afford to bring or cook anything, ask them to help you out. They can either set up the table or they can help clean afterwards, either way, they're still contributing to the meal without having to spend a dime AND you get an extra hand. You'll need as many as you can get.
Activities are always good to have when you have people over to your house. This is never as true as when you have kids, because if you're like me and don't have kids, you need to find a way to entertain them and make them feel included. SO, some of my past favorites have been: making paper hats for everyone, dressing up as colonists and Native Americans and learn about the history of Thanksgiving, telling a story as to what they're most thankful for, coloring books, etc.
Giving Thanks
This is my favorite part of Thanksgiving. Sometime before you get all tuckered out from tryptofan, you should go around the table and have each guest share what they are grateful for- friends, food, family, health, whatever. It's always been everyone's favorite part of my potlucks.
How else are you going to capture the moments that make you laugh or cry? How are you going to capture the moments that make life yours? Make sure you have a couple of snap-happy friends shooting away, multiple views are always more fun!

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November 15, 2010
oh yeah! can I come over? I'll bring the alcohol? ;) This is one of the best holidays--second only to town fiestas in my book! Nice one, Sam!!
November 16, 2010
Thanks Woo! I'm a big Turkey Day fan- with family football games in the GG Park, food, family and fun! It's a great time to surround yourself with family, give back a little and share your gratitude....
November 12, 2009
Cranking ice cream is even more fun if there's snow outside and folks can pack the outside of the container with the snow they dig themselves.
November 16, 2010
This sounds like fun! Sorry it took me a while to get back to you :)
November 11, 2009
Great idea, and great list! I'm seriously getting so excited for Thanksgiving!!
November 12, 2009
Thanks! Me too- I'm headed to the redwoods for a week over Thanksgiving to spend time with family. I think I'm having like 3 Thanksgivings LOL...2 potlucks and one family one. Lucky me ;p
November 11, 2009
Aw, I love this list. I can't believe that the holidays are already here either. Thanks for all the tips that you gave. I never would have thought of some of the things that you pointed out! :)
November 12, 2009
You are most welcome- I love potlucks, a great affordable way to host a dinner party, try new recipes and have friends over.
November 11, 2009
Every year we host a pot luck dinner -- not at Thanksgiving -- and the same list applies. Good ideas! Typically I make one of everything (in this case, the turkey, a vegetable, a dessert) and don't even bother telling people what to bring. Sometimes we have more salads than desserts, but who cares, really? I found "The Puzzlemaster Presents", a book of those Sunday puzzles compiled by Will Shortz of NPR fame, fun as a backup. Another idea is something for people to DO -- like cranking ice cream for dessert.
November 12, 2009
I like that idea of cranking ice cream for dessert- that's fun for everyone!
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Samantha ()
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I'm a human jukebox that is constantly changing my station depending on my mood!   Feel free to share your passion with me in my communities: Pass the Remote!, Hip Hop Culture, Wedding Planning … more
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